The NBA playoffs continue on and the 1st round has not been a disappointment. We’ve seen some favorites make short work of their opponents as expected. However, we still have a few series yet to be decided and some of those seemed primed for a Game 7. For instance, Milwaukee continued to play great at home and has already forced their series back to Boston for a seventh game. Let’s look at the teams moving forward and how they got there and how it will play out in the second round.
Houston put away Minnesota this week, winning the series four games to one. The only surprise here was that it took five games and that Houston covered the point spread only three times. James Harden and company blew up the 3rd quarter of Game 4 with for 50 points. Again. This wasn’t much of a surprise.
Especially when you consider the 2018 Minnesota Timberwolves are basically the 2014 Chicago Bulls. Coach Thibodeau, Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson and Aaron Brooks didn’t have much of a chance getting out of the first round then and certainly didn’t have much of a chance now. Houston is one of the three best teams in the league if not the best after all so now they wait on the winner of the far-from-over Oklahoma City Thunder/Utah Jazz series.
The Rockets will continue to be strong favorites in the 2nd round but look out for the away games. Houston is a buzzsaw at the Toyota Center but either of those squads can steal a few wins while at home. Especially the Jazz who, despite a 25 point meltdown in Game 5, are the more consistent of the two. Houston giving the points will be the play but be sure to not give too many. Especially on the road.
Philly is also through to the 2nd round and seems ready to make a Finals push. Of course, beating the Miami Heat in five games isn’t the greatest of accomplishments. The Heat have been a mess for months and this series loss only highlighted their shortcomings.
One game of vintage Dwayne Wade was the only thing to save them from the sweep. Philly is peaking at the right time though and they await the winner of the Milwaukee/Boston series which has extended to a seventh game Saturday night. The Sixers will be the favorites whomever they face based simply on their recent play. They have won 20 of their last 21 games after all.
And even if the 2nd seeded Boston Celtics make it out of the 1st round, they’ll still find themselves getting points more than giving. Of course, Philly would love to see the Bucks just for the home court advantage but either way, expect some tight point spreads. The Sixers will probably stay the favorites but won’t be giving big points. All the more reason to ride them into the Eastern Conference Finals.
Golden State vs New Orleans
The one sweep of the 1st round came courtesy of the New Orleans Pelicans. In a great upset, they steamrolled a solid Portland Trail Blazers team to get to the 2nd round. Anthony Davis is just that good and it’s nice to see the young man live up to all of his potential. Not only did they win every game. They covered every game at that and it was all thanks to their defense.
Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo shutdown a Blazers backcourt that was one of the best in the league all season. They’ll need to keep that up as they will face the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the 2nd round. The Dubs took down a depleted San Antonio Spurs team in five games to move on. The Spurs were shells of themselves and what we are used to seeing from them in the playoffs.
The Kawhi Leonard saga coupled with the death of head coach Gregg Popovich’s wife proved too much to overcome when trying to compete with a team like Golden State. But, let’s not forget, the Warriors played well. Even without Steph Curry who should be back sometime in the 2nd round. No one will be able to stop Anthony Davis but it will be fun to watch Draymond Green try. The Dubs have too much fire power for the Pelicans but it will be an interesting series. Golden State should advance but covering will be tough when they are away from home.