Wednesday 13 December 2017 / 04:14 PM

First-round update: Western Conference

Golden State Warriors – New Orleans Pelicans 4–0

The Warriors took care of business quickly in the first round, sweeping the Hornets in a very entertaining series. Heavy favorites after winning a franchise-high 67 games, the only game they could have lost was game 3, a game they won in overtime (123-119) courtesy of an incredible comeback after trailing by 20 points in the fourth quarter. The comeback showed what most opponents fear: if the Warriors’ potent offense starts clicking, a lead as big as 20 points can disappear in a matter of minutes, even in the playoffs.

The Pelicans’ Anthony Davis was a beast during the entire series, averaging 31.5 PPG and 11 RPG, but his team could not hold the Warriors off the offensive glass. Golden State grabbed 14 offensive rebounds per game leading to 16.5 second-chance points (versus only 9.5 for the Pelicans). They didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in this series (44.9 FG%) but lead the playoff teams in fast-break points and three-pointers made, with almost 12 a game.

Although the series only lasted four games, Curry set an NBA record for three-pointers made in a seven-game series, hitting 20 from behind the arc. He showed he is a legitimate MVP candidate, averaging 33.8 points and 7.3 assists. Draymond Green played solid defense on Anthony, while posting big numbers on both ends of the floor: 15.8 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 6.3 APG and 2.5 SPG. He became the first player since Tim Duncan in 2003 to post four-straight playoff double-doubles with at least five assists.

Houston Rockets – Dallas Mavericks 4–1

James Harden proved too much to handle for an injury-plagued Dallas team, who missed Parsons and Rondo for the majority of the series. Harden averaged 28.4 PPG and added 7.8 APG in the series, and seemed to be able to get to the rim at will, as he had been doing the entire season. He got to the line often (+10 attempts per game) where he was extremely effective (96%).

Houston just finished their regular season breaking the all-time record of three-pointers made. Dallas’ game plan was to take away that shot, holding the Rockets to 35.1% shooting from deep. As a result, they got destroyed inside. Houston teared up their interior defense, scoring a league-high 56.4 points in the paint and 25 points from the free-throw line.

The wild card in this series turned out to be Josh Smith. Acquired during mid-season, Smith came through when Houston needed a lift of the bench, dishing out alley-oop passes to his former AAU team mate Howard, and making timely long-range shots to keep Dallas at bay. Howard looks healthy again and had a good series as well, averaging 16.6 PPG and 13.8 RPG.

Memphis Grizzlies – Portland Trailblazers 3–1

 

The Grizzlies would have swept the series, was it not for Damian Lillard, who took over in the last two minutes of game 4 to keep his team in the series. It was the first win against Memphis in the last eight games, proving that the Grizzlies are simply a though match-up for the Blazers. Conley missed game 4 for Memphis because of facial surgery after getting injured in game 3. It is unsure whether he will return on the floor in this series.

Surprisingly, the Grizzlies are getting out-rebounded by Portland. LaMarcus Aldridge is having a great series, averaging nearly 24 points and 12 rebounds. The difference, however, is easy opportunities. So far, the Grizzlies held the Blazers to only 36 points in the point per game, lowest in the league, and Portland has not been able to take advantage of their turnovers, scoring less than 9 points off of them, which is against lowest in the league.

Game 5 will be played in Memphis on April 30, 11:30 AEST.

Los Angeles Clippers – San Antonio Spurs 2–3

In probably the most compelling series of the first round, the Spurs took a 3-2 lead last night, handing the Clippers their second straight home court defeat (111-107). The loss will give them all the momentum, going back home for game 6 on May 1 (11:30 AEST) to close out the series. The home loss is a heartbreaker for the Clippers, who only two days ago, took game four in San Antonio to tie the series 2-2.

Both teams have showed they can win on each others’ home floor, but the defending champions will be focused to take advantage of the opportunity to advance to the second round. Paul and Griffin have been playing great, but the hack-a-Jordan tactic used early and often by Spurs’ head coach Popovich has been rather effective. Jordan is shooting an abysmal 37% from the line, and it has successfully slowed down the pace of the game.

Tony Parker has not been healthy this series, but Kawhi Leonard has been showing why he was last years finals’ MVP, averaging 23.4 PPG and 7 RPG, and while Duncan might be the oldest player in this year’s playoffs (39 years old), the Big Fundamental has showed no signs of slowing down, averaging a double-double with 17.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

[YouTube – NBA]

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Tim Glibert

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