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.
Toronto Raptors defeat Milwaukee Bucks 87-76: The Raptors defeated the Bucks in a defensive struggle that evened the series at two games apiece. The Raptors were able to regain the home-court advantage by shutting down Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. Khris Middleton also struggled with his shot all game, which caused the Bucks to lean on their role players. Tony Snell was their best player all game, but he doesn’t have the talent of Antetokounmpo or Middleton to lead the Bucks to victory. Both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry had a great game for the Raptors. This was the first game in the series that both of their stars showed up. These two teams will play game five on Monday in Toronto.
Atlanta Hawks defeat Washington Wizards 116-98: The Hawks dominated the Wizards to win their first game of the series. They outscored the Wizards 38-20 in the first quarter and never looked back. Dennis Schroder, Paul Millsap, and Taurean Prince all had huge games for the Hawks. The Wizards were switching every pick and roll all game long, which ended up being a failed strategy. The Hawks were attacking the mismatches and scored at will. The Wizards’ starting unit struggled all game. John Wall was fantastic again, but didn’t get any help from the other four starters. Wall had the highlight of the game when he went coast-to-coast and dribbled the ball behind his back before dunking on Kent Bazemore. That was the only highlight of the game for Washington. These two teams will play game four on Monday in Atlanta.
Memphis Grizzlies defeat San Antonio Spurs 110-108 (OT): In the most exciting game of the playoffs, the Grizzlies defeated the Spurs in overtime on a last-second shot by Marc Gasol. The final few minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime were absolutely fantastic. This is what playoff basketball is all about. Kawhi Leonard was the best player on the floor and made his case for being the league’s MVP (although it is a regular season award). He hit multiple clutch shots in the final minutes to send it to overtime. A few times I caught myself calling him Kobe because his performance was mamba-esque. He led all scorers with 43 points and played fantastic defense all game long. Mike Conley played like a superstar point guard. He hit clutch shots down the stretch and helped rally his team when it seemed like Leonard was going to win the game singlehandedly. After Leonard hit a game tying shot in the final seconds of overtime, Marc Gasol put in an ugly looking game-winning shot with a second remaining. These two teams will play game five on Tuesday in San Antonio.
Golden State Warriors defeat Portland Trail Blazers 119-113: In a game that the Warriors were missing star Kevin Durant and coach Steve Kerr, Golden State took a commanding 3-0 lead in this series. The Trail Blazers got off to a fast start with a 67-54 halftime lead. But the Warriors came out in the second half and dominated to get the victory. Klay Thompson took over the third quarter by hitting multiple threes. The Warriors started getting stops defensively, which fueled their fast break offense. The Warriors have won both games without Kevin Durant, which shows how dominant of a team they are. Portland’s star backcourt put in a combined 63 points, but they were not enough to defeat the heavily favored Warriors. These two teams will play game four on Monday in Portland.
Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks: After a pathetic showing in game three, the Raptors will look to bounce back and even the series at two games apiece. The Raptors cannot afford to go down 3-1 in the series, even though they are the more talented team and have the potential to win three straight games against the Bucks. The problem with this Raptors team is their confidence. If they go down 3-1 in this series, they’ll have to win despite being a perennial playoff underachiever. They added Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline, which will end up being a huge waste if they don’t make it out of the first round (especially if both leave in free agency). The Bucks have outplayed the Raptors in all three games of this series. With this game being in front of their home crowd, they have a good chance of taking a commanding lead in this series. The winner of this game will be huge favorites to advance to the second round.
Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks are playing the Wizards at home in a must-win game. After losing both games in Washington, the Hawks cannot afford to go down 3-0 in this series. They’ve been competitive in the first three quarters of both games, but have struggled to close in the fourth quarter. John Wall has been the best player on the floor in both games. The Hawks don’t have a player that can stop him, so they’ll have to collectively try to limit his impact. The Wizards have the much more talented starting lineup, so the Hawks will need their bench players to rise to the occasion if they want to stay competitive in this series
San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies: After a convincing win in game three, the Grizzlies can even the series at home against the Spurs. After game two, the Grizzlies’ coach was critical of the referees. Although they won game three, the Spurs still received more foul calls than the Grizzlies. But that didn’t matter, because coach David Fizdale got his point across. He wanted his team to realize that they shouldn’t change their game plan because of how the refs were calling the game. The Grizzlies are a tough and aggressive team, and they cannot afford to stray from that style of basketball because they aren’t getting calls. Fizdale moved Zach Randolph into the starting lineup, which ended up being a fantastic decision. Although this game is extremely important for the Grizzlies, the Spurs will still be the favorites to win the series no matter who wins this game.
Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers: The Trail Blazers return home to Portland in this must-win game against the heavily favored Warriors. After an embarrassing loss in game two, the Trail Blazers’ star backcourt needs to bounce back and lead their team to victory. With Kevin Durant missing game two, the Trail Blazers had their best chance to steal a road game from the Warriors. The Warriors will be heavy favorites to advance no matter what happens in this game. Durant may miss this game too, which likely won’t end up mattering. Portland needs to win four straight games to make Damian Lillard’s “Trail Blazers in 6” prediction come true. If Lillard doesn’t have a stellar game tonight, the Warriors will take a commanding 3-0 lead in this series.
Cleveland Cavaliers defeat Indiana Pacers 119-114: The Cavaliers defeated the Pacers in the craziest game of the postseason. After leading at halftime by 25 points, the Pacers had an unbelievable collapse that basically ended their season. Although they could still win four straight games to move on to the second round, it’s not going to happen. Paul George led the Pacers with 36 points, but struggled with his shot all game. The Cavaliers’ defense was putrid in the first half, but they were able to figure things out in the second half. Amazingly, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love sat on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. They were struggling and the team was making a run with them on the bench, so coach Tyronn Lue decided against putting them back in the game. LeBron James put the team on his back and singlehandedly won them the game. He scored a game-high 41 points to go with his 13 rebounds and 12 assists. These two teams will play game four on Sunday in Indiana.
Milwaukee Bucks defeat Toronto Raptors 104-77: In a game that was a blowout from the beginning, the Milwaukee Bucks punked the Raptors to take a 2-1 series lead. The Bucks won the first quarter 32-12 and never looked back. The Raptors’ star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined for 21 points. DeRozan scored as many field goals as I did during the game (zero). Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo only scored 19 points, but he was extremely efficient. Greg Monroe, Michael Beasley, and Matthew Dellavedova all scored in double figures off the bench. Everyone stepped up for Milwaukee and nobody stepped up for Toronto. This was an embarrassing effort by the Raptors on the road. These two teams will play game four on Saturday in Milwaukee.
Memphis Grizzlies defeat San Antonio Spurs 105-94: The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Spurs at home in a must-win game. Grizzlies coach (take that for data!) David Fizdale decided to move Zach Randolph into the starting lineup, and Z-Bo rewarded him by scoring 21 points. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley both scored over twenty points, which was crucial for the Grizzlies. They needed their stars to step up, and that’s exactly what they did. The game was close at halftime, but got away from San Antonio in the third quarter. Coach Gregg Popovich would say after the game that they lost because of the first minutes of the second half. Popovich was so upset with his team’s effort to start the third quarter that he benched all five players after a timeout. Kawhi Leonard was not his usual self in this game. Former stars (and soon-to-be retirees) Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined to score as many points as I did. This was a game that the Grizzlies needed to win, and they played dominant basketball on both sides of the court. These two teams will play game four on Saturday in Memphis.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Indiana Pacers: The Cavaliers head to Indiana up 2-0 in the series to face the desperate Indiana Pacers. The Pacers were able to keep both games competitive before falling apart down the stretch. Cleveland is the much more talented team, but Indiana has proven that they can win if a few breaks go their way late in the fourth quarter. With their fans cheering them on, the Pacers need to win this game to avoid going down 3-0 in the series. Paul George has been fantastic in both games, but he needs help. Usually role players play better at home in the playoffs, so they might get a much needed boost from their bench. Myles Turner has emerged as the second best player on this team, and he’ll need to play like it after an abysmal game two. George was critical of both Turner and Lance Stephenson in the media. He claimed that it was to motivate his teammates. Both Turner and Stephenson will be counted on to give George support, which will be crucial if the Pacers want to get back in this series. This is a must-win game for the Pacers.
Toronto Raptors at Milwaukee Bucks: The winner of game three between the Raptors and Bucks will take a 2-1 lead in this series. After struggling in game one at home, the Raptors were able to even the series by hitting a few clutch shots late in the fourth quarter. The Bucks were playing catch-up all game, but had a chance to win late in the fourth quarter. Coach Jason Kidd played a few questionable lineups during the game that put the Bucks behind the eight ball. This was an inopportune time for his inexperience to rear its ugly head. The Raptors did a much better job of limiting superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in game two. He wasn’t able to get to the rim as easily as he did in game one, and he had trouble finishing due to the presence of Serge Ibaka. With Milwaukee stealing the home-court advantage from the Raptors, they’ll need to win these two games at home if they want to win the series. The winner of this game will be in the driver’s seat to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies need to defeat the Spurs to avoid going down 3-0 in this series. If Memphis doesn’t win this game, they’ll have to try to become the first team to win a seven game series after losing the first three games. “TAKE THAT FOR DATA!” Grizzlies coach David Fizdale was recently fined after criticizing the officials after game two. He was upset that Kawhi Leonard shot more free throws than his entire team. The NBA playoff officials have been so terrible for so many years that this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Right when Memphis was getting back into the game, the officials started making one-sided calls that helped the Spurs regain a double-digit lead. This was blatantly obvious to any non-biased observer. As a fan of basketball that loves playoff competition, I was furious. Now that Fizdale made his point, look for the refs to swing in the opposite direction and start making calls to benefit the Grizzlies. We all hope they start calling the game fair, but don’t get your hopes up. These are NBA playoff refs, and they take sucking at their jobs very seriously. I appreciate Fizdale standing up for his players and criticizing the terrible playoff referees, and his “take that for data” rant was so fantastic that I hope this motivates his team and the officials to do a great job for the Memphis fans.
Cleveland Cavaliers defeat Indiana Pacers 117-111: In another closely contested game, the Cavaliers defeated the Pacers to take a 2-0 lead in this series. Although the game wasn’t as close as the first game, the Pacers dominated the fourth quarter to make it close at the end. At the end of the day, the Pacers weren’t able to get enough out of their role players. Myles Turner struggled all game, scoring just six points in 37 minutes. Paul George played like a superstar again, scoring a team-high 32 points. George and Lance Stephenson have been the best two players for the Pacers during the first two games of the series, but they haven’t been able to lead the Pacers to victory. The Cavaliers got another dominating performance from their big three. Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 37 points, with Love and James adding 27 points and 25 points, respectively. The Pacers head home, where they hope to get a boost from their crowd and their bench. They’ve played Cleveland close on the road, but now they’ll face a lot of pressure with a couple of must-win games at home. These two teams will play game three on Thursday in Indiana.
San Antonio Spurs defeat Memphis Grizzlies 96-82: In a game that was a blowout by halftime, the Spurs defeated the Grizzlies to take a 2-0 lead in this series. The Grizzlies dominated the third quarter and early fourth quarter to make the game competitive, but the Spurs pulled away in the end to win by double digits. Kawhi Leonard dominated again with a game-high 37 points and stellar defense. Mike Conley and Zach Randolph led the Grizzlies with 24 points and 18 points, respectively. Grizzlies coach David Fizdale was extremely critical of the referees after the game, correctly pointing out that Kawhi Leonard shot more free throws than the entire Grizzlies team. It was hard not to notice that the Spurs were getting a lot of ticky-tack calls in their favor late in the fourth quarter when Memphis was coming back. It was extremely frustrating to watch, especially for the Grizzlies’ head coach. Fizdale should expect a fine from the league, but it’s time the NBA holds their officials accountable for doing a terrible job in the playoffs. This is an issue every year, and it seems intentional. These two teams will play game three on Thursday in Memphis.
Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers: The Pacers and Cavaliers will face each other in game two of this first round playoff matchup. After an exciting first game of the series that featured no defense, both teams will attempt to make it more difficult for their opponent to put the ball in the basket. Stars Paul George and LeBron James were both dominant in game one, and will have to shoulder the majority of the burden in the rest of the series. Paul George was upset about not getting the last shot in game one, which could fuel him going forward. These two teams know each other extremely well, which will make it interesting to see which team will make the necessary adjustments. This game isn’t a must-win for either team, but it would be extremely helpful if the Pacers can get one game before the series heads to Indiana.
Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs: The Grizzlies will try and bounce back after a humiliating loss in the first game of this series. The Grizzlies kept the game close early, but were outclassed in the last three quarters of the game. San Antonio is the much more talented team, especially with the injury to Memphis’ defensive star Tony Allen. The Grizzlies have enough talent and playoff experience to pull off the upset, but they’ll need to make a lot of adjustments if they want to even the series before heading home to Memphis.
Cleveland Cavaliers defeat Indiana Pacers 109-108: In the first game of the NBA postseason, the Cavaliers squeaked out the victory against the Pacers in Cleveland. The game was back-and-forth until the final shot, which was a missed shot at the buzzer by the Pacers’ C.J. Miles. Down by one with roughly ten seconds remaining, the Pacers’ coach Nate McMillan called a timeout to set up a play. This was a crucial mistake because it allowed the Cavaliers to set up their defense and get the ball out of Paul George’s hands. George passed the ball to Miles and tried to get open to take the final shot, but it was too late and Miles was forced to take the shot. Miles got off a good shot, but it came up just short. Paul George had a fantastic game in which he scored 29 points and was 6-8 from three point range. LeBron James led the Cavaliers with 32 points and 13 assists. These two teams will play game two on Monday in Cleveland.
Milwaukee Bucks defeat Toronto Raptors 97-83: The Bucks pulled off the road upset in Toronto in the first game of this series. Giannis Antetokounmpo had a stellar game full of blocks and ferocious dunks. He blocked DeMar Derozan at the end of the game and was called for a technical foul, even though it was DeRozan who started acting like a child. Although poor officiating isn’t rare in the playoffs, it didn’t cost the Bucks in this game. The Greek Freak scored 28 points and had 8 rebounds to lead his Bucks. Rookie Thon Maker had an impactful game including three blocks in a matter of minutes. Kyle Lowry had another terrible postseason game in which he shot 2-11 from the field and scored four points. DeRozan had a decent game, but roughly half of his 27 points came from the free throw line. The self-proclaimed “trash bros” need to step up their game in game two unless they want to head to Milwaukee down two games to none. Game two will be played on Tuesday in Toronto.
San Antonio Spurs defeat Memphis Grizzlies 111-82: In the one boring game of the day, the Spurs routed the Grizzlies in San Antonio. Although the Grizzlies won the first quarter, they would be outscored in the remaining three quarters. In a battle featuring the Gasol brother, Marc would outscore his brother 32-6. But Marc Gasol was the only player on the Grizzlies who had a good game. Kawhi Leonard would also put in 32 points and played stellar defense throughout the game. The Grizzlies clearly missed Tony “first team all defense” Allen, who got hurt in the meaningless last game of the season. He would’ve guarded Kawhi Leonard, but will likely miss the entire series. These teams will play game two on Monday in San Antonio.
Utah Jazz defeat Los Angeles Clippers 97-95: In an game that featured Jazz star Rudy Gobert injuring his knee ten second into the game, the Utah Jazz were able to defeat the Clippers on the road in the first game of this series. The Jazz could’ve easily folded after watching their big man go down with a potentially serious knee injury, but they rallied around his injury and pulled off the upset. The Jazz are used to playing with backups due to the plethora of injuries their starters have sustained this season. Both of these teams had injury issues during the regular season, but were relatively healthy heading into the playoffs. If these teams didn’t have so many injuries, they both could’ve been the two seed in the Western Conference. That’s how talented both of these teams are, and it’s why this series will likely be the best first round series in the playoffs (regardless of the status of Rudy Gobert). This game came down to the last shot, in which “Iso Joe” Joe Johnson hit the game winning floater at the buzzer to stun the crowd in Los Angeles. Jazz coach Quin Snyder elected not to call a timeout before Johnson hit the game winning shot, which was a fantastic decision. Hopefully Gobert’s knee injury isn’t as serious as it looked, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll be ready for game two. Their next game will be on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers: The Pacers and Cavaliers will meet in Cleveland for game one of this first round playoff series. LeBron James looks to lead the defending champion Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals. This would be LeBron’s seventh straight trip to the NBA Finals. The Indiana Pacers aren’t as good as they’ve been in past seasons, but they still have superstar Paul George leading the way. George is starting to look like the pre-injury Paul George again, which could give the Cavaliers trouble. LeBron’s teams have beaten the Pacers in multiple playoff series in the past, and shouldn’t have any problems beating this weaker Pacers team. The Cavaliers struggled towards the end of the regular season, so they’ll have to find their rhythm if they want to repeat as champions. This should make for an exciting series.
Milwaukee Bucks at Toronto Raptors: The Bucks and Raptors will meet in Toronto for game one of this first round playoff series. The Raptors are at full strength since the return of Kyle Lowry from his wrist injury. This Raptors team is more dangerous since the additions of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline. The Raptors traded for these players to help them during the postseason, so now we’ll see if these moves pay off. The Bucks have been a much better team since the return of Khris Middleton, even though Jabari Parker tore his ACL in the game Middleton returned. With Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way, the Bucks have enough firepower to challenge any team in the Eastern Conference. Toronto is the favorites in the series, but Milwaukee has enough talent to pull off the upset.
Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs: The Grizzlies and Spurs will meet in San Antonio for game one of this first round playoff series. The Grizzlies will likely be without Tony “first team all defense” Allen for the playoffs, so this might be a lopsided series. The Grizzlies still have a lot of playoff experience with Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph on the roster, even though their coach David Fizdale doesn’t have any playoff experience. This could be an issue going up against the great Gregg Popovich. The Spurs have a ton of playoff experience too, led by superstar MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard. Both of these teams play a slower style of basketball, which could limit the number of possessions each team gets while keeping the games close. The Spurs are heavy favorites in this series, but they better not underestimate the Grizzlies with all of their playoff experience.
Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Clippers: The Jazz and Clippers will meet in Los Angeles for game one of this first round playoff series. The Jazz and Clippers both underachieved this season largely due to the injuries both teams sustained. Now that both teams are relatively healthy, they should both be playing their best basketball at the most important time. The Jazz are one of the deepest teams in the NBA, but depth isn’t extremely important in the playoffs because starters usually get the bulk of the minutes. But the Jazz had to play a lot of their bench players in crucial minutes during the regular season because of the plethora of injuries their starters sustained. They received valuable experience that should help them during this playoff run. The Clippers also had to overcome a lot of injuries during the season. They were one of the hottest teams in the NBA during the first month of the season and then started to cool off when star players got injured. Now that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are both healthy, the Clippers have enough firepower to beat any team in the Western Conference. This may be the most exciting and competitive first round series, so winning game one will be crucial for both teams.