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All First-Round Team: Jayson Tatum

All First-Round Team: Jayson Tatum

Image for article titled There were some outstanding performances in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, and those players deserve some recognition
Photo: Getty Images

Was the Boston Celtics’ sweep of the Brooklyn Nets and Jayson Tatum’s performance against Kevin Durant a changing of the guard moment in the NBA?! I mean that’s the logical A-block topic after the performance Tatum had against Durant. He was the Celtics’ leading scorer, top playmaker, and hounded Durant all series, holding one of the best scorers in NBA history to under 40 percent shooting from the field for the series. In a must win Game 3 at home, Durant only took 11 field goal attempts.

It’s a team effort to make someone that great look so bad, but Tatum was tenacious and a big reason why Durant could not find his rhythm. It’s not often that players make that kind of distinct impact on both sides of the floor for an entire series. Tatum owned the floor for nearly every second that he was on it against the Nets, and had the Celtics playing their best basketball since they went to the NBA Finals in 2010.

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MVP: Jalen Brunson

MVP: Jalen Brunson

Image for article titled There were some outstanding performances in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, and those players deserve some recognition
Photo: Getty Images

As well as Tatum played in that first round, the MVP has to go to Jalen Brunson. This is a player who has never averaged 20 points per game in a season, and he averaged 27.8 on 48.4 percent shooting against the Jazz. Again, he became the focal point of the series after the 41-point outburst in Game 2. Then with all of the arrows and circles and clicker lasers pointed towards him, he returned with a 31-point game to show that he is for real.

The Mavericks were not a big three, or a one-two punch going into this postseason. They were an improved defense, some capable supplemental scores, and Dončić. Brunson, at his 6-foot-1 stature, stepped into Dončić’s shoes and led the Mavericks to their first playoff series win in over a decade. Yes, Dončić returned to close the show, but without Brunson, the show is over long before Dončić is able to return to the stage and give the final soliloquy. Brunson filled a role that no one ever thought that he would be able to in the NBA, and for that he is the MVP of the first round.

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