The 2022 NBA Playoffs have arrived. We’re set for two months of top tier basketball with many exciting storylines set to play out. Defending champions Milwaukee Bucks are favourites to come out of the Eastern Conference while the team they beat in last year’s Finals, the Phoenix Suns, are favourites in the Western Conference.
The preseason favourites for the title – the Brooklyn Nets – have come through the play-in tournament to grab hold of the 7th seed and are currently listed at +600 to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. Their opponents in the first round are the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are ranked fourth in the outright betting so it’s sure to be a tight seven game series between the two east coast rivals.
In the Western Conference, the Suns are the hot favourites to reach the Finals for a second season running. Chris Paul and Devin Booker have led the Arizona team to a franchise record 64 wins this season and are short priced at +105 to be the Western Conference representatives in the Finals. The Grizzlies and Warriors are the most likely challengers but it seems inevitable that Monty Williams’ men will go all the way to the Finals.
Lets take a look at some of the key storylines coming down the line in the 2022 NBA Playoffs. You can keep up-to-date with the latest news on the NBA here.
Eastern Conference Royal Rumble
The Eastern Conference has been extremely competitive this season. At the end of the 82-game schedule only 10 wins separated the Miami Heat in the 1st seed and the Hornets in 10th seed. Three franchises finished with an identical 51-31 record with the Boston Celtics finishing ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers in 2nd, 3rd and 4th seedings.
The close nature of the Eastern Conference means there are plenty of opportunities for upsets in the opening rounds of the playoffs. The Toronto Raptors have been resurgent in the second half of the season and they will pose a serious threat to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round. Doc Rivers’ 76ers team have been underwhelming since trading for James Harden and will have to hope that Joel Embiid can maintain his MVP-level form for the next few months.
The Chicago Bulls had a great start to the season but have trailed off in recent months with injuries and dips in form hampering their progress. Their first round matchup with Milwaukee Bucks looks to be the most predictable of all the opening series in the Eastern Conference. A 4-0 sweep for the Bucks does not seem to be out of the question. Expect a fiery atmosphere between these two teams with tempers still frayed after the much talked about Grayson Allen and Alex Caruso incident in the regular season.
The Celtics-Nets is the one everyone is really looking forward to. Two of the championship favourites going head-to-head in the early rounds of the playoffs is a rare occurence and one to be savoured. It also sees Kyrie Irving return to TD Gardens where he is sure to receive a less than friendly welcome from the Boston faithful. Another seven game series may be in store here.
How Far Can The Suns Go
The Monty Williams revolution in Phoenix began in the Orlando bubble. The Suns travelled to Florida for the end of the 2019-2020 season with little hopes of reaching the playoffs. However that didn’t stop them from going 8-0 to finish out the COVID-hampered season. Since then they have gone from strength-to-strength, picking up wins at a rate unmatched by anyone in the league.
Should they fail to capitalise on this extended run of form with a Larry O’Brien Trophy in their cabinet then it will be seen as a failure. A run to the Finals last season was somewhat unexpected but anything less this season will be a major disappointment.
Another Finals clash with the Milwaukee Bucks seems the most likely outcome heading into this postseason. Many fans and bettors alike will be eagerly anticipating a run to the Finals for the Phoenix Suns.
The Wild West
The middleground in the Western Conference has potential to get wild. The Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets have been competing at that level for some years and have had great battles in the last number of seasons. This post-season we’ll see Nikola Jokic and his Denver Nuggets take on the Golden State Warriors while Luka Doncic will lead his Dallas Mavericks team into battle with the Utah Jazz.
The attritional nature of the NBA Playoffs, particularly for these mid-level teams in the Western Conference, has made it difficult for these teams to challenge for title honours in the past. There’s game winners in every team in the Western Conference which could lead to some really exciting games over the coming weeks.
NBA Playoffs: Finals Predictions
Most sportsbooks have predicted a repeat of the 2021 NBA Finals and we don’t disagree. The Phoenix Suns have been the standout team in the league all season long while the Milwaukee Bucks have proved playoff pedigree and one of the greatest players of all-time in their ranks in the form of The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
There are a number of teams outside of the top two that will have legitimate aspirations of winning it all this season but they will need to make improvements from their regular season performance to reach the summit. The winner of the Brooklyn Nets – Boston Celtics first round series will probably be the strongest challenger to the Bucks in the East. In the Western Conference, the Golden State Warriors have the silverware to prove their postseason abilities. However, they will be heavily reliant on the returning Stephen Curry alongside Draymond Green and Klay Thompson if they are to deliver another title to the Bay Area. The Memphis Grizzlies surprised many by claiming the No.2 seed in the West – they have a deep roster headlined by All-Star Ja Morant but a Finals appearance may just be a step too far for this young team.
We’re looking forward to a great two months of NBA action and we hope you are too.
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