Playoffs Round 1 Series Recap: Houston Rockets Roll Over OKC Thunder, Advance to Round 2

Houston Beats Thunder 105-99, Wins Series 4-1

James Harden had 34 points and his supporting cast lifted the Houston Rockets past the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 105-99 victory.

Last year, the Thunder went all the way to the Western Conference Finals, however this year they are headed home just after the first round despite Russel Westbrook’s 47 point performance.

At the end of the 4th quarter, the Rockets went on a 5-1 run, gaining most of their points from free throws as they pulled away from the Thunder 98-91. At that point, the Thunder were getting tired, frustrated and sloppy as Victor Oladipo launched a pass about 5 feet above Westbrook’s head, throwing it out of bounds. On the next play, Harden came in for an easy layup.

With the help of eating up the clock to finish the game, the Thunder also kept missing shot after shot which could’ve closed the gap in the score. This sums up the series for the Thunder, as last game they failed to foul the Rockets all the way up the court in the final seconds which secured the Rocket’s victory.

Also in the game, Westbrook and Patrick Beverly got into a heated exchange late in the 4th quarter when both teams were at their breaking points.

Beverly said, “It’s actually the first time we exchanged words this postseason. He’s a really good player. He applies a lot of pressure due to his athleticism, his creating ability. He shocked me because he said, ‘Look up’ and said, ‘Nobody can guard me. I got 40 points.’ I said, ‘That’s nice. You took 34 shots to get it.’ I’m not trying to bash anybody. Men lie, women lie, and the numbers don’t. Collectively, as a unit, we did a great job on him, tried to make him take a lot of tough shots, and the numbers show.”

And on Westbrook’s side of things, “He was talking first team all-defense. I didn’t know what he was talking about ’cause I had 42 at the time. I have no idea what he was talking about. Maybe he was dreaming or some s—. I don’t know what he was talking about. I guess he wanted to be first team all-defense. Maybe he was dreaming about it. I don’t know.”

Either way, the scuffling is now over as the Rockets advance.

Game 1: 118-87 Houston

Game 2: 111-115 Houston

Game 3: 115-113 Oklahoma City

Game 4: 113-109 Houston

Game 5: 99-105 Houston




Cleveland Cavaliers: Time to add Deron Williams to starting lineup with Kyrie Irving

The Cleveland Cavaliers put to rest any rumors of them having major cracks in their armor against the Indiana Pacers. However, up next will either be the Toronto Raptors or the Washington Wizards. Even with their sweep of Indiana, the Cavaliers are clearly not the same team that went to two straight NBA Finals and it may be time for a lineup change.

The Cavaliers, most notably, LeBron James went public for the need of a playmaker and they got one in Deron Williams. While Williams has been giving second unit duties, the Cavs may be better off with him starting at PG and shifting Kyrie Irving to SG. For some, that may seem strange but the Cavs have struggled to produce consistently in their backcourt.

Yes, a championship can mask plenty of holes but the Cavs were exposed quite often during the season. The Playoffs were kind to them as the Pacers backcourt weren’t a real threat but with a matchup of either Bradley Beal or DeMar DeRozan in the next round, things could get ugly fast.

The Cavs have had trouble scoring outside of their big three and what happens if James, Irving or Kevin Love as he’s known to do, struggles from the field? This is where Williams, once an MVP candidate comes in handy.

Irving is a master with the ball and can get to the lane with ease. DeRozan and Beal are not known as elite defenders and Kyrie would destroy them off the dribble and has a deadly perimeter game to match. However, taking the ball out of his hand would benefit the Cavs as Williams is more of a natural passer. He can also attack the rim but as he’s aged he tends to look more for an open teammate than Irving does at this stage in their careers.

J.R. Smith is normally the starter at SG but he’s so inconsistent that he may be better served as the top offensive choice for the second unit.

By bringing in Williams as primary ball-handler it takes some responsibility off James as well. James is one of those players that thrives at doing everything but if Williams can facilitate the offense then it gives James the option of just attacking his defender. Kyrie has improved on this three-point shooting and with Love, also on the wings and in the post he can expect sharper passes to his hot spots.

The Pacers posed no real threat with Monta Ellis but their next opponent will not go away so easily. The Cavs have won with their current formula but it’s clear that some things must be tweaked if they are to make it three straight Finals appearances.

 




Los Angeles Lakers: Time is right to begin those Paul George, Brandon Ingram trade discussions

The Indiana Pacers season is officially over, thanks to the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James and crew finished off the sweep of the Pacers Sunday afternoon and possibly ended the tenure of Paul George with the team. Just this past Trade Deadline there were rumors that Larry Bird had considered moving George in order to stockpile players and picks for the future. While the move didn’t make sense then, it does now. Time to call the Los Angeles Lakers.

George has been called everything from selfish to loser during this series. The media and fans didn’t take too kindly to him bad-mouthing Lance Stephenson, George not being able to contain James or not being able to lead his team to at least one victory. Is this fair for Paul George to receive this treatment?

Yes, it is.

He’s labeled a superstar in this league whether people respect it or not. He’s going through the same treatment James went through before he defected to the Miami Heat. George needs to be surrounded by talent and the Pacers just can’t or won’t do it. They tried this year by bringing in Jeff Teague and while Teague performed well, it’s the others that failed to live up to the measuring stick. So, what is Bird to do now? The offseason will be filled with much speculation as to the future of George and the franchise.

One of the teams mentioned when discussing a possible George deal is his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers can provide the Pacers with a loaded package that can help the team now and for the future. However, it all depends on how far Magic Johnson is willing to go to win. A deal can be discussed between the old friends but the Lakers won’t know how far they can go until after the NBA Draft Lottery May 16th. After then, the Lakers will know exactly their place in the Lottery.

If the Pacers are looking for a great deal and the Lakers wind up with a top 3 pick– then why not offer up Brandon Ingram and said pick for George? That’s a win-win for both parties. Ingram and the current Lakers roster just doesn’t fit. The team is trying to groom D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Ingram at the same time and it’s impossible. A veteran like George will take ownership over a young squad and help them mature into winners.

The Pacers getting Ingram, who has the ceiling to be another George, coupled with a top 3 pick and the option to release the Pacers of George’s contract could have Bird foaming at the mouth. But now it all depends on the Lakers. Last season they paid close to $140M for just two players who were shut down before the season ended. If Johnson can get rid of at least one of those deals this summer then the Lakers can afford to take on George’s contract without worry.

This will be a tough offseaon for the Lakers, Pacers, and George as the future of all three could change with one phone call.




Playoffs Round 1 Series Recap: Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers Sweep Indiana Pacers 4-0, Advance to Round 2

With Sunday’s 106-102 win over the Indiana Pacers, the Cleveland Cavaliers completed the series sweep. Despite the sweep, it was a closer series than most people realize considering each game was a six point deficit or less. If the Miles hit the game-winner in Game 1 and if the Pacers didn’t blow their huge lead in Game 3, the series would have been tied 2-2. However, those were only hypotheticals and the fact of the matter is that the Cavaliers won.

LeBron James showed no remorse as he entered in his, “playoff mode,” ripping apart the Pacers in points and his infamous chase down blocks. In the third quarter of today’s game, the Cavaliers outscored the Pacers by five as they marched to victory in Indiana. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love also had a big series, and they were all lucky enough to make it out without injuries (can’t say the same for the LA Clippers and Utah Jazz.)

Throughout the series, Paul George played valiantly, Lance Stephenson was his usual instigating self while also putting in work, and Thaddeus Young definitely had a good hustle. Although, George’s performance throughout the series and in past games have led to many questions such as is he actually a super star player? We’ll let you decide.

The victory today assured the Cavaliers a full week’s rest before either facing the young and powerful Milwaukee Bucks or the familiar Toronto Raptors – the same Raptors who the Cavaliers beat last year in the playoffs 4-2. Having the oldest roster in the league, the rest is vital for the Cavaliers. The time off will also help them to work out the kinks, grow as a team and practice, and for coach Tyronn Lue to keep the momentum going.

Game 1: 109-108 Cleveland

Game 2: 117-111 Cleveland

Game 3: 119-114 Cleveland

Game 4: 106-102 Cleveland

 




NBA Playoffs Round 1: The Los Angeles Clippers Redeem Themselves in Game 2 Against the Utah Jazz

Los Angeles Clippers Revitalize Their Playoff Hopes, Beat Utah Jazz 99-91

Blake Griffin led the Los Angeles Clippers with a vintage performance, scoring 24 points, along with DeAndre Jordan’s double-double in their victory over the Utah Jazz Tuesday night, evening the series at 1-1.

Jordan ended the game with 18 points and 15 rebounds, in addition to Chris Paul’s 21 points and 10 assists for the Clippers, who demolished the Jazz inside the paint 60-38.

The Clippers managed to get a 12 point lead at the end of the first quarter, behind some fantastic dunks which were what earned the team’s nickname as “Lob City,” years ago.

”It was big,” Griffin said. ”Our spirit was great, and I think it just carried over into the first quarter, with everybody being aggressive. That’s what we need. Miss or make shots, we have to be aggressive like that. Our offensive aggressiveness will carry over to defense.”

Los Angeles’ big 3 (Jordan, Griffin, Paul), combined for 10-13 for shooting and six rebounds just in the first quarter alone. Also in the first, they shot 65 percent and outscored Utah in the paint 10-0.

”We got a lot of stops early in the game,” Jordan said. ”We were able to get out and run in transition and get some easy dunks and post steals for Blake, and then it opens up for our shooters.”

The Jazz came within 3 points of the Clippers early in the third quarter from Derrick Favors’ basket, who has been starting in place of the injured Rudy Gobert.

”We got to find other ways to protect the paint. That’s the challenge,” Snyder said. ”There’s no sense lamenting his absence. Just got to figure out how to be better.”

Game 3 will be held in Utah.

Series: 1-1 Tied




Chicago Bulls: Rajon Rondo showing Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas how to run a team in NBA Playoffs

The Chicago Bulls took a commanding 2-0 lead in the First Round of the NBA Playoff against the Boston Celtics last night. It wasn’t so much the score that has caught everyone attention, it’s how the Bulls, most notably, Rajon Rondo is taking Isaiah Thomas to school. Rondo is a vet. He’s been here before plus two NBA Finals with a championship to boot. He’s played with 4 future Hall of Fame players and has been coached by Doc Rivers. He knows what it takes to win. He may be a hot-head every now and then but when the playoffs roll around, he’s in rare form.

The same cannot be said for Thomas.

No one expected this as the Celtics would go on to with the No.1 seed in the Eastern Conference but along the way, they made the age-old mistake of being too cocky. What Thomas didn’t realize but he sure as hell is now– is that it takes more than 30 points scored to win in April. While Thomas is worried about living up to the Allen Iverson comparisons, Rondo is doing everything to help lead his team to the next round. There lies the difference between the two players.

Thomas plays with a chip on his shoulder while Rondo plays with a purpose.

Look at the stat sheet for the first two games of the series.

Rondo- 23 points, 20 assists, 17 rebounds

Thomas- 53 points, 8 assists, 10 rebounds

Awesome numbers for Thomas but it’s time he learned that he has teammates as well. Rondo was never viewed as a scorer but he does enough to make his presence felt. This is the same knock that Iverson dealt with during his career. But to be fair to Iverson, he did lead his team to a Finals appearance. It looks as if the Celtics will be headed home after another First Round exit for a third striaght year. Just happens to be a coincidence that it’s the same time that Thomas arrived in Boston.

Hmmmm.

Keep looking to drop those 30 points since no one can check you, Thomas. It was all great for the regular season but this is big boy time now and Rondo is giving you the blueprint on how to run a team when it matters.




NBA Playoffs Round 1: Chicago Bulls Swat Away Boston Celtics for a 2-0 Series Lead

Chicago Bulls Do the Impossible, Beats Boston Celtics in Boston Twice for a 2-0 Series Lead

Jimmy Butler comes up big for the Chicago Bulls, scoring 22 points along with Rajon Rondo being one rebound shy of a triple-double in their 111-97 win over the Boston Celtics. The No. 8 seed have managed to beat the Celtics twice in a row on their home court, which was highly unpredicted.

Dwayne Wade also had 22 points in addition to Robin Lopez’s 18 points. The Bulls had control of the game by dominating on the offensive glass, beating the Celtics in rebounds 43-38.

Butler had a huge block on Isaiah Thomas’ lay-up, spiking it away like he was at a volleyball game, making Thomas fall on his back in the process. Thomas ended the game with 20 points.

Apparently, being the first seed means nothing because the Bulls have been manhandling the Celtics all series long. If the Celtics don’t get their acts together and start coming out with some big plays and a win, the future in the post-season is definitely a little shaky for them.

Game 3 will be held in Chicago. Will the Celtics be able to win on the Bulls’ home court for some revenge? We will find out.

Series: 2-0 Chicago