NBA Playoffs 2017: Quarter Finals
At the point of this being written, the first round game of every series has already transpired. Along with the second round of a few others. Call it fashionably late to the show. The already determined leads may influence knee-jerk reactions. It's the playoffs though - ain't no predicting. And I'm not an expert on the game, just a compulsive follower of it. This that time when chapters of careers are written. Transcriptions of legacies. Where underdogs are cheered for and front runners are witnessed. The cumulative grind of some of these mufuckas' lives - no, the cumulative attention span of fans escaping to more systematic n' tribal backdrops; taking on more primal understandings of how things work. Aye, maybe both. We talking philosophy or hoops? I dunno. This is what happens when you mix basketball, rum and that new Kendrick Lamar fire.
In Westbrook we trust, and in the words of that Rihanna beater..."leggo."
GSW vs. POR
Experiencing a lot of déjà vu all of a sudden. We talking heart versus heart + overwhelming fire power. Portland is that feel good story that is going to end in a shortened season not due to a lack of effort, but to an unfortunate injury...and the fact that they're going up against the fucking Warriors. Had Jusuf Nurkic been present in game one, he could have abused the fuck out of their weak ass interior. Or maybe not, we won't know after all until he is back in the series...if that even happens. My point is that Portland was looking much more like a balanced team with the late season acquisition of Nurkic from Denver. His already polished defensive game was shining and while there were questions about his offensive game, which caused him to fall back in the Denver rotation, he was really killing it on that end as well before going down. The first game of this series was close until the end of the third period. Superior star power took over after Portland's backcourt played their fucking hearts out. Meanwhile, Toronto can take a second "L" here based off how Portland's backcourt showed up, and Toronto's...well, I'll get to that further down...
Portland will steal one, or a few. I've not been a fan of what GSW did and it ain't out of team-envy. There are holes in their scheme and don't be surprised when hungry & scrappy teams prod for them. Lillard and CJ are those nosey mu'fuckas. GSW in five. Home court will play a huge advantage.
LAC vs. UTA
I really dislike both teams. As far as I'm concerned, an asteroid could land in the LA stadium, take out both teams, and the playoffs would go untampered. Clippers will choke now, or later. CP3 is aging and has never been able to give enough "umph" to push past, DJ is below average on any other team, and Blake has looked disinterested ever since he started whippin' around in a KIA.
The Jazz...ugh. Lame state, lame franchise, and a lame name that really doesn't have shit to do with the soil.. Very bitter that they routinely beat my Suns. They were saved by a last chance shot from one of the most clutch players of all time; old ass Joe Johnson. Rudy Gobert, their defensive focal point, went down at the end with a minor injury. Wasn't in game two and doubt he will be back in time to save the series. It's probably over for them. Then again, the Clippers have a hard on for fucking up. Whatever, asteroid in seven...shit, plot twist; the Clippers flop and the refs call foul on UTA for the asteroid. Clippers win in seven off of this epically bad call.
HOU vs. OKC
This should be one of the most anticipated series for NBA fans. This is that shit I've been waiting to watch. So many storylines ranging from MVP debates, to severed friendships, to teammates turned rivals...showcasings of superstar versus superstar swishes and slams. Fuuuuck you if you aren't white knuckled and wide eyed with the gusto this shit emits. My pants. They're feeling tight.
Westbrook vs. Harden.
Relentless vs. Finesse
Harden has the better team in terms of what suits the skill-sets of these stars. It's his show, just as it's Westbrook's...but, his show encompasses more characters. The high volume spot up shooting from Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson are perfect for the dishes Harden can serve up. Beverly and Ariza offer the same all while shoring up some of the lapses in perimeter defense that have become synonymous with Harden. Can't forget Lou Williams either. Along with fitting in with the whole guns-a-blazing offense, Lou offers another option for playmaking should Harden be pinned down.
Their main weakness? Nene, Capela and Montrezl Harrell can hold it down in the paint enough to grab some boards here and there along with the occasional hustle play, but I'm waiting for Enes Kanter and Stephen Adams of OKC to really punish them inside next game. Honestly, not that it matters now, but Kenneth Faried would be the ultimate player to insert into this team. In such a high octane jump shooting offense, Faried could feed all day long on put backs and lobs.
Westbrook didn't have the greatest game 1 in terms of shooting and turnovers. You can' turn the ball over often against a team like Houston that can easily push the ball up court for a wide open three. What I'd love to see is more pick and rolls between Westbrook and Stephen Adams along with more post up attempts from Kanter. If Westbrook's shot isn't falling, these are the best options to keep the offense from going stagnant all while slowing down the pace of Houston. And why not try for as mean easy interior baskets? Who the fuck is going to stop them? In addition, OKC needs to win on rebounds. They have superior board crashers in Taj Gibson, Adams, and of course Mr. Tripple Dub' himself. What would also really help out a lot? For Andre Roberson to fucking decide if he can shoot threes or not. So inconsistent. This would give Westbrook a solid option when it comes to kickouts. Now reading this may make it seem like OKC has to do a lot more right than Houston does, but if we learned anything from the great D'Antoni led Suns teams, it was that poor rebounding offensive-driven teams can fizzle out. OKC just have to keep the intensity dialed in, limit turnovers and play solid man to man defense so that players like Beverly don't go off on them from range.
I may sound a little biased toward OKC on this one. It's cuz' I am. Westbrook is one of the illest ballers I've ever seen. Huge fan. I respect anyone who has that little of fucks to hand out on the court and in those exit interviews. Look for Westbrook to embody a Kendrick moment of late and explode some DNA all over Houston's court in game dos. I got, I got, I got, I got Makeveli Westbrook in seven...aye...
SAS vs. MEM
Déjà vu all over again? Told ya. Unfortunately we're a little too far removed from the shock and awe that was the 2011 match up between these two teams - where the Grizzlies pulled off one hell of an upset and Zach Randolph showcased the Memphis grit n' grind mentality. The Spurs have retooled every year since then, where as Memphis has at best remained stagnant. Randolph is essentially retired. As good as Conley is, he's overpaid and younger Gasol ain't carrying shit. Flip side? Parker is known as "Porker" on forums, Aldridge is synonymous with middle of the road, and while Kawhi is certainly an elite player, can he carry them past these elite offenses out west? I'm talking GSW, OKC, or Houston. Spurs in five, but I don't know what they're doing with all those playoff T-Shirts past that. Can they seriously handle whatever juggernaut that emerges from the Harden & Westbrook dual? After all, the Achilles heel in recent years for the Spurs in the postseason has consistently been fast paced and athletic offenses. The Duncan era is over. The Spurs have a new humble baller in his place. This is Kawhi's time to make a statement. Product of a system, or not - he's killing it thus far and is the quiet and reserved menace that your team doesn't want to deal with.
Let's take a stroll down memory lane though to one of my favorite underdog moments of all time:
Z-Bo was such a beauty in his short-lived prime. A fucking beast that bullied everyone with his body. His shot was finesse every single time whether it be by put backs, or strong-ass post moves. That mid-ranged jump shot was lethal. He could run it up the court as well if you gave him room. You might have great defense, but theirs was better. Tony Allen mayne. They still had the grind to chip away at you on the offensive end as well. Big bodied bullies. A team for the ages.
BOS vs. CHI
Let me just begin with my condolences to Isaiah Thomas for his sisters untimely death. It's hard, cruel and unfair. A black mark on what has looked like, from the outside looking in, a career defining year for Thomas and the Celtics.
Boston ,while competitive looking throughout the majority of the year especially past the All-Star break, is overachieving epically. Their front court is a joke as showcased by their rebounding and interior defense and while I was never that high on Al Horford, the dude has room to step up at least a little bit. Not sure if he is being frozen out by the backcourt and requires a more willing passing big man next to him, but his pay vs. production ratio is a little off right now. Was going to ask if Amir Johnson got paid or something so I could explain his production, but he's pretty on par for the course with what he's cranking out. Kelly and Zeller are lucky they're as tall as they are. Isaiah Thomas propelled this team's offense something fierce - at a discounted price at that, courtesy of Celtic's front office raised Ryan McDonough. Hopefully those solid Celtics connections help the Suns unload Brandon Knight this off season...
None of this is really news though. We know that Brad Stevens is one of those coaches that can squeeze effort out of whatever they're working with. What's a little surprising to me right now is the effort that Chicago is coming out with. I mean shit, Robin Lopez is feasting against the Celtics front court - and it's not like he's Hakeem. Lopez has hustle and a few basic post moves to go with his refined midranged jumper. Can't even jump more than five inches and has never been solid at boxing out. Yet he is having his way against Boston. As is Portis to an extent. But I think this is really just indicative of a veteran-heavy team, Chicago, going up against a team thathas simply willed itself to being greater than the sum of its parts. Wade and Butler are looking good together in transition and Rondo is known for having that playoff time gear. It's funny how Rondo's situation has been handled on this team; going from a solid start, to being benched and racking up DNPs, to starting again and really running the floor with his playmaking, intelligence and disruptive style of play. The pieces shouldn't fit on paper when looking for a more modern NBA team. And I still have my thoughts as to how far they can go, or how they'll be able to get their offense going once Boston stops giving up all of these easy looks and really locks down on their half court defense.
Boston has wasted their home court advantage. From here, their role players need to step it up as Chicago's have. It doesn't look promising with the questionable mental status of Isaiah Thomas, but you don't get to be the first seed in your conference without having mental fortitude. They'll just have to ramp up their defensive intensity and know that they can outshoot Chicago over the entirety of the series. Chicago in six.
WAS vs. ATL
It was a bad sign for Atlanta that Washington was able to come back and win convincingly after the Wizards gifted so many free throw attempts to them. I think both of these teams are fairly even matched, with the Wizards looking better when firing on all cylinders. Which is what happened in the second half of game one with all of the their roleplayers really stepping it up. Helps when your point guard is John Wall who is currently ballin' out of control after the slow start to the season. Beal finally looks healthy for a series and is scoring in bunches. Morris and Gortat bullied Atlanta in game one, which is a shift in attitude that has really caught on with the rest of the team this season. Seems like any team that has a Morris twin inevitably take on that bad boy persona. No better time than the playoffs to have a team really gel like this.
Atlanta needs Millsap to remain aggressive on offense. You can tell Morris was giving him problems and he needs to not let it fluster him. Expect a fight to break out next game between those two, or something similar from Kelly Oubre who is really taking pride in being the defensive wild card of this Wizards squad. Atlanta needs to also remain mindful of taking care of the ball. Too many athletic open court players that like to run on this Wizards squad, and John Wall will most certainly find them open for the easy assist. In addition to Millsap though, Hardaway is due for another explosive game. Don't be shocked if you see him take a high volume of shots in this next game to try and get a rhythm going. Couple that with the likelihood that the entire Wizards support cast won't be able to maintain this kind of performance over the whole series, and you're looking at Atlanta evening this one up real soon.
This Washington squad is looking too well oiled to be eliminated in the first round. The game is coming too easy to John Wall right now and they just have too many options on offense. I expect Wizards to take this one in six.
TOR vs. MIL
Toronto has a history of not looking the same in the playoffs as they do in the regular season. It doesn't help that they're now going up against a young, long and scrappy Bucks team that really have nothing to lose. Seriously, it feels like every player for Milwaukee is 7ft. That will be incredibly frustrating for Toronto who doesn't really have an edge anywhere else against this team physically. Giannis has really emerged this season and is poised for a breakout leap forward during this series. I suppose where Toronto really has the advantage is in maturity, which should help if this series continues to go back and forth.
Normally I would say for Toronto to try and keep the touches equal between their backcourt and frontcourt, but what they really need is exactly what happened in game 2; for their backcourt to dominate like they had throughout the regular season. DeRozan needs those high volume of attempts to suffocate Milwaukee's backcourt on the defensive end, hopefully leaving them with little energy on the offensive end. You can let Giannis go of on you, it's honestly to be expected with how difficult he can be to guard. What you don't want is for his playmaking to get everyone else involved. There are a lot of spot up shooters that can get real hot real fast on this Bucks team. Brogdon, Teletovic, Middleton, Snell, Dellavedova and Beasley should he see the court again. That's a lot of options and with a team this big, it's not hard for them to find one another.
This series could really go either way, but one thing it won't be is a short one. Expect a game seven, with Toronto blowing out the Bucks for that game.
CLE vs. IND
Cleveland has the overwhelming advantage in this one. Their big three are playing up to their standards, and you can see how the Cavaliers roleplayers are feeding into the post season hype. Despite a rough stretch with the second half of this season where defense has looked really bad for Cleveland, they're still the champs. I expect them to look completely different with a renewed energy and vigor after they put this series away.
Indiana has been very competitive in the first two games, with the first game coming down to one final questionable play between Paul George and C.J. Miles, and them clawing their way back into it at the end of game 2. Pacers made a good decision in picking up Jeff Teague this season as well as bringing back Lance Stephenson, who won't have a lot of room for contract negotiation down the road, but should honestly remain in Indiana as long as George does. Unfortunately the acquisition of Teague seems to have placed Monta Ellis into an odd and confused role, which is evident by his bleak stat line this season. Ellis is a high volume scorer past his peak on a team that just has better options on offense. What will be an interesting factor and may allow for Indiana to squeeze out a few wins will be how Myles Turner continues to play. Their man to man defensive schemes they've been using are allowing for too many drives to the paint. This is where Turner needs to step up and challenge these drives better. He's simply not getting it done on the boards against Love and Tristan. Understandably, as that's not an easy job for one person, but they're essentially giving Cleveland multiple extra possessions and chances to score.
Cleveland in five. Pacers have a good home crowd and have been competitive enough thus far to snag a "W" back on home turf, but we know ultimately who's progressing out of this round.
Catch me in the semi's. I'm out.
Two first names, huh? The fuck is up with that?