The NBA awards two (two!) Players of the Week each week of the regular season.
But when the stakes go way up in the playoffs, the league stays silent until naming an NBA Finals MVP.
So, picking up where I left off last year, here are the series MVPs for the first round:
Celtics 4, Nets 0: Jayson Tatum
Kevin Durant is arguably the best player in the world. For all his issues, Kyrie Irving is insanely talented and adept at playoff basketball when on the court, and he was fully available.
But Jayson Tatum was the best player in this series, and it wasn’t particularly close.
Tatum scored 29.5 points per game – including the game-winner in Game 1 – with a 62 true shooting percentage. As Brooklyn helped more on his drives, Tatum showed off his improved passing ability with 7.3 assists per game (albeit with five turnovers per game).
Though he had plenty of help, Tatum spearheaded Boston’s domineering defense on Durant. Tatum and co. held Durant to just 39% shooting with more than five turnovers per game.
Bucks 4, Bulls 1: Giannis Antetokounmpo
The Bucks stumbled at times in this series, especially early.
But nearly never with Giannis Antetokounmpo on the court.
floor. His aggressive drives opened so many positives for the Bucks. Defensively, Antetokounmpo repeatedly shut down the Bulls’ attempts to get inside.
Though not really summoning his best effort in this series, Antetokounmpo still dominated more than enough to get past Chicago.
Start with the bad news: Embiid left this series with an orbital bone fracture and concussion. But let’s take a moment to acknowledge why that’s such a problem for the 76ers:
Because Embiid is so good.
Embiid (26.2 and 11.3 rebounds per game) crushed the Raptors. He made 61% of his 2-pointers. Toronto kept fouling him, and he kept hitting his free throws (83%). Though playing through a thumb injury hindered him, Embiid is a force.