For the last two weeks, the top eight teams in the Eastern and Western Conference have been facing off for the 2016 NBA Championship. Whilst the majority of teams in the Western conference established a clear dominance over their opponents in the 1st round of the playoffs, the Eastern Conference still has a few games to go before it finishes Round 1.
Round 1 Recap
Golden State Warriors vs Houston Rockets
The best team in the NBA for all season, Golden State demonstrated their “Strength in Numbers” (their slogan) as they won in triple digits for all four of their games in a convincing manner without Stephen Curry for the majority of it.
Although Rockets won Game 3, it was partly due to a series of fouls (offensive and technical) and missed shots that put them on top.
Klay Thompson and Draymond Green stepped it up in Curry’s absence, with the former scoring 27 points (including seven 3 pters) in the final game of the series. Draymond had impressive numbers across the board – 15 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.
After suffering an MCL injury to his knee, Curry is expected to be out for at least two weeks, missing most of Round Two Playoffs which is likely to be against Portland who is expected to close out their series tomorrow.
Los Angeles Clippers vs Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum have been on fire lately as a dynamic duo, combining for 49 points in Game 5. Initially judged as the underdogs, they are now favourites to close out the series. With Chris Paul out with a broken right hand for at least four to six weeks and Blake Griffin also out with a tear in his quadriceps tendon, the Clippers are on the verge of elimination. They will be hard pressed to win Round 2 of the playoffs against the Warriors IF they can even make it that far.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs Dallas Mavericks
A victory in Game 2 for the Mavericks was a short reprieve against the onslaught by Kevin Durant and Westbrook who lead the Thunder for four wins that were in triple digits, exceeding a ten point margin. The result was widely expected as the veteran Mavericks were outplayed by a younger, healthier and better squad. A special mention should be made to Nowitzki who had a decent series, as he never scored fewer than sixteen points but it wasn’t quite enough. The 2nd round of the playoffs against the Spurs will definitely be quite interesting to watch.
San Antonio Spurs vs Memphis Grizzlies
Kawhi Leonard is an understated player. He’s most well-known for his defensive capabilities but his dominance in this series (e.g. Game 3 scoring 32 points) illustrates his superstar qualities. Backed by veteran players such as Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, they had a more or less comfortable sweep against the Grizzlies.
On the whole, the Grizzlies outrebounded Spurs but could not connect through with their shots. For example, Zac Randolph lead the team in Game 3 with 20 points and 11 rebounds on 6-of-21 shooting. It’s important to note that the Grizzlies lost a lot of their players due to injuries throughout the season (Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, Mario Chalmers, Courtney Lee), and used a NBA record of 28 players in their roster.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Detroit Pistons
Cleveland’s first round sweep of Detroit puts them in good shape against the Atlanta Hawks for Round 2 as they make the most of the extended break while waiting for other teams to finish Round 1 of the playoffs. The Big Three – Lebron, Kyrie and Kevin Love is expected to continue their intensity as they combined for an average 69.1 points against the Pistons.
The Pistons lacked defense throughout the series and had trouble connecting through with their free throws and three pointers (4 out of 17 in Game 2). Successful transition plays kept the Pistons mostly behind the Cavaliers.
Atlanta Hawks vs Boston Celtics
Atlanta played effective basketball, shooting over fifty percent on the floor while holding back the Celtics defensively who seemed unable to cope without Avery Bradley’s presence who was sidelined due to injury. Isiah Thomas tried his best to carry the Celtics but the Hawk players such as Al Horford and Paul Millsap did a brilliant job of suffocating him.
The 2nd Round will be a tough one for the Hawks as they face off against the Big Three. Historically, they are 0-7 against the Cavaliers dating back to the 2015 postseason and were outscored by almost 12 points per game and outrebounded by 11 rebounds per game.
Miami Heat vs Charlotte Hornets
Miami Heat yesterday looked to be on the brink of elimination but Dwayne Wade made two key clutch shots to tie up the series at 3 all. Jeremy Lin seemed to struggle in Game 6 as switched matchups confused him and Charlotte’s fluid offense came undone as a result. Kemba Walker played incredibly but it wasn’t enough to carry the Hornets across the line to Round 2.
The Heat will have home court advantage for the final game of the series but it will be dependent on the performance of two Heat Players Luol Deng and Dwayne Wade. For the Hornets, Kemba Walker, Al Jefferson and Jeremy Lin will need to at their best if they want to clinch this series.
Toronto Raptors vs Indiana Pacers
The Pacers lead the start of the series with a Game 1 win, making it appear that all was lost for the Raptors. Despite this start, the Raptors bounced back, winning three of the last four games in the series to lead 3-2. Things changed today however. In Game 6, Pacers were in the lead against the Raptors for the majority of the game. In the third quarter, the Pacers had a 21 point lead at one stage. Paul George, Monta Ellis, George Hill and a number of other Pacer players all finished in double digits. All-Star Raptor players Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan couldn’t quite keep up as they combined for 18 points on 7 of 27 shooting. It looks to be a close albeit tired 2nd round in playoffs for the victors as they will have minimal rest against the winner of Heat vs Hornets.