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NBA Playoffs 2015: First Round Review

Western Conference

The western conference with the exception of the Spurs and Clippers series, compiled a bunch of one-sided match ups. Three out of the four losing teams in the conference only managed to win a single game in their respective series. This does not really provide good basketball; fans want to see competition and excitement. A measly four or five game series does not provide competition and excitement. Usually a series that has a team dominating it won’t attract too much attention but the Warriors sweep of the Pelicans actually had some people buzzing.

Golden State had no trouble closing out the Pelicans but fans should not feel too bad for New Orleans. They will be back as they have one of the best budding stars in the NBA. If Anthony Davis can do all of this in just his second year in the league than it remains to be seen if we have even ever seen a player with his type of ceiling on his game. The Warriors have their own little monster though in Stephen Curry. He scored thirty-nine points to close out the Pelicans in the fourth game. We’ll see if he is challenged in the next match up, one can only hope with him playing out an easy series and providing this much entertainment.

The Portland Trail Blazers also saw their season come to an end but do not have nearly as much to be excited about as the Pelicans. While they do have a dynamic guard, their best big man, LaMarcus Aldridge is slated to hit free agency and may not return. They will have a hard time replacing him if he does leave. The Grizzlies, who defeated Portland, will look to go deeper than in years past. Their toughness is what will propel them far if they want anything special to happen this year. They will have to bring the same physicality and toughness into the next round that they had against the Trail Blazers. Their health could be a concern but they might actually be a good match-up for the Warriors because they play inside and will probably look to slow the game down against the Warriors.

The third boring series in the West was the Rockets and the Mavericks. The Dallas Mavericks championship window looks like it has all but closed as the Rockets’ looks like it is just really opening up. Led by perennial MVP candidate James Harden they looked primed as one of the favorites to go to the finals going into these playoffs and have not disappointed. Dwight Howard looks hungry and healthy for the first time in a while and pairing him with James Harden just looks like pure brilliance now. The two compliment each other perfectly and it showed in this series.

The only games that really provided excitement in the western conference first round playoffs were the ones involving the Clippers and the defending champion Spurs. The series went seven games, the only one to do so in the first round of the playoffs this year and the match up was everything to be excited for. Anytime a whole entire season for two teams comes down to one game, it stands to garner some excitement. Not only that but the Clippers were able to win a tight fought game six played in San Antonio to force the game seven. And after another tight fought game, this one instead played in Los Angeles; the Clippers were able to close out the Spurs mostly thanks to a brilliant effort by Chris Paul. You can really see how hungry he is to win a championship plus playing with guys like Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Reddick has helped him a lot. The main problem I could see with them going forward is that they had to keep DeAndre Jordan off the court late in the game with the threat of him being fouled to exploit his ineptitude at the free throw line. If he is not on the floor, the Clippers give up a lot of offensive rebounds and this could be a real issue if they need to grab a key rebound late. They were able to get away with it in this series but for how much longer?

Eastern Conference

The second week of playoff action has concluded and the Eastern conference had a couple of severely one-sided match ups. However two teams won a pair of games in two series they never really should have had a chance in. Interestingly enough those two teams are on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to basketball futures. The Milwaukee Bucks have a lot of young players and corner stones to build around. Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to take huge strides next year. And lets not forget he has last years number two overall pick in the draft to play along with in Jabari Parker. The Nets on the other hand have a former franchise point guard and an all star center who barely stays healthy. And because of trades they are lacking first round picks and can’t exactly rely on the draft to fix them.

The Nets look to the future after losing to the Hawks in six games. And the Hawks have gotten things on track with their deciding win. Many expected them to breeze through the Nets but they took two games from the Hawks and actually made them sweat a bit. Atlanta’s defense has been sporadic at best these playoffs, its something they need to focus on because they are really at their best when they play great defense. The Hawks really looked to be in trouble after they lost game four in overtime but luckily for them they were able to step up their defensive effort and hold Deron Williams to his usual post star self in game five. After putting up thirty-five points including a huge three late, he could only muster five measly points on two of eight shooting. No wonder Lionel Hollins has lost faith in Williams.

The Cavaliers handled the Celtics but it looks right now to be a pyrrhic victory. Kevin Love’s shoulder was dislocated on a questionable play in which Kelly Olynyk and him were tangled up going for a rebound. The play did not look like a basketball play to me but that is an argument for another day. Now he has had surgery and will be out four to six months, if they want to do anything special this year the slack will need to be picked up. This is not going to be easy for the Cavaliers, Kevin Love was an integral part of their team this year and the system they have developed needs him. The other big men are going to have to try and emulate the large presence that Kevin Love brought. As for the missing three pointers, well that falls more on Kyrie Irving. Lebron will already be expected to step things up; regardless of that injury he was going to have to do so to lead this team deeper into the playoffs. What makes things worse is that their nemesis, The Chicago Bulls are really looking good and healthy going forward.

This could really be the Chicago Bulls best chance to win a championship with Rose at their helm. The poor guy looks to be one more knee injury away from early retirement. I cannot help but see a ghost of Brandon Roy following him around. But until that injury happens they can take some solace in the fact that they were able to absolutely annihilate the Milwaukee Bucks in game six after blowing games four and five to them. When you look at the tandem of a healthy Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler coupled with the finesse down low of Gasol and the rebounding physicality of Joakim Noah, the Bulls look like the most complete team in the NBA playoffs. They are going to be hard to stop going forward if they are healthy.

The Wizards and Raptors match up was really nothing to be excited about even though I thought it looked a lot more intriguing when I first took a look at it. I really did not think Kyle Lowry would absolutely disappear in the series. Paul Pierce really was right about them when he said they lack something. After the Raptors lost game three, it looked as if they had all but given up coming into that fourth game. I mean you are facing elimination and you go out and lose by thirty-one points? That is not the way you want to end a series.

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