We are now down to eight teams and have now advanced to the second round of the Playoffs. There were only two sweeps in the first round, Cleveland beating Paul George and the Pacers in four, and finally Golden State beating Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers. The streak also continues as LeBron has never lost a Eastern Conference since the 2010 Celtics. In their elimination game, Russell Westbrook played forty-one minutes, shot the ball thirty-four times for forty-seven points, with eleven rebounds, nine assists, and seven turnovers. Westbrook and Rockets guard Patrick Beverley got after each other during the game, where Westbrook had stated, “nobody can guard me” and Beverley responded by saying that he will be first team all-defense and in his post-game interview while explaining what happened, he also said that “he took thirty-four shots, so no wonder he had 40+ points.”
(1) Boston Celtics v. (4) Washington Wizards: Following the news going into the series that Isaiah Thomas’ sister had passed away, it was looking very dreary for the Celtics. They lost the first two games of the series to the Bulls and it did not look good at all. The Celtics looked dull and slow on both sides of the ball and didn’t even look like they belonged. They came back and won four in a row, led by IT4. In games five and six, it was Chicago that looked like they did not want to be there, walking back on plays, not playing defense, etc. Their next challenge is now John Wall and the Wizards. Wall averaged about thirty points per game with ten assists per game as well. With the help of Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat they really did have no issue beating the Hawks. This series should be really good though, with the dominance of guards on both teams, along with tall and crafty big men, this game will go to seven. I want to keep an eye out for IT4 and Wall, as Wall will probably put up another series double-double, and IT4 to average almost thirty points per game again.
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers v. (3) Toronto Raptors: Well, LeBron dominated and showed again why he is the best of his generation. In the 4-0 sweep of the Indiana Pacers, he averaged 32.8 PPG, ten rebounds per game, nine rebounds per game, three steals per game, and two blocks per game. Along with the likes of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, who averaged a combined 40.8 PPG, the Pacers had no chance to stop them. The Raptors on the other hand, who played the Milwaukee Bucks, I originally thought was going to go all seven games, decided to spare me and only go to six. In his second year in the playoffs, Giannis Antetokounmpo did not let off the gas pedal despite losing. He averaged 24.8 PPG, ten rebounds per game, four assists per game, two steals per game, and almost two blocks. The Raptors were just overall the better team, their defense from Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry really shined in the series. As much as I want to see the Raptors upset LeBron and the Cavaliers, I really don’t think it will happen. I think the series will go to about five or six games with LeBron and DeMar DeRozan showing off every kind of skill they possess.
(1) Golden State Warriors v. (5) Utah Jazz: Stephen Curry and the Warriors topped off Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers in four games no problem. After C.J. McCollum signed that huge deal at the end of last season to stay in Portland, the NBA knew that something good was going to come out of Portland. But, after they lost LaMarcus Aldridge to the Spurs, they just haven’t been the same team. Curry on the other hand was his usual self, thirty points per game, six and half assists per game, and two steals per game. I originally said in the first round article that the Warriors would play small, but ultimately did not. However the Jazz upset the Clippers in seven games, even with Rudy Gobert sitting out most of game seven with foul trouble. Gordon Hayward proved that he will most indeed get payed this off-season, by playing excellent basketball. Veteran Joe Johnson also showed that he still has ice in his veins by hitting a game winning shot in game one, and then helping secure the win in game four with twenty-eight points off the bench. I think that the Jazz should wear down the Warriors in this series, winning three games and taking the series to seven. Look for Hayward and Curry to dominate for their respective teams.
(2) San Antonio Spurs v. (3) Houston Rockets: The Spurs had a little bit of a scare during some games during their series with the Memphis Grizzlies. With Marc Gasol playing playoff Marc Gasol basketball and with new and improved Mike Conley, they seemed like a difficult task for Kawhi Leonard and San Antonio. One person who I didn’t think would be as productive as they were was Tony Parker. Parker averaged sixteen points per game, hitting his floaters and mid range shots, along with three assists per game. But, they grabbed the series in six, led by MVP-esque Leonard. Houston, put the absolute smack-down on Oklahoma City in their series. As good as Russell Westbrook was, the point margin of him on and off the floor was just too great. He will be the MVP, but he can’t do everything, especially play all forty-eight minutes. This should also be a really good series, similar to all the others we have in the second round. This series is going to go to six games with the Spurs pulling ahead late in games. Keep an eye on Parker, Leonard, and of course, James Harden.