The Addison Recorder doesn’t talk about the NBA much…until it gets to the really interesting time of the year. In this four-part series, Alex and Travis will talk about what’s getting them excited for the NBA Playoffs.
Travis: I gotta say – of the eight different first round match-ups, about six of them were incredibly lame without any semblance of true competition. Series like Cavs-Celtics (Love drama aside) were dull, dull, dull. Bulls-Bucks only got exciting when the Bulls looked like they might fall apart completely. The only real competitive match-up was Spurs-Clippers….and that kind of made up for the rest of the round being lackluster because holy pants Chris Paul and holy pants Tim Duncan is a cyborg.
So now we’re moving on to the second round, and the draws should be better. In the East, it’s Hawks-Wizards, with the resurgent Randy Wittman (that’s a weird phrase) trying to drop top seeded Atlanta. However, the real intrigue is all within Bulls-Cavs. Kevin Love’s shoulder dislocation has cast a shadow on what might have been a magical run to the Finals for Cleveland…and it could still be a magical run if Cleveland can overcome the loss of it’s dynamic perimeter/rebounding threat. Oh, and the Bulls don’t exactly look like a pushover. Right, Alex?
Alex: No, I don’t think the Bulls will be an easy out. They’ve been a very confusing team all season long, prone to runs of near-greatness and games that seem completely pathetic. Rumor has it that’s a result of tension between the Bulls ownership and coach Tom Thibodeau over his season-long habit of riding his main six players into the ground and ignoring the rest of the bench. That’s a strategy that can work out brilliantly (see: 2003-4 Pistons or 2014-15 Chelsea), but just as often it leaves you with drained starters and a bunch of subs with no experience. You could see both of those effects in the Bucks series, where the lesser team won Games 4 & 5 through energy and will, only to see the Bulls crush them like twigs in the deciding Game 6. They’re a classic Jekyll & Hyde team. Cleveland will either breeze right past them in 5 or they’ll alternate body blows as the Cavs learn to play without Kevin Love and the Bulls take games off. In either case the Eastern Finals will probably be Cleveland against Atlanta. They were the best teams in the conference, but still have to earn it against some good teams.
In the West…ho boy. I don’t even know how they can carry on after that crazy Clippers-Spurs series. Game 7 was an all-time classic, and there’s still 6 weeks to go in these playoffs. If I was Doc Rivers I’d be worried that the Clippers spent all of their energy dethroning San Antonio, which is a bad state to be in when facing the Rockets. Houston is mainly the James Harden show, but the rest of the team ain’t peanuts and if they’ve got more energy they could go to their first conference finals since the Hakeem days. The Clippers dreams will live or die on Chris Paul’s will, I think. As for the other series, Golden State will win with relative ease. The Grizzlies are good, but injuries have taken their toll and, well, have you seen the Warriors play? They’re the platonic ideal of modern basketball. It’s goddamn incredible. I’d be stunned if the Grizzlies even get to Game 6.
So, all that being said, what are you hoping for from these four series, Travis?
Travis: I’m hoping to see the Cavs function without Kevin Love. The LeBron & Kyrie Show is remarkably effective, mimicking the glory days of the Big Three in Miami. Of course, that’s contingent on having that big stretch four to play the Bosh role. With Kevin Love acting as an outlet for LeBron bullet passes or second/third option on a James/Irving pick-and-roll, there’s multiple ways for the Cavs to batter opponents. Without Love, the Cavs are limited as far as size and range go. Timofey Mozgov is an efficient rim guardian, as is Tristan Thompson, but neither of them offer the downtown sniping ability that Kevin Love does. Without that range factor, players can crowd the paint on a more consistent basis, which prevents Kyrie and LeBron from attacking the rim like bulls in a china shop. I’m curious as to exactly how the offense will adapt.
Meanwhile, out west, I don’t think the Warriors get through the Grizz in four games. My only question will be whether Steph, Klay, et.al. win in five or six games – there’s really no beating them. I’m not as high on Harden and the Rockets as you are, although watching the Mavs get covered in ‘Dwight-Out’ was kind of spectacular. I think Chris Paul will defend Harden better than the bizarre tank job that was Rajon Rondo and the washed-up version of J.J. Barea. Howard can battle with DeAndre Jordan in the paint. Those two pairs can neuter each other…which still leaves Blake Griffen, who stepped it up a notch in the Spurs series with two triple doubles. Dude’s coming into his own and is a legitimate force to be reckoned with. That alone should send the Clips to the Conference Finals.
What are you hoping to see?
Alex: I hope any of these series can be as good as Clippers-Spurs was. That won’t happen, but you gotta set the bar somewhere. The series that has the most potential for that is Cavs-Bulls. They’re not as talented or beautifully-coached as the Spurs or Clippers, but they match up well and have lots of familiarity with each other. The Cavs should find a way to win it, but I bet the series goes to 7 games and the Bulls make Lebron and company earn every damn win. If the Bulls could pull off an upset, that would just be gravy. As for the rest, the duel between Harden and Paul out West should provide lots of highlights. That will be super fun to watch. The Warriors will create yet another series-long highlight reel of ridiculous play, which is always a treat. So let’s have fun watching and meet up for another of these in two weeks, eh?