NBA Playoffs 2017
Second Round Preview
Round number 2 is already under way, so lets get to it (Play now).
Season matchups (2-2 Tie)
The backcourt in this semifinal takes center stage in perhaps the most interesting of the four second round series in these NBA playoffs. Talk about this year’s Boston squad begins with Isaiah Thomas, who punches far above his weight class and has been stellar all season long. That will present a big challenge for the Wizards, who have a pretty similar makeup thanks to their All-Star backcourt. John Wall rightfully gets all of the headlines in D.C. but don’t discount the x-factor his wingman Bradley Beal plays each game in terms of scoring and defending. While both the Wizards and the Celtics had a few early stumbles initially in the playoffs, they quickly righted the ship to close out tough first round opponents and move forward to this one.
It seems highly unlikely that either Wall or Thomas wind up with this year’s MVP but they’ve had the kind of seasons where their candidacy should rightfully be taken quite seriously. Now we get to see the pair face off in what should be a meeting of two of the best backcourts in the league. If you’re looking for scoring in bunches, big-time transition three-pointers and some underrated play down in the paint, this is certainly the series for you.
Season matchups (3-1 SAS)
The consensus seems to be that the MVP race in the NBA came down to Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook and Houston Rockets point guard James Harden, but San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard might be the best player in the Western Conference playoffs. Leonard averaged 31.2 points on 54.8 percent shooting, six rebounds and two steals in the six-game win over the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round and consistently attacked the basket, leading to a 59-of-61 effort from the free-throw line.
Harden’s Rockets ousted Westbrook’s Thunder in the first round, but it’ll get more challenging now against Greg Popovich’s squad and system. But there’s no doubt about it that MVP favorite Harden is the focal point for the Rockets to win against the Spurs. He averaged 33.2 points, seven assists and 6.4 rebounds in the five-game, first-round win over the Thunder but went 13-of-41 from the floor over the final two contests while dealing with an ankle injury.
Season matchups (3-1 CLE)
The Toronto Raptors took the Cleveland Cavaliers to the sixth game of the Eastern Conference finals last spring and get another crack at the defending champs one round earlier this spring. The second-seeded Cavaliers breezed to a four-game sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the first round while the third-seeded Raptors needed six to turn away the Milwaukee Bucks. The Raptors developed a stronger defensive identity with the acquisitions of P.J. Tucker and Serge Ibaka during the regular season and limited the Bucks to an average of 86 points while winning the final three games of the first-round series. The Cavaliers are not as strong on the defensive end and became the first team since the 1995 Houston Rockets to sweep a first-round series while allowing their opponent to score 100 or more points in each game.
Season matchups (2-1 GSW)
The Warriors swept Portland 4-0 and have been waiting since Wednesday to find out their next opponent. They now have their answer in the Utah Jazz. Throughout the season, the play of the Jazz has been one of the welcome developments in the Western Conference, which has been dominated by the Warriors and Spurs as of late but have seen the door squeak open a tad thanks to a host of intriguing contenders. While Utah has been labeled a dark horse by some this postseason, a series win over the Clippers in which it overcame a number of issues has proven that this young team is firmly in the mix to make some noise in the second round.
Unfortunately the Jazz draw Golden State, who has been dealing with its own issues left and right but remain the best team in basketball by a good margin. Health has kept the Warriors from being the juggernaut everybody expected when the team was first being assembled, but make no mistake, they’re the prohibitive favorite in this series and this postseason for a reason. While many want to concentrate on the high-flying ways of their MVPs or the deadly shooting from the outside, this is a complete team that competes on both ends of the court to turn the occasional close game into a blowout.