Kyrie Irving has shown that he is Playoff ready. Photo courtesy of kingjamesgospel.com
We are (almost) thru the first round of the NBA Playoffs, and it hasn’t really been that exciting, except for maybe a handful of games. And while some expected things have already happened, interesting story lines have brewed in during the first two weeks of the post season.
From free agency, to potential, to possible “what’s next’s?”, we tackle on what the first round of the NBA Playoffs have possibly told us, and what’s next for each of the 16 teams who made it this year, and preview the 2nd round matchups.
(4) Atlanta Hawks vs (1) Cleveland Cavaliers:
The Hawks got past the Boston Celtics in 6 games, but done so unconvincingly. They have not shot the ball well, and 4 of their 5 starters have been inefficient in shooting the ball the entire series. They lived on defense in the first round, but it could be misleading due the the Celtics lack of scoring options to begin with.
The 2nd round could prove to be a much more difficult task if they continue the poor shooting going against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs, unlike the Celtics, are going to score. They have weapons all around the court and will drop points at will. And while the Hawks can defend, they could be left behind if they don’t score efficiently.
The Cavs on the other hand, have done their part, sweeping a young, upcoming, but obviously not ready Detroit Pistons. They have looked unstoppable offensively and expect it to trend in the second round. Kyrie Irving has been on fire, averaging 27.5 points in the first round and shooting a blistering 47% from the field, with 47% from the 3 point line.
Expect the Cavs to ride Irving offensively until the Hawks figure out how to stop him. And in a way, it’s beneficial, as it puts LeBron James in a role where he doesn’t have to put a ton of effort to drop points just for his team to catch up, preserving him for the rest of the series.
The Hawks are in for fireworks. They have the schemes and the personnel to be able to defend, but unless they get their all-star to score at an efficient rate, the Cavs would have no problem finishing the series by just out scoring their opponent.
Losing Avery Bradley has costed them the series. But for a team that, once again, shouldn’t even be considered to get past the first round, let alone be a 5th seed, they have had a marvelous season.
It’s always looking forward for these Celtics, but now, they add 2 Playoff wins in their pockets. They now know how what to put on in the post season, and they just need help. And help they shall receive, with the Brooklyn first round pick they own could potentially be a top 3 pick, cap space, and now, credibility that they showed to the league that even without a superstar, they can do damage in the Playoffs, and that bodes well for their free agency plans moving forward.
The Celtics may been eliminated in the first round again this year, but rest assured the rest of the Easter Conference is giving them a really good look.
Great season, but just a case of not being ready yet for the post season. They didn’t have a real scoring threat to have Cleveland to worry about, and they have been out executed the entire series.
But like Boston, there is something brewing here. This is a young core, with a ton of potential to develop. And what happened to them in the 1st round is something that typically happens to young, inexperienced teams once they broke thru the post season.
The series however, showed that they could use another scorer, possibly coming off the bench. Reggie Jackson also needs to step up and be THE GUY. Taking 11 shots per game isn’t enough when you’re the main offensive option.
One big takeway for Detroit despite being swept on the other hand, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He had a really good series, and when players this young, this inexperienced, and debuts in the post season and shows up in the big stage, you got something good.
(5) Portland Trail Blazers vs (1) Golden State Warriors:
No Steph Curry to guard for Damian Lillard for atleast 3 games. But Shaun Livingston is no easy task. Photo courtesy of oregonlive.com
Portland has upset in their eyes right now.
With Stephen Curry possibly not returning until Game 3 or 4, the Portland Trail Blazers is going to come out swinging. Damian Lillard has torched the Warriors this year, and of course, he’s looking forward to keep doing it, although he hasn’t shot the ball particlarly well vs the Los Angeles Clippers. The entire Blazers squad have shown balance on both sides of the ball, and they have the pieces that can go toe to toe with the Warriors with their speed.
But, but, they are going against the defending champions, who, outside of one bad shooting game, and an uncalled offensive foul, have dispatched the Houston Rockets easily, even without their MVP on the lineup. Klay Thompson has stepped up in the scoring department, and the Dubs have, as always, relied on their good ball movement and their deep bench to carry the burden in scoring left behind by Steph Curry as he’s sitting in the side lines.
The interesting part in this series would be Shaun Livingston. Another guy who had a terrific first round, he’s a matchup nightmare for Damian Lillard, assuming they are going to be matched up. He’s going to have a length advantage over both Portland starting guards, and would certainly put them to a ton of work. And Shaun Livingston is not a slouch defensive too, capable of disrupting opponents, again due to his length. It would be interesting to see how Portland plays him, as he could be the Warriors’ biggest X factor in this series.
This could be the final year for Dwight Howard donning a Rockets jersey. His involvement, or lack thereof in the Rockets offense is evident by the fact that even though he averaged a double double in the series, he only took an average 7 shots a game.
His beef with James Harden doesn’t help Houston to retain him either, and that beef was the sole reason they got ran sacked by Golden State. While he did average 7 assists in the series, their offense looked predictable and stagnant due to Harden having most of the possession.
Where does Houston go from here? Howard is leaving, and they have regressed significantly. Will they hire a new coach or keep JB Bickerstaff?
Los Angeles Clippers:
One more run, or time to blow it up? Photo courtesy of inquisitr.com, Getty Images.
It’s safe to say that two big injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin is what costed them the series vs the Blazers.
The question now is will they keep their core, and run it one more time? Next year will be year 6 of the DeAndre Jordan – Paul – Griffin era. Their bench has been better this year, and with the cap rising, they should have the capabilities to retain at least a couple of their guys. But this core also haven’t gotten past the 2nd round in their 5 year run. Is it time to break it up? Or will the injury be enough of an excuse to run it again, at least one more year?
The window should be closed.
The Dallas Mavericks is now looking forward to the offseason, but how are they going to approach it. They had a team of Dirk Nowitzki and a squad full of rejects from other teams, and managed to sneak into the Playoffs as a 6th seed, because of exceptional coaching by Rick Carlisle.
But Deron Williams is opting out of his final year to become a free agent. Dirk is one more year older, and they need to address the rest of the squad as most of it are going to be free agents next season. Will Chandler Parsons be healthy for once?
Do they start the rebuilding process? Or will they, as they have been the last few years, will push for another playoff run and sign veteran guys that could help?
With all that said, the window is closed. It’s not even known if Dirk will have one more year in him, even though it looks like he has. There’s a big rise in the cap which makes them at least an attractive place for free agents, but do they really want to build a team that would exit the first round yet again, or should they start rebuilding for the future?
(3) Oklahoma City vs (2) San Antonio Spurs:
We have already been treated with a Game 1 matchup in the second round yesterday, and boy was it disastrous.
The Oklahoma City Thunder looked unprepared, and lacked intensity and it showed as the San Antonio Spurs romped their way to a 32 point Game 1 win. They had no answer to everything the Spurs threw at them.
How will they respond in Game 2? Do they have enough to respond despite having arguably two of the top 5 players in the NBA so far? Do they have the proper adjustments to counter the Spurs’ ball movement, who produced 39 assists in Game 1?
The Spurs look mighty last night, the Thunder are in for a heck of a climb back.
Couple of Game 7’s:
Not so bright stars in Toronto at the moment. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
There are a couple of game 7’s on the line tonight, and both involve highly talented teams that have been unimpressive.
The Toronto Raptors and the Miami Heat are in for the fight of their lives tonight, even though on paper, they shouldn’t have too. But have been unimpressive on their defensive effort and both are going against teams in the Indiana Pacers and the Charlotte Hornets that are coming in with a nothing to lose mentality, and really, they have nothing to lose.
Whoever advances will face the other, so there are interesting story line as who will what team play after this. And it will all be answered tonight.