One moment we’re cheering and punching the air in amazement of Russell Westbrook and the next second we’re cussing and feeling sorry for a limping Steph Curry. This pretty much sums up the second week of the NBA Playoffs.
Apparently, things go from zero to a hundred and vice versa real quick in this postseason. These developments coming in Isaiah Thomas-speed may seem to be major bummers but there’s also a chance they’ll make for more compelling storylines later on. But, hey, the first round is not yet even done, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Anyway, to have a better idea where we’re headed, we first must know where we came from. Here now is our 2016 NBA Playoffs Recap Week 2:
"SECOND ROUND NA KAMI!"
After beating HOU 4-1, how far can the Warriors go without Curry?
The biggest news of the 2016 NBA postseason has been Stephen Curry’s minimum two week absence due to a right knee sprain. No Curry obviously means the Golden State's title-defenseis in jeopardy.
However, the Dubs have yet to pay the price for not having their ace player’s services. Despite Curry’s early exit in Game 4, the Warriors still incinerated their opponents with a playoff record 21 triples en route to a 121-94 road win. The finish came three days later at the Oracle Arena as GSW finished off the Rockets in Mortal Kombat fashion, 114-81, behind Klay Thompson’s 27 points on 10 of 14 shooting and Draymond Green’s all-around work (15 pts, 9 rebs, 8 asts, 2 blks, 1 stl). Steph will still be in street clothes during the second round but considering how the Curry-less Dubs pulverized Houston, there’s still hope for us to see the Three-Point God suiting up in the Conference Finals.
Mighty SAS wipes the floor with MEM (4-0)
The Spurs were the first team to come out of round one as they swept an undermanned Grizzlies squad with little resistance. Being one of basketball’s most cohesive units and having one of the NBA’s top five players at the moment in Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio did the dismantling using just about 50 to 60 percent of their power.
The real test for them, though, is their second round meeting with the ultra-athletic Oklahoma City Thunder. Tim Duncan recently turned 40, a nice gift for him would be a brand new pair of legs to keep up with OKC’s young guns.
As for the Grizz, they overachieved amid their injury-riddled campaign. No Mike Conley. No Marc Gasol. You’ve got to hand it to these, guys. No wonder Coach Dave Joeger is so damn proud of his boys.
Russ and KD go off, OKC def. DAL (4-1)
On the other half of the Texas-sized showdown, the OKC Thunder looked scary good as they ran down the aging Mavericks out of the playoffs. Mark Cuban and Charlie Villanueva tried to psych Westbrook out of his game, saying stuff like KD is the Thunder’s only superstar, but what they got in return was an unstoppable tornado with a basketball.
Russ averaged 29 ppg and 13 apg in the last three games and had a drop-the-mic performance in Game 5 (36 pts, 12 rbs, and 9 asts). Kevin Durant wasn’t too fond of the Mavs as well as he torched them with a total of 86 points in the Thunder’s final three wins. In the postgame press conference, they were just as savage as they were on the court:
The Spurs better not piss off these two!
The 2011 first overall pick was sensational as he gave the exuberant but inexperienced Pistons the business. Nasty crossovers, twisting layups, silky-smooth jumpers, cold-blooded threes, he unlocked them all as he led the Cavs to the winning column and in scoring through four games with a 27.5 ppg average. He also hit what is probably the most vicious “dagger” of the postseason yet when he iced Game 3 with a corner three-ball while falling sideways.
Uncle Drew was simply a monster against the Pistons and he made sure that all of Detroit felt his wrath when Game 4's final buzzer went off. It was pure evil.
Not to be outdone, though, is Cleveland top dog LeBron James. Although he wasn’t turning heads too much, LBJ has been steadily approaching legendary playoff milestones. Here's an infographic from Bleacher Report:
Full form Kyrie, consistent LeBron, and the Cavs finally playing with chemistry, their second round opponents have quite a task at hand. Speaking of which...
Atlanta soars in Boston, wins series 4-2
Before we bid Boston farewell, we’d like to thank Isaiah Thomas for showing the world that this sport isn’t just a big man’s game. His 42-point explosion in Game 3 will always be a good reminder of that.
But the official winners here are the Atlanta Hawks. Coach Mike Budenholzer’s crew proved to be too solid for the Avery Bradley-less Celtics. ATL looked pretty much like the old Grizzlies squad in this series as they relentlessly punished the Cs until they could no longer sustain the high level of play required to win playoff basketball. The Hawks’ constant pressure on both ends of the floor was apparent in Games 5 and 6, when it was clear that Boston was only running on fumes as early as the first quarter.
In the final game, Atlanta’s on-point balanced attack did the job as all 10 guys who played scored, six of them in double figures, while shooting a superb 51.4 percent from the field. With a hard-fought first-round in the books, the Hawks should now turn their full attention on their grudge match against their tormentors at last year's Eastern Conference finals.
"FIRST ROUND PA RIN KAMI..."
Blazers burn Clippers minus CP3 and Blake Griffin to take 3-2 lead
CP3 and Blake Griffin are also out of commission due to injuries and that also sucks. The five-star point guard underwent surgery to repair the third metacarpal in his right hand while the high-flying forward damaged his left quadriceps. Consequently, without those two superstars, we’re missing out on what would’ve been a much more competitive series. But the dismay we’re feeling is nothing compared to the agony of the Clippers, which have prompted Coach Doc Rivers to have a tearful conversation about how his late mother Betty Rivers could’ve helped him in these trying times.
Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and the rest of the Blazers have begun manhandling the ailing Clippers. They’ve won three straight games to move ahead, 3-2. McCollum and Dame Dolla practically did what they wanted to in Game 5, firing 27 and 22 points, respectively, to easily take the W, 108-98. Yes, bilog ang bola and the series is not yet over but judging by how Portland has toyed with the shorthanded Clips, it looks like it’ll be GSW vs. POR in the next stage, especially now that the series is headed back to Oregon.
Toronto defends home floor, leads series 3-2 over Indiana
The latest episode in this slugfest had all the ingredients for an instant classic: an all-star shootout between Paul George (39 pts) and DeMar DeRozan (34 pts), an improbable finishing run and a flurry of nerve-racking clutch baskets. There was also Drake acting as the Spike Lee to Paul George’s Reggie Miller.
The most important component, however, was the T-dot’s resilience during crunch time. Down 13 at home, entering the final period, the Raps went unconscious on defense and held the Pacers down to a measly nine points. The result was a 25-9 fourth quarter in favor of Toronto and a 102-99 comeback victory, which marked a franchise playoff best. The Raps just went from being on the verge of another first round meltdown to potentially reaching the second for the first time in 15 years.
Charlotte shocks Miami, now up 3-2
Hall of Famer and former Rockets head coach Rudy Tomjanovich once famously said, “Never ever underestimate the heart of a champion.” Apparently the same thing goes for the 2015-2016 Hornets as Charlotte has been making believers out of skeptics since Game 3.
In their last three encounters, the underdog Hornets have swarmed the Heat with gritty defense, limiting MIA to just 84.3 points per contest—a far cry from the South Beach team’s 238 point-output in their two wins. Kemba Walker and company have simply outworked the supposedly dependable players of Coach Spo (yep, we’re looking at you Goran Dragic). Perfectly summing up Charlotte’s all-out effort is Courtney Lee’s big-time three-pointer off his own offensive rebound in Game 5 and the shackling D his team used in the last 25 seconds to come away victorious, 90-88.