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The NBA Playoffs Are Finally Upon Us!

It’s a tragedy that the commencement of the NBA Playoffs always coincides with dreaded University thesis deadlines.  While some of us manage to chug berocca tablets so as to stay awake for West coast playoff games, sitting down and articulating your thoughts along with a degree defining hypothesis is perhaps a step too far.

There are certain times of year one just simply associates with the NBA; Halloween (Tip-Off), Christmas Day, early February (All-Star game) and April/June.  Those two months are the best time of year for the NBA fan.  By now, we have accumulated our favourite story-lines and seen off half of the teams in the league.

They may not all have a chance at winning a title, but playoff basketball brings out different animals in the players.  The game slows down, the atmosphere intensifies and every game is on live ESPN/TNT.  Majestic.

Here is your review of the eight game ones along with a prediction for the rest of the series.

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Chicago Bulls (3) v (6) Milwaukee Bucks: 103 -91

This was meant to be a defensive series.  It resembled more of a track meet in the first half as obviously no one got the memo about the pace “slowing down” in the play-off’s.

Most importantly, the Bulls are finally healthy and I’ll take the risk of calling them a threat.  It goes without saying that a lot of that is dependent, as it has always been, upon Derrick Rose.  Playing in his first play-off game since his MVP season (and subsequent infamous injury) Rose fluttered over and back between his attacking the rim off the bounce best and as a long range shooter.

While Rose made a splash with the long ball (finishing with 23 points, 9-16FG’s, 3-7 3PS, 7ASS), and the crowd embraced him with MVP chants, we need to be cognisant that we only saw Rose in attack mode in parts.  His one trip to the free-throw line may be a warning that he cannot be that consistent threat he has been previously.

The Bulls ‘size gave the Bucks horrible trouble and they will look to revert to that in the rest of the series.  As we became acquainted to during the regular season, Nikola Mirotic gives the Bulls a top scorer from the pine, acting as a three-point shooting Duracell bunny with fellow bench star Taj Gibson (7 offensive rebounds in 25 minutes) and Aaron Brooks (13-3-2 split in 20 minutes).

For many years we have never doubted the Spurs and other storied franchises once they find themselves healthy in the playoffs.  Now the Bulls can be added to that bracket.  If Rose stays healthy and gives them top quality minutes alongside All-Star Jimmy Butler (25-4-6) with their gargantuan four bigs, don’t be surprised to see Chicago going that way.

To their credit the Bucks played hard but as a young inexperienced squad, this series is simply a learning curve for them.  The real pity is that Jabari Parker (a Chicago native) is still injured as he would benefit from the playoff experience alongside the raw Giannis, Middleton and Carter Williams.  The Bulls are simply too big, even for the athletic Bucks, with Gasol, Noah and Gibson combining for 35 boards

Hopefully the Bucks manage to win a game at home, but they just don’t have the scoring punch to match a high powered 10-deep Bulls squad.

Prediction: Bulls in five.

 

TORONTO RAPTORS (4) v WASHINGTON WIZARDS (5): 86 – 93

What a turgid game of basketball, even if it did go to overtime.  Despite having scorers like Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen in their backcourt, T-Dot couldn’t make a shot all night.  The Wizards weren’t much better.  In fact, the less said about this game the better as the teams made a combined 12 for the first 50 FGA’s from outside the paint.  Abysmal.

Lowry, DeRozan, Ross and Lou Williams combined to shoot 15-for-57 from the field. Washington is a good defensive team, but that won’t (hopefully) happen again. The Raptors missed what felt like a million shots they made in their other meetings with the Wizards, and they still, thanks to their opponents almost equalling their ineptitude, wound up going to overtime.

In games like this, the Truth (Paul Pierce) thrives.  Truth came off the bench as a stretch four, dragging Amir Johnson outside the paint, creating space and making big shots, including the game winner, finishing with twenty points.

The Raptors went on a 16-3 run in the fourth quarter to cut the lead by two, thanks to 11 points from DeRozan and Williams. Their play helped set up a game tying three-pointer from Grevis Vasquez that eventually forced overtime.  The subsequent Vasquez shimmy ended up being the most entertaining point of the night!

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In the OT, the Raps still couldn’t make a shot (2/11 FGA’s in overtime) while John Wall finally started to find Nene down low for easy baskets.  This series has the potential to be entertaining, even if low scoring.  Expect the Raptors to come out all guns blazing Monday night.

Prediction: Hard call, but Wizards in 6.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Golden State Warriors (1) v (8) New Orleans Pelicans: 106 – 99

Wow.  This was always going to be fun, but wow.  The Pelicans literally have nothing to lose and they scrapped their way into the playoffs to play the best team in basketball.  Expectations couldn’t be lower.  Perhaps, these are the conditions to grow the next internet star.

Playing opposite the first real twitter darling of the NBA in Steph Curry, Anthony Davis went off for 20 points in the final frame, finishing with 35 points, 7 rebounds and four blocks, the 35 points good for third all time for a debut playoff game.  Again, he has nothing to lose – so why not go for it.

The Pelicans were never going to win this series and much like the Bucks, this series is all about learning and accumulating experience.  As you would expect, they gave a valiant effort despite playing often awful defence.  Then again, the Warriors made a lot of teams look awful defensively this year.

Looking unstoppable in spurts, the Warriors, the best defence in the League this year, may be concerned about giving up their large lead, poor free throw shooting and the way in which Davis imposed his will in the final set.

Then again, the MVP in waiting on the court last night was Curry, and he was superb.  Despite only making one of his first five three point attempts, Curry had 27 points through three quarters. Just pure class.

Klay Thompson added 21 points, and Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut dominated down low as the Warriors looked every bit like the NBA’s top seed – at least for three quarters.

The juggernaut offense ripped through the Pellies but when Curry went to the bench, the comeback began.  Davis imposed his will inside in the final stanza, but without Tyreke Evans, (left knee) hobbled and potentially missing time in the series and Jrue Holiday only returning from a long stress-fracture injury, this series is over in four.

Prediction: Warriors Sweep.

 

Houston Rockets (2) v (7) Dallas Mavericks: 118 – 108

I missed playoff Dwight.

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This game included time travel to five years ago.  Dwight Howard made everyone look puny and Jason “The Jet” Terry was chucking up three pointers from defacto point guard.  After the first, the Rockets were up by 13 and James Harden didn’t even begin to stir anything up in his pot.

The Mavericks fought back in the second thanks to the living mythical creature that is Playoff Rajon Rondo. If Howard didn’t go to the bench after picking up his third foul, this game looked like it was going to be over early.  But in his absence, free agent in waiting Rondo and the Mavs went to work.

This game ended up being about the Rockets role-players.  Corey Brewer led the way in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his 15 points. Brewer made three 3-pointers in about 3 minutes in the fourth to keep the Mavericks at bay. He added another three points when he made a layup and a free throw to give Houston a 109-95 lead with 3 minutes left.

Add that to 19/9 from Terrance Jones (another injury victim this season) and a 12/11/6 stat line from Trevor Ariza.  Combine that with a 24-11 night by James Harden and glimpses of 2010 Dwight Howard and you have a lethal playoff team.  Daryl Morey’s Frankenstein has adapted itself as a top defence, adding the grinding althletic veterans Brewer and Ariza to Josh Smith, Howard and a much improved defender like Harden.

Expect the Mavs not to go quietly, but it just looks like they don’t have enough for the much more athletic Rockets.  It’s very telling when Dirk Nowitzki gives the Mavs a vintage 24/8 line alongside a revitalised Rondo (15/5) and 18 rebounds from Tyson Chandler and they do not win.

Harden is eventually going to explode, despite a poor 35% shooting last night (but 15-17 FTS) and Howard is going to play more minutes as the series goes on (11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 blocks in only 18 minutes). In such limited time, that is insane. Unless the Mavs get big nights from the former Rocket Chandler Parsons and spark-plug Monta Ellis (a combined 10-31 for 26 points) in addition to continued class from Rondo and Dirk, don’t expect to see them in round two.

Prediction: Rockets in 6.

The best part of all of this, the Playoffs’ last two months and we have a San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers first round series tonight.  Therefore, its time to get your thesis out of the way before resorting to a horrible “sleep all day, watch ball all night,” mindset.  Enjoy!

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team. If you would like to join the team, drop us an email at write@punditarena.com.