Katelyn E. Clooney
The NBA playoffs, my favorite two months of the year, are in full spring. Early on, there have been no big surprises. The top seeds have defended home court and we have seen several excellent debuts from young superstars. Here are my observations so far, as well as some predictions and things to look out for:
Going into the series, I picked Toronto in six. This is still entirely possible, though, not plausible. After the Wizards outscored the Raptors, 11-4 in the extra frame of game one, the Raps started game two on a 12-2 run of their own. Other than another run to start the second, however, Toronto looked defensive, literally. They were outmatched 45-28 on the boards and gave up 116 points. Bradley Beal has proved a great compliment to John Wall, while Toronto’s guards have not showed up much on the offensive end, either. This is still anyone’s series, but, right now, Washington clearly looks like they want it more.
Isaiah Thomas, who has struggled against the Cavs this year, has been phenomenal, scoring 22 points in each of the first two games and combining for 17 assists. For Cleveland, the Big Three finally clicked in game one and Timofey Mozgov, whom I thought would be a key in the series, had 16 points, seven boards and five blocks in game two. As Boston returns home, one of David Blatt’s main concerns will be keeping Mozgov out of foul trouble. Cleveland has a clear size advantage inside, which will be needed as I expect the Celtics to come out strong in the Garden. I wouldn’t be surprised if Boston won game three; however, I still expect a sweep.
Firstly, Jason Kidd has done an absolutely fantastic job coaching this Bucks team. Like Boston with Cleveland, Milwaukee has come up to fight, but has simply been outlasted by a much better team. Chicago’s defense has been stellar, as expected; Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol and Joakim have combined for 70 rebounds in the first two games. Derrick Rose has been productive, but Jimmy Butler is clearly the strength of their backcourt right now. As long as Chicago’s defense plays Chicago defense (the Bucks are averaging under 87 points in this series), a sweep seems even more certain for the Bulls than the Cavs. I am already greatly looking towards a Cleveland/Chicago second round series. Whoever wins that, will be in the Finals.
New Orleans/Golden State
Again, an underdog has exceeded expectations, though they still find themselves in an 0-2 hole. Not many gave New Orleans a chance in this series, but, having played well in the Southwest, I was not surprised when they took a 13-point lead in game two. This year, however, is about providing playoff experience for future success. Anthony Davis, who is averaging over 30 points in his first playoff series is a future MVP and clearly one of the rare players which I team can be built around. Largely tied up next season, the Pelicans do have enough money to make one key signing this offseason and have over $40 million in cap space for the 2016-17 season. Tyreke Evans, who got a near triple double while playing with a knee injury in game two, is also signed through the 2016-17 season.
After exiting in the first round last year, thanks to the Portland Trail Blazers and a much-replayed Damian Lillard buzzer-beater, Houston has waited for this moment. In the first game, they dominated a Mavericks team which I had picked to win in the first round. James Harden aside, mid-season acquisitions Corey Brewer and Josh Smith have shined in the first two games. While Smith seems to have left his attitude in Detroit, Rajon Rondo, who was benched the majority of game two, seems to have carried his from Boston to Dallas. In another summer full of quality free agents, Rondo is certainly one of the more interesting ones.