NBA Playoffs 2017: Semi Finals
...late again. Let's get right into it.
GSW vs. UTA
Sounds like a cop out to just say that GSW will take this based off star-power, but it is what it is. Look at the metrics of the first game and you find that the majority of baskets for either team came off assists. A simple measure of normality with GSW, and a highlight day for UTA. Ok. Look at rebound numbers. Jazz took this one, but not by a margin that clearly made a difference. Defense is fairly equal on either end - Jazz may hold it down more in the paint, but GSW guards are more active in every way possible. Three point shooting wasn't a strength on either side. That is more disturbing for UTA than GSW, because we know which of these teams can be deadly with the flick of the wrist. Joe Johnson ain't enough this time around.
GSW won't be challenged until they have to go head to head with an offense as elite as theirs. See Houston. See Cleveland. See a GSW victory in 5. I'd like to think this scrappy underdog team, even if they are the loathed Jazz, will scrape out at least one victory.
SAS vs. HOU
I've said it once and I'll write it again: The finesse of San Antonio has finally run dry. For now. Popovich coached yet another brilliant season as far as wins and playmaking goes. Unfortunately, he now finds himself, for once in a long time, operating a system without systematic players. He has a legit player in Kawhi, a few solid young role players with potential, and a sack of fucking bricks tied to either ankle - call it the traveling corpse of a contract in Gasol, the now shades of their former selves Tony Parker, Patty Mills & Danny Green, or the disappointing question mark that is LaMarcus Aldridge. Kind of glad my Suns didn't land this dude. Dick Cheney at his worst was rocking a stronger pulse than Aldridge. And just so you know, Cheney at one point didn't have a fucking pulse.
Something else I've said: The Spurs will struggle with a fast paced athletic team. They have the last few years, and it's not like they retooled to accommodate. Whether it have been Houston, or OKC, either of these teams would have & will give them fits. Quite frankly, the Spurs rely on rotational defense as well as Kawhi shoring up any defensive mishaps. Factor in a team that revolves around a superior offensive player like Harden who operates with snipers on either side, and you have a pace that I don't believe the Spurs can keep up with. Or slow down, for those that think this game has a controllable pace.
This isn't just coming from the fact that they were blown out in game 1 either. A lot of people are saying that the Spurs just didn't show up, that they underestimated Houston. Look, this isn't a team that is dominate enough to just walk into an arena and expect to win. Ignore the record. They have Popovich who is legendary in not rewarding lackadaisical and superfluous behavior. Houston is running the same game plan they had against OKC, who arguably had a better chance of beating them purely off of hustle, defense and rebounding. I don't see any intangibles right now in the Spurs. I see the remains of a dynasty propped up by ring chasers & has-been role players. Sorry Kawhi. Houston in 6.
BOS vs. WAS
The most competitive and electrifying series in this second round. Mark my words - but what do I know. I had OKC in 7. Although, you have to admit that was a hell of a series for the first three quarters of each match. Talk about a cock tease of epic proportions.
I still think Washington has the more complete team. Boston is on a tear now having won seven playoff games in a row though, and Coach Brad Stevens has made key adjustments throughout the last series and this one to optimize his guard and swingman heavy roster. To add offense and spacing in the previous series against Chicago, he inserted Gerald Green into the starting line up. Can't get away with that in this series due to the physicality of Washington's front court. So he made the right call in relying on Jae Crowder thus far, who has played great defense and has been a knock down shooter - essentially everything he is touted as - and utilizing Marcus Smart in what is essentially one long game of small ball. Smart and Bradley take a lot of pressure off of Thomas on the defensive end, allowing him to do what he did the other night and take over on offense. In addition, Horford has really stepped it up with his passing and ferocity.
How about that second game though. Not only was this one a career game for Isaiah Thomas, but how fucking good is that match up of him and John Wall? Bloodbath. Both of them are living career years at this very moment. That overtime came down to energy, and the Wizards had tired legs. Had Beal been more aggressive on offense in this game, I think it's very possible that the series would be tied up. It's far from over though with the Wizards heading back to home court. Isaiah won't score 53 every game. He might not need to though. With how their rotation is coming to fruition, I expect their depth at the guard position to constantly keep pressure on Washington with, or without Isaiah on the floor. The Wizards, while sporting a more balanced starting line up, fall short when it comes to their bench.
Regardless, both teams have been playing great basketball in terms of sharing the ball and making the correct plays. I don't think this will go to a game seven though. Wizards have been firing on all cylinders for half a season now. The Celtics have now just locked in. This series will come down to tired legs, just like at the end of game 2. Celtics in 6.
CLE vs. TOR
Championship cruise baby, light up the celebratory cigars and get some bottles - Tristan Thompson broke up with Khloe Kardashian; narrowly dodging the iceberg that is the Kardashian playoff curse. That's right. Good man, Tristan. Better safe than sorry; I mean, if every time you saw someone step on a crack and it broke their mama's back, would you still tread on that sidewalk? If every time you saw an NBA player choke miserably in the playoffs and then slink away afterward into the cold, fleshy embrace of a Kardashian...just sayin'.
Cleveland's offense was what you'd expect from a LeBron led team in game 1. Flashy off the board alley-oops, role players off the bench playing with the utmost confidence and bravado, solid kick outs to the three point line, and LeBron efficiently controlling the game while averaging absurd stats. The pressure Kyrie and LeBron put on Toronto's defense create bountiful open looks for the rest of his team. Love is poised to have a great game every time with his focus on rebounding, put backs and spacing the floor for the other 2/3rds of the big 3 to do their thang'. I like the reintroduction of Shumpert into the rotation - not only does it offer more options defensively against Toronto, but it also keeps him warm for upcoming series.
Toronto has touted one of the most elite defensives in the league this season and have blown out numerous teams with the fire power of Lowry and DeRozan. You can't even blame game 1 on either of those two. Honestly, their front court can't contain all of the relentless drives from Cleveland. Ibaka is one of those defenders that excels on the end of blocked shots, not in actual man to man defense. Expect him and Valanciunas to be bullied throughout this series on the boards. They both lack the core strength to deal with Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love and the positioning they're able to achieve, and the only reason they were remotely competitive on that end was due to my man P.J. Tucker who is doing all of the hustle moves he is known for. As elite as they were throughout the regular season on the defensive end, I just don't see them being able to compete with the offense of Cleveland. They'll steal one, or two, but it won't be in convincing fashion. Expect a few more blowouts. Cleveland in 5.
Too much sauce. Conference Finals inbound in 5...4...3...