Only a single dog emerged from Round 1 of the NBA Playoffs. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t see some great basketball. In the East, the Top 4 seeds advanced. That wasn’t the case in the West where the Utah Jazz beat the L.A. Clippers in 7 games. Check out what happened in Round 1 of the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
Round 1 of the 2017 NBA Playoffs Update
NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs
** Records and stats as of May 1
1 Boston Celtics beat 8 Chicago Bulls 4-2
After losing Game 1 and Game 2 to Chicago, Boston turned into a juggernaut. The Celtics blitzed the Bulls in four straight: 104 to 87, 104 to 95, 108 to 97, and 105 to 83. The trend in all four Round 1 wins was Boston’s defenses.
Defense is the key to winning in the NBA Playoffs. Just ask Utah how important defense is. Boston’s defensive prowess was truly on display in Game 6. Chicago took 81 shots from the field. They only hit 32 of those for 39.5%. The Bulls took 19 three-point shots. They hit on 4 of those for 21.1%.
Another great thing about that Game 6 win if you’re a Boston fan? Isaiah Thomas, your best player, scored only 12 points, and you dominated your opponent by 22 points. That’s an excellent sign.
2 Cleveland Cavaliers beat 7 Indiana Pacers 4-0
I wrote about this series in one of last week’s blogs because the Cavs had this sewn up before anyone else. But, that’s just it, the Cavs played hard to beat the Pacers 4 to 0. Indiana matched up well with Cleveland.
Going into the series, I thought the Pacers might win 1 or 2 games. They had just dominated Cleveland in a regular season battle about two weeks before the series started. The difference, like it was during the entire 2016 NBA Playoffs, was LeBron. The King refuses to let his team lose.
He led them to a 1-point win, 109 to 108 in Game 1. In Game 2, they beat Indiana by 6, 117 to 111. Game 3 saw the Cavaliers win 119 to 114, and then they beat Indiana by 4, 106 to 102 in Game 4. Check out LeBron’s stat line for each game:
Game 1: 32 points, 6 boards, 13 assists
Game 2: 25 points, 10 boards, 7 assists
Game 3: 41 points, 13 boards, 12 assists
Game 4: 33 points, 10 boards, 4 assists.
Most will say that he’s not as good as Jordan. I’m not sure he isn’t better. LeBron’s more dominant than any player I’ve ever seen not counting Wilt and Russell in the old tapes. The block against Andre Igoudala alone in last year’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals was enough for me to put him up there with Mike.
The King truly is the King.
3 Toronto Raptors beat 6 Milwaukee Bucks 4-2
After getting into a 1 to 2 hole, the Raptors turned it around big time versus the Milwaukee Bucks. How did they do it? Head coach Dwayne Casey made a key adjustment on the offensive end. He realized that center Jonas Valanciunas wasn’t capable of either scoring in bunches or stopping the Bucks big men from dominating him inside. He also couldn’t stop Giannis Antetokounmpo from slashing to the basket.
Casey put Norman Powell into the starting line-up starting in Game 4. Powell responded brilliantly. He took some pressure off DeMar DeRozan in the scoring department, laying down a team high 25 in Toronto’s 118 to 93 Game 5 win, and he was much better on the defensive end than Valanciunas.
Casey gets props for not being afraid of making the adjustment.
4 Washington Wizards beat 5 Atlanta Hawks 4-2
I thought the Hawks were on their way to an upset win in the series. But, Washington proved me wrong. After tying the series in Game 3 and Game 4, Washington rallied in Game 5 and Game 6. If you’re a Wizards fan, you particularly must appreciate the 115 to 99 Game 6 win.
One would have expected the Hawks, 3-point home favorites in Game 6, to step it up and force a Game 7. Nope. Atlanta’s defense fell apart. The Wizards put up 78 shots from the field. They hit 42 of them for 53.8%. Washington shot 41.7% from three.
John Wall scored 42. Bradley Beal scored 31. Washington moved on to the Conference Semifinals while the Hawks took the short drive home to their abodes in Atlanta.
NBA Western Conference Playoffs
** Records and stats as of May 1
1 Golden State Warriors beat 8 Portland Trailblazers 4-0
Golden State played very Warrior-like in their 4 to 0 series domination of Portland in Round 1. After a 121 to 109 non-cover Game 1 win, Curry and his mates dominated for three straight wins against the spread: 110 to 81 as -11.5 favorites in Game 2, 119 to 113 as -4.5 road favorites in Game 3, and 128 to 103 as -9 home favorites in Game 4. The Game 4 win was typical. Kevin Durant only played 20 minutes and scored only 10 points, as Steph dropped 37, Draymond added 21, and Klay scored 18.
What’s worrisome if you’re an opponent of the Warriors in these playoffs is how coach Steve Kerr goes 7 deep on his bench. Everyone on Golden State’s team hits the floor for at least a minute or two. Some play upwards of 10 minutes in a game.
Golden State’s bench is deep. And, Kerr isn’t afraid to use it.
2 San Antonio Spurs beat 7 Memphis Grizzlies 4-2
San Antonio truly asserted itself after the Grizzlies tied the series 2 to 2 after Game 4. Memphis looked great in their 105 to 94 Game 3 win. The stats said that they should have beaten the Spurs by more than 3 points in overtime of their 110 to 108 Game 4 win.
What happened in Game 5? San Antonio garnered more possessions than Memphis. No, really, that’s how the Spurs won. The Spurs made 42 of 80 shots from the field. Memphis made 37 of 72 shots. Both teams shot over 50% from the field, but the Spurs made more shots. The Spurs also made 5 more 3-point shots, 14 to 9. They beat Memphis 116 to 103.
San Antonio’s 103 to 96 win over the Grizzlies came down to rebounds. Memphis adjusted behind the arc. They hit 12 of 27 threes while San Antonio only hit 7 of 20 threes. But, Memphis only secured 28 total rebounds while Memphis secured 46.
The fact that San Antonio can beat you so many ways is a good sign for them. They’re going to need to make multiple adjustments versus the Rockets in the Conference Semifinals.
3 Houston Rockets beat 6 Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1
Wow. Was I wrong about this series or what? Houston dominated the Thunder 4 to 1 in a series where all signs pointed to great Oklahoma City player Russell Westbrook lighting up The Beard and his teammates.
For Houston, Game 1 and Game 6 are the battles versus OKC that they must study. In Game 1, the Rockets held the Thunder to 37% shooting from the field and 31% shooting from three. OKC hit 30 of 81 shots from the field. They hit 9 of 29 shots from three. The Thunder scored only 87 points.
In Game 6, the Thunder scored only 99 points when Houston held them to 38.5% from the field and 26.3% from three. The Rockets shot only 16.2% from three. But, they beat OKC 105 to 99.
Has Mike Dantoni’s team learned how to play defense? I think so. That makes the Rockets scary.
5 Utah Jazz beat 4 L.A. Clippers 4-3
Talk about defense! In Utah’s stunning 7-game series win over the L.A. Clippers, the Jazz held the Clippers to less than 100 points in every game save for the 106 to 111 loss in Game 2.
In Game 1, where Utah center Rudy Gobert went down after 15 seconds, the Jazz beat the Clippers 99 to 91. How did the Jazz do it without Gobert? As crazy as it sounds, the Jazz beat LAC by playing great defense without fouling. No, seriously. In the Game 1 win, the Jazz sent the Clippers to the foul line 8 times. LAC hit 5 of 8 foul shots while Utah hit 17 of 22 foul shots.
It wasn’t a series trend, though. Utah beat the Clippers in Game 3 by out rebounding them 42 to 31. Blake Griffin got hurt after 18 minutes in Game 3. It was only a matter of time after that. The Clippers put up a valiant fight, but without Griffin, they had no shot. Utah is much better offensively than they’re given credit for. LAC just couldn’t match Gordon Hayward and Gobert on the offensive end.
Don’t forget to check out my blog about the NBA Conference Semifinals!