We’ve reached the Conference Semi-Finals, which means there are only a few weeks left in the 2017-18 NBA Playoffs. LeBron James is eyeing his 8th-straight Finals appearance, but the Boston Celtics have made their way through the Eastern Conference with ease. In the West, the two best teams in the league will face off as the defending champions Golden State Warriors take on the surging Houston Rockets. We should see some of the most competitive semi-final matchups in recent history, which means the winners will be difficult to pick.
Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors
The Houston Rockets have lost just two playoff games so far, but they haven’t exactly dominated games. Previous opponents the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz were both overachieving teams that lacked playoff experience, but the Warriors are neither of those things. Facing Steph Curry and Kevin Durant will be far different to facing Donovan Mitchell and Jimmy Butler. Still, Chris Paul has proven that he can still play at an All-Star level, and James Harden continues to cement his strong case for the MVP award. If Houston’s shooters such as Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, and Trevor Ariza can be efficient from the outside, the Rockets have a great chance to pull off a series victory upset.
The Warriors look to be finally hitting their stride, helped by Steph Curry coming back from injury to put up great numbers against the Pelicans. Golden State also have just two losses in the postseason, but the shorthanded Spurs and inexperienced Pelicans didn’t provide much competition for Durant, Draymond Green, Curry, and Klay Thompson. The Warriors’ defense will determine whether or not they win this series, as few teams have been able to slow down the Rockets’ fast-paced offense this season. If Thompson, Curry, and Durant can continue to shoot well while Green and Andre Iguodala can facilitate the offense, I don’t see anyone taking down the Warriors this year.
The Rockets built their team in the hopes that it could defeat the Warriors, but many of their shooters have been ineffective lately. I’m taking Golden State to win Game 1 because they’re the hotter team and they looked much better than Houston in the first two rounds.
Golden State Warriors
*Please note, odds may fluctuate
Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Celtics thoroughly dominated Cleveland in Game 1, beating them 108-83 in Boston. Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris combined for 64 points to lead the way in the blowout victory. Though Terry Rozier struggled, rookie Jayson Tatum stepped up again with 16 points, six rebounds, and three assists. The Celtics’ defense was incredible, and they stymied a Cavs team that had scored well over 100 in most of their postseason games to that point. Despite missing Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, Boston continued to rally around Coach Brad Stevens in their unlikely run to the NBA Finals.
The Cavaliers regressed again Sunday afternoon, getting outplayed at both ends by the Celtics. They shot a horrible 36% from the field as a team and just 15% from three. George Hill, Tristan Thompson and Jose Calderon were the only players to shoot 50% or better, and none of them shot more than six times. Worse still, LeBron was held to 15 points on 5-16 shooting by stout defense from Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart, and the rest of the Celtics. Snipers Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith had their worst game in a while, shooting a combined 4-13 from the field and 1-8 from three.
The Cavaliers will surely regroup and change their gameplan for Game 2, but they don’t have an answer for Boston’s depth and defense. I’m taking the Celtics to win Game 2 and prolong their home winning streak in the playoffs.
*Please note, odds may fluctuate