2018 NBA Playoffs: Grading each first round playoff series
With the Cavaliers' hard-fought victory over the Pacers, the first round of the 2018 playoffs has finally come to an end. It was a much better affair than the same stage in the 2017 playoffs when we saw eventual finalists Warriors and Cavaliers finish their first-round opponents off with 4-game sweeps.
The Warriors this year dropped a game at the AT&T Center to the San Antonio Spurs, while the only sweep in this year's first round had a result that 22 analysts at ESPN got woefully wrong in their predictions.
The Eastern Conference playoffs bracket was littered with extremely competitive series, while the ones in the West that turned out to be competitive weren't the ones that most people foresaw turning out that way.
In this article, we attempt to grade every playoff series based on the following parameters:
(a) Quality of basketball exhibited
(b) Competitiveness of the games
(c) Length of the series
Without further ado, here are each of the series graded:
Toronto Raptors vs Washington Wizards - B+
An underdog that didn't really feel like, or indeed, play like one? Check. A #1 seed that lived up to its billing at some times and felt more like a lower seed at other times? Check. All-Star backcourts headlining both team lineups? Check. Close, competitive basketball all the way through? Check.
The matchup between the Toronto Raptors and the Washington Wizards threw up some wonderful, extremely national television-worthy basketball - neither team gets too much coverage on the major American sports networks during the regular season.
The Raptors held serve twice at home with convincing victories in the first two games of the series, and the Wizards hit back with two victories of their own in the two subsequent games.
While John Wall was arguably the best player in the series, his team lost out to the deeper, slightly more talented Raptors roster over the course of a 6-game series. DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors to victory in game 5, and that seemed to be the turning point of the series which had played out predictably till that point.
The Wizards' execution in clutch situations let them down in games 1, 5 and 6, while their bench got thoroughly outplayed by the Raptors' bench mob, who averaged 35.2 points per game.
In comparison, the Wizards' second unit averaged 30.6 points, but that wasn't enough to outlast the Raptors' overall depth. Considering that they missed Fred VanVleet for much of the series, the Wizards have to count themselves lucky they got away with 2 wins of their own.