May 13, 2019, 12:00 pm
Welcome, Hoop Ball readers, to another edition of The Week Ahead!
The Conference Finals are upon us! The second round brought a great deal of excitement, and I stand by my belief that the Semifinals will be the most exciting round of this postseason. The Bucks and Celtics series was the only non-exciting series, but there was a ton of drama attached due to Kyrie Irving. However, I will get into the Celtics when I write their post-mortem. For now, I will go over the other three series and how they played out.
The Raptors and 76ers went seven, with the Raptors winning Game 7. Kawhi Leonard actually ended the series on a buzzer-beater in the corner that bounced on the rim multiple times. This was one of the best Semifinals series that I have ever seen, which already validates my opinion on the round.
The Warriors and Rockets only went six games, but it was almost as exciting as the 76ers-Raptors series and as drama filled as the Bucks-Celtics series. The drama attached to the series was due to injuries, since DeMarcus Cousins was not playing and Kevin Durant went down during Game 5. Steph Curry was having a sub-par series prior to Durant’s injury, but stepped up almost immediately after he went down. He led the Warriors to a series win over the Rockets and their fifth straight appearance in the Western Conference Finals.
The last series is the Nuggets-Blazers series, which I had predicted to be the least entertaining. However, I was proven wrong as this series went seven games and a majority of the games were very close and full of toughness. CJ McCollum was most definitely the MVP of this series as he averaged 26.4 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.6 threes in 42 minutes per game in the seven games played. He scored 37 points in Game 7 and had a signature moment when he blocked Jamal Murray late in the fourth quarter. The Semifinals were definitely as intense and exciting as I had hoped they would be.
Here are my predictions for the Conference Finals:
Warriors over Blazers 4-2 (If the Blazers are lucky enough to push it to six games)
Raptors over Bucks 4-3 (This series is a toss up)
Finals Matchup Prediction: Warriors vs Raptors
Now here is an overview of the week ahead:
Weekly Schedule Breakdown
Monday, May 13th– NO GAMES
Tuesday, May 14th– Blazers at Warriors at 9:00 PM ET GAME 1
Wednesday, May 15th– Raptors at Bucks at 8:30 PM ET GAME 1
Thursday, May 16th– Blazers at Warriors at 9:00 PM ET GAME 2
Friday, May 17th– Raptors at Bucks at 8:30 PM ET GAME 2
Saturday, May 18th– Warriors at Blazers at 9:00 PM ET GAME 3
Sunday, May 19th– Bucks at Raptors at 7:00 PM ET GAME 3
DeMarcus Cousins (quad) could actually going to be on the active roster for the Western Conference Finals. Yes, you read that correct. Boogie Cousins may be able to return during the Western Conference Finals after many thought that he was definitely out for the entire postseason. If he does and plays well, he could earn some of that potential money back that quite a few executives claimed he lost once he got injured. Look for updates on Cousins’ status prior to Game 1.
Kevin Durant (calf strain) has yet to be re-evaluated, so there is no timetable for his return. However, it is hard to believe that he will sit out for too long and should return to action sometime during this series. Check for updates on Durant throughout the week.
Pau Gasol (foot) underwent surgery on his left foot on Thursday and will miss the remainder of the playoffs. Gasol has missed a majority of his games with the Bucks and has not played in the entire postseason, so this does not come as a surprise.
Rodney Hood (knee) left Game 7 against the Nuggets after hyperextending his left knee. The Blazers won, so we will hear updates very soon on if Hood will be available for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
Thanks Hoopballers for reading another edition of The Week Ahead!
May 21, 2019, 9:05 amJamaal Franklin - G - Sacramento Kings
Former NBA guard Jamaal Franklin will be attending a free agent mini camp with the Kings next week.
Franklin is considering making the move to Europe after five seasons in China and his agent has been already shopping him to EuroLeague teams for next season but he will try to impress NBA teams first. He has played a total of 24 games in the NBA with the Grizzlies and the Nuggets while he finished the season in the CBA averaging 32.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.8 blocks.
Source: Nicola Lupo on Twitter
May 21, 2019, 12:02 amDamian Lillard - G - Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard had his best game this series in Monday's 117-119 Game 4 loss to the Warriors with 28 points and 12 assists to go with four rebounds and four 3-pointers.
Lillard went 11-for-24 from the field and hit a signature logo 3-pointer, but in the end he couldn't convert on his layup or his 3-pointer in OT to keep the Blazers' season alive. He's been playing through a rib injury which explains why he's been a bit off on offense. Tonight he brought it all in an attempt to survive, but it just wasn't enough against the juggernaut Warriors.
May 21, 2019, 12:00 amCJ McCollum - G - Trail Blazers
C.J. McCollum scored 26 points on 10-of-22 shooting with two rebounds, seven assists, a steal, two blocks and five 3-pointers in Monday's Game 4 against the Warriors.
McCollum has been the Blazers' most consistent threat on offense in this series, but he was unable to convert on some tough shots late in OT to keep the Blazers' season alive. He's improved upon last postseason, but this year ended the same as the Blazers were swept.
May 20, 2019, 11:59 pmMeyers Leonard - F/C - Trail Blazers
Meyers Leonard had a career-high 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting with 12 rebounds, three assists, a steal, a block and five 3-pointers in Monday’s Game 4 loss to the Warriors.
Leonard had 25 points in the first half thanks to his 5-for-6 shooting from deep and both of those numbers already set new career-highs. Thanks to his hot hand, the Warriors had to respect him out on the 3-point line which freed up space for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to operate on the perimeter.
May 20, 2019, 11:58 pmAl-Farouq Aminu - F - Trail Blazers
Al-Farouq Aminu scored zero points on 0-of-2 shooting with a rebound and a block in Monday's Game 4.
Aminu stunk it up again, but the Blazers didn't get much help from their bench either. Rodney Hood (40 minutes, seven points on 3-of-11 shooting with two rebounds, two assists, two steals and a 3-pointer) and Evan Turner (six points on 3-of-4 shooting with two rebounds and a steal) didn't do much, showing that coach Stotts didn't have many options to choose from.
May 20, 2019, 11:56 pmStephen Curry - G - Golden State Warriors
Stephen Curry led the Warriors to a 119-117 OT Game 4 on Monday with 37 points on 11-of-25 shooting with 13 rebounds, 11 assists, a steal and seven 3-pointers.
Curry put on an off-ball clinic tonight, running circles around the Blazers to get open even though he drew consistent triple-teams. Steve Kerr wanted to end this series tonight so Curry played the entire second half including OT and the move paid off. There shouldn’t be any more noise about Curry’s ability to perform in the playoffs as he destroyed the Blazers in every coverage they threw at him. It’ll be all eyes on Curry again in the Finals as they look to three-peat.
May 20, 2019, 11:54 pmDraymond Green - F - Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green notched a 18-14-11 triple-double to go with three steals, two blocks and a 3-pointer in Monday’s Game 4 win over the Blazers.
Green has proven over the past two games that he still has the ability to kick it into high gear. His defensive tenacity and anticipation might be the best in the league as he’s a one-man wrecking crew on that end of the floor. His only triple was a big one late in OT and his ability to ignite the Warriors on a big run thanks to his defense and passing were huge reasons why the Warriors swept the Blazers.
May 20, 2019, 11:52 pmJordan Bell - F - Golden State Warriors
Jordan Bell started in Monday's Game 4 against the Blazers and scored seven points on 3-of-5 shooting with two assists and a steal.
Bell drew his first career playoff start after Damian Jones (DNP-CD) looked overwhelmed in his Game 3 start, but ceded the closing minutes to Kevon Looney (29 minutes, 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting with 14 rebounds, a steal and a block) who played the best out of all the Warriors' centers. Looney's timing and offensive rebounding have been huge for Golden State and his ability to switch on to perimeter players has also been a huge reason as to why he sees the floor more than the other bigs.
May 20, 2019, 11:52 pmKlay Thompson - G - Golden State Warriors
Klay Thompson struggled in Monday's Game 4 win over the Blazers with 17 points on 7-of-21 shooting with six rebounds, two assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers.
Thompson has been forced to put the ball on the floor more with the Warriors lacking playmakers and you can clearly see him out of his comfort zone. His defense was stifling tonight in crunch time as he perfectly contested both of Damian Lillard's shot attempts at the end of OT.
May 20, 2019, 11:49 pmAlfonzo McKinnie - F - Golden State Warriors
Alfonzo McKinnie started in Monday’s Game 4 win over the Blazers and scored 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting with two rebounds and a 3-pointer.
McKinnie drew the start in place of Andre Iguodala (calf strain) and had the worst plus-minus out of all the starters but came up with some big offensive rebounds in OT. He can’t space the floor any better than Shaun Livingston (22 minutes, eight points on 4-of-4 shooting with a rebound, an assist, a steal and a block) who plays much better with the Warriors’ starters so the starting job is just in name.