By Kelton Brooks
(1) Boston Celtics vs. (4) Washington Wizards
So when do we make “The Chicago Bulls blew a 2-0 lead” joke? Or was it simply that Rajon Rondo, a player sent to the bench on a bad Bulls team in the regular season, publicly called out his teammates and whose career trajectory plummeted before dominating the Celtics in games one and two, broke his thumb to sit out the rest of the series as Boston won four straight?
It was the latter.
John Wall is the best player in this series and has played like a top-5 point guard in the league during the opening round showcase against the Atlanta Hawks. Wall eliminated the Hawks with a 42 point, 8 assist performance. Wall is the fourth player in NBA history with at least 40 points and eight assists in a series-clinching win.
He averaged 29.5 points and 10.7 assist in the series.
The opening round series was just the beginning of Wall’s coming out party, even with Avery Bradly and Marcus Smart in line to defend him.
Wall Street is in Washington. Wizards in 6.
(2) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Toronto Raptors
LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will be coming off a week and a day of rest since eliminating the Indiana Pacers on April 23.
The semifinals matchup is a rematch between the Cavs and Toronto Raptors, a team Cleveland ousted in six games in the 2016 postseason. Both teams won their games at home before James and the Cavs outscored Toronto by 64 points in games five and six.
Cleveland doesn’t have the same perimeter defense it had last season, which is why Indiana scored 100 points in every contest against the Cavs in the opening round. Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan are special players in this league, but the duo has an uncanny knack of disappearing in games. Lowry scored four points on 2-of-11 from the field and 0-for-6 from 3-point range in Game 1 against Milwaukee.
Toronto was obliterated 104-77 in Game 3. Derozan failed to score a field goal, going 0-for-8 from the field, scoring all eight of his points from the free throw line.
The duo could have better success against the Cavs defense, but the Raptors’ season ends here.
Cavs in 5.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (3) Houston Rockets
The Grizzlies played the Spurs tough in round one thanks to an applaud-worthy performance by Mike Conley and Zach Randolph’s defense on LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge is coming off an underwhelming series for a player of his caliber (14.8 ppg and 7.3 reb/g), but there is no player with the intimation or physicality on the Rockets’ roster to bully Aldridge off the block like Randolph. Houston had to worry themselves with the single force that is Russell Westbrook dragging along the likes of Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson.
Kawhi Leonard is arguably the second best player in the league and can dominate offensively and defensively and he will have Tony Parker, Aldridge, Patty Mills and Pau Gasol as running mates instead of the crew Westbrook delivered to the postseason.
James Harden and the Rockets scored between 105 and 115 points in the five game series against Oklahoma City, but only Game 1 wasn’t competitive. Games two through five was decided by six points or less.
Spurs in 6.
(4) Los Angeles Clippers/(5) Utah Jazz vs. (1) Golden State
The Jazz and Clippers duel in a Game 7 matchup tonight and their reward is a matchup against Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
I predicted the Jazz to defeat the Clippers in seven games, and hopefully Utah can win on the road in LA. A hobbled Clippers team without Blake Griffin versus the Warriors, will be by far the worst matchup of the second round, no matter how special Chris Paul has been for LA in the first round.
The defensive-minded and young Jazz team possess the skill and length to give the Warriors its first test of the postseason. Plus, what has gotten into Joe Johnson? The Warriors struggled with the length of Oklahoma City last season in the playoffs and also because the Thunder did have two top-10 players on their team in Durant and Westbrook.
If Clippers win, Warriors in 4. If Jazz win, Warriors in 7.