Second Round Results: 2-2 (8-4)
Two Sundays ago, the Bulls were seconds away from forcing overtime in Game 4, an overtime period that I’m convinced they would’ve won to go up 3-1 on the Cavs. Now they’re at home after giving up in Game 6 and about to lose their best head coach since Phil Jackson. Seconds away. Final four time.
Are the Clippers as cursed as the city of Cleveland? Speaking of 3-1, weren’t the Rockets done around the same time LeBron tied his series? I can’t even put this on Chris Paul, the Rockets wanted it more and they had home court advantage thanks again to the generous playoff seeding. They also caught all the breaks down the stretch because you don’t overcome 3-1 without a bit of luck.
I’m interested to see if Blake can keep playing as well as he did this postseason once next season starts. I also wonder what team will overpay for DeAndre Jordan and if the Clippers are ballsy enough to keep their twin towers together. Chris Paul will be a year older and playing in all 82 games will be less likely. The Clippers bench and defensive holes need addressed as well in the offseason. I don’t expect Ballmer to let this team go quietly into the night though. They’ll be back.
As for the Rockets, I don’t like Dwight (his lack of killer instinct has always frustrated me to no end), Harden is a monster of a player (but I also feel like he disappears in crucial moments and whines entirely too much), but the rest of the team has exceled at knowing their roles since Game 5 and are the main reason Houston has made it this far. It helps to have a playoff vet like Kevin McHale as your coach as well. Against all odds, they’re the last thing between Golden State and the Finals.
The Warriors are proving to be as good in the postseason as they were during the regular season, shaking off a 2-1 deficit to Memphis by winning 3 straight to end the series. I can’t say enough about this team, they have the MVP, they have the guy that scored 37 points in a quarter, they have one of the biggest (restricted) free agents coasting through the best season of his career, they’re coached by the man that won the 1997 NBA Finals for the Bulls, I love this team. And their defense! Any time a team seems to swarm over their opponents at will to force turnovers, I can’t get enough. It goes back to my beloved Bulls of the 90s; there’s nothing like open court steals for me and the Warriors know how to force them.
Which brings us to the East, where the Cavaliers have ended up where everyone expected and the Hawks escaped the Wizards thanks to John Wall’s wrist and Paul Pierce releasing what could be his last NBA shot a tenth of a second too late. I’m completely torn on this series though, mainly because the Cavs haven’t looked dominant and the injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie. The Hawks won the season series, and they’ve gotten better with every playoff game.
This series ultimately comes down to the team vs. greatest player in the world and his supporting cast, and that’s exactly what Cleveland has been since Game 4 of the Boston series. Kyrie, who was playing out of his mind in late February/early March, has been hurt and looking vulnerable most of the time. Shumpert and Smith have hit the triple regularly but what if their shots turn cold? Can Tristan Thompson kill the Hawks on the boards like he did the Bulls (and the opportunities are there)? Will Matthew Dellavedova lead the Cavs in scoring again?! Can David Blatt call a timeout the Cavs don’t have again and not get a technical again (I’m not bitter)?!
The Cavs should win this series. The NBA wants the Cavs to win this series. Could you imagine a Hawks/Rockets series? ABC would give up their rights so the NBA Finals would air on NBA TV. But inevitable game fixing aside, that series isn’t impossible either.
#1 Atlanta Hawks v. #2 Cleveland Cavaliers – Cavs in 7. I want LeBron in the Finals. I want the Cleveland sports curse to end for it’s basketball team, let’s be clear. And I think LeBron is more than enough to beat this Hawks team 4 times. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hawks find a way to advance either. I called them dead in the last round and I’m sure they’d be okay proving me wrong again.
#1 Golden State Warriors v. #2 Houston Rockets – Warriors in 5. They’ve had a bit more rest and too many weapons for Houston to deal with. And you can’t expect Houston’s bench to play like they did at the end of the Clippers series… but don’t quote me on that.
These have to be the most noncommittal picks I’ve ever done.