San Antonio Spurs defeat Houston Rockets 114-75: What an embarrassing way to end your season! The Houston Rockets got humiliated at home by the Spurs. With Tony Parker out for the season and superstar Kawhi Leonard sidelined with an ankle injury, the Rockets should’ve won this game easily. LaMarcus Aldridge looked like the star that San Antonio thought he’d be when they signed him. He’s struggled with consistency since joining the Spurs, but he scored 34 points and had 12 rebounds in this blowout victory. Dejounte Murray was the best point guard in the game. His stat line of 11 points, 10 rebounds, 5assists, 2 steals, and 1 block in 24 minutes was more impressive than MVP candidate James Harden’s stat line. Harden was horrible all game. I can excuse his bad performance if he seemed like he was trying, but he looked defeated before the game started. He only shot the ball twice in the first half. You’re supposed to be a superstar. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON! Harden finished with 10 points on 2-11 shooting and reverted back to playing pathetic defense. He should be embarrassed by this performance. This choke job was worse than his 2012 NBA Finals appearance. The Spurs will face the Golden State Warriors in game one of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday in Oakland.
San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets: The Rockets look to keep their season alive at home in a must-win game against the Spurs. Facing a 3-2 series deficit, the Rockets need to win the last two games of the series to advance to the Western Conference Finals to face the Golden State Warriors. In overtime of game five, James Harden single-handedly cost the Rockets the game by forcing up terrible shots and having costly turnovers. Kawhi Leonard was too injured to play in overtime, and the Rockets still lost the game. Harden will have to play like an MVP candidate in the next two games. Kawhi Leonard is questionable for game six. He said that he would play after game five ended, but coach Popovich isn’t as sure. If Leonard isn’t able to play, the Rockets shouldn’t have any issues forcing a game seven.
San Antonio Spurs defeat Houston Rockets 110-107 (OT): In the best game of the series, the Spurs defeated the Rockets in overtime to take a commanding 3-2 series lead. With Tony Parker sidelined for the remainder of the postseason, Patty Mills stepped up and scored 20 points in 43 minutes in his absence. Danny Green and LaMarcus Aldridge both played their best games of the series. Kawhi Leonard scored 22 points, but was too injured to play in overtime. With Leonard sidelined in overtime, the Rockets had a phenomenal opportunity to steal the game and take a 3-2 series lead back home to Houston. Although James Harden scored 33 points, he choked in overtime. He had multiple costly turnovers and was bricking shots left and right. The Rockets play their best ball when they are pushing the pace. But for some reason, Harden dribbled the ball 30 feet away from the hoop until there were five seconds left in the shot clock on multiple overtime possessions. He’d then try and make a quick move before launching up a contested three point shot. The Rockets deserved to lose the game because of their pathetic overtime offense. They’ll have to regroup and win the next two games if they want to advance to the Western Conference Finals. These two teams will play game six on Thursday in Houston.
Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs: The Rockets and Spurs will play a pivotal game five in San Antonio. With the series tied at two games apiece, the winner of this game will be overwhelming favorites to advance to the Western Conference Finals to face the Golden State Warriors. Although the Spurs are the home team, the Rockets proved in game one that they can win on the road. With Tony Parker out for the remainder of the postseason, the Rockets have a good chance of pulling off another road victory. James Harden hasn’t been shooting as consistently as he did during the regular season. Kawhi Leonard has done a fantastic job on the defensive end making Harden take difficult and contested shots. The Rockets typically win when they are making three pointers. The Spurs will need to limit the amount of uncontested three point shots Houston takes if they want to hold serve at home.
Cleveland Cavaliers defeat Toronto Raptors 109-102: The Cavaliers completed a four game sweep of the Raptors to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Kyle Lowry missed the game due to an ankle sprain. His backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan was dominant in his absence. DeRozan, Serge Ibaka, and Corey Joseph all scored at least twenty points. P.J. Tucker scored 14 points and competed at a high level on the defensive end of the floor against LeBron James. The starters played well enough to win, but they didn’t get enough help from their bench. The Raptors’ bench scored a combined 15 points. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving scored 35 points and 27 points, respectively. Kevin Love only scored 5 points, but the Cavaliers didn’t need him to contribute in this game. They were the dominant team all series. Cleveland has won their first eight playoff games. They look poised to return to the NBA Finals, but have one more team standing in their way. The Cavaliers will either play the Boston Celtics or Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Washington Wizards defeat Boston Celtics 121-102: The Wizards held serve at home against the Celtics to tie the series at two games apiece. John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter led the way with 27 points, 29 points, and 18 points, respectively. If they all play well, the Wizards are nearly impossible to beat. John Wall has been fantastic all postseason. He’s been scoring at will and gets double-digit assists on a regular basis. Markieff Morris battled through an ankle sprain to score 16 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals. The Wizards’ bench struggled again, but their starters dominated the Celtics’ starters. Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 19 points. The rest of the starters scored eleven points or fewer. Boston’s bench played well, but not well enough to overcome the starters’ lackluster performance. These two teams will play game five on Wednesday in Boston.
Houston Rockets defeat San Antonio Spurs 125-104: The Rockets dominated the Spurs to even the series at two games apiece. After a poor performance in game three, the Rockets rebounded by shooting 44.2 percent from three point range. Since they shoot so many three point shots, the outcome of their games usually depends on how well they shoot. The Rockets did a great job of penetrating the Spurs’ defense and kicking the ball out to open shooters. This was their recipe for success in game one, but they got away from this strategy in games two and three. James Harden led the Rockets with 28 points and did a fantastic job of getting his teammates involved. The Spurs struggled without Tony Parker, even though his backups did a solid job replacing him in this game. They could’ve used his veteran leadership in the second half when they were struggling. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge each scored 16 points. The Spurs needed a greater contribution from their two best players. These two teams will play game five on Tuesday in San Antonio.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors: The Cavaliers look to sweep the Raptors in Toronto. Raptors’ All-Star Kyle Lowry will miss this game with a left ankle sprain. Without Lowry, DeMar DeRozan will have to pick up the slack. He’s been inconsistent throughout these playoffs. The Raptors traded for Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline to try and knock off Cleveland in the playoffs. So far this plan has backfired. Ibaka and Tucker are both free agents after the season, so they may have wasted their one opportunity. LeBron James has played at an extremely high level in all seven postseason games. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have been inconsistent, but have shown flashes of brilliance. They’ll need to be more consistent if they want to repeat as NBA champions. This is a must-win game for Toronto, but even they know the series is over.
Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards: The Wizards will attempt to hold serve at home and even the series at two games apiece. After losing the first two games in Boston, the Wizards dominated the Celtics in game three to keep their chances of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals alive. They cannot afford to lose game four at home. Although it’s possible to win a series after falling behind 3-1 (Warriors blew a 3-1 lead!), the Wizards are not talented enough to pull off that feat. John Wall has been fantastic throughout the playoffs, and will need another fantastic performance to help even the series. Wall’s teammates have been inconsistent during the playoffs. They cannot afford another poor performance. Isaiah Thomas has elevated his game in these playoffs, which has been an amazing feat because of the tragic loss of his sister before game one of their first round series. Thomas and the Celtics have an opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. This is the most important game for the Wizards this season.
San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets: The Rockets look to rebound after a game three loss at home to even the series at two games apiece. After losing Tony Parker in game two, the Spurs pulled off a shocking upset in game three on the road. The Rockets have struggled from behind the three point line in the last two games. They’ll have to make these open shots if they want to advance to the Western Conference Finals. After game one, coach Gregg Popovich decided to put Kawhi Leonard on James Harden. Leonard has done a fantastic job of limiting Harden’s impact. Harden has struggled with his shot in the last two games, but he’s had a tough time finding open looks. He’s getting to the hoop but is having trouble finishing over the Spurs’ bigs. Harden will need to do a better job of putting the ball in the hoop when he gets near the basket. His teammates will have to help him by knocking down open threes. The winner of this game will be favorites to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
Cleveland Cavaliers defeat Toronto Raptors 115-94: The Cavaliers took a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Raptors. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers had a two point lead. Cleveland outscored Toronto 36-17 in the fourth quarter to essentially end the series. Although Toronto isn’t eliminated yet, they would have to become the first team in NBA history to win a playoff series after losing the first three games if they want to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Toronto added P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka at the trade deadline in an attempt to knock off Cleveland. With both players becoming free agents after the season, it seems like these trades will end up being a waste. Kyle Lowry didn’t play due to an injury, but his “trash bro” backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan picked up the slack by scoring 37 points. But he didn’t get enough help from his teammates to overcome LeBron James’ fantastic performance. LeBron has increased his level of play in the playoffs on both ends of the floor. He scored 35 points on 16 shots and played fantastic defense throughout the game. These two teams will play game four on Sunday in Toronto.
San Antonio Spurs defeat Houston Rockets 103-92: Without the services of Tony Parker, the Spurs were able to pull off the road upset of the Rockets in Houston. Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge both scored 26 points. Rookie point guard Dejounte Murray started in Parker’s place, scoring only two points and looking lost at times. Although he didn’t always seem to know what he was doing, his team outscored Houston by 11 points when he was on the floor. He gained valuable experience and played at a high enough level to help his team win. James Harden struggled in the first half, but was able to rebound in the second half and help keep the game close. He finished with 43 points but his team was outscored by 14 points when he was on the floor. Harden didn’t get a lot of help from his teammates. Houston’s bench scored 10 points, which isn’t nearly enough to help win the game. They’ll have to play better in game four if they want to even the series at two games apiece. These two teams will play game four on Sunday in Houston.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors: The Cavaliers look to take a commanding 3-0 series lead in Toronto against the Raptors. This is a must-win game for the Raptors, not only to keep their season alive but to validate the moves they made at the trade deadline. They traded for Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker to help them defeat the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Both of these players are free agents after the season, so it’ll seem like a waste if they don’t give the Cavaliers a challenge. The “trash bros” backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan need to play at a high level. They’ve been inconsistent throughout the playoffs, which has been their Achilles heel. LeBron James has been fantastic all postseason on both ends of the floor. The Raptors will need to find a way to limit his impact if they want to win their first game in this series.
San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets: Both the Rockets and Spurs are trying to take a 2-1 series lead in Houston. After losing the home-court advantage and point guard Tony Parker to a season-ending injury, the Spurs are facing adversity that they haven’t faced all season. They have veterans on their roster with championship experience, but that may not be enough to beat the Rockets. After dominating the Spurs from the three point line in game one, the Rockets were missing three point shots at a high rate in game two. The outcome of this game will depend on Houston’s ability to make three point shots. James Harden was fantastic in game one but struggled in game two. Kawhi Leonard struggled in game one but was fantastic in game two. The superstar that plays at a higher level in game three will likely lead his team to victory. This is a pivotal game for both teams.
Cleveland Cavaliers defeat Toronto Raptors 125-103: The Cavaliers held serve at home to take a 2-0 series lead over the Raptors. Toronto’s “trash bros” backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan haven’t played up to their potential so far this postseason. They’ve made a habit of underachieving in the playoffs, which happened again in this game. Although Lowry scored 20 points on 7-12 shooting from the field, his Raptors were outscored by 22 points when he was on the floor. DeRozan had a horrible performance all game. He scored five points on 2-11 shooting and was a major defensive liability. If the Raptors are going to win the series, they’ll need dominating performances in every game from their backcourt. LeBron James was the best player on the floor in this game (and every game), scoring 39 points on 14 shots. He’s increased his defensive effort in the postseason, which has helped the Cavaliers win all six of their postseason games. He’ll have to continue this dominating level of play if they are going to repeat as NBA champions. These two teams will play game three on Friday in Toronto.
San Antonio Spurs defeat Houston Rockets 121-96: The Spurs bounced back from a humiliating defeat in game one to dominate the Rockets in the second game of this series. This game proves that the NBA is a make or miss league. In game one, Houston was knocking down threes at an extremely high rate. In game two, Houston was missing the same three point shots that they were making in the first game. James Harden dominated in game one, but struggled in this game by scoring 13 points on 3-17 shooting from the field. Kawhi Leonard struggled in game one, but was dominant in game two on both ends of the floor. He scored a game-high 34 points and was a big reason for James Harden’s offensive woes. The Spurs lost point guard Tony Parker to a devastating quadriceps injury. He’ll need surgery and will miss the remainder of the postseason. Although the Rockets lost this game, they own the home-court advantage in this series after winning game one in San Antonio. These two teams will play game three on Friday in Houston.
Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavaliers look to take a 2-0 series lead against the Raptors. Toronto’s trade deadline additions of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker were a direct response to the Cavaliers’ dominance in the Eastern Conference. To defeat the best, you need the personnel to defeat the best. Toronto was missing a rim protector and wing defender, and was able to add both in lopsided trades at the trade deadline. These two additions will not win the series for Toronto, but they can help them get over the hump if Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan play up to their potential. The “trash bros” backcourt often struggle in the playoffs, but cannot afford to take a single game off in this series if they are going to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron James has been dominant in all five games this postseason, but needs his teammates to pick up the intensity on defense. The Cavaliers have enough offensive firepower to run through the Eastern Conference, but they’ve struggled to defend all season. Toronto will need to exploit their defensive lapses if they want to even the series at one game apiece. This isn’t a must-win game for either team, but the winner will have the home-court advantage in this series.
Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs look to rebound against the Rockets after an embarrassing defeat in the first game of this series. The Spurs were punched in the mouth early, and didn’t have the heart to respond. Their defensive effort was poor, and they seemed to give up in the second quarter. Gregg Popovich is one of the best coaches in NBA history, and he won’t let his team get away with another lethargic performance. The Rockets were moving the ball and finding open shooters all game, which is the way they need to play to defeat the Spurs. If their shots are falling, they’re nearly impossible to beat. San Antonio has the experience advantage, but they don’t have the personnel to matchup with the Rockets’ pick-and-roll action. Popovich will need to make adjustments including benching Pau Gasol and David Lee when they’re getting exposed defensively. The Spurs cannot afford to lose the first two games of this series in front of their home crowd.
Cleveland Cavaliers defeat Toronto Raptors 116-105: In a game that wasn’t as close as the score suggests, the Cavaliers defeated the Raptors at home to take a 1-0 series lead. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love combined to score 77 of Cleveland’s 116 points. Their starters dominated the Raptors’ starters, and the game wouldn’t have been this close if it wasn’t for the Raptors’ bench flourishing in garbage time. The “trash bros” backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined to score 49 points, but were dominated on the defensive end of the floor. Jonas Valanciunas continues to struggle in the playoffs. He’s had a size advantage in every playoff game (including their first round series with the Milwaukee Bucks), but hasn’t been able to dominate like a player of his size and caliber should. These two teams will play game two on Wednesday in Cleveland.
Houston Rockets defeat San Antonio Spurs 126-99: Wow! The Rockets dominated the Spurs to take a 1-0 series lead. Although the Spurs are the higher seeded team, many experts picked the Rockets to win this series. But nobody saw this beatdown coming. The Spurs were punched in the mouth early, and looked completely lethargic on the defensive end of the floor. They were shell-shocked, but that is no excuse for their putrid performance. The Rockets were 22-50 from three (44%), which wasn’t too surprising because of the open looks they were getting. James Harden is their superstar, but Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, and Lou Williams all had stellar performances. The Spurs didn’t have an answer for the Rockets’ offense. David Lee and Pau Gasol were getting eaten alive in the pick-and-roll, which may force coach Gregg Popovich to play them sparingly for the remainder of the series. LaMarcus Aldridge was brought to San Antonio to be Robin to Kawhi Leonard’s Batman. Aldridge hasn’t fit in with the Spurs as well as they hoped, but there’s no excuse for him being the worst player on the floor. His game worst plus-minus of minus 36 points showed how much of a liability he can be against this Rockets team if he isn’t making shots. He was defended by smaller players all game, but was hesitant to back them down and instead settled for fadeaway jump shots far too often. The Spurs will need to make some serious adjustments heading into game two. I expect Popovich to play Leonard at power forward and Aldridge at center in the next game. This would be a logical change, but it won’t be enough if they can’t stop Houston from constantly getting uncontested threes. These two teams will play game two on Wednesday in San Antonio.
Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers: The Raptors and Cavaliers begin their second round series in Cleveland. After defeating the Bucks in six hard-fought games, the Raptors need to step up their game if they want to knock the king off his throne. LeBron James has been to the NBA Finals in each of the last six seasons. The Cavaliers had time to rest because of their short four game sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the first round. Although they will be the favorites in this series, they have shown a propensity for underachieving all season. The Raptors added Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline in an attempt to get over their playoff woes and defeat the defending NBA champions. Tucker will be tasked with guarding LeBron James, which is something that he’s capable of doing at a higher level than most wing defenders. There isn’t a player in the NBA that can stop LeBron James, but Tucker has the ability to limit his impact. Since both teams have had highs and lows throughout the season, anything can happen in this series.
Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs: The Rockets and Spurs begin their second round series in San Antonio. The Rockets defeat Russell Westbrook (not the Oklahoma City Thunder) in five games in their first round playoff series. The Spurs needed six tough games to defeat the “Grit and Grind” Memphis Grizzlies in their first round playoff series. Although the Spurs are the higher seeded team, many experts are picking the Rockets to advance to the conference finals. These teams are evenly matched, so it should be an extremely competitive series. The Spurs have the advantage of having Gregg Popovich and a championship pedigree, whereas the Rockets have MVP candidate James Harden and the most electric offense in the NBA other than the Golden State Warriors. The Spurs have the best defensive player in the NBA in Kawhi Leonard, and it will be interesting to see if coach Popovich matches him up against James Harden. As an NBA fan, I’m hoping that we get to see these teams compete for seven games.
Houston Rockets defeat Oklahoma City Thunder 105-99: The Houston Rockets defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder to win this first round series 4-1. Once again, Russell Westbrook and James Harden were the game’s leading scorers with 47 points and 34 points, respectively. The Thunder were outscored by 18 points in the six minutes that Russell Westbrook sat on the bench. Although Westbrook took offense to the question a reporter asked after game four that insinuated that the Thunder were struggling with him on the bench, stats from every game prove that the reporter was correct. Westbrook tried to play “hero ball” again in the fourth quarter, and it backfired when his jump shot fell apart. He was obviously exhausted, which wasn’t surprising due to the amount of effort he exudes to help his horrible supporting cast stay afloat. James Harden struggled with his jump shot again, but was able to get to the free throw line at a high rate. He was able to rely on Nene, Patrick Beverley, and Lou Williams to help him in ways that Russell Westbrook’s teammates couldn’t. Although this was a battle between the two MVP candidates, Houston won the series because their MVP candidate had a supporting cast that helped him. The Thunder need to get Westbrook help if they want to compete for a championship next season. The Rockets will either face the San Antonio Spurs or Memphis Grizzlies in the second round of the playoffs.
San Antonio Spurs defeat Memphis Grizzlies 116-103: The San Antonio Spurs took a 3-2 series lead with a home win against the Memphis Grizzlies. Kawhi Leonard continued his impressive series with another dominating performance. He scored a game-high 28 points and was a hassle on the defensive end of the floor. The Spurs’ bench was superb again, led by a 20 point performance from Patty Mills. Manu Ginobili scored ten points on 4-6 shooting from the field, which was a pleasant surprise to Spurs fans because he hadn’t made a shot all series prior to game five. The Grizzlies had decent performances from Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, but they didn’t play with the same level of intensity as they did in games three and four in Memphis. The home team has won every game in this series, and the Grizzlies will need to continue that trend if they want to keep their season alive. These two teams will play game six on Thursday in San Antonio.
Utah Jazz defeat Los Angeles Clippers 96-92: The Utah Jazz stole game six in Los Angeles to take a 3-2 series lead over the Clippers. Gordon Hayward played like an All-Star in a game that they needed him to dominate. He missed most of game four because of food poisoning, but seemed fully recovered during this game. Rudy Gobert seems fully recovered from his knee injury that caused him to miss the first three games of this series (except the first ten seconds of game one). Chris Paul proved again that he’s still the best point guard in the NBA. He scored 28 points and played a great game defensively. He wasn’t able to overcome the loss of Blake Griffin, which has hurt them drastically in the scoring department. The Clippers need to win the last two games of this series, which is something that they probably won’t be able to do without Griffin. These two teams will play game six on Friday in Utah.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets: The Rockets look to finish this series against the Thunder by winning game five at home. After losing three of the first four games of this series, the Thunder need to win three straight games to advance to the second round of the playoffs. Probable MVP Russell Westbrook has put up fantastic numbers all series, but he hasn’t gotten much help from his teammates. James Harden has also put up fantastic numbers, but he’s been able to rely on his teammates when his shot isn’t falling. The Rockets are heavy favorites to win this game and advance to the second round of the playoffs, but it seems like Russell Westbrook plays his best when his back is against the wall. This game will likely be won by whichever of the two MVP candidates that can make a greater impact for their team.
Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs: The Grizzlies and Spurs will play game five in San Antonio with both teams trying to take a commanding 3-2 lead in this series. After losing the first two games in San Antonio, few people thought the Grizzlies were going to even the series with two wins in Memphis. Although Kawhi Leonard almost singlehandedly won game four, the Grizzlies were able to survive in overtime. The Spurs are the more talented team and are still favored to win the series, but the Grizzlies have shown that they do not fear San Antonio. Even without Tony “first team all defense” Allen, the Grizzlies have played great team basketball. The winner of this game will likely win the series, so it’s crucial for both teams that they play at a high level in this pivotal game five.
Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers: The Jazz and Clippers will play game five in Los Angeles with both teams trying to take a commanding 3-2 lead in this series. These teams have been two of the unluckiest teams in the NBA with all the injuries that they’ve suffered, but both still have a good chance of advancing to the second round of the playoffs. The Clippers are playing without star Blake Griffin for the rest of the playoffs, but have a lot of experience over the last few years of playing without the oft-injured Griffin. Rudy Gobert returned from injury to play in game four, which helped the Jazz overcome the loss of Gordon Hayward to food poisoning. Hayward should be able to return for game five, and they’ll need him healthy to pull off the road win against this desperate Clippers team. The winner of this game will likely win the series, so it’s crucial for both teams that they play at a high level in this pivotal game five.
Cleveland Cavaliers defeat Indiana Pacers 106-102: The Cavaliers completed the sweep against the Pacers in what might be Paul George’s last game in Indiana. If this was George’s last game in Indiana, it was a terrible way to conclude a great Pacers career. George shot 5-21 from the field and ended up with 15 points. Myles Turner and Lance Stephenson scored 20 points and 22 points respectively. Both Turner and Stephenson were criticized by George in the media, and both outplayed their teammate in this must-win game. LeBron James had another fantastic game leading the Cavaliers with 33 points. Kevin Love struggled again scoring just five points on 2-13 shooting from the field. The Cavaliers had the ball up by three points in the final seconds when J.R. Smith went full J.R. Smith and tried an extremely stupid behind-the-back pass that resulted in a turnover. Paul George would get off a three pointer with a few seconds remaining that would’ve tied the game, but he missed wide right which ended the Pacers’ season. The Cavaliers will face the Toronto Raptors or Milwaukee Bucks in the second round of the playoffs.
Houston Rockets defeat Oklahoma City Thunder 113-109: The Houston Rockets got an impressive contribution from their bench to help win game four and take a 3-1 series lead against the Thunder. The Rockets played three bench players, and they happened to be the team’s three leading scorers. Nene scored a team-high 28 points on 12-12 shooting from the field. Eric Gordon and Lou Williams both contributed 18 points to help pick up the struggling starters. James Harden shot 0-7 from three-point range and made only six free throws. His 16 point performance was way below his average, but he was able to depend on his teammates to help him in ways that Russell Westbrook’s teammates couldn’t. Westbrook scored a game-high 35 points and had a triple-double at halftime. Steven Adams had a solid game, but they didn’t get any contribution from their bench. Andre Roberson played great defense, but he shot 2-12 from the free throw line. The Thunder need to win three straight games to win the series, but don’t have any chance if they don’t get a contribution from their bench. These two teams will play game five on Tuesday in Houston.
Boston Celtics defeat Chicago Bulls 104-95: The Celtics defeated the Bulls in Chicago to even the series at two games apiece. Without Rajon Rondo, the Bulls have struggled to keep the momentum that they obtained after winning the first two games in Boston. Jerami Grant and Michael Carter-Williams took Rondo’s place at point guard and combined to score as many points as I did in this game. Yes, the two point guards for Chicago couldn’t manage to score a single point. Michael Carter-Williams has been a terrible basketball player since his first game of his career when he almost registered a quadruple-double, but he and Grant need to at least score a few points if they want to have a chance in this series. They won’t be able to match Rondo’s level of production, but they can’t afford to play as terribly as they did in this game. Jimmy Butler was fantastic again, but he can’t carry the team by himself. Isaiah Thomas and Gerald Green led the Celtics with 33 points and 18 points, respectively. These two teams will play game five on Wednesday in Boston.
Utah Jazz defeat Los Angeles Clippers 105-98: The Jazz evened the series at two games apiece with a home win against the Clippers. The Jazz were able to win without a contribution from their star player. Gordon Hayward was struggling with food poisoning, and was only able to play nine minutes in the game. “Iso” Joe Johnson was able to pick up the slack, scoring a game-high 28 points off the bench. He was very mamba-esque in the fourth quarter hitting clutch shot after clutch shot. Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford led the Clippers with 27 points and 25 points respectively, but they didn’t get much of a contribution from the rest of their team. These two teams will play game five on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers: The Cleveland Cavaliers will attempt to pull off a four game sweep of the Pacers in Indiana. LeBron James and Paul George have been dominant throughout the series. George has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Pacers, but hasn’t gotten consistent help from his teammates. Although Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love haven’t been consistent, they’ve had enough flashes to help the Cavaliers win each of the first three games. The Pacers will try to become the first team in NBA history to win a seven game series after falling behind 3-0. They can’t win all four games at once, so they’ll have to start by winning this game at home.
Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder look to even the series at 2-2 at home against the Rockets. After an exciting game three, both teams have a chance to make their mark on the series in game four. The Thunder need to keep pace with the Rockets by winning their second straight home game. If they lose, the Rockets will take a commanding 3-1 series lead and look to finish off the Thunder in game five at home. This is a pivotal game for both teams.
Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls: The Boston Celtics will look to even the series at two games apiece with a road win against the Bulls. After losing the first two games at home, the Celtics rebounded with a dominating road win. The Bulls lost point guard Rajon Rondo to an injury suffered in game two, which was a major reason why they lost game three. Rondo will likely miss the rest of the series (and playoffs), so they’ll have to find a way to win without him. Jimmy Butler is the best player in this series, so he’ll have to put the Bulls on his back if they want to advance to the second round. The Celtics can regain the home-court advantage with a win, which will put them in the driver’s seat to move on to the second round. The winner of this game will be huge favorites to win the series.
Los Angeles Clippers at Utah Jazz: The Jazz look to even the series at two games apiece against the Clippers in Utah. These two teams can beat anyone when healthy, but both have suffered a key injury during this series. They’re both used to playing with adversity due to the plethora of injuries both teams suffered during the regular season. Jazz star Rudy Gobert got injured ten seconds into the first game of the series, and is questionable to return in game three. His injury looked worse than it was, but he still might not be able to return in this series. Clippers star Blake Griffin injured his toe and will miss the rest of the postseason. This is a huge blow to the Clippers, which they were able to overcome in game three because of the brilliance of Chris Paul. The winner of this game will likely win the series, so it’s extremely important for both teams that they play their best basketball.
Boston Celtics defeat Chicago Bulls 104-87: The Boston Celtics won a must-win game in Chicago against the Bulls to avoid going down 0-3 in this series. The top seeded Celtics finally looked like a championship contender. They outscored Chicago 33-15 in the first quarter and never looked back. Their Tacoma, Washington backcourt of Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley were fantastic all game. Al Horford bounced back after a pitiful game two to lead the Celtics with 18 points. The Bulls were clearly missing starting point guard Rajon Rondo, who broke his thumb during the last game and may miss the rest of the playoffs. Jerami Grant and Michael Carter-Williams played in his place, and both had awful games. Jimmy Butler struggled with his shot all game, only scoring 14 points on 7-21 shooting from the field. These two teams will play game four on Sunday in Chicago.
Oklahoma City Thunder defeat Houston Rockets 115-113: The Thunder were finally able to hold on to a fourth quarter lead to win their first game of the series. Russell Westbrook had another triple double, but was much more efficient than in game two. He got his teammates involved instead of resorting to “hero ball.” Westbrook missed two key free throws in the final minute of the game, which almost cost them the game when Harden missed the potential game-winning shot. Down by two points with less than ten seconds remaining, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni decided not to call a timeout and let James Harden make a play. Although Harden missed the game-winning shot, this was the right decision by D’Antoni. Harden and Westbrook have put up amazing stats in all three games, but have struggled with their shooting during the last two games. Whichever of these two MVP candidates finds their shooting stroke first will give their team a huge advantage in the rest of the series. These two teams will play game four on Sunday in Oklahoma City.
Los Angeles Clippers defeat Utah Jazz 111-106: The Clippers defeated the Jazz on the road to regain the home-court advantage in this series. The Jazz had a comfortable lead in the second half before collapsing down the stretch. Clippers star Blake Griffin injured his toe before halftime and did not return to the game. Unfortunately for the injury-prone Griffin, this injury is serious enough that he will miss the rest of the postseason. This is a huge blow to the Clippers, but it evens up the injury score because of the injury to Jazz star Rudy Gobert. Both the Clippers and Jazz suffered a plethora of injuries during the season, and it’s unfortunate that these two teams will not play each other at full-strength. The Clippers won the game because their star came up bigger than the Jazz’s star in the key moments of the fourth quarter. Chris Paul put the Clippers on his back during the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 34 points and 10 assists. Gordon Hayward scored a game-high 40 points, but he shied away from the pressure moments towards the end of the game. These two teams will play game four on Sunday in Utah.
Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls: The Boston Celtics are fighting for their playoff lives in Chicago against the Bulls. Bulls point guard Rajon Rondo broke his thumb in game two, and will be out indefinitely. This is crushing news for the Bulls because Rondo was playing his best basketball in years. This means Michael Carter-Williams will be getting more minutes, which should be alarming to Bulls fans. The Celtics had the best record in the Eastern Conference this season, but few people thought they were the conference’s best team. They haven’t played like a number one seed during this series, but have a talent and health advantage going into this game. This is a must-win game for the Celtics to avoid going down 0-3 in this series.
Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder travel to Houston to take on the Rockets in a must-win game. After a crippling loss in game two in which they blew a fourth quarter lead, the Thunder need to regroup and give their best effort in front of their home crowd. Westbrook put up amazing stats in game two, but he struggled shooting from the field. He’ll need to be more efficient in this game and help get his teammates involved. James Harden also struggled in game two, but he wasn’t trying to force things like Westbrook did in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City cannot afford to go down 0-3 in this series, so they’ll need to play better as a team and not allow Westbrook to try and play hero ball for 48 minutes.
Los Angeles Clippers at Utah Jazz: The Clippers and Jazz will play game three with both teams trying to take a 2-1 series lead. Jazz center Rudy Gobert is still injured, so they’ll have to make adjustments to stop the Clippers from scoring at will in the paint. The Clippers weren’t able to make on-the-fly adjustments in game one, but smartened up before game two and decided to attack Utah’s weakness. Utah was able to win game one and keep game two close without Gobert on the road, so they should have enough firepower to win without him at home. If he was healthy, they probably would be up 2-0 in this series. Since Gobert might not return in this series, they’ll need to have role players step up in his absence. They’ve had a lot of injuries all year, so they are ready for this adversity. The winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
Washington Wizards defeat Atlanta Hawks 109-101: The Wizards defeated the Hawks in a back-and-forth game by dominating in the finals minutes of the fourth quarter. After an evenly matched first quarter, the Wizards dominated the second quarter to take a seven point lead at halftime. The Hawks dominated the third quarter to take the lead back before getting dominated in the fourth quarter. Although the back-and-forth style of game was exciting, it was ruined by the referees. It’s a common theme in the playoffs to see refs taking over the games, and it’s so damn embarrassing to watch. It seemed like the refs were calling fouls on every possession. Nobody paid money to watch you ref, we all want to see the players decide the game on the court. Luckily, the Wizards were the better team on the court and deserved to win. John Wall and Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 32 points and 31 points, respectively. Now that the Hawks are down 0-2 in the series, they’ll need to win game three in Atlanta. Neither of these next two games are must-win games for the Hawks, but they’ll have to dig themselves out of a serious hole if they aren’t able to even the series before heading back to Washington for game five. These two teams will play game three on Saturday in Atlanta.
Houston Rockets defeat Oklahoma City Thunder 115-111: The Thunder looked poised to steal this game on the road through three quarters, but weren’t able to hold on in the fourth quarter. The Rockets were able to get contributions from their role players, which is something that plagued the Thunder in this game. This was an issue partly due to Russell Westbrook’s “hero ball” that he played towards the end of the fourth quarter. He decided that he’d take over the game, but was missing a bunch of contested jumpers. His shot selection has always been an issue, and it plagued his team down the stretch when he went cold. But it’s hard to blame a guy who scored 51 points to go along with his 13 assists and 10 rebounds. This was the highest scoring triple-double in NBA playoff history. But these stats can be misleading. Westbrook shot an abysmal 17-43 from the field. Although he struggled down the stretch, the Rockets’ ability to make shots in crunch time was the most important deciding factor of this game. James Harden led the Rockets with 35 points, but he struggled shooting from the field. He scored 18 points from the free throw line. He was able to contribute in other ways and was uplifted by his teammates’ contributions. The Thunder return to Oklahoma City down 0-2, and they’ll need to win these two home games if they want to get back in the series. These two teams will play game three on Sunday in Oklahoma City.
Golden State Warriors defeat Portland Trail Blazers 110-81: In a game that the Warriors had to play without superstar Kevin Durant, the Trail Blazers came up flat when they had their best chance to steal a game on the road. If the Trail Blazers can’t win this game on the road, they don’t have any chance of winning on the road in this series. Portland was able to keep the first game competitive, so they should’ve had some confidence going into this game. Knowing that Durant wasn’t going to play should’ve made life easier, but the Trail Blazers fell flat on their faces. The star backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum were incredible in game one, and they were incredibly bad in game two. They combined for 23 points, which is basically how many points each scored by halftime of game one. The Trail Blazers need to win both games at home to have a chance of winning the series, but that looks extremely unlikely. Damian Lillard’s prediction of winning the series in six games looks foolish now. They’ll probably end up getting swept. These two teams will play game three on Saturday in Portland.
Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards: The Hawks and Wizards will play game two of this series in Washington before heading to Atlanta. The Wizards were able to win game one at home thanks to a dominating third quarter. The Wizards are the favorites in this series, and are the much more talented team. John Wall was the best player on the floor in game one, and should be able to dominate again against a Hawks team that doesn’t have an elite defender to slow him down. This isn’t a must-win game for either team, but whatever team wins this game will have the advantage in the series before heading to Atlanta.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets: After a dominating win in game one, the Rockets will try to keep the home-court advantage in this series before heading to Oklahoma City. The Thunder were completely outclassed in the first game. Russell Westbrook was outplayed by fellow MVP candidate James Harden, and the Rockets’ supporting cast outplayed the Thunder’s supporting cast. Westbrook is the star of the Thunder, and he doesn’t have much help surrounding him. He’ll need a herculean performance if they want to even the series before heading home to Oklahoma City.
Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors: The Warriors look to take a 2-0 series lead before heading on the road to Portland. The Trail Blazers kept the game close through three quarters due to their backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The Trail Blazers’ stars were dominant all game, but they didn’t get any help from their supporting cast. The Warriors have a lot more depth than the Trail Blazers, and got contributions from everyone that stepped on the floor. Draymond Green was the best player in game one, dominating on both ends of the floor. Kevin Durant is probably going to miss this game, which will give the Trail Blazers a better chance of winning. But even without Durant, the Warriors are one of the best teams in the NBA. With Durant’s injury, this becomes a must-win game for the Trail Blazers. If they cannot win this game, they don’t have a chance of winning any games in Golden State (and therefore can’t win the series because they don’t have the home-court advantage). The Trail Blazers need to even up this series otherwise they’ll make Damian Lillard’s prediction of winning in six games look like a bad joke.
Washington Wizards defeat Atlanta Hawks 114-107: The Wizards and Hawks played a tight game until the third quarter when the Wizards pulled away. All five starters for the Wizards were in double figures, which was a common theme this year. The Wizards’ starters played more minutes than any starting unit in the NBA. Teams typically play their bench less minutes in the playoffs, which should be an advantage for the top-heavy Wizards. But they could get worn out if their bench doesn’t give them any help. John Wall was the star of the game with 32 points and 14 assists. The Hawks’ starters didn’t play well enough to give them a chance. Their bench outplayed the Wizards’ bench, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to make a big enough impact on the game. These two teams will play game two on Wednesday in Washington.
Golden State Warriors defeat Portland Trail Blazers 121-109: The Warriors pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Trail Blazers in game one at home. The game was incredibly close through three quarters because of the scoring output of the Trail Blazers’ backcourt. C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined for 75 of Portland’s 109 points, but that wasn’t enough to defeat the heavily favored Warriors. Draymond Green was phenomenal on both ends of the floor. He had 19 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists, 5 blocks, and 3 steals. The Warriors have too much firepower for McCollum and Lillard to beat them singlehandedly. The Trail Blazers need other players to step up. If Jusuf Nurkic isn’t able to return during this series, the Blazers could be in serious trouble. Game two will be played on Wednesday in Golden State.
Chicago Bulls defeat Boston Celtics 106-102: The Chicago Bulls pulled off the upset on the road in game one of this series. The Bulls have the best player in the series in Jimmy Butler, who went off for thirty points. The Bulls also have two former champions in Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo who can provide valuable leadership. Bobby Portis was a major contributor off the bench with 19 points. Isaiah Thomas played a fantastic game just one day after the tragic death of his younger sister. Nobody knew if he would play going into the game, and nobody would’ve blamed him if he decided to sit the game out. Instead, he battle hard and led his team with 33 points. But the Celtics didn’t get enough of a contribution from the other starters. These two teams will play game two on Tuesday in Boston.
Houston Rockets defeat Oklahoma City Thunder 118-87: In the game that most NBA fans looked forward to more than any other playoff game, the Rockets dominated the Thunder in a game that wasn’t close after halftime. If this game was the deciding factor on who should win the MVP award (which it won’t be), James Harden would be walking away with the trophy. Russell Westbrook had a nice game with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists, but that isn’t up to the level he played at during the season. He also had 9 turnovers and was forcing up bad shots at times. James Harden scored a game-high 37 points, to go along with his 9 assists and 7 rebounds. His teammates also gave him more help than Westbrook’s teammates, which was a common theme throughout the season. Harden’s Rockets are a more talented team, which is why they are favored in this series. Russell Westbrook has to do everything for the Thunder if they want to win, which is something that he’s capable of doing at times. These teams will play game two on Wednesday in Houston.
Atlanta Hawks at Washington Wizards: The Hawks and Wizards will meet in Washington for game one of this first round playoff series. The Hawks are one of the hottest teams in the NBA during the last few weeks of the season, which could give them confidence heading into this series. The Wizards struggled a bit during the regular season’s last month, but are the more talented team in this matchup. The Wizards played their starters more than any team in the league, which could lead to them being worn out during this postseason run. Their bench is an issue, but teams typically play their bench fewer minutes in the playoffs. They definitely have the talent advantage over the Hawks, but Atlanta has enough firepower to keep the series close. Game one will be crucial in both teams’ efforts to advance to the second round.
Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors: The Trail Blazers and Warriors will meet in Golden State for game one of this first round playoff series. The Trail Blazers are one of the hottest teams heading into the playoffs. They are led by the duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. This backcourt is as talented as any in the NBA. After the addition of center Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers started playing up to their potential. Nurkic suffered an injury and may miss the series, which could be detrimental to their chances of pulling off the upset over the heavily favored Warriors. Golden State didn’t win as many games as last season, but they are a much more talented team because of the addition of superstar Kevin Durant. Lillard predicted the Trail Blazers would win the series in six games, so he’ll need to help his team pull off the upset in game one if he wants to make his prediction come true.
Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics: The Bulls and Celtics will meet in Boston for game one of this first round playoff series. The Celtics were able to take the number one seed after the Cleveland Cavaliers stopped trying to win during the last few games of the season. The Celtics have a lot of talent on both sides of the floor. Isaiah Thomas has been one of the best players in the league all season, and could take over the series if Chicago isn’t able to limit his impact. The Bulls are one of the most confusing teams in the league. They have the best player in this series in Jimmy Butler, and have playoff veterans in Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. The Bulls have the talent to beat the Celtics, but they’ve underachieved all season. This is an interesting 1-8 matchup, and it could be closer than most first round series that include the top seed.
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets: The Thunder and Rockets will meet in Houston for game one of this first round playoff series. This is a dream matchup for all fans of basketball. Not only are Russell Westbrook and James Harden competing for the MVP, but they’re facing each other in the first round of the playoffs. These two MVP candidates were once teammates, but they weren’t even the best player on that team. The Thunder have been led by Russell Westbrook’s historic season. The Rockets are one of the most exciting teams in the NBA. Coach Mike D’Antoni brought his fast-paced style of basketball to Houston, and it has been run to perfection due to James Harden’s ability to adapt. He was a shooting guard before this season, but Harden has changed his game to become a point guard in D’Antoni’s system. These two teams are led by superstars, but Houston is the favorite because they have more talent around their superstar. This series will be must-see TV.
Miami Heat defeat Cleveland Cavaliers 124-121 (OT): For the second straight day, the Cleveland Cavaliers blew a fourth quarter lead before losing in overtime. This game was a lot different than Sunday’s loss against the Atlanta Hawks. The Cavaliers were tied with the Boston Celtics with the best record in the Eastern Conference before yesterday’s game, but decided to bench LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. If they didn’t rest their stars, the Cavaliers would’ve won and would likely be the top seed. But for some reason the struggling Cavaliers thought it was more important to rest their starters than try and gain home-court advantage. They dominated the Boston Celtics in Boston the last time they played, so it seems like they don’t believe they need home-court advantage to make it to the NBA finals. The Heat had to win this game in order to stay in playoff contention after both the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls won earlier in the day. The Heat need to win their last game and have the Bulls lose to make the postseason as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Milwaukee Bucks defeat Charlotte Hornets 89-79: The Milwaukee Bucks won their last home game of the season against the Hornets behind Giannis Antetokounmpo’s triple-double. With the Hornets having nothing to play for, this was a game that the Bucks couldn’t afford to lose. The Bucks are now a half game behind the Atlanta Hawks for the fifth seed and one game ahead of the Indiana Pacers for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. The last game for Milwaukee will be against the Boston Celtics, who currently have a one game lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. This will be a pivotal game for both teams.
Los Angeles Clippers defeat Houston Rockets 125-96: In a game that meant nothing to the Houston Rockets, the Los Angeles Clippers won in convincing fashion to stay in fourth place in the Western Conference. The Rockets already have the third seed locked up, so coach Mike D’Antoni didn’t play their key players their usual minutes. The Clippers were tied with the Utah Jazz heading into today’s game, but owned the tiebreaker over Utah. They will play each other in the first round of the playoffs, but the last game will decide which team will get home-court advantage.
Utah Jazz defeat Golden State Warriors 105-99: The Utah Jazz won against the NBA’s best team without their star player. Gordon Hayward didn’t play yesterday, but that didn’t stop the Jazz from pulling out the victory. Klay Thompson didn’t play for the Warriors either, but Hayward is a more important piece for the Jazz than Thompson is for the Warriors. The Warriors have already clinched the number one seed in the Western Conference, so this game was meaningless to them. With this victory, the Jazz kept pace with the Clippers after they defeated the Houston Rockets. With one game remaining for the Jazz and Clippers, Utah needs to win and have the Clippers lose in order to jump them in the standings. If both teams win or lose, then the Clippers will have home-court advantage over the Jazz in the first round of the playoffs.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Miami Heat: The Cavaliers look to rebound after yesterday’s debacle in Atlanta. They are currently tied with the Boston Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference, but own the tiebreaker over Boston. The Miami Heat are tied with the eighth seeded Chicago Bulls but wouldn’t make the playoffs if they started today. Since the Bulls own the tiebreaker, the Heat will likely need to win their last two games to make the postseason. This is an extremely important game for both teams.
Charlotte Hornets at Milwaukee Bucks: This is an important game for the Milwaukee Bucks. The Hornets have already been eliminated from playoff contention, but are a talented team that many expected to make a postseason run before the season started. The Bucks cannot take these Hornets lightly. Milwaukee is currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. They are one game behind the fifth seeded Atlanta Hawks and one game ahead of the seventh seeded Indiana Pacers.
Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers (TNT): The Houston Rockets have already locked up the third seed in the Western Conference and will face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs. The Rockets may decide to sit their starters for their final two games. The Clippers do not have that luxury. Los Angeles is currently in fourth place in the Western Conference with two games remaining on their schedule. They are tied with the fifth seeded Utah Jazz, but own the tiebreaker over Utah. They will face each other in the first round of the playoffs, and these last two games will determine which team will get the home-court advantage.
Utah Jazz at Golden State Warriors: The Golden State Warriors have already locked up the number one seed in the Western Conference and will play the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs. The Utah Jazz are currently in fifth place in the Western Conference with two games remaining on their schedule. They are tied with the fourth seeded Los Angeles Clippers, but do not own the tiebreaker. They’ll face the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs, but will have to end the season with the better record if they want home-court advantage in the first round.