The second round is in the books after two sweeps and two close series. Before we dive into the NBA, let’s examine the BSB(R) Standings:
I feel very conflicted. On the one hand, I really like Chaz. I respect that he’s doing well. I respect his improvement as a rebounder, ball-handler, and passer on the court. But his Celtics fandom is reprehensible. It’s a major character flaw, and I don’t know if it’s in the principles of AGR to award someone like him the BSB(R) first-place status. I’m not 100% positive of this, but it seems like Dave Attewell is the only person who mathematically has a chance of beating Chaz, which would require a Spurs victory. I’m going to look into time machines and a hit man to take out Zaza Pachulia. Let me know over Signal if you’re interested.
Back to the Association…
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Celtics-Wizards: After a regular season full of drama between these two teams, it was only appropriate that they met in a seven-game series. The Wizards played well in Boston the first two games, jumping out to huge first quarter leads. But they couldn’t sustain them, and Boston won both games, one which included a 53-point masterpiece from Isaiah Thomas. The Wizards held home court in DC, where they had 22-point and 26-point runs in the two games, continuing the season-long dynamic of these two teams dominating on their home court. The Wizards shat the bed in Game 5 and nearly lost in Game 6, but John Wall’s game-winning three prevented a premature funeral and set up Game 7. The final game was close until a Kelly Olynyk– and IT-inspired run in the middle of the fourth, which put the Celtics up for good.
- Hero: Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford
- Goat: Road play
Cavs-Raptors: If only there were more to write about, here. The Raptors, owners of the better regular season point differential and the same squad that pushed the Cavs to six games last year, couldn’t win a measly game. Part of this can be attributed to Kyle Lowry’s ankle injury–he was the Raptor’s best player and didn’t play in their two home games. On the other hand, none the games were all that close. LeBron James averaged 36 points with strong efficiency across all games. Kyrie Irving also came to play, bettering any individual Raptor. With Lowry’s free agency and an underrated stock of cheap talent, the Raptors will need strategically improve in the off-season if they want to make the NBA finals. A starting place, though, would be improved passing and three-point shooting from their highest-paid player, DeMar DeRozan.
- Hero: LeBron James
- Goat: Raptors style of play
Western Conference Semifinals
Warriors-Jazz: The parallels between this series and the Cavs-Raptors series are several–two defending conference champs swept underdogs with the help of injuries to opposing star point guards. In the case of the Jazz, they were without a Hill for three games (injured toe), shifting an already-impossible series into a likely sweep. Shelvin Mack picked up the bulk of Hill’s minutes, which shows how far Dante Exum is away from being a difference maker. Gobert and Hawyard were good, but good won’t cut it against the Dubs for a team missing George Hill. Curry, Durant, and Draymond were their usual excellent selves, even though Klay was a no-show. That’s the luxury of the Warriors.
- Hero: Having three top-10 players…
- Goat: Not having three top-10 players…
Spurs-Rockets: The other fun series of the second round felt unpredictable from the outset. Pop and the Spurs’ first real test without Duncan. Harden with a team properly outfitted around his talents, including a high-variance strategy adding to the mystery. It paid off in Game 1, where the Rockets whooped the Spurs in San Antonio. But the ever-resilient Spurs beat on the Rockets the next game to even the series, and then regained home court after a road win in Game 3. The Rockets’ Game 4 rout of the Spurs set up a much anticipated Game 5. It was an overtime thriller, highlighted by an injury to Kawhi that kept him out of the fourth quarter and overtime, a rare Danny Green drive and-one, and a game-saving Ginobili block on Harden. The Spurs went to Houston with the opportunity to close out and did so in fashion, winning 114-75 without Kawhi Leonard; meanwhile Harden shot 2-13 with six turnovers.
- Hero: Spurs basketball
- Goat: James Harden
Looking ahead to the Conference Finals
- Will the Cavs dominate, as they have been (and how most expect them to), or will Boston’s superior regular season have any predictive power?
- As a penetrator, shooter, and facilitator, can Isaiah Thomas carve up the Cavs defense as he did during the regular season?
- Can the perimeter defenders–especially Jae Crowder–on Boston slow down a red-hot James?
- Can the Spurs overcome a heartbreaking Game 1 loss, which featured a comeback win from the Dubs after injury to Kawhi Leonard?
- When will Kawhi return and who will step up while Kawhi sits?
- Can the height and skill of the Spurs’ post players give the Warriors trouble?
- Why aren’t the Wizards playing the Cavs?
Who are your picks to win, both the playoffs and the BSB(R) tourney? Comment on the article or email us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook