By Garrett Glaeser, Staff Writer
The first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs is well underway as some teams have already secured their spots in the conference semi-finals. Note that all series are being written on as of April 23.
The Golden State Warriors, heavy favorites to three-peat the NBA Finals, are up 3-1 on the Los Angeles Clippers, who surprisingly tied the series 1-1 in Game 2 at Oracle Arena when the Warriors squandered a 31-point lead. Golden State followed up the embarrassment with two solid wins at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and hope to finish the series off on Wednesday, April 24.
The fourth-seeded Houston Rockets looked like they were going to walk away with a sweep of the Utah Jazz with two blowout wins at home to start, followed by a tight victory in Utah. However, the Jazz stayed in the series by pulling off a Game 4 win 107-91. Like the Warriors, the Rockets will look to lock up the series on Wednesday back in Houston.
Despite being a four seed, the Portland Trailblazers have surprised the sports-media world by taking a 3-1 lead over the Russell Westbrook and Paul George led Oklahoma City Thunder.
In the tightest of all the Western Conference playoff series, the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs have alternated wins and are locked in a 2-2 tie. If the trend continues, we will see a seven-game series with the winner being determined in Denver.
The top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks flexed their muscles in a dominating sweep of the Detroit Pistons. The closest game was Game 3 when the Bucks won by a mere 16 points, 119-103. The Bucks have certainly proved their playoff doubters wrong so far, even after recording the most regular season wins in the NBA this year with 60.
Like the Bucks, the Boston Celtics swept their first-round opponent, the Indiana Pacers. Unlike Milwaukee, Boston had to earn its four wins as their largest margin of victory was in Game 1, when they won 84-74. The date for Game 1 of the conference semifinals has yet to be announced.
After dropping the first game of the series at home, the three-seeded Philadelphia 76ers have rattled off three consecutive wins and have the chance to close the series at home. No one expected the Brooklyn Nets to win a single game, but they have shown an ability to push this series to a sixth or even seventh game.
The Orlando-Toronto series has played out nearly exactly like the Philadelphia-Brooklyn one, with the lower seeded team winning Game 1 and the higher seed winning the ensuing three. Toronto, known as “LeBronto” in years prior because of LeBron James’ success against the franchise in the post-season, no longer has that pressure on them with James on the LA Lakers this year. However, if they fail to beat the Magic up 3-1, the torment for the NBA’s lone Canadian team is sure to continue.
If all the teams up 3-1 (or the higher seed in the case of Denver) win their respective first round series, the Conference Semi-finals would look like this: Golden State v. Houston, Portland v. Denver, Milwaukee v. Boston (already set), and Philadelphia v. Toronto.
In the West, the Warriors/Rockets series would be a must-watch; however, the Portland/Denver series could have the potential to be close. In the East, both series would be highly competitive as all four teams have a viable chance of reaching the Finals.
If things go as the experts predict, the Warriors will be champions once again. They will, however, have to withstand many formidable opponents to complete the three-peat.