It’s apparent that in these first rounds of NBA Playoffs, some teams just didn’t have a chance. They were either underskilled or overmatched. Because it’s subjective, a half empty-half full analysis, you can be the judge.
In the Eastern Conference it’s the Indiana Pacers, the first to go, swiftly swept in four games by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the defending NBA champs. In the Western Conference it’s the Portland Trailblazers, knocked off in four by the Golden State Warriors, the one seed who were not only without star forward Kevin Durant in Games 2 and 3, sitting because of a reoccurring strained calf muscle, but also minus head coach Steve Kerr, who sat out Games 3 and 4 (Saturday and Monday) because of a severe back problem—a spinal tap leakage. It’s a complication from two back surgeries that he’s already submitted to. Kerr had to also sit out the first half of last season, 43 games, because of his condition.
Golden State aggressively controlled Game 4 on the road Monday night. Portland, the eighth seed, had no answers for their fast-break points, three’s and deep two’s. The Warriors under substitute head coach Mike Brown, as with Kerr, continuously hit the open man and controlled the boards. They were up 72-48 at the half. Depending on the length of the Utah Jazz-L.A. Clippers series, Utah being up 3-2, Golden State playing the winner won’t be back on the NBA schedule until Sunday or Tuesday.
Somewhat surprising is the elimination of triple-double king, Russell Westbrook, who along with his Oklahoma Thunder team can now begin vacation. OKC, the seventh seed lost in five games to the Houston Rockets, a third seed. Their guard, James Harden, along with Westbrook are leading MVP candidates.
The San Antonio Spurs, ranked second best in the Western Conference, find themselves in a Game 6 with the Memphis Grizzlies tonight in the Grizzlies’ arena.
San Antonio beat Memphis Tuesday 116-103 at home to lead the best of seven series, 3-2. The Spurs will have to play a Game 7 Saturday, if they can’t dispose of Memphis tonight.
And last on the West Conference docket is the Clippers versus the Jazz. The Clippers, ranked fourth this season, have once again been plagued by a major misfortune in the playoffs. Blake Griffin now sports a walking boot and sits on the bench after suffering a toe injury in Game 3. The Clippers have an extensive history of postseason debilities that have resulted in their elimination from postseason play in the early rounds.
Utah has benefited from the play of 36-year-old Joe Johnson, the former Brooklyn Nets player who dropped 28 off-the-bench points for Utah Sunday and 14 Tuesday, 11 of which were consecutive in a three-minute span.
The Clippers, down 3-2, face more adversity tomorrow (Friday), having to play a difficult Game 6 on the road in Utah.
“We have to go home with a business mindset, and not be overconfident, but confident enough,” said Johnson, a 16-year vet not only there to score but also there to provide some stability, experience and leadership to this young Jazz team. “This has to be our Game 7 in Game 6,” he noted, aware that a Jazz loss Friday means a Game 7 against the Clippers in Los Angeles Sunday.