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Nets, Spurs finally round out elite eight in NBA playoffs

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The NBA playoffs ended the longest first round ever on May 4. The Game 7 clashes in Toronto and San Antonio capped off a weekend with five Game 7's, with the first three going to the home team. Although the Brooklyn Nets knocked off the host Toronto Raptors on the last play of their Game 7, the San Antonio Spurs had it much easier over the Dallas Mavericks, as the NBA playoffs returned to form after all.

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The Nets were the only road team to win a Game 7 this past weekend, yet it was far from an upset. The Raptors nearly made a big comeback with minutes left, but playoff veteran Paul Pierce made one more postseason highlight reel by blocking Kyle Lowry's buzzer beating shot to close a 104-103 victory.

The Spurs didn't need such heroics to finally put away the Mavericks, shooting over 70 percent for much of the first half. They finally took it easy and merely won by 119-96, becoming the second No. 1 seed in the NBA to survive a seven-game series with a No. 8.

A loss to the Mavericks would have been more excusable than the Indiana Pacers falling to the Atlanta Hawks, but neither scenario came to pass. Despite several favorites getting pushed to the limit, every favorite to win the championship finally survived.

The truly elite are still alive in the NBA playoffs, yet there remains a share of upstarts. The Spurs will face one of them in the Portland Trail Blazers, while the Nets will have to face a Miami Heat team that had the easiest first round series. One of them will face either the questionable Pacers or the rising Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference finals, with the Spurs or Blazers to face the battle tested Oklahoma City Thunder or Los Angeles Clippers in the Western finals.

While almost everyone agrees this was the greatest first round in NBA playoff history, it did technically end on a predictable note, with only two real thrillers on the weekend. The bar may have been set too high for the grand finale weekend of Game 7's, but now the next three rounds will hopefully turn out better.

The accompanying slideshow ranks the eight survivors of the first round thus far, although they have a second chance to do better -- with some getting a bigger reprieve than others.

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