Houston Rockets: 4 / Los Angeles Clippers: 3 (My Prediction: Clippers 4-2)
Chris Paul cannot escape his demon deacons. This was Paul's tenth year in the league and he turned 30 earlier this month. In 7 career post-season appearances, Chris Paul has never gotten past the 2nd round. He has the reputation of being both the best pure point guard in the league and notoriously hard on his teammates. Obviously he is not entirely to blame but the buck does stop with the president. (Paul literally is the president of the NBA Players Association.) The Clippers infamous Game 6 collapse, where they squandered a 19 point late 3rd quarter lead, was followed by a shocking game 7 Rockets triumph that saw the Clippers down by 17 heading into the 4th.
In the end, Lob City became Sob City and the Clippers expanded on their own personal theme of futility and disappointment. It's their brand, people. It should be noted that the Rockets came back in Game 6 with James Harden only playing 12 seconds in the 4th quarter. Besides Paul and Griffin who combined for 59, J.J. Redick was the only other Clipper to hit double digits in points with 15. Houston head coach Lurch McHale became the first person to come back from a 3 games to 1 deficit as both a player and a coach having won as a Celtic back in 1981 against the 76ers. That year Boston won it all, beating the Houston Rockets in the finals.
Golden State Warriors: 4 / Memphis Grizzlies: 2 (My Prediction: Warriors 4-2)
Houston will be moving on to face the Golden State Warriors, who won 3 straight against Memphis to advance to the Western Conference Finals. There was some panic early on in the series when Memphis went up 2 games to 1, but the Dubs assembled into formation and marched on Memphis, winning the next 3 games by an average of 16.7 points. Steve Kerr has done a fantastic job in his first year as a head coach and Golden State is rounding into form. They were the talk of the NBA this year with the 4th most regular season wins of all time and the ridiculously ravishing league MVP, Steph Curry.
Of course this series is all about the MVP runner up James Harden and the battles between Curry and he. I guess the Rockets should have respect because they just beat the team that took out San Antonio in 7 but Houston did lose all 4 regular season head to heads with Golden State. Josh Smith can be a wild card and both teams are coming in hot. The West has belonged to Golden State this year however, and Houston will have problems.
Pick: Warriors in 6
Atlanta Hawks: 4 / Washington Wizards: 2 (My Prediction: Wizards 4-3)
Paul Pierce almost did it again. He seemingly hit a buzzer beater on Friday that would have sent Game 6 to overtime and keep Washington's playoff hopes alive. But the video showed him still releasing as time expired and a shoddy series came to a thankful end. With all the talk of Atlanta's team basketball and 60-win season, they have not looked great in these playoffs. But that's always been Atlanta's style. They're a bit under the radar and very frustrating to watch. If they're missing their shots, it can be downright painful. It's an annoyance simply to write about them right now. If you haven't heard by now, I am not a fan. The Wizards are young and on the up and up. If they sign hometown legend Kevin Durant, they will be instant contenders and can alter the balance between the Eastern and Western Conference. But that's a year or so down the road and Atlanta is the next obstacle on Cleveland's path to the Finals.
Cleveland Cavaliers: 4 / Chicago Bulls: 2 (My Prediction: Cavs 4-3)
There were some casualties in this war. The series started out living up to the billing and then kind of ended with a whimper. Back to back buzzer beater heroics in Games 3 and 4 from D Rose and LeBron sure were special, though. Cleveland won a crucial game 5 but game 6 was very anti-climactic which turned out to be great for the Cavs. I don't know if the season-long rumors of Tom Thibodeau's falling out with Bulls management finally got to the team but they did not end Game 6 playing with any type of playoff urgency. Sad, really. Thibs will find success elsewhere soon but I don't know if Chicago should make a change. A John Calipari, who coached a freshman named Rose to an NCAA title game is waiting in the wings amidst rumors of an impending move to the NBA. (There's also a former Calipari player with questionable grooming habits who just saw his coach fired in New Orleans.) The big news for the Cavs is that Kyrie got hurt and then got hurt some more. Irving was hampered with a right foot strain and left knee tendinitis but will have nearly a week off. He's already stated that he's good to go for the Hawks series.
For as lacking as the Hawks have appeared in this year's playoffs, the Cavs should not take them lightly. The Hawks won 3 of 4 regular season match-ups against Cleveland and they can cause some trouble for Cleveland. LeBron is on a mission and the Cavs are winning despite some banged up bodies and with their 3rd superstar out, most likely forever in Cleveland. If the Hawks are shooting like they've done for the majority of the season and Horford can be a scoring force, Atlanta can push the series to 6, maybe 7. But fuck Atlanta.