COLE’S NOTES: Playing favourites in the NBA
Based on happenings in Round 1 it was quite easy to predict the winners. Regardless of whether or not Steph Curry is playing for Golden State, the Warriors can score. Couple that with the fact Houston is as bad at defense as I am at picking hockey winners, it was an easy first round for the defending champions.
After losing the dominant Blake Griffin and the most pure point guard in the league, in Chris Paul to injury the LA Clippers now know what it feels like to experience the wrath of karma.
You may remember before the season started Deandre Jordan was planning on signing with the Dallas Mavericks to only be ambushed at his home by his almost former Clippers teammates and coach and convinced to instead sign a new contract with Los Angeles as soon as the league would allow.
Like a scene right out of Jerry Maguire #cushlash
Then you fast forward to the second half of the season where Blake Griffin gets in an altercation with an equipment worker from the team and gets injured and suspended. Don't get me wrong, I've thought about going all Red Cole (yes I stole that from Friends. I feel like David Schwimmer and I would fight with a similar style) on co-workers but then I realize that violence isn't the answer. A big old stink eye when they aren't looking is.
So the Portland Trail Blazers advance with ease.
The San Antonio Spurs proved not only why they should win this year but also why Memphis has no chance in the near future at making a contender of themselves. Get your brooms out!
Normally I would say off-court antics and post-game interviews shouldn't be the most entertaining element of a playoff series. Then you look back on the match-up between Dallas and OKC and you wish the series went to 7 games.
From former Toronto Raptor Charlie Villanueva interrupting Russell Westbrook's pre-game dance routine to Maverick's owner Mark Cuban not crediting Westbrook with being a league superstar. The response by the Thunder came in the form of four double digit wins, in five games, and Kevin Durant calling everyone an IDIOT! Nice to see teammates sticking up for each other.
With Toronto's playoff inexperience anyone who thought that this would turn out like most #2 vs. #7 series is crazy. Especially when that #7 has a gentleman by the name of Paul George on their roster.
The way that the Raptors played when they won is the team that "The 6" loves to love. Unfortunately all of the games they lost to the Pacers brought back all the bad memories of the last two years losing to Brooklyn and Washington.
I spoke with some Raptors fans and they made the statement "They just have to find that middle ground". WRONG! The playoffs are not the time to find their middle ground and be competitive in almost every single game. Yes, they are human and can have a bad game... but they had three bad games. That series was a microcasm of why the Raptors still aren't close to being considered a contender. But they made it through to the second round.
The Cleveland Lebron James' took care of business like any #1 seed should. The Detroit Pistons have a very bright future with that current line-up, but running into the Cavaliers squashed any chance of their young roster learning what it's like to win in the playoffs.
Watching that series shows what Cleveland is capable of with a healthy line-up.
Lebron James' former team proved they could still compete in the East after beating the Charlotte Hornets in seven games. Not only did the Miami Heat advance to the second round, but they did it without Chris Bosh.
But how? Well, Dwayne Wade looked like the player that carried the team on his back and won the 2006 NBA Championship. Joe Johnson made the Heat's GM look like a genius in picking him up late in the season and Hassan Whiteside is still making his case for Defensive Player of the Year (an award that he will win for many years to come).
The one series that I predicted incorrectly was the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics series. The Celtics young line-up will be one that leads them to many deep playoff runs in the near future and I thought they would start early while getting past the first round.
Unfortunately the Hawks didn't really care about the opposing team’s talent. They decided to show Boston what they have been doing for the past couple of years in the playoffs and that is win by any means necessary.
So what does round 2 have in store? Well we've got a little taste of it already.
The Warriors are still winning without Curry and are still scoring lots of points. I think Steve Kerr and the Golden State squad should plan to play without Curry for this round and make sure he is 100 per cent ready to take on one of two hot teams in the Western Finals and potentially the Cavaliers in the playoffs. No Curry, No repeat. Warriors win in 5
I think the Spurs wished the Grizzlies would have given them a challenge to prepare them for what the Thunder were bringing to the series. These two teams play the complete opposite style of game and it will be so exciting to see who asserts their dominance enough to make the other team change the way they play the game. When it comes to game management give me Greg Popovich over college legend Billy Donovan. Spurs win in 6.
Cleveland played the best they could in the regular season so they could assure themselves at least two easy rounds in a weak Eastern Conference. I can't say that a professional team would ever purposely lose (with the exception of the Leafs) but I see the Cavs taking a night off in game three or four. Why? Well they are a cocky bunch and that sometimes comes back to bite them.
But I truly believe an extra game would do them good to keep them sharp for when they advance to the next round. They already came into this series with a week’s rest and you could just tell from LBJ's demeanor that that was too long.
Having only four or five days rest gives you enough time to freshen up but not too much that you forget what real game experiences feel like. Cleveland wins in 5
Now for the big question. Will the Raptors make franchise history and advance to the Conference Finals for the first time ever??!?! No. No they won't.
They couldn't shut Paul George down and Dwayne Wade is on that same level as PG 13. Joe Johnson was one of the main components of the Brooklyn Nets beating the Raps two years ago and he can still basketball well. Luol Deng can match-up with Toronto's 2, 3 and 4.
And the Raptors had a hard enough time getting points in the paint later in the first round that they can't be too confident about having to face the blocking machine in Hassan Whiteside.
Demar DeRozan was the reason for the first round success. His BFF Kyle Lowry better be working out his shoulders because the only way they get past the Heat is with career performance after career performance. Heat win in 6.
So there you have it! Round 2 in a nut shell. Wish me luck. Or tell me how wrong I am.
P.S. I think the entire NBA needs to take a lesson from my father and "follow your shot". The amount of shots taken with no follow up or even any teammates in the paint is ridiculous. So many people are so worried about showing off and confidently running back to their own end when I truly believe a team could gain 10 more points, at least by simply following their shots.
But what do I know? I only won "Top Graduating Male Athlete" for the Class of 1999 at Holy Name Catholic School. Go Knights!
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