NBA Playoffs

We are getting close to knowing who will meet in the conference finals, but crazier things have happened in the NBA playoffs. Right now the Celtics, Warriors and Rockets have the inside track, but they will get a tough fight from their opponents for however much longer the series last. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers swept the Raptors on Monday to become the first conference finalist.

It is not over till it over, or so they say. The Jazz will try their best to avoid elimination in game five on Houston’s home court on Tuesday, while the Rockets try to wrap up the series and prepare for the conference finals. Houston will win the series if the shots fall. The Rockets look like the more talented team in this series, which is a testament to the breadth of their talent and not the Jazz’s lack of it. Donovan Mitchell can create problems for the Rockets, but with the shooting firepower that the Rockets have, they are a much more intimidating team to face off against than the Thunder. That is especially true in a series in which Russell Westbrook became an offensive black hole. The Rockets have three to four shooters on the floor at any given time, making them an extremely tough matchup. However Utah can win if the Rockets struggles from the field continue and Ricky Rubio keeps facilitating the offense as efficiently as he has been. If the rockets get games two and three James Harden, in which Harden went four for eighteen on three point attempts, and not game four Harden, where he went seven for twelve from deep,  the Jazz have a fighting chance. Utah also has a big size advantage, which Quin Snyder is excellent at ensuring is not used against his team. They are not going to simply out score the Rockets but they can definitely create some difficult match ups and go on runs throughout the game.

The end could be near for the Pelicans, but they will give it everything they got in game five to try and stay alive. On the other side, the Warriors will try to end their series to get as much rest as possible for the conference finals. Golden State can end the series if they don’t underestimate the pelicans and take care of business. The Pelicans were impressive in the first round, but the Warriors are a better team. Even if Stephen Curry misses a few games, this is a series the Warriors should be able to win. But the pelicans do have Anthony Davis, and Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo were spectacular in the first round, and that trio can make things interesting if the Warriors are in any way checked out. If New Orleans plays like they did in round one and Anthony Davis is the best player in the series they could win. The Pelicans were tremendous in their first round sweep of the Trail Blazers, and they will need to be just as good, if not better, if they want to pull the upset on the warriors. In order for that to happen, they will need Davis to keep leading the way. If he outplays all four of the Warriors all stars, then the Pelicans might have a chance.

The 76ers took the first step towards making history on Monday when they knocked off the Celtics in an impressive game four victory. The starting lineup change of T.J. McConnell proved to be a difference maker for 76ers as they ran away with a convincing win. The two teams now head back to Boston for game five and the Celtics leading 3 to 1. The Celtics might be injured, but what they lack in talent they make up for in great coaching and execution. Boston is one of the most organized teams in the NBA and it gives the Celtics an advantage  that keeps them in almost every game they play in. However they lack the offense needed to win a shootout with the 76ers. The Celtics will need to make this series ugly with a lot of grind out games. However the 76ers have the talent and athleticism to run right by the Celtics. They are a better team on paper and they need to exploit that at every moment they can. They have gotten a taste of home playoff basketball works now and know how to attack mismatches. With a giant point guard like Ben Simmons, and a skilled center like Joel Embiid, there should be plenty of mismatches for the 76ers to exploit. Worst case, the need to turn ever game into a run and gun shootout. Control the pace and the 76ers win easily.

The celtics might be without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown might be limping into this matchup, but Boston feels it can win right now. Given what we have seen from them all season in the face of as much adversity as any team has faced, I believe that they can win the series. For all the firepower of the Golden State Warriors, their dominance largely comes down to one defensive conundrum. Do you double team, or at least heavily shade your defense, at Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant? You can’t focus on both, and they will both torch you if left alone with a single defender. However, the difference is Curry will torch you from deep. While Durant, for the most part, does his work inside the arc. Durant is an all timer who can clearly carry a championship team. However, this Warriors team is not the same Warriors that used to blast teams out of the gym. At least so far in this playoffs, they are one of the most ineffective three point teams. For the season overall, they were seventh in the league, not bad, but not good either. Overall though I think it will be a good matchup, but the Warriors will ultimately come out on top. The Rockets were on of the league’s most prolific three point shooting teams in the regular season. They launched over 42 three’s a game, and still managed to finish in the top half of the league in three point percentage. In games two through three, their shooting from the outside abandoned them. They continued to launch up the shots in those three games but could not get them to fall. In game five they will have to catch fire from deep. Those shots start falling and the Rockets win the series.