Joel Embiid
NBA

NBA playoffs – Conference semi-finals preview: Embiid leaves a big hole

May 4, 2022

The first round of the NBA playoffs came and went with few surprises, which is good news for NBA betting, as the top four seeds from both main groups advanced, and there wasn’t even a matchup that required a seventh clash. The second round, however, promises much more exciting and intense matchups.

In the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers would have been salivating at the opportunity to take on Miami Heat, even though they are the Conference’s top seed. However, one of their stars, Joel Embiid, is injured and is likely unavailable for at least part of the series. The center missed the first match because of a fractured eye socket and concussion, and without him, his team lost 106-92 at home.

Embiid is expected to return for the third game at the earliest, but the big question is whether the Sixers will be able to overcome a two-game deficit, because at first glance James Harden won’t be able to carry the team to victory on his own.

Meanwhile, Heat have shown an ability to overcome injuries to star players such as Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry in Round One of the playoffs. Their squad depth and defensive toughness make them a tough match for anyone and the likes of Butler can hit the scoring numbers to take them all the way.

The other Eastern Conference matchup is the outstanding series of the round, as the Boston Celtics, who boast a record 17 championships, face defending champions Milwaukee Bucks. The former swept the Brooklyn Nets in Round One, thanks in large to their superb defense, so fans and pundits alike were eagerly awaiting how it would fare against Giannis Antetokounmpo. Well, the Greek center had 24 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists with a triple-double and led his team to a relatively smooth victory.

Boston, however, had few problems with its defense, as conceding 101 points is far from insurmountable. However, they could not compete with the Bucks in attack, since nowadays its difficult to win a game with 89 points. The Bucks will be grateful for the strong start, especially with All-Star Khris Middleton expected to miss the entire series. It’s certainly shaping up to be the most exciting pairing of the second round.

In the West, the league-leading Phoenix Suns were somewhat alarmed that their best player Devin Booker was injured in Game 2 of the first round. But Booker returned for the sixth game and the Suns closed out the match.

The Suns recaptured their form in the opener against the Dallas Mavericks, overcoming a star performance from Luka Doncic, who shot 45 points and 12 rebounds. Simply, this Suns line-up is much more complete and has more depth than its opponent, which, with some exaggeration, is a one-man team. That will not be enough here, as the Suns’ six players get at least 10 points and two get over 20 points.

The other western duel is a clash of youth and experience, the former represented by the Memphis Grizzlies and the latter by the Golden State Warriors. The first match brought amazing excitement, with Klay Thompson’s hoop-sinking triple with 36 seconds left giving the Warriors a one-point victory, despite one of their stars, Draymond Green, being ejected in the first half. The Warriors’ best player was not Green or 24-point captain Steph Curry, but the team’s young, rising star, Jordan Poole, who scored 31 points off the bench.

The Grizzlies have already shown that they will be a tough opponent with their mix of youth and athleticism. They certainly caused the Warriors plenty of problems over the regular season, winning three of the four matchups.