By Craig Fields
So the first round of the NBA playoffs are over and I don’t think that there were any surprises about who made it to the second round are there? I mean sure some series might have been more or less competitive than we would have hoped or liked but overall, the teams moving on to round two were expected.
In what may be the biggest surprise of the first round, the Washington Wizards swept the Toronto Raptors in convincing fashion. John Wall and Paul Pierce were just too much for the young team to handle.
Marcin Gortat also had a big series and averaged 18 points, 10 boards, and two blocks respectively. Now the Wizards are in a deadlocked series tied 1-1 with the Atlanta Hawks.
John Wall and Bradley Beal both suffered injuries in Game 1 but were both able to stay out on the court for the rest of the game. However Wall missed Game 2 after further analysis on his left wrist and the Hawks were able to take the win.
Speaking of the Hawks, for the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, they have looked mighty suspect. In their round one series with the Brooklyn Nets, a team that should have been easily dismissed, looked at times like they were on par with the “best team in the east”.
The series went six games and the Hawks interior and perimeter defense, which was one of their strengths in the offseason, looked weak against Brook Lopez and Deron Williams. The Hawks were broken down again in Game 1 against the Wizards and actually looked like a team on their way out.
Game 3 against the Wizards is on Saturday which should give Wall’s wrist time to heal. If he can be 100% for the rest of the series, then I would think that it is curtains for a Hawks team that struggles against quick guards.
The Cleveland Cavaliers to no one’s surprise swept the Boston Celtics in round one of the playoffs. However what might be a surprise is the way and how hard the Celtics played.
It is no surprise that the Celtics snuck into the 7th seed, but they looked anything but happy to just be in the playoffs. They looked like they belong and made the Cavaliers play hard and dig deep for three of their four wins.
The Cavs did lose Kevin Love for the remainder of the playoffs in that series, and lost J.R. Smith for the first two games against the Bulls for punching Jae Crowder. Kevin Love obviously hurts them more.
The Cavs are now playing the Chicago Bulls and at this point this series winner is anyone’s guess. It is tied 1-1 and each team has looked relatively dominant in both of their wins.
Lebron James took a bit of a back seat in Game 1 but came out firing and more “aggrssive”, his words not mine, in Game 2. I think this series will go seven games and frankly I hope it does.
On the other hand we have the Chicago Bulls who had anything but an easy series in their defensive dogfight with the Milwaukee Bucks. Young standouts Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton gave the Bulls just about all they could stand.
After going up 3-0 in the series, the young Bucks came storming back with back-to-back wins. The first three games were competitive as well. They were pretty much down to the wire and anyone’s game.
Game 6 however, was a blowout of historic proportions and sent the Bucks home with plenty to think about. Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose, and Pau Gasol were the Bulls standout players.
They were relatively steady and consistent every night. Butler looked like the undeniable leader of this team taking control at the offensive and defensive sides of the ball on consecutive occasions multiple times in each game.
In the series with the Cavs, so far Butler has simply not played that well. In Game 1 he played OK, but Game 2 was all but horrible. He shot a bad percentage, did not really get involved in any other aspect of the game, and ultimately had Lebron James run all over him.
For the Bulls to beat the Cavs, Butler is going to have to dominate James like he did in Game 1 by impeding LeBron’s drive to the basket and making him turn the ball over.
It is relatively easy to see that Derrick Rose won’t be able to stop Kyrie Irving, so Butler will have to be the x-factor defensively.
Good basketball can be kind of hard to come by these days. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy this series that promises to be highly competitive and full of twists and turns. Game 3 will be Friday at 7:00 CT.