(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Utah Jazz: Warriors in 4
The Golden State Warriors completed a four game sweep of the Utah Jazz. Although Utah was competitive at times in every game, they weren’t able to stop Golden State from going on runs that put the games out of hand. The Warriors’ death lineup was too much for Utah to handle. Point guard George Hill missed the last three games of the series. Although he doesn’t get the notoriety that Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert receive, he’s the glue that holds the Jazz together. Utah has faced a number of injuries this season, so they were used to playing without Hill. Although others played admirably in his absence, they weren’t able to overcome his loss. The way that the Warriors were playing, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if Hill was healthy in all four games. Draymond Green was a monster on both ends of the floor. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were scoring at will. The Warriors look poised to return to the NBA Finals for a third consecutive season. The Warriors will face the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (3) Houston Rockets: Spurs in 6
The Spurs defeated the Rockets in six games to advance to the Western Conference Finals. After getting blown out in the first game of the series, the Spurs dominated in games two and three. Tony Parker was lost for the remainder of the season due to an injury sustained in game two. The Rockets weren’t able to take advantage of his injury in game three. The Rockets bounced back to dominate game four of the series. Through the series’ first four games, each team won two games in dominating fashion. Game five was the first competitive game of the series. The Spurs were able to win by three in overtime, even though superstar Kawhi Leonard wasn’t able to play in the game’s final minutes. James Harden had a great opportunity to lead his team to victory, but he crumbled under pressure. With Leonard too injured to play in game six, the Rockets were heavy favorites to win at home and send the series to a decisive seventh game. But once again, James Harden crumbled under pressure when his team needed him most. He only took two shots in the first half of game six, and ended the game with ten points. The Spurs won by 39 points and ended the Rockets’ season in embarrassing fashion. Kawhi Leonard will be available to play in game one of the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs will need him if they want to pull off the upset and advance to the NBA Finals. The Spurs will face the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
(1) Boston Celtics vs. (4) Washington Wizards: Celtics in 7
The Celtics defeated the Wizards in a hard-fought seven game series. The home team won all seven games in this series. John Wall and Isaiah Thomas were the best players on the court in all seven games. Thomas outperformed Wall in four games, which was the difference in the series. Their backcourt mates of Avery Bradley and Bradley Beal both played at a high level at times during the series. They weren’t as consistent as their point guards, but they played well at key moments. The biggest difference between these two teams was the performances of their benches. The Wizards played their starters more minutes than any starting unit in the NBA this season. They had to play their starters because they couldn’t depend on their bench. Washington has one of the worst bench units in the NBA. The Celtics are one of the deepest teams in the NBA. When a few of their bench players are struggling, they have other bench players that can take their place on a given night. Washington doesn’t have that luxury. For example, the Celtics won game seven because of Kelly Olynyk. He single-handedly outscored the Wizards’ bench. Olynyk scored 26 points and the leading bench scorer for the Wizards scored all five of their bench points. The Wizards will need to improve their bench next season if they want to compete for a championship. The Celtics played well enough to win this series, but they’ll have to play at a higher level if they want to advance to the NBA Finals. The Celtics will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Toronto Raptors: Cavaliers in 4
The Cavaliers completed a four game sweep of the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors traded for Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline to give themselves a better chance of defeating the Cavaliers. Now that both Ibaka and Tucker are free agents, these trades seem like a waste. Raptors star Kyle Lowry sprained his ankle and missed the final two games of the series. He may have made a difference in their two home losses, but the Raptors didn’t seem confident that they could defeat the Cavaliers. Backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan was inconsistent in this series. He had moments of brilliance, but wasn’t able to sustain it throughout the series. LeBron James proved that he is still the best player in the world. He coasted through the regular season, but is now playing at a different level. He has been dominant in all eight postseason games. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love haven’t been as consistent as they need to be to win another championship, but they’ve been good enough to sweep their first two playoff opponents. The Cavaliers will face the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.