It’s NBA Playoffs time!
Okay, sure, technically the NBA Playoffs have already started with the series of play-in games for the #7 and #8 seeds. But we didn’t have any former Marquette players in those games, so we skipped ahead to the start of the first round. We have FIVE former Golden Eagles playing in the first round, including one best-of-seven series that has two MU guys going head-to-head. There’s also a squad with a former Marquette star calling the shots from the bench.
This is your one stop shop for all the Marquette-related first round schedule information. We’ll run down the series involved based on the seeds involved, #1 seeds go first, etc., you get the idea. Because it’s best-of-seven, that means that the time and television for the if necessary games aren’t set in stone yet. We’ll update the schedule rundown as we need to as the first round carries on.
Jae Crowder — Phoenix Suns
Phoenix finished the regular season with the best record in the NBA at 64-18, making them the only team in the league to win more than 56 games, much less more than 60. The Suns are led by Devin Booker, who averaged 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists this season, and he has DeAndre Ayton in the middle and Chris Paul running the point to back him up. Our guy Jae Crowder started in all 67 games that he appeared in this season, contributing 9.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per game while knocking down 35% of his three-point attempts. That’s important because over two-thirds of Jae’s attempts at all this season are from downtown. Be advised that Crowder did sit out Phoenix’s regular season finale with an ankle issue and has missed three of the Suns’ final five games of the season in total. I’m guessing it’s a “if this was the playoffs, he’d be fine” situation, but keep an eye on it.
The top seeded Suns will be facing off against the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round. The Pelicans went 36-46 this season, which actually had them as the #9 team in the Western Conference standings. However, New Orleans beat San Antonio in the 9/10 play-in game behind 32 points from C.J. McCollum and then knocked off the 42-40 Clippers in the second play-in game with Brandon Ingram pouring in 30 points on 14-for-21 shooting.
Game 1: Sunday, April 17, 8pm Central, TNT
Game 2: Tuesday, April 19, 9pm Central, TNT
Game 3: Friday, April 22, 8:30pm Central, ESPN
Game 4: Sunday, April 24, 8:30pm Central, TNT
Game 5: Tuesday, April 26, 9pm Central, TNT
Game 6*: Thursday, April 28, TBD
Phoenix wins, 4-2!
Jimmy Butler — Miami Heat
Y’know, it’s kind of wild that the Heat are the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. No one on the team played in every game, and no one played in more games than Duncan Robinson, and only Robinson and P.J. Tucker played in more than 70 games. And yet, they went 53-29 and finished atop the standings by two full games. Of course, there’s a three-way tie for second place in the East, so it very much was up in the air coming down the stretch of the regular season.
In any case, Jimmy Butler is Miami’s leading scorer this season at 21.4 points per game, just a nudge in front of Tyler Herro (20.7) and Bam Adebayo (19.1). Jimmy is doing Jimmy Things this season as normal, adding 5.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. The reason why you’re not hearing any MVP buzz for him even though the Heat have the third best record in the entire league? Only played in 57 games. The most impressive part about what he’s doing here at 32 years old is that Butler all of a sudden can not shoot a lick. He was a perfectly acceptable three-point shooter in his first eight seasons in the league at 34%, but since arriving in Miami? 24% and a very bad 23% this season.
The Heat will be clashing with Trae Young’s #8 seeded Atlanta Hawks in the first round. Much like the Pelicans, the 43-39 Hawks had to win the 9/10 game (132-103 over Charlotte) just to get to the 8 seed game against Cleveland. Young was great for them on Friday night against the Cavaliers, going for 38 points, 3 rebounds, and 9 assists.
Game 1: Sunday, April 17, Noon Central, TNT
Game 2: Tuesday, April 19, 6:30pm Central, TNT
Game 3: Friday, April 22, 6pm Central, ESPN
Game 4: Sunday, April 24, 6pm Central, TNT
Game 5: Tuesday, April 26, 6pm Central, NBA TV
Miami wins, 4-1!
Wesley Matthews — Milwaukee Bucks
The defending champs went 51-31 this season and ended up second in a three-way tie with that record in the Eastern Conference, so that makes them the #3 seed this year. I don’t think I have to tell you that Giannis Antetokounmpo is the top dog on the roster, averaging a 30 point double-double if you round off to the nearest whole number and handing out six assists a night in his free time. The combination of The Greek Freak, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday make for a pretty impressive top three, and you have to take them seriously to come out of the East this year.
After playing the 2020-21 season with the Lakers, Matthews returned to the Bucks as a free agent signing in December. He made his season debut on December 4th against Miami (a 22 point win for Milwaukee, by the way), and ended up appearing in 49 games with 14 starts. Eight of those starts came in his last 10 appearances of the season and the last 12 games of the season for the Bucks, so it seems like there’s a solid chance that Matthews starts in the playoffs. He finished the year averaging 5.1 points and 1.9 rebounds per game in 20.4 minutes a night.
Milwaukee gets #6 seed Chicago in the first round, and, well, let’s just be honest about it: The Bulls are a shell of what they were this season before Lonzo Ball’s season was ended due to injury in mid-January. Chicago went 27-13 with Ball running the floor for them, and just 19-23 since. They were on pace to be the top seed in the entire conference, and then played like a team that wouldn’t have even been in the play-in games in the last half of the season. They still have DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, but it would be a shock if they even push Milwaukee to seven games.
Game 1: Sunday, April 17, 5:30pm Central, TNT
Game 2: Wednesday, April 20, 8:30pm Central, TNT
Game 3: Friday, April 22, 7:30pm Central, ABC
Game 4: Sunday, April 24, Noon Central, ABC
Game 5: Wednesday, April 27, TBD
Milwaukee wins, 4-1!
Doc Rivers — Philadelphia 76ers
This is Doc’s second season running the Sixers, and they finished in that 51-31 three-way tie with Milwaukee for the second best record in the Eastern Conference. Tiebreakers set them as the #3 team in that group and thus the #4 seed in the playoffs. Given the tomfoolery of The Ben Simmons Situation that didn’t resolve itself until early February, you could make an argument that this is Doc’s best coaching job in his 23 seasons holding the top job in the NBA.
Joel Embiid (31/12/4/1/1) is Philly’s top player this year, but you can make an argument that adding James Harden in the Ben Simmons trade in February made the Sixers a legitimate title contender. Philadelphia was a good team before Harden got there with a .593 winning percentage, which would have been a good enough pace to easily make the playoffs, but they’ve been winning at a .679 clip in the 28 games since Harden joined the team. Harden is averaging 21 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 10.5 assists per game since coming over in the trade.
They get the Toronto Raptors in the first round. The Raps went 48-34 in the regular season to end up as the #5 seed behind a pair of 20 point scorers in Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. You can tell I haven’t been paying ultra close attention to the Raptors this season because I just tapped my computer screen to make sure it was actually telling me that Fred VanVleet is a legitimate top option on a playoff team. Nothing against him, I think he’s neat, but I was not prepared for that information.
Game 1: Saturday, April 16, 5pm Central, ESPN
Game 2: Monday, April 18, 6:30pm Central, TNT
Game 3: Wednesday, April 20, 7pm Central, NBA TV
Game 4: Saturday, April 23, 1pm Central, TNT
Game 5: Monday, April 25, 7pm Central, NBA TV
Game 6*: Thursday, April 28, TBD
Philadelphia wins, 4-2!
Juan Toscano-Anderson — Golden State Warriors
Markus Howard — Denver Nuggets
The upside/downside of the 3/6 series between the Warriors and the Nuggets is that we are guaranteed to have one former Golden Eagle in the second round..... and we’re guaranteed to lose one former Golden Eagle going forward. Couldn’t have waited til the second round to butt heads, huh guys? C’mon!
Golden State is the #3 seed in the Western Conference after finishing at 53-29. They are, of course, led by Steph Curry, who averaged 26 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists this season while shooting 38% from long range. Klay Thompson returned to the lineup in January for his first NBA action since the 2019 NBA Finals, and ended up averaging 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists a night while shooting 39% from behind the arc in 32 appearances. Our guy Juan Toscano-Anderson played in 73 games for the Warriors this season, including six starts. He’s not going to be the guy they rely on, but he’s going to be a guy who needs to give them something, averaging 4.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game in just under 14 minutes a night.
Denver went 48-34 this season to dodge the play-in games and end up as the #6 seed here. They have done this with Jamal Murray and Michael Porter missing the entire season. This is terrifying, of course, because it means that Nikola Jokic has dragged this team kicking and screaming to the #6 seed in the West. Here is a list of men who have a better single season Win Share per 48 minutes in NBA and ABA history than what Jokic has done this season: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (x3), Wilt Chamberlain, LeBron James (x4), Michael Jordan (x3), Steph Curry, Nikola Jokic (last year), and David Robinson. That’s it, that’s the list. Watch this series to see if the Marquette guys make an impact, go out of your way to watch it to see what Jokic does. Howard has played in 31 games this season for the Nuggets, and is averaging 4.1 points per game and shooting 40% from three in his 5.7 minutes per outing.
Game 1: Saturday, April 16, 7:30pm Central, ABC
Game 2: Monday, April 18, 9pm Central, TNT
Game 3: Thursday, April 21, 9pm Central, TNT
Game 4: Sunday, April 24, 2:30pm Central, ABC
Game 5: Wednesday, April 27, TBD
Golden State wins, 4-1!