The NBA starting the 2nd round series on the weekend wasn’t smart. People are busy on the weekend! It’s hard to write previews on the weekend!
So, with those series already started, I decided I’ll do what “What I saw in Game 1” section along with breaking down why I made the pick I did (Trust me, they were official).
Also, here is a preview for Sixers-Celtics, which starts tonight.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics
Make no mistake about it. The 76ers are the best team in the Eastern Conference.
That doesn’t mean they’re gonna make the Finals. All season, we were searching for a team in the East to pull away. A team to really impress us and make us go “OK, they’re for real.”
For awhile, it was this Celtics team, which found itself in Game 7 against the just miserable Bucks. Boston is a lot better than Milwaukee, but the fact that they allowed the Bucks to take them to seven is a little concerning. Especially when they’re now pitted against this Sixers team.
Before the Jaylen Brown injury, this series was a risky one for the Celtics. Sure, Boston actually has some options to throw at the Ben Simmons-Joel Embiid menace, like Brown, Al Horford and Marcus Morris (I guess?). But the Sixers have shown us this postseason that they’re gonna be able to do whatever they want offensively; Miami was more equipped than Boston to slow them down and failed to do so.
The Sixers’ pace is stunning, and it’s all set up by Simmons. Him flying down the court and attacking the rim is impossible to stop due to his freakish stature; him and Giannis have two of the most ridiculous bodies in the league. But add in the court vision and tantalizing passing and you’ve got someone who’s literally unstoppable. He can make any pass from any position in the air or any place on the court.
Brown was Boston’s best option. He’s long and could possibly get a little rough with Simmons (It’s the one thing no one has tried!). But now he’s out for Game 1, and the only thing coming out of Boston’s mouth is that he “could return later in the series.” That doesn’t sound encouraging.
The surprising yet devastating impact of Brown’s injury comes on the offensive end. When Brown was drafted, his ceiling was an excellent defensive player who could hopefully be effective as a wing on the offensive end. We’re there, and the ceiling is only getting higher.
In Game 2, Brown had 30 points. He hit five threes, but more importantly put the game away. He was Boston’s closer, a role they desperately miss with Kyrie Irving out.
Boston’s struggles offensively with Kyrie out have been well documented. With Terry Rozier’s hit-or-miss game, the Celtics have had to rely on rookie Jayson Tatum, Brown, and this out-of-nowhere Marcus Morris isolation game that has came about this season. When Rozier’s not dribbling too much, Tatum hasn’t hit the wall and Brown is putting up Game 2-like performances, the Celtics are unstoppable due to how they play on the other end. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t say that happens too often.
Even on Philly’s worst nights, they still have the advantage. It’s hard for Embiid to have a bad game unless he turns the ball over seven times single-handily. Horford will make him work, but who’s really shutting him down? The Sixers medical staff making him wear the facemask?
We also forget that the Sixers are freakishly good defensively as well. Robert Covington hasn’t been there offensively in the postseason, but should be able to make Tatum hit the wall again. Embiid has the athletic edge over Horford if Boston decides to do the old-school game and bang down low for easy points.
Turning it over to Rozier isn’t the smartest move, but it might be the Celtics only chance. Josh Richardson was able to take advantage against the defensively challenged JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli in the Miami-Sixers series. If Rozier can play a little more efficiently and hit shots, the Celtics could steal a game or two. But they don’t have as big of a coaching advantage any more, and they’re relying on guys just as young as Philly. The Celtics just won’t be able to get away with it anymore.
Prediction: Sixers in 4
I wasn’t able to write previews for the Western Conference 2nd round series’ since they had to start on the weekend (Thanks NBA!) and my weekend was jammed packed with homework and high school baseball scouting. So let’s run through each West series so far so I can explain the pick I made and breakdown what I’ve seen.
Why I picked the Rockets in five…
It was much more to do with the firepower problem. As good as Donavan Mitchell has been, there’s gonna be a point where him alone is just not enough. The Jazz got through OKC because the Thunder still couldn’t figure out the crunch-time responsibilities, Ricky Rubio supplied some surprising shot-making, and Mitchell’s excellence. Now Rubio will miss multiple games and Houston knows what they’re doing. Once again, it’s just Mitchell out there.
In Game 1, it was proved that he just wasn’t enough. The Jazz were a top two defense in the league this season and got schooled by Houston. One of my concerns with the Rockets was their lack of ball movement. Sure, their offense was historically efficient, but that doesn’t mean that there is no need for ball movement, or that ball movement and fast-paced basketball is inefficient.
Houston didn’t play at any cranked up pace Sunday, but they did get a little creative with their offensive sets instead of isolating and passing around the arc four times. The Rockets and Chris Paul were swinging it around, getting Utah defenders distracted to Paul and James Harden, which left guys like PJ Tucker wide open in the corner.
Houston also went to the classic Harden-Clint Capela pick-and-roll, which is a play that Utah should be somewhat equipped to defend with Rudy Gobert at the rim. That didn’t go Utah’s way either.
If Utah is going to struggle defensively, they’re really screwed. Offensively, we knew the struggle to keep up was gonna be very real. Making it easy for Houston offensively gives the Jazz almost no chance.
Why I picked the Warriors in six…
I may or may not have proof that I made this pick. But it happened and we’re rolling with it.
Round One and Game 1 alleviated concerns about the Warriors regular season. There is definitely a switch, and it most definitely works. Golden State manhandled the Spurs; they had no one to stop Kevin Durant and just couldn’t keep up offensively.
Saturday night looked like a similar problem for the Pelicans. But it’s much more about the matchup rather than the state of the team.
See, the Warriors’ guards actually care about defense. They shut down Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo Saturday night. Plus, ya’ll forgot about Dray (You like that reference??). Sure, Draymond Green hasn’t been as impactful on defense this season. But he’s still one of the league’s five best defensive players, and he helped control Anthony Davis. The Warriors are one of the few teams that have someone who can at least slow him down. The offensive explosion we witnessed from New Orleans in Round One was part Pelicans, part crappy Blazers defense.
This series could be shorter than six games, but I still expect Davis to carry New Orleans one night in 45 point effort, and Golden State can easily go cold in a game.