2017 NBA Conference Semifinals Week 1 Preview

 

The NBA Conference Semifinals kicked off this past Sunday, April 30. Boston battled Washington in Game 1 that day. Then, on Monday, May 1, Cleveland hosted Toronto in Game 1 of their series while Houston battled San Antonio on the road in Game 1 of their series.

Whose looking good and has the upper hand heading into the four NBA Conference Semifinals this week and next? Check out my preview of the 2017 NBA Conference Semifinals Week 1!

2017 NBA Conference Semifinals Week 1 Preview

NBA Conference Semifinals Week Preview
** Records and stats as of May 1

1 Boston Celtics 1-0) vs 4 Washington Wizards (0-1)

Game 1: Sunday, April 30
Boston 123, Washington 111
Game 2: Tuesday, May 2
Game 3: Thursday, May 4
Game 4: Sunday, May 7

The Boston Celtics were exceptional in the 123 to 111 Game 1 win. As a team, the Celtics hit 46 of 90 shots from the field. The fact that they could shoot 90 times versus Washington’s defense is close to amazing. The percentage came out to 51.1%.

What’s nuts about the percentage is that the Wizards usually only allow 46.6% from the field. They let the Celtics shoot close to 5% better from the field than what they usually allow. That’s not going to cut it. If Boston is able to shoot 50% from the field, Washington is toast.

From three, Boston shot 48.7%. The Celtics hit 19 of 39 three-point shots. It was a brilliant piece of shooting from Boston, but, let’s be honest, Washington’s defense is much better than what they showed against the Celtics on Sunday. Opponents average 36.4% from three against the Wizards.

Washington’s D should step it up big time in the rest of the games in this series. I believe it’s going to be a matter of pride for Washington point-guard John Wall to hold Isaiah Thomas to less than 30 points. Isaiah dropped 33 to go along with 9 assists against Washington in Game 1.

Wall only made 9 of 20 shots. He was 1 of 5 from the field. For Washington to turn things around in this series, Wall must take charge on the offensive end. 20 points won’t cut it. Yes, J-dub dished 16 assists, and the Wizards had 6 players score in double-figures, but this is the NBA Conference Semifinals.
Washington’s Wall’s got to step up the scoring.

2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs 3 Toronto Raptors

Game 1: Monday, May 1
Cleveland 116, Toronto 105
Game 2: Wednesday, May 3
Game 3: Friday, May 5
Game 4: Sunday, May 7

LeBron James sure didn’t look tired in Cleveland’s smashing 116 to 105 beat down of the Toronto Raptors in Game 1. King James scored 35 points. He grabbed 10 boards. The best part is that he only dished 4 assists.

Why is that the best part? It’s the best part because the Cavaliers had a total of 26 assists in the game. What it means is that Kyrie Irving, the Cavs point-guard who is often maligned for taking too many shots, dished the rock beautifully in the Game 1 Conference Semi victory. Kyrie dished 10 assists to go along with 24 points. He only had 3 turnovers to 2 steals.

Coach Tyronn Lue will take that every night. He’s also going to take the 19 points and 8 rebounds he got from #3 in his Big 3, forward Kevin Love. K-Love is best when he’s able to provide a workman-like performance. 19 points and 8 boards is all they need out of K-Love because Kyrie and LeBron can’t be stopped.
The big takeaway regarding the Cavs in the Game 1 win is free throw shooting. Kyrie hit 7 of 9. LeBron hit 7 of 8, and Tristan Thompson and Love both hit 5 of 6. What it means is that all 4 players were aggressive. If the Cavs can maintain that aggressiveness, they can sweep Toronto.

I’m not sure what the key is for Toronto in Game 2 and beyond. Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker, and Norman Powell all scored in double-figures. The Raptors were out rebounded by only 3. The Cavs dished only 4 more assists than the Raptors.

Maybe, the key is 3-point shooting. Cleveland made 4 more three-pointers, 14 to 10, then Toronto did. That’s 12 points right there.

NBA Western Conference Playoffs
** Records and stats as of May 1

1 Golden State Warriors vs 5 Utah Jazz

Game 1: Tuesday, May 2
Game 2: Thursday, May 4
Game 3: Saturday, May 6

What a contrast in styles Golden State versus Utah should be. The Warriors rank first in points scored, 115.9, and field goal percentage, 49.5%. They’re ranked 3rd in the NBA in 3-point percentage, 38.3%. But, the Warriors are also ranked first in field goal percentage allowed, 43.5%, and 3-point percentage allowed, 43.5%.

So, how much of a contrast is this series really going to be? Yes, Utah plays much slower than Golden State. But, your wrong to believe that the Jazz can’t put the ball in the basket. Utah is ranked 9th in field goal percentage at 46.6%. They’re ranked 9th in three-point percentage at 37.2%.

Add in the defensive stat that means the most, Utah only allows 96.8 points per game, ranking 1st in the NBA, and it becomes clear that the Jazz have a shot against Golden State. If Utah’s style wins out, they could win one, two, who knows how many games, in this series.

Think about it this way, Golden State is used to playing great defense while running up and down the court. Utah is used to playing defense and scoring in half-court sets. The Jazz beat Golden State 105 to 99 the last time they battled them.

Don’t be surprised if the Warriors find this series more difficult than anyone believes it will be. I’m not ready to say that Utah wins the series, but I do believe that Golden State’s going to have to work for the series win.

2 San Antonio Spurs vs 3 Houston Rockets

Game 1: Monday, May 1
Houston 126, San Antonio 99
Game 2: Wednesday, May 3
Game 3: Friday, May 5
Game 4: Sunday, May 7

If you’re the San Antonio Spurs, should you be worried that the Rockets blitzed you 126 to 99 on your court in Game 1 of your best of 7 NBA Conference Semifinal Series? I don’t think so.

Sure, the Rockets played unbelievably well. But, to beat the Spurs by that many points means that San Antonio, one of the better defensive teams in the NBA, didn’t play any defense at all. Houston shot an unreal 50 times from behind the arc. They hit 22 of those. That accounts for 66 points.

Plus, the Rockets made all those three-point shots early in the game. After the first quarter, the score was Houston 34, San Antonio 22. Houston outscored San Antonio 35 to 16 in the second quarter so that the score was 69 to 39 at halftime.

San Antonio made the necessary adjustments at halftime. The Spurs outscored the Rockets 60 to 57 in the second half. But, as to be expected the damage was done.

I’m of the belief that San Antonio makes further adjustments in this series. Houston beat San Antonio 99 to 101 in the first battle during the regular season. San Antonio beat Houston 106 to 100, 102 to 100, and 112 to 110 in the next three regular season games.

I see Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich making the adjustments to get San Antonio back on track. Heck, he made the right adjustments at halftime to get the Spurs back on track. Unfortunately, things got so out of control in the first half that San Antonio had no shot of climbing back in Game 1.

Game 2 on Wednesday should be a different story. Don’t put a fork into the Spurs after 1 game. I still believe San Antonio can and should win this series.