NBA Playoffs: The Best Teams are Houston, Golden State, and…New Orleans?

Michael Ciaglo / Houston Chronicle

The NBA Playoffs are well under way. In fact, by the time you read this many teams will have already moved on to Round 2. That’s no small feat because in today’s NBA, to move on you must win 4 of 7 games in Round 1. Every playoff series in the NBA is 7 games. On the hard court, the 5 game playoff series doesn’t exist anymore.

What’s happened, so far, in the 2018 NBA Playoffs? For starters, both Golden State and Houston have shown up big time. That was to be expected. The Warriors and Rockets were the two best teams in the NBA during the regular season. However, there’s another team that’s been close to unbeatable (actually, unbeatable!) during the NBA Playoffs. That’s the New Orleans Hornets.

Keep reading for more info on the Rockets, Warriors, and Hornets along with some of my other thoughts about the 2018 NBA Playoffs.

The Best Teams 2018 NBA Playoffs: Houston, Golden State, and…New Orleans?

Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are the Best Teams

The Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are the two best teams in the NBA. Houston, especially, appears poised for a deep playoff run.

The Rockets haven’t looked as dominant versus the Minnesota T’Wolves than the Golden State Warriors have looked versus the San Antonio Spurs. That could be a positive in this instance. The reason is because the T’Wolves, even without Jimmy Butler, is on the cusp of being a true force in the Western Conference.

Karl-Anthony Towns is a fantastic center. Andrew Wiggins can score at will. The T’Wolves play with heart. The Rockets have gotten better in their series versus Minnesota. Sure, The Beard and Co. dropped Game 3 105 to 121. But, Houston bounced back in Game 4 with a fantastic 119 to 100 win. What was even more impressive is that the Rockets were ahead 50 to 49 at halftime. The Game 4 win, in Minnesota, was Houston’s best performance yet.

Golden State looked unbeatable in the first 3 games of their series versus the San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors dominated the Spurs 113 to 92, 116 to 101, and 110 to 97. However, in Game 4 San Antonio stepped it up. The Spurs put a nice 103 to 90 beat down onto Golden State.

The loss doesn’t mean the Warriors will lose a series in the playoffs until they face Houston in the Western Conference Finals. The thing to remember about Golden State is that they can turn on at will. But, I must admit that the Warriors don’t appear as hungry this season as they did last season. San Antonio has played without Kawhi Leonard pretty much since Day 1. Just allowing the Spurs to hang around in the series could be signs that Golden State is mentally exhausted.

Golden State faces New Orleans in Round 2. That could be a much more interesting series than most believe it will be.

New Orleans Pelicans Sweep the Portland Trailblazers

The New Orleans Pelicans, without DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins, swept the favored Portland Trailblazers 4 games to 0 in Round 1. As of early today, April 24, the Pelicans are the lone NBA team that’s moved on to Round 2.

How did the Pelicans do it? Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday dominated. Davis scored 35 and grabbed 14 boards while Holiday scored 21 and grabbed 7 boards in the 97 to 95 Game 1 win. In Game 2, Holiday went off for 33 points and 9 assists. Davis only scored 22 points. The big man also grabbed 12 boards. Game 3 saw much of the same. 16, 3, and 7 assists for Holiday. 28 and 11 boards for Davis.

Perhaps, Game 4 was the most telling of how dominant both Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday have been. Davis was unreal. He scored 47 points and grabbed 10 boards. Holiday scored 41 and dished 8 assists.

With Davis and Holiday dominating, the Pelicans should play well versus Golden State. What can take the Pelicans past Golden State is if Rajon Rondo continues to throw up huge numbers. Rondo dished 17 assists, 9 assists, 11 assists, and 16 assists in Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, and Game 4 respectively. In his 9 assist Game 2, Rondo also scored 16 points and pulled down 10 boards. He was an assist away from a triple-double.

It’s not like Rondo, and Holiday, tore up a bad back court. Portland’s Damian Lillard is one of the top point-guards in the NBA. Shooting guard C.J. McCollum is also an all-star. Sounds crazy, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Rondo and Holiday play at least even with the Splash Brothers, Steph Curry and Kyle Thompson. Anthony Davis can’t be stopped while the Pelicans’ bench is as deep as Golden State’s.

Could New Orleans really upset the 5/4 chalk to win the NBA Championship? I think the Pelicans could. They’re playing that well.

LeBron is the Best NBA Player of All Time

I never thought I’d see a player better than MJ, the great Air Jordan. I should have known better. I never thought I’d see a player better than Magic Johnson until Michael Jordan entered the league. There’s always someone better, right?

Maybe, not. I’m not sure if any player enters the NBA as good as LeBron James. He’s the best ever. He can dominate any team on any day. Not only that, but he finds ways to carry his teammates. This season, the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t exactly loaded with talent.

LeBron’s had to work extra hard just to keep the Cavs in their Round 1 series with the Pacers. Still, he’s done it. Even if he knows the chances of the Cavaliers winning the NBA Championship this season, heck, winning the Eastern Conference, isn’t that great, he’s continued to push.

But…who knows? Cleveland could get its footing, meaning guys like Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson step it up. If that happens, the Cavaliers will always have the best player on the court in every game.

I’m not ready to put a fork into Cleveland just yet.

The Eastern Conference is a Mess

One of the reasons LeBron and the Cavaliers still have a shot to win the Eastern Conference is because it’s an absolute mess. The Cavs are down 2 to 3 to the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers starting five includes:  Bogdan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner, Victro Oladipo, and Darren Collison. Not exactly a whose who of NBA greatness.

I can’t just rag on Cleveland versus Indiana, though. The Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards are tied 2-2 going into their Game 5. Boston and Milwaukee are also tied 2-2. Only the Philadelphia 76’ers, 3 to 1 leaders over the Miami Heat, appear to even want to win the East. The young 76’ers are for real.

The rest of the Eastern Conference? It’s not looking good.

On the Hard Court It’s All About Chemistry

On the hard court, chemistry means more than anything. Ask the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are, not surprisingly, down 1 to 3 to the Utah Jazz in their best of 7 Round 1 series. OKC wasn’t supposed to have much trouble beating the Jazz in Round 1. After all, not only do the Warriors boast last year’s NBA MVP, Russell Westbrook, but they’ve got Carmelo Anthony and Paul George on the squad.

The chemistry among Russell, Melo, and PG-13 didn’t pan out during the regular season. It’s no wonder the triumvirate has struggled in the post-season. What’s interesting is that if Andre Roberson, who’s a perfect fit for OKC when Russell’s the main option on the court, hadn’t gotten hurt the Thunder might be be playing better.

That’s chemistry. Roberson averages 5 points, less than 5 boards, and around an assist per game. But, Oklahoma City is a more effective team with Roberson getting minutes than Carmelo Anthony getting minutes. That’s not a knock on Melo. That’s just the NBA where stats aren’t as important has having the right mix of players.

Round 2 in the NBA Playoffs should be awesome. I can’t wait to see if the young New Orleans Pelicans can hold up versus the Splash Brothers and the great Kevin Durant!

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson

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