NBA Playoffs 2017 – 1st round recap
With the regular season coming to an end, we stepped into the Playoffs. By now teams have already finished the 1st round and have tested their opponents. The results are as follows:
Cleveland Cavaliers: Indiana Pacers (109:108)
Toronto Raptors: Milwaukee Bucks (83:97)
San Antonio Spurs: Memphis Grizzlies (111:82)
Los Angeles Clippers: Utah Jazz (95:97)
Washington Wizards: Atlanta Hawks (114:107)
Golden State Warriors: Portland Trail Blazers (121:109)
Boston Celtics: Chicago Bulls (102:106)
Houston Rockets: Oklahoma City Thunder (118:87)
Cleveland vs. Indiana (109:108)
Cleveland has not been performing up to par in the last month, but now it’s time for them to start all over again in the playoffs, where they need to show their worth and fix the issues that caused them to struggle prior to the season end. As it seemed in the 1st quarter, Cleveland “was back” as they went into 2nd quarter with a 5 point lead (34:29), which they increased by another 2 points before halftime (32:30). With 7 point lead (66:59), Cleveland finished the 3rd quarter with (26:25), thus only needing to hold on to the 8 point lead for the last 12 minutes. But that was harder to do as it seemed. The 4th quarter was extremely close, due to mistakes from both sides and at one point of the match, Indiana took the lead. Last few minutes were extremely interesting to watch as the game could go both ways. It all came down to last 10 seconds of the match with the scoreline showing 108:109 and George with the ball. Of course, Cavaliers knew he should not be let 1v1, so instead they decided to double-team George, who was forced to give the ball to CJ Miles. That turned out as a good decision as Miles missed the shot, which would put Indiana in the lead and in the end won them the match. Nail-biting moments like that make the game more interesting but of course, missing a game-winning shot in NBA Playoffs is something no one can forget. Despite the loss, Indiana played very well and surprised many with their performance. They showed us they can stand up to Cavaliers and they have that chance again.
Paul George statement after the match: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGTSG6YB180
Toronto Raptors vs. Milwaukee Bucks (83:97)
This game could be described in 2 ways, depends from which side you look at it. If you are a Bucks fan, you can be extremely happy with your team performance, on the other side this match was a nightmare for Toronto. Losing a match in playoffs is hard, but losing against a team you defeated 3 out of 4 times with an average margin of 15 points in the regular season is something else. But there is a simple explanation to that. Transition baskets. Toronto did a terrible job in getting back in transition, thus being outscored by (17:4) in fast-break points. Of course, we must not forget to mention Antetokounmpo, the Greek giant, who finished the match with 28 points and did a good job under the rim. That number could be higher if he had not committed 4 fouls in the 3rd quarter, thus being sent to the bench for the remainder of the quarter. Bucks defense also did a great job protecting the rim, holding Raptors at 36%FG, whereas having a 44.7% accuracy of their own. All in all the match was one-sided for the most part, and hopefully, Raptors learned their lesson before going into Game 2. Great performance from Bucks nonetheless.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies (111:82)
The first two matches I covered had a somewhat surprising outcome, however, we cannot say the same for this one, at least in my eyes. San Antonio went into their 1st Game as a favorite and they have proven that with 29 point win over Memphis (111:82). Much of Spurs success came from their spectacular work in the defensive end of the court, holding Grizzlies at 39.2% accuracy, whereas shooting with 53.2% accuracy of their own. The game started with Grizzlies lead (25:30) by the end of 1st quarter. In fact, they were even 13 points ahead at one point of first 12 minutes, but that soon changed in upcoming quarters. San Antonio got back up and managed to get a 3 point lead of their own by the end of the 1st half (52:49). The lead of Spurs only increased as the time went by, leading by 20, by the end of 3rd quarter. At this point, it was clear that Grizzlies just won’t get back into the match and will hope for a better chance in Game 2. With only 12 minutes to go, Spurs did not “step off the gas” and managed to get 36 ahead of their opponents in the 4th quarter. Grizzlies did fight back and reduced the margin to 29, but the damage has already been done and the match finished in favor of the home side. Going into game 2, Grizzlies need to change something in hopes that match won’t just be an encore of the 1st game. One of the things that might work in Grizzlies favor is to play in the paint more. They did prove that they can out-rebound Spurs in the regular season and they should work around that advantage. The second tip might seem as contradictory to the first one, it depends on how you look at it. Grizzlies don’t have the best offense in the league, actually, they have one of the worst, due to their slow pace. On the other hand, they know how to shoot 3pts and with a strong man under the basket, shooting 3pts is not a bad idea. Especially when you know how to score them.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. Utah Jazz (95:97)
It seemed as a close match even before it started and it lived to its potential. A very interesting match to watch, to say the least with a finish you expect from games of such a magnitude. Utah Jazz, as an away team, has 1 job in the playoffs, and that is to win at least one of two games. They managed to do that with a spectacular finish from Joe Johnson. Now with 1 win in their pockets, they can play more relaxed, which could work in their favor. Well, to be fair there is not much pressure on them as they are arguably the underdogs in the series. However, with the performance they showed in their win over Clippers, that statement could be put under a question mark. If there is no pressure on Utah, it’s only reasonable there is A LOT of pressure on Clippers. Being down 1-0 in series and losing at home ground puts any team on their toes and same can be said for Clippers. However, there is one more thing that needs to be addressed here. Whenever you hear Chris Paul’s name there is always something in the wind saying “he has never been to conference finals” and yes, sadly enough that is the case for this great player, arguably one of the best point guards in the league. The only way he can silence the “naysayers” is to get to the conference finals, so this defeat hurts him that much more. In fact, there are a lot of doubts about him achieving that “dream”. Even if Clippers manage to overcome this defeat, and go on and win the series against Jazz, they will need to go against Warriors, who have been playing very well this season. It hurts me to say this, but this year is probably the last chance for 32-year-old PG to finally appear in the conference finals and despite that goal being far away, I do believe Clippers and of course, Chris Paul can reach it.
Washington Wizards vs. Atlanta Hawks (114:107)
This game was close, until the 3rd quarter, which decided the outcome of the match. Prior to the 3rd quarter, Washington was 3 points behind Atlanta (45:48) but quickly caught up to their opponents, leading by 14 points at one point. By the end of 3rd quarter, Washington was 7 points ahead and they were able to retain the lead for the last 12 minutes, thus winning their 1st game. Both teams did well in the offensive end, but the key factor that contributed to Hawks defeat is their poor defense. Somehow they were unable to find an answer to Washington’s pick and rolls and they need to work on that if they intend to defeat Washington. As for 3pts, neither of the team excelled, shooting at 28.6% (Washington) and 28% (Atlanta). Washington went into the Play-offs with a strong start and I don’t expect them to stop here. The key player for Wizards was without a doubt Wall, who seemed to be setting the tempo of the match by himself. Atlanta needs to find a way to stop Wall and they have got a good chance in the series. On the other hand, Wizards need to watch out for fouls, as Atlanta did get a lot of points from the free-throw line in the first half.
Golden State Warriors vs. Portland Trail Blazers (121:109)
Golden State are without a doubt one of if not THE strongest team in the league and they don’t need to explain why the results do that for them. After 2 consecutive appearances in NBA Finals, they are now on a quest to do that for the 3rd time and as for now, they are going in the right direction. The match against Trail Blazers was a close one for the first 3 quarters, actually it was so close it ended in a tie before heading into the last 12 minutes (88:88). But it all changed in last 12 minutes. 4th quarter spelled disaster for Portland who were outscored by 12 points (33:21). Warriors went from letting Portland shooting 47.6% in the 1st half and 48.1% in the 3rd quarter to only 29.2% in 4th quarter. With that, they showed their strength and it was without the doubt the key factor that brought them the win (121:109). This will be a tough series for Trail Blazers, but as much as I see huge favorites in GSW, it’s too early to call out a winner, we will have to wait and see how it all plays out.
Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls (102:106)
Another surprise in the 1st game of the Playoffs was, of course, Bulls win over Celtics. We saw a lot of work being done from Bulls bench and their offensive rebounding did enough to push them to the 1st win of the series. The match started fairly close, with Celtics ending the 1st quarter 5 points ahead, but Bulls had an answer ready and took back the lead by the end of 1st half, outscoring Chicago by 7 points in the 2nd quarter (18:25). The 3rd quarter was full of lead exchanging between the teams, but in the end brought the score to a tie at 74:74. So it was all going to be decided in the last 12 minutes. Last quarter was in Bulls favor. We saw Butler continuing his hot streak and with some help from Portis, they lead Bulls to 9 point lead at one point of the quarter. Of course, Celtics did not just stand there and watch, as they managed to get a 1 point lead due to Isaiah Thomas scoring all 3 free throws after being fouled at the 3pt line. After that Bulls once again took the lead and never looked back. The match ended with Bulls 4pt win (102:106). This match only proves that both of the teams are capable of taking the series and a great game overall. Of course, it’s impossible to call out a winner at this point, but Celtics surely must not be happy about the fact they lost their series opener. Anyway, everything is still open.
Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (118:87)
Houston Rockets took the 1st win of the series against Oklahoma City Thunder with a huge win at Toyota Center. We saw James Harden leading the way with 37 points, whereas Russell Westbrook struggled at 22 points. Some may even say it’s not a Houston vs Oklahoma match-up but more of a Harden vs. Westbrook series, as 2 of the top MVP candidates square off against each other and currently, Harden is 1:0 up. But all jokes aside, there is no denying that they lead their teams to the position they are now in and they will try to take them all the way. Comparing these two teams I cannot stop but feel as Rockets did show much more in the regular season. In the end finishing at 3rd spot in the West is a praiseworthy accomplishment and for those who doubted about how Houston will perform in the season and they got their answer rather quickly. On the other hand, I feel as Thunder are too reliant on Westbrook’s performance. Throughout the season it seemed as if he had an off day his team just couldn’t do the job and that is something they need to work on. Toyota Center was a place where Houston has proven themselves time and time again, so we can safely assume Houston will be a tough opponent for Thunder in this series.