Houston Rockets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Rockets Lead 2-0
If I told you that James Harden would go one for ten from behind the arc and score only twelve points in a playoff game, you’d probably think the Timberwolves stood a good chance to win the game, right? Yeah, me too. And we’d all be wrong. The Rockets muscled their way to a 102-82 win last night on the back of a monster twenty-seven point game from Chris Paul. No player from Minnesota put up twenty points and they shot an unheroic 38.8% from the floor. In fact, the T-Wolves were much closer in game one (104-101), when Harden scored fourteen…in the fourth quarter alone. This is what makes the Rockets exceptionally dangerous this season. They aren’t a one trick pony any more, and if Harden is off for some reason, they’ll still come at you. Not hitting from three-point land? Doesn’t matter. The Rockets blew out the T-wolves by shooting sixteen for fifty-two from behind the arc. That’s wildly inefficient, and it just didn’t matter. You know when it will matter? When they need to face a Golden State team that has remembered who they are.
Golden State Warriors vs. San Antonio Spurs
Warriors Lead 2-0
OK. So maybe, just maybe, I’ve been hearing a little too much doom and gloom about the Warriors with Steph Curry injured. I bought in, at least a little, to their vulnerability in this series. Partially due to the Spurs good leadership and savvy veterans, and partially due to the horrific slide towards the end of the season after Steph hurt his knee. All that can go straight out the window now. The Golden State Warriors are in full-on playoff mode, and it’s something to see. After the game one nineteen-point blowout, the Spurs saddled up for game two and gave the Warriors their best shot in the first half. What would happen in the third quarter and beyond was the inevitable end of the Spurs’ playoff aspirations. After taking a six-point lead into halftime, the Spurs ran out of gas, and the Warriors simply pulled away with superior defense, ball movement and shooting. Klay Thompson did what he seems to do when Steph is gone and a need arises. He showed the world that on LITERALLY ANY OTHER TEAM, he would be the best shooter on the roster. Klay went off for thirty-one points and hit on five out of eight from beyond the arc. When he’s doing that and Kevin Durant puts up thirty-two, there’s simply no answer defensively. We wondered, out loud, if Golden State could flip the switch and become the same team in the playoffs. They have. They are. Just look out when Steph Curry gets back.
Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Pelicans Lead 2-0
Remember that hypothetical I posed last week about the Pelicans having a weapon that the Blazers couldn’t handle? Remember when I said it was Anthony Davis? In game one, that was the case. The Brow poured in thirty-five points and was simply unstoppable. Damian Lillard looked out of his depth and could only answer with eighteen points on six-for- twenty-three shooting. That’s not good for the Blazers. In game two, things got grimmer, as the Pelicans handed them another loss, only this time, it wasn’t Davis overpowering them down low. In game two, the Pelicans backcourt emerged, with Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo combining for a staggering forty-nine points. Holiday was good for thirty-three, hitting from everywhere on the court. Rondo was one assist short of a triple double, and gave the Pelicans some of the playoff ferocity he was known for back in his days with the Celtics. Quietly, and without much fanfare, the Pelicans backcourt has kept pace with the Blazers much-ballyhooed unit in this series. Both backcourts have put up an identical seventy-six points. Maybe it’s just a bad matchup? Maybe the Blazers over performed down the stretch to earn the three seed. Maybe it’s as simple as this: Damien Lillard just isn’t the guy we assume he is. Don’t believe me? OK. Over his career, Lillard has averaged just under twenty-seven points per game. This year in the playoffs? He’s averaging barely seventeen points per game and is shooting at the worst percentage of his career, just over thirty percent. Prognosis: He’s choking. He needs to be the one to balance out monster games from Anthony Davis. If he doesn’t become the guy who can hit forty-five percent of his shots and drop thirty plus, the Pelicans will end this thing without setting foot back
in the Pacific Northwest.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Utah Jazz
Series Tied 1-1
OKC looked as good as gold in their eight-point game one win over the Jazz. They spread the ball around, and Paul George took the lead with a game-high thirty-six points. Everything was going according to plan. In game two, however, OKC’s big three came up short when it mattered, losing steam in the fourth quarter, while injured (but available) Jazz rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell went for broke, pouring in thirteen of his game-high twenty-eight points in the final frame. His aggressive tone, driving to the hoop instead of relying on his jump shot, set the stage for a Jazz win that shook the Thunder in their own building. Ricky Rubio put up twenty- two on five for eight shooting from beyond the arc, and Derrick Favors added twenty, while center Rudy Gobert brought down fifteen rebounds, dominating the glass all night long. The Thunder couldn’t counter down the stretch, and ended up without a twenty-point scorer, as Westbrook, Anthony and George went a combined nineteen for fifty-eight. They say that the series doesn’t start until someone loses at home…Well…the Jazz have made themselves heard. They won’t be intimidated by the Thunder’s big three. We’re in for a good series if Mitchell’s sore foot doesn’t take him out of the game.