With two weeks of NBA Playoff action in the book and several series completed, here are a few takeaways:
The Thunder proved to be an overall bad team
Because of their star power, or at least their appearance of having star power, the Oklahoma City Thunder were viewed as a dark horse by a lot of people heading into the playoffs. But that ended quickly as the Utah Jazz beat them handily in five games. Carmelo Anthony averaged a horrendous 11.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and zero assists per game in the series, and while point guard Russell Westbrook scored 45 and 46 points in the final two games, he also took 82 shots in those games. The Thunder are an interesting case as they’ve got one of the best talents the league has ever seen in Westbrook, but they can’t seem to figure out the perfect style of play or the people to put around him in order for the franchise to thrive. With such a short playoff run, the team should be seriously concerned about forward Paul George leaving to go somewhere in free agency.
Utah now faces the Houston Rockets, and rookie Jazz point guard Donovan Mitchell goes from matching up with Westbrook every night to going against potential league MVP James Harden. Pretty amazing experience for such a young player, and he could rise to another level if the Jazz can make the series interesting.
The Celtics survived
The losses on the road weren’t pretty and often weren’t close, but the Boston Celtics finally pulled out the series-clinching win over the Milwaukee Bucks, albeit in Game 7 fashion. For a team with the third best record on the road in the NBA this season, the Celtics will have to clean up their road play as they’ll be playing the highly talented Philadelphia 76ers, who are young, hungry and have a lot of people telling them their time is now.
The return of guard Marcus Smart is an important one and if point guard Terry Rozier can play consistently at a high level like we saw in spurts against the Bucks, with an elite Al Horford, this team could be trouble. But it’s going to take a balanced attack because this Celtics team has the opposite problem of the Thunder — the Celtics don’t have a 50-point threat night in and night out but rather they’ve got guys who can give really good offensive games, they’ll play as a team and they’ll play hard on defense. If the young Celtics can play to their potential against the young 76ers, we could see seven games.
The Pelicans disappointed big time in Game 1
After a lot of New Orleans Pelicans hype for the past week or so after the Pelicans disposed of the Portland Trail Blazers in a first round sweep, there’s been a lot of talk about the Pelicans being a tougher challenge on the Golden State Warriors in round two than many may have originally thought at the beginning of the playoffs. However, after piling up 76 points in the first half, the Warriors cruised to victory in Game 1, and, by midway through the second quarter, the game had gotten out of hand.
With Warriors point guard Stephen Curry still out with a knee injury, the Pelicans need to have better guard play right now and in the first game of the series, Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday did not bring the versions of themselves that they brought to Portland.