#1 Warriors vs. #8 Clippers- Series Tied 1-1
As satisfying as Saturday’s series opener was for Warriors fans, not many in Dub Nation can truly call themselves comfortable after the game two letdown that exposed the cracks in the foundation. After being ejected in the game one win, Kevin Durant fouled out of the game two loss after twenty-one points, a victim of Patrick Beverley’s relentless physicality. The Warriors secret sauce, the third quarter mop up, was nowhere to be seen after taking a twenty-three-point lead into halftime. The Clippers didn’t fold under the first half barrage and outscored the Warriors 44-35 in the third quarter. It was exactly the type of rough and tumble game that the Clippers have managed to win all season long, and exactly the type of game that the Warriors tend to lose. Add in the loss of big man DeMarcus Cousins to a torn quadriceps muscle and some pundits suspect what many have whispered around Oakland all year long: “This might be the beginning of the end.”
That’s yet to be seen.
I don’t see Los Angeles advancing here. Golden State just has too much of a talent advantage. But the Clippers sure are making themselves look like the more interesting free agency destination in Lala Land as the Lakers continue to evolve into the King’s personal dumpster fire even after their season has ended.
#2 Nuggets vs. #7 Spurs- Series Tied 1-1
Everyone knows that Denver is the hardest place to win on the road in the entire NBA. The combination of altitude and good old-fashioned home field advantage gave them the best home record in the association this year. So, what does it mean when they come out flat in game one and lose to the seventh-seeded Spurs? It means that despite Nikola Jokic’s triple-double, the Spurs were right at home in the altitude, winning behind a balanced offense sparked by DeMar DeRozan and a tremendous defensive performance by LaMarcus Aldridge. Game two went as expected for Denver on Tuesday, with Jokic, Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray all scoring 20+ points on the way to a nine-point home win. For the Spurs, DeRozan was again the sparkplug, pouring in thirty-one points, but he did it on 11-19 shooting, and with only two assists. The Spurs have stolen home court advantage in this one, so the question is, can they hold serve back in Texas to swing the odds heavily in their favor? I doubt it. I expect at least a split from Denver and a relatively short series.
#3 Trail Blazers vs. #6- Thunder- Trail Blazers leads 2-0
With Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum growing into their roles, the Blazers are looking like a dangerous three-seed, despite doing most of their winning at home this season (Portland was only one game above .500 away from home this season). The pair combined for 62 points in the twenty-point game two win over OKC. Oklahoma City again looks like a talented team with no cohesion. Paul George has been his usual, steady self in the both playoff games thus far, averaging over 26 points and 9 rebounds per game. Russell Westbrook have continued to pad the stat sheet, averaging just shy of a triple-double, but it hasn’t helped OKC get on track against Portland’s more balanced, team-first attack. Portland might still be a year or two away from really hitting on all cylinders, but they’re becoming a very fun team to watch before our eyes.
#4 Rockets vs. #5 Jazz- Houston leads 1-0
This might be one of the more lopsided 4-5 matchups we’ve seen in a few years. Sure, Donovan Mitchell is always on the edge of becoming the guy we think he might be. Rudy Gobert can, at times, carry the Jazz with his defense, rebounding and points in the paint. But to beat a Houston team that only won three more games than them this season, Utah will need to dig deep. There just isn’t much of an answer for James Harden if you look at Utah’s roster. Add in CP3 playing at full strength and Clint Capela’s ability to cancel out Gobert,and there’s not much to like about Utah’s chances to win even one game in this series. Houston came up just short of going to the finals last season, where they might well have won. Three seed or not, Houston is clearly the most dangerous threat to a Golden State return to the finals.
Image Source: AP