NBA Playoffs Second-Round Recap: Winners, Losers, Best Moments

May 15, 2023, 1:27 PM

NBA Playoffs Second-Round Semifinals Recap...

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12: LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers shoots the ball over Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first quarter in game six of the Western Conference Semifinal Playoffs at Arena on May 12, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – All of the excitement and energy from the first round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs carried into the semifinals.

The lower seed advanced in two of the four second-round matchups.

Nuggets Send Suns Back To The Valley

Despite the addition of two-time champion and former MVP Kevin Durant, the Suns had no answer for the well-rounded roster of the Denver Nuggets.

In the six games, Phoenix had just three players average double digits (Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Deandre Ayton). All five of the Nuggets starters and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope averaged ten or more points.

Nikola Jokic put together one of the greatest individual playoff series performances of all time. The Joker averaged 34.5 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 10.3 assists on 59.4% from the field.

This included a masterful game four where Jokic posted 53 points and 11 assists on 66.7%.

Phoenix starters Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton each suffered injuries in the series that prevented them from playing at their highest level. Paul played just two games and Ayton missed the pivotal game six.

Just a day after Denver closed the series, rumors flew regarding Paul and Ayton’s future as members of the Suns. According to ESPN insider Tim MacMahon, Phoenix is expected to explore what the point guard and center’s value is on the trade market.

On Sunday, it was announced that head coach Monty Williams was dismissed by new Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia. Williams was the NBA’s winningest coach in the 2020s.

Denver has been one of the most disrespected 1-seeds in recent memory. They proved that they are nothing less than a championship contender as they advance to the conference finals for the second time in four years.

Tatum, Celtics Explode In Game 7 To Down 76ers

After Jayson Tatum struggled in game five and Philadelphia took a 3-2 series lead, many people thought that the series was all but over.

With 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter of game six, the 76ers led by two, 83-81. Tatum had played a lackluster game through three quarters. He made just one of his first 14 shots.

But, the next five quarters of basketball were masterful for the 6-year All-Star out of Duke. Tatum scored 15 points in the fourth quarter of game 6 to help Boston force a game 7.

In the win-or-go-home matchup at TD Garden, Tatum set an NBA record when he scored 51 points, the most ever in a game 7. Joel Embiid and James Harden both struggled immensely in the closeout game.

Tatum averaged 25.3 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 5 assists against Philly. Embiid averaged 25.5 points and 9 rebounds.

Harden, Jaylen Brown, Tyrese Maxey, Malcolm Brogdon, and Marcus Smart all averaged 15 or more points in the 7-game series.

With Boston sending MVP Joel Embiid and Philadelphia back to the City of Brotherly Love, the Celtics have played in five of the last seven Eastern Conference Finals. Tatum, Brown, and the C’s aim to get redemption for last year’s finals lost by hanging banner number 18 in 2023.

Knicks Struggle As Heat Continue Playoff Push

Just like age, playoff seeds are only a number. Miami proved this as they beat the No. 5 Knicks in six games.

The last time a No. 8 seed made it all the way to the conference finals was in 1999. The Knicks, led by Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston, swept the 4-seeded Hawks.

This series was headlined by the guard battle between Jimmy Butler and Jalen Brunson.

Butler averaged 24.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6 assists while playing through an ankle injury he suffered late in game one. Brunson averaged 31 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 6.3 assists on 50.4% from the floor.

Facing elimination, Brunson dropped 41 points on 63.6% from the field and 50% from deep in game six. His performance wasn’t enough, as Miami pulled out a hard-fought 4-point win.

The season wasn’t a complete wash for New York. The addition of Brunson proved to be one of the best offseason moves from 2022, they recorded their 7th positive season record in the 2000s, and made it past the first round for the first time since 2013.

If Miami can defeat the Celtics/76ers in the conference finals, they will become the second 8-seed to make it all the way to the NBA Finals and the first to do it this century.

Warriors Repeat Dreams Silenced By Lakers

With the Lakers defeating the reigning champion Warriors in six games, there will be a 7-seed and 8-seed in the conference finals for the first time in NBA history.

Just like in the first round, the Lakers took game one on the road to steal home-court advantage. LA also took both games at Arena to take a commanding 3-1 lead.

However, the history between LeBron James, Steph Curry, and 3-1 leads led many to believe that the series was far from over. This idea got even louder as Golden State took game 5 at home. In game six, the Lakers silenced all of the critics as they took a 27-10 first-quarter lead and never looked back.

Even at the age of 38 and 35 respectively, the James and Curry rivalry didn’t disappoint. Curry averaged 26.7 points and 7.5 assists. James averaged 24.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 5.5 assists.

Ultimately, the outcome of this series came down to the surrounding cast. Like Denver and Phoenix, Los Angeles had twice as many double-digit scorers as the Warriors.

Anthony Davis played very well, averaging 21.5 points and 14.5 rebounds. The second-best player for GSW, Klay Thompson, struggled. He recorded 16.2 points on 34.3%.

Chandler Holt is a Digital Sports Producer for, specializing in all things basketball and football. Follow Chandler on Twitter at @ChandlerHoltKSL.

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NBA Playoffs Second-Round Recap: Winners, Losers, Best Moments