• Brandon Maier

8 Things to Take Away from the Second Round


Photo courtesy of NBA.com

1. “The Clippers are still the Clippers” – Magic Johnson

Yes, the Clippers’ collapse deserves the number one spot on this list. The Clippers, leading the series 3-1 over the Houston Rockets, gave away game five because they knew they had game six at home. Then, they led by 19 with three minutes to go in the third quarter. All of a sudden, with MVP candidate James Harden on the bench, Houston wins the game by 12. TWELVE! This isn’t a situation where Houston comes back, fouls a lot, and makes some threes in the final minute. No. They DEMOLISHED the Clippers. And then, after such a heartbreaking loss, Only Chris Paul remembered to show up for game seven. In the most devastating loss in Clippers history, L.A. Laker fans breath a sigh of relief knowing that L.A. is still their town.

2. The Bulls blew their best opportunity to get back to the finals

The Bulls led the Cleveland Cavaliers 2-1 in the series going into game four. LeBron James drilled the dagger in the left corner to tie the series at two, and the Bulls seemed to totally deflate. A Cleveland team with no Kevin Love, a hobbled Kyrie Irving, and the two-game suspension of J.R. Smith, seemed prime to be beaten by the Bulls. The Bulls offense seemed to be incredibly lethargic, inept even. This was their best chance. Next year, even if Kevin Love doesn’t come back, the Cavs will have another year together, and you know LeBron will lead his team even stronger, and to greater heights. Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson should have gotten this done. But now they’re home.

3. Golden State has found its mojo

After a two game lull in Warrior nation, Curry and the boys found their groove in game four. After trialing the series 2-1, the Warriors won three straight to dispatch the Memphis Grizzlies, and advance to the Western Conference Finals. In the final three games of the series, where the Warriors won by an average of 16.33 points per game, Curry averaged a robust 27.33 points per game, 6.66 assists per game, and 7.0 rebounds per game. And we all know, when Curry goes, the Warriors go. Good luck to Jason Terry, Corey Brewer, and to any other Rockets that coach Kevin McHale decides to put on Steph.

4. LeBron James is still, easily, the best player in the world

LeBron had a very mediocre series against the bulls, which should partly be attributed to Jimmy Butler’s defense. LeBron shot a poor percentage, especially from three, but somehow, the Cavs still won the series. As a recent Instagram post from J.R. Smith stated, LeBron took other team’s trash in Smith, Iman Shumpert, Timofey Mozgov, and turned them into super role players. LeBron took a nice young player like Matthew Dellavedova and gave him the opportunity to shine. Those guys are the reason the Cavs won that series. And the only reason why they even had the qualities to do it? LeBron James.

5. Houston is scrappy

That comeback on the road against the Clippers in game five shows just how scrappy this Rockets team is. Yes, they have a superstar in James Harden, but those other guys are the heroes in Houston. Corey Brewer looks like a legitimate 3rd option; Josh Smith is hitting three-pointers at a great clip; Jason Terry is doing an incredible job running the offense in place of injured point guard Patrick Beverly; Dwight Howard is gobbling up every rebound; Pablo Prigioni is stealing inbound passes. The Rockets aren’t just Harden. They can win in a lot of different ways. That Warriors vs. Rockets series is going to be a great one.

6. The Hawks are getting over-looked

The Hawks look like a really nice team, but they can’t actually beat the Cavs. Right? That seems to be what all of the analysts think. With the Clippers collapse, everyone seems to be waiting for the Cavs vs. Warriors finals; the conference finals seem to be just a formality. I wouldn’t sleep on the Atlanta Hawks. They had some matchup problems with both Brooklyn and Washington, but they actually match up pretty well with Cleveland, with the exception of LeBron. Granted, that’s a pretty big exception, but hear me out. Jeff Teague is a great defender, and is capable of breaking down a defense, especially with the injury to Kyrie Irving. Kyle Korver will of course have the green light to fire, and if Smith/Shumpert is guarding him, he’ll run them ragged. DeMarre Carroll is a great wing defender, and will do his best work on LeBron. Al Horford and Paul Milsap will hold Tristan Thompson off the offensive glass. These Hawks could win this series. Watch out.

7. Memphis will have some problems this off-season

Marc Gasol is a free agent. Zach Randolph is a free agent. Jeff Green will probably opt in to his $9.2 million player option. The Grizzlies need to be worried about Gasol the most, as he will have his pick of the liter with teams from large markets like the Lakers and the Knicks, to high-character teams like the Spurs. Luckily, Gasol has played every level of American basketball in Memphis, and that will be their biggest pitch (not to mention a 5th year of a contract). Good luck Memphis!

8. All four teams remaining know how to battle from behind

In a pretty amazing statistic, the Hawks, Cavs, Warriors, and the Rockets all trailed at some point during their conference semi-finals series. All four of these teams know how to deal with adversity, and come back to win a series. Atlanta, Cleveland, and Golden State all trailed 2-1 and won three straight; Houston trailed 3-1, and won three straight. Not only did these teams come back, but they did it dramatically and efficiently. These next series are going to be exciting.

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