Toronto Raptors vs. Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards tied their NBA first-round playoff series at two after another strong performance in Game 4, but the brakes fell off the next two games. In Game 5, the Toronto Raptors won 108-98 to take a 3-2 series lead. DeMar DeRozan posted a game-high 32 points with five assists. The Raptors kept the good times rolling as they came back from a three-point deficit at half in Washington thanks to Kyle Lowry’s stellar 24-point performance. Their victory broke a 23-game losing streak when losing at halftime and propelled them into the second round.
All-stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, who have been stellar all year, headline Toronto, but the Raptors’ backbone is their bench. Second-year guard Fred Van Fleet, who leads the bench, isn’t flashy, but he gets the job done. In Game 6, he posted a 5-4-4 stat line to help Toronto make up for its early deficit. Look for the bench to continue to produce at a high level as the Raptors’ NBA Finals march continues.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat
The Philadelphia 76ers were dominant the entire series as they cruised to a 4-1 series victory against the Miami Heat. Game 3 saw a Sixers fourth-quarter comeback in a 106-102 victory in Miami. Ben Simmons reached his first career playoff triple double. Game 5 wasn’t any better for the Heat. Philadelphia dominated from the beginning as it had a little extra magic with Meek Mill in the stands. Philadelphia captured a 104-91 victory behind veteran guard J.J. Redick’s 22 points. This is the first time since 2012 the 76ers find themselves in the second round.
Redick, an 11-year veteran, was brilliant in the first round. His consistent scoring helped the 76ers dominate the Heat on the offensive side. Redick led the 76ers in scoring in three of five games this series as he found his groove from deep. Keep an eye out for Redick’s dominance to continue next round for the 76ers.
Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks
This series was exciting from the beginning as the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks looked to prove they belonged in the playoffs. They fought and clawed to a Game 7 in Boston, where the biggest matchup didn’t include Giannis Antetokounmpo but instead involved the series point guards, Terry Rozier and Eric Bledsoe. Their beef spilled onto the court after some vocal shots were fired in postgame interviews. Rozier and the Celtics came up big with a 112-96 victory to clinch the series thanks to strong play from Al Horford, who led Boston in points and rebounds with a 26-8 stat line.
Rozier didn’t put up the biggest numbers or the flashiest plays, but he did step into to Kyrie Irving’s role with little change. Going into the playoffs, everyone was asking who was going to step up with the loss of Irving, and Rozier did just that as he helped facilitate his Celtics to the second round against a tough Bucks team. He will look to build off this strong start when the Celtics face Ben Simmons and the 76ers in the second round.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers’ series came down to the wire as all-stars LeBron James and Victor Oladipo battled to the end. James and the Cavs claimed the series with a 105-101 victory. “King” James had a monster performance in that game. He tallied 45 points as well as a game-high seven assists. The true game changer this series was Tristan Thompson, who found new life in Game 7 when he posted 15 points and 10 rebounds in his only start of the series. The second round will show if Thompson and his other teammates can help James shoulder some of the load against the Raptors.
There isn’t much to say about this pick. He is the best player in the NBA, and without him, the Cavs lose in five. The Raptors will need to slow down James if they want to win the next series.