The 2nd Round of the NBA Playoffs is under way and the story lines have been dominated, or should I say decimated, by injuries. The slip seen round the world took out eventual MVP Steph Curry, the crown jewel of the Golden State empire. A MCL sprain on his right knee has him out for at least 2 weeks starting April 25th. He vows to return much sooner even though Golden State can afford to be patient with him.
That's in large part due to the biggest injuries of the playoff season. Golden State doesn't have to worry about rushing Curry back against a talented team led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. One could have picked the Clippers to win the whole thing and turned out to be an idiot or a savant. But no more. In their Game 4 loss to the Trail Blazers, the Clippers lost Chris Paul with a broken bone in his hand and Blake Griffin for the rest of the playoffs with a recurring quad injury. A day after smelling blood on a wounded Warriors team, Los Angeles saw its dreams dashed and perhaps the end of Lob City. They went on to lose 3 straight games to the Blazers.
Golden State should make short work of a Portland team that was not expected to face them. Portland coach Terry Stotts was the Coach of the Year runner up mainly because nobody expected Portland to contend for the playoffs, much less end up with the 5th seed in the West. While Steph Curry is injured, the best player on the court will be Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. Dame dropped a stupendous 51 points, 7 assists, and 6 steals in a 32 point Trail Blazers rout of Golden State in their first game after the All Star break this year. Don't expect much of that this go around. The Warriors might play better defense when Steph isn't in and although Portland can push this to 6, I see the Warriors making fairly quick work. Pick: Golden State in 5
The first game of the 2nd round already took place Saturday night and it was a doozy. One team really showed up to play and the other played like it didn't have any superstars. San Antonio raced out to a 43-20 1st quarter lead against Oklahoma City and didn't look back. They blew out the Thunder 124-92. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were a combined 11-34 for 30 points. When Serge Ibaka (19 points) is your leading scorer, you're not winning playoff games against the Spurs. On the Alamo side, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard were an insane 28-36 for 63 points. If this keeps up, it is going to be a rough end to the Durant & Westbrook era in OKC. This is likely their last charge so we're going to see superhuman efforts from both of them and it still may not be enough. Pick: San Antonio in 6
The East is still the boring old East. There are a couple teams close to making the jump to add intrigue to this annual LeBron James coronation event but they appear to be at least a year away. Many considered the Heat to be a real threat to the Cavs but they were forced to win a Game 7 against a young Hornets team. Shout out to the Raptors who were taken to seven by the 7th seed Pacers but managed to win their first playoff series since 2001 when Drake was just starting his acting career and probably never thought he could be a successful rapper who could walk.
Toronto will now be hosting Miami for the right to lose to but put a scare in Cleveland. It's Chris Bosh's old team versus his current team? Miami can be scary when firing on all cylinders and they might just be getting it into gear after dismantling Charlotte 106-73 on Sunday. But their best player wants to play and it seems like they don't want him to. Pat Riley and the Heat know how to handle the media but something has to be going on in South Beach. It's understandable to hold a player back who missed large parts of the last 2 seasons with blood clots, but now Chris Bosh wants to play, may be medically cleared, and Miami doesn't want to let him. Will we ever find out if a group of pretty good raptors can beat the biggest, baddest raptor of them all? Pick: Heat in 7
Cleveland will be facing off with an Atlanta team that eventually ran away from the Celtics in 6 games. Atlanta has talent and a good coach. But Kent Bazemore, who's due for a big free agent payday after this year, is running his little known mouth about LeBron James and this may not end well. I'll be really interested in what Kevin Love will do in this series. He missed this series last year when it was the Eastern Conference Finals. Al Horford and Paul Millsap are the Hawks most potent scorers and Love is going to have to show something on the defensive end. I also wouldn't be surprised to see LeBron on Millsap in crunch time. If the Hawks get some breaks, they can take the Cavs to the brink but Cleveland is determined and perhaps looking forward to flying under the radar with so much attention being paid to the magnificent West. Pick: Cavs in 5
Here's a look at my 2nd Round picks at the time the Playoffs started. A link to that preview here.
#2 Toronto vs. #3 Miami - Heat in 7
#1 Cleveland vs. #4 Atlanta - Cavs in 6
#2 San Antonio vs. #3 Oklahoma City - Spurs in 7
#1 Golden State vs. #4 Los Angeles - Warriors in 6