The first round of the playoffs are in full swing in the Eastern Conference. Here are some of my impressions of the action so far.
Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets (Atlanta up 1-0 in the series at the time this was written): The Hawks were dominant at times during Game I, but they allowed Brooklyn to sneak back in the game due to a poor shooting night. It was Brooklyn’s big man Brook Lopez that dominated the game while Atlanta’s all-star duo of Al Horford and Paul Milsap were held to 16 combined points on seven of 23 shooting. For Brooklyn, Lopez scored 17 points while grabbing 14 rebounds in what was a very efficient night for him. Lopez needs help, however, as guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson will need to have big games to pull off an upset in this series.
Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics (Cleveland up 2-0): The Cavaliers have held off two of Boston’s best shots, but they just clearly have too much talent. In every game the Celtics have tried to make a comeback, each time LeBron James and Kyrie Irving have proved to be too much of a force for Boston to handle. Irving’s playoff debut in Game I where he scored 30 points showed that he was ready for the big stage. In Game II, it was LeBron’s 30-point, nine rebound and seven-assist effort that led the way. Boston played hard but when Irving and James decided to take over the game Boston just had no answer talent wise.
Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards (Washington up 2-0): Paul Pierce talked the talk and the Wizards went out and walked the walk. On the road in a hostile environment in Game I, Pierce backed up his talk by scoring 20 points, including five in overtime that helped the Wizards take control of the series and gain confidence. After leaning on Pierce in Game I, Wizards guards John Wall and Bradley Beal were electric in Game II. Beal and Wall combined for 54 points and Wall also had a ridiculous 17 assists. With the series heading back to Washington, the Wizards are oozing confidence and Pierce’s remarks have clearly fired up his teammates.
Chicago and Milwaukee (Chicago up 2-0): This series was easily the most physical and competitive of the first round. The Bucks’ strategy has been to focus on the defensive end in order to play the game at a grind it out pace. They were unsuccessful with this in Game I when Chicago’s Derrick Rose as able to control the pace of the game on his way to scoring 23 points with seven assists. In Game II, the Bucks’ strategy was more effective as the game was incredibly ugly. With a 16-11 lead after the first quarter, the Bucks had Chicago right where they wanted them as they slowed down Rose. In the fourth quarter Jimmy Butler put the team on his back on his way to scoring 31 points. When it was time to hit a clutch shot, Milwaukee struggled finding efficient offense. Milwaukee, who was held to 35 percent shooting from the field in the game, lacked a go to player down the stretch, which will hold them back in this series.