April 29, 2019, 12:33 pm
Welcome, Hoop Ball readers, to another edition of The Week Ahead!
The first round of the playoffs is officially over and although it was full of excitement and drama, we could see an even more entertaining round coming up. The matchups for the semifinals are the Celtics vs. the Bucks, the Raptors vs. the 76ers, the Nuggets vs. the Blazers, and the Warriors vs. the Rockets. All of these series have the potential to go 7 games, but before I get into my predictions for this round let me go over the first round.
All of us have seen the Damian Lillard shot in Paul George’s face from just inside half-court to send the Thunder home, but that has to be stated as the best moment from the first round. Lillard made Russell Westbrook’s case for winning and being a top point guard in this league a lot more controversial with that shot. Personally, I have Westbrook as the 4th best point guard in the NBA behind Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Damian Lillard in that order.
Aside from the Blazers-Thunder drama, a new rivalry spawned between the Nets and the 76ers due to Jared Dudley and Ben Simmons. Although it is tough to call a 4-1 series defeat a rivalry, the Nets fought hard and created an enemy in the 76ers each and every game.
The Nuggets and Spurs were the only series to make it to 7 games and the Nuggets pulled out the victory. The crowd was so loud that the Spurs’ players could not hear head coach Gregg Popovich screaming for them to foul Nikola Jokic with 20 seconds on the clock.
The Rockets, Raptors, Celtics, and Bucks did not have much drama or entertainment as they got by their opponents with ease.
The last thing that surprised a lot of people, including myself, was the Warriors losing two games to the Clippers. Although the Warriors did win the series, no one expected the Clippers to even take them to six games so that should be a moral victory for a franchise on the rise.
That wraps up all eight series from the first round, and so far the 2019 playoffs are shaping up to be much more competitive rather than the domination from the Warriors that we are used to seeing. It is very possible that we could see a new NBA champion this season.
Here are my predictions for the Semifinals:
Celtics over Bucks in 6 games
Raptors over 76ers in 5 games
Warriors over Rockets in 7 games
Nuggets over Blazers in 7 games
Now here is an overview of the week ahead:
Weekly Schedule Breakdown
Monday, April 29th– 76ers at Raptors (Game 2) at 8 PM ET; Trail Blazers at Nuggets (Game 1) at 10:30 PM ET
Tuesday, April 30th– Celtics at Bucks (Game 2) at 8 PM ET; Rockets at Warriors (Game 2) at 10:30 PM ET
Wednesday, May 1st– Trail Blazers at Nuggets (Game 2) at 9 PM ET
Thursday, May 2nd– Raptors at 76ers (Game 3) at 8 PM ET
Friday, May 3rd– Bucks at Celtics (Game 3) at 8 PM ET; Nuggets at Trail Blazers (Game 3) at 10:30 PM ET
Saturday, May 4th– Warriors at Rockets (Game 3) at 8:30 PM ET
Sunday, May 5th– Raptors at 76ers (Game 4) at 3:30 PM ET; Nuggets at Trail Blazers (Game 4) at 7 PM ET
Steph Curry (ankle) and Klay Thompson (ankle) were both listed as questionable heading into Game 1 against the Rockets on Sunday, but they both suited up and helped the Warriors gain a 1-0 series advantage with a 104-100 victory. Hopefully, the ankle issues do not linger and the Warriors are able to keep the Splash Bros on the court for the entirety of the series.
Joel Embiid (knee) played in Game 1 against the Raptors, but had a worse outing than he would typically have. Similar to Curry and Thompson, we can only hope that this is not an injury that keeps him from playing in any of the games in this series. Look out for Embiid’s status on a game-by-game basis.
Marcus Smart (torn oblique) and Malcolm Brogdon (foot) are important players in the Celtics vs. Bucks series that could change the series if they were to return from their respective injuries. Brogdon is going to be re-evaluated after Game 2, while Smart is likely out until late in the series or the Conference Finals if the Celtics make it that far. Brogdon is definitely closer to a return, which could give the Bucks an advantage in the series. Check prior to each game to see whether Brogdon or Smart are able to give it a go.
Players who are currently day-to-day that are pivotal for their teams to succeed: Enes Kanter (shoulder), Aron Baynes (ankle), Mike Scott (heel), Sterling Brown (back)
Thanks Hoopballers for reading another edition of The Week Ahead!
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.
May 20, 2019, 9:02 pmJordan Bell - F - Golden State Warriors
Jordan Bell will start at center in Monday's Game 4 for the Warriors.
Bell has played between 11 and 15 minutes in the three conference finals games, and he's unlikely to play too much more than that tonight. Look for Kevon Looney to continue to get more minutes than Bell tonight.
Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter