In a blink of an eye the two favorites to win the NBA Championship this year are in their respective Conference Championship Series. It didn’t take long for Cleveland’s LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love to convince NBA fans that they are dead set on winning another title.
2017 NBA Playoffs Update
The Cavaliers pummeled the Toronto Raptors, a team I thought had the best chance of upsetting them in the Eastern Conference, 4 to 0. Cleveland took no mercy on a Toronto team that from the outset appeared overmatched.
In the West, Golden State, like a great surgeon, took apart the best defensive team in the NBA, the Utah Jazz. The Warriors are playing on a different level during these playoffs. They haven’t lost a game while their average margin of victory, per a video story on ESPN this morning, is at 16.5.
Below, I analyze each win in my NBA Semi-Conference 2017 NBA playoffs update!
NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs
** Records and stats as of May 8
Eastern Conference Semifinals
2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs 3 Toronto Raptors
Game 1: Cleveland 116 vs Toronto 105
This was the infamous LeBron beer grabbing incident. LeBron said that he grabbed the beer because he didn’t want to hit the concession person holding it. Whatever the case may be, LeBron’s antics only helped Cleveland’s cause. It’s not like the Raptors took LeBron grabbing the beer as a sign of disrespect and made the Cavs pay for it.
As far as the game goes, it was a typical Cleveland night. LeBron scored 35, grabbed 8 and dished 4. Kyrie scored 24, grabbed 10, and dished 2. K-Love scored 18 and grabbed 9. One thing that did stand out was how Cleveland’s undersized center, Tristan Thompson, played.
Thompson dominated inside. He grabbed 14 rebounds and scored 11 points.
Game 2: Cleveland 125 vs Toronto 103
In Game 1, Toronto’s excellent coach, Dwayne Casey, played center Jonas Valanciunas 21 minutes and guard/forward Norman Powell 21 minutes. Casey had put Powell into the starting line-up in Round 1 versus Milwaukee after the Bucks had taken a 2 to 1 series lead over the Raptors.
It had worked against the Raptors. But, he couldn’t do that versus the Cavaliers. He tried instead to switch things up in Game 1 by playing both Valanciunas and Powell. That didn’t work either. Did Casey have a big move up his sleeve for Game 2?
He may have. The reason I write that is because although Cleveland demolished Toronto 125 to 103 in Game 2, it’s not because Casey’s move, starting Powell and bringing Valanciunas off the bench, didn’t work. Powell scored 8 and grabbed 5 boards. He also played decent defense. Valanciunas was awesome with 23 points in 20 minutes.
The reason the move didn’t work is because DeMar DeRozan scored 5 points in 31 minutes. In basketball, coaching moves only work if the stars do their jobs. DeRozan’s most important job is to score.
Game 3: Cleveland 115 vs Toronto 94
The story in Game 3 was Cleveland bench player Kyle Korver. Don’t get me wrong, LeBron was awesome again. He scored 35 points. The King also grabbed 8 rebounds, and had 7 assists. Love got a double-double with 16 points and 13 boards while Kyrie had an okay night with 16 points and only 4 assists.
Korver is the player to remember from this game. Kyle went 4 of 6 from the three-point line to score 14 points. He also played 21 minutes. Make no mistake, if the Cavaliers can get Korver to hit the three consistently from behind the arc, they’re going to be tough to keep from lifting a second straight NBA Championship Trophy.
Game 4: Cleveland 109 vs Toronto 92
Toronto played their best game of the series. It wasn’t enough. Here’s why:
Korver continued his hot hand by hitting on 4 of 6 from three and 6 of 8 from the field. Kyle scored 18 points. Kevin Love was unselfish when making 2 of 7 shots for 5 points. Kyrie went off for 27 points. LeBron scored his usual 35. Deron Williams contributed with 4 assists, 2 steals, and 5 points in only 14 minutes.
NBA Western Conference Playoffs
** Records and stats as of May 8
Western Conference Semifinals
1 Golden State Warriors vs 5 Utah Jazz
Game 1: Golden State 106 vs Utah 94
Utah’s second half in this game gave hope to every single Jazz fan on the planet. No, seriously.
The Warriors jumped on Utah in the first half. They outscored the Jazz 27 to 21 in the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Warriors outscored the Jazz 31 to 25. Golden State went into halftime with a 12-point lead.
But, in the second half, Utah tried to make a game of it. The Jazz outscored Golden State 27 to 26 in period 3. In period 4, Golden State outscored Utah 22 to 21, but at least the Jazz showed that they could hang with Golden State.
Game 2: Golden State 115 vs Utah 104
But, hanging with a team isn’t the same as beating them. Game 2 showed that Utah was a master at hanging with the Warriors, keeping it close enough so that they didn’t get blown out, but could the Jazz beat the Warriors?
No, they couldn’t. Golden State and Utah played Game 2 the same way. Although that sounds crazy, both teams played unselfishly. In Game 2, Utah had 4 players score in double-figures. Golden State had 5 players score in double-figures.
The problem for the Jazz, which I don’t think is lost on anybody, is that their four players that scored in double-figures in Game 2 were: Rudy Gobert with 13, Gordon Hayward with 12, Rodney Hood with 12, and Joe Johnson with 11.
Golden State’s 4 players that scored in double-figures were: Steph Curry with 22, Draymond Green with 17, Kevin Durant with 17, Klay Thompson with 15, and Zaza Pachulia with 10.
Game 3: Golden State 102 vs Utah 91
Starting in Game 3, Utah tried to switch things up versus Golden State. While the Jazz played unselfish basketball in Game 1 and Game 2 to no avail, Utah tried to beat Golden State by having their two best players, Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert, take charge.
In Game 3, Gobert grabbed 15 boards and scored 21 points. Hayward scored 29. Gordon was aggressive. He went to the free throw line 14 times. He buried 13 of 14 free throws.
I must hand it to Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder. He tried to get the Jazz over the aren’t we competitive hump. Spreading the ball around turned out to be unwise. So, he leaned on his two best players.
That didn’t work. Durant scored 38. He grabbed 10 boards. Steph scored 23. I think there’s a reason that Snyder looked like he hit a bottle of scotch in the fourth period during every game of this series. He just couldn’t get his team out of the we’re competitive against them but we never beat them category.
Game 4: Golden State 121 vs Utah 95
By Game 4, Snyder was out of coaching moves, which means there was no way that Utah was going to beat Golden State. Quinn had tried everything he could. In Game 4, he pretty much let his guys loose. Shelvin Mack dropped 18, Gordon Hayward dropped 25, Rudy Gobert scored 12, and Dante Exum scored 15.
But, that meant that Golden State coach Steve Kerr had to let his guys loose as well, right? Steph went off with 30 while KD dropped 18, Klay went for 21, and Draymond scored 17.
Golden State proved in their 4-game series sweep of the Utah Jazz that they can play any style of basketball. Want to slow it down on us? No worries! We can play in the half-court set. Want to go to your best player? No problem! We’ve got a few of those guys. Want to open it up? Yeah, now you’re in trouble!
Versatility is what makes the Warriors the best team in the NBA.