2022 NBA Playoffs: Who’s Winning the Finals?
As you might expect, a lot has happened in the 2021-22 NBA regular season, but with the playoffs right around the corner (but not before the play-in tournament), there’s a lot to recap. Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.
- The Celtics have looked awesome but a late injury to Robert Williams (aka Time Lord) has slightly derailed championship hopes
- Brooklyn has been… fine, but is getting into form at the right moment. The season has been disrupted by Irving’s vaccination decision, Durant’s injury, and the trade that sent Harden to Phili and Ben Simmons to the Nets
- The Knicks have been a huge disappointment from last season and missed the playoffs
- The Bulls had a hot start to the season but cooled off in the middle and end, largely due to injuries to Caruso and Lonzo Ball
- No. 1 2021 draft pick, Cade Cunningham, has been amazing for Detroit, averaging 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game – potential ROTY
- The Bucks continue to astound and likely championship contenders
- Minnesota shocked the league by winning more than losing, with stellar play from KAT and Edwards
- The Blazers sucked and have traded everyone on the roster apart from Lillard, and for some reason he wants to stay on the team
- Everyone is hyping up the Jazz as title contenders, but they are a regular-season team, not a playoff team
- The Warriors have Klay back on the roster but the squad has been decimated by injuries to Steph and Draymond. Everyone should be healthy for playoffs, though
- The Lakers… less said, the better. Coach Vogel is fired, Westbrook was a disaster, LeBron and Davis were often injured, and the old roster was unbelievably bad. L.A. didn’t even reach the play-in tournament this season.
- Phoenix is quietly the best team in the league… practically a lock for reaching the Finals again
- Ja Morant and the Grizzlies are the coolest team in the NBA and will continue to drop jaws in the post-season.
When do the 2022 NBA playoffs start?
Everything gets rolling officially on Saturday, April 16th, as the play-in will be over and every matchup set in stone for the first round. Things are a bit more confusing these days after waiting for the results for the play-in tournament, but commissioner Adam Silver has confirmed that the mini playoffs idea is here to stay and helps increase the excitement at the end of the regular season.
The playoffs bracket and what’s up with the play-in tournament
Before we get carried away with the playoffs, you might need a quick overview of what the play-in tournament is all about.
Originally, only the first eight teams in the East and West Conferences would progress to the playoffs after the regular-season has ended. Now, however, the play-in tournament was designed to help the teams in 9th and 10th place have a fighting chance to reach the post-season.
There have been many arguments for and against the mini playoffs. Some hate it because it makes the regular season a bit meaningless, as the teams in 7th and 8th place could earn that spot over the entire season but then be knocked out by a lower team at the very end of it all.
However, some love it because they say it decreases the chance of tanking (losing on purpose to get a better chance of a high lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft), and it’s simply better TV ratings at a time when everyone has stopped caring about the regular-season and looking toward the playoffs.
LeBron James famously uttered the phrase, “Whoever came up with that sh** needs to be fired.” Well, they didn’t get fired and it appears that it’s here to stay. Funnily enough, LeBron and the Lakers would have loved to reach the tournament this season, but couldn’t even get to that point.
The play-in tournament works as such:
- The teams in 7th and 8th place play one game, and the winner is officially locked into the playoffs as the no. 7 seed
- The teams in 9th and 10th place play one game and the loser is out of contention for the playoffs, while the winner plays the loser of the 7th and 8th game
- This means that the teams in 7th and 8th basically have two chances to reach the playoffs, which is a slight incentive to fight harder in the regular-season
The 2022 NBA play-in tournament games are beginning on the 12th April and the teams are decided.
East: (7th place) Brooklyn Nets vs. (8th place) Cleveland Cavaliers
East: (9th place) Atlanta Hawks vs. (10th place) Charlotte Hornets
West: (7th place) Minnesota Timberwolves vs. (8th place) Los Angeles Clippers
West: (9th place) New Orleans Pelicans vs. (10th place) San Antonio Spurs
Nets vs. Cavs
The Cavs had ruthless defense once upon a time, but after the injury to the team’s anchor, Jarrett Allen, things haven’t looked so challenging. Allen is still hurt and highly unlikely to compete in the play-in game, although it’s possible he’ll turn up for a later round should the Cavs progress to the next stage.
The Cavs will have to deal with Irving and Durant, who are arguably two of the greatest scorers in NBA history, and there’s barely a defense in the entire NBA that can contain these players once they get going. It’s a shame we won’t see Ben Simmons in a Nets uniform just yet, as the talented point-forward is still healing from a back injury.
Cleveland’s Darius Garland is a major threat on the court, as the shifty guard is averaging 21.7 PPG and 8.6 APG, which means he can drive to the hoop and score at will, but also draw defenders away and kick it out to shooters for an easy three-pointer.
With Allen not playing and the Cavs lineup still pretty inexperienced (apart from Kevin Love who is somehow still on the roster), the Nets will cruise to a victory.
Hawks vs. Hornets
LaMelo Ball battling Trae Young will be one of the highlights of the play-in tournament. Both are super young, make dazzling plays, and can take over the game when it’s on the line.
The Hawks will be a bit shorthanded with forward John Collins still out with an injury, as they desperately need his mid-range shooting and rebounding, not to mention solid defense.
It’s hard to see the Hornets beating the Hawks, as Gordon Haywood won’t be playing, which means a lot of the offense will run through Ball and Miles Bridges. This isn’t normally a problem, but in a high-stakes game like this, the inexperience will be on display and things could get erratic. The Hawks went to the Conference Finals last year, so will be calm under pressure and get the victory.
Timberwolves vs. Clippers
Paul George is back for the Clippers! We didn’t see that coming, but will he be enough to defeat the rolling Wolves? Actually, no. Minnesota is really well-coached by Chris Finch these days, and he has Towns playing arguably the best ball of his career, with 24.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. The emergence of Anthony Edwards is something else, too, as he is fearless but has the skill to back it up.
The Clippers never go down without a fight, and George and co. have played well when together, but the Wolves will have all the energy to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
Pelicans vs. Spurs
With no Zion Williamson all year for the Pelicans, things haven’t been quite as exciting as they could have been. Still, the trade for C.J. McCollum reinvigorated the team chemistry and he has worked great alongside scoring fiend, Brandon Ingram. The Pels have shown that they’re not afraid of taking on bigger teams and winning, and a healthy, active Valanciunas is never a bad player to have on the roster for the interior defense.
The Spurs are coached by Pop, so you know he’ll have something up his sleeve, but the talent isn’t quite the same as the Duncan/Ginobili/Parker days. As good as Dejounte Murray is, he’s still raw and needs a bit of refinement before taking the next steps to stardom. The Pelicans will take this game but it won’t be as easy as they think.
What will the final playoff bracket be on April 16th?
Championship predictions: Who’s going to win it?
As boring as it might sound, the most likely outcome from the 2022 NBA playoffs will be another rematch of the 2021 Finals: Phoenix against Milwaukee.
Both teams are just so darn good and potentially even better than the 2021 versions. The health of Suns’ Chris Paul will be a determining factor, as the 36-year-old still has the talent but often struggles with injuries that last for weeks. The improvement of Devin Booker is not to be understated, as he alone can carry a team to a huge win.
The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo is flat-out unstoppable, and the supporting cast remains largely unchanged, except for P.J. Tucker more or less being replaced by Serge Ibaka. The added scoring of Kris Middleton and the defense of Jrue Holiday makes the Bucks a formidable threat.
So, who will win? The Suns badly want revenge, but the Bucks would love two championships in a row, however, we think that Phoenix will have the momentum and the ability to get the title this time around, with the Finals ending 4-2.
Author: Joe Garland