The Cleveland Cavaliers have swept the Atlanta Hawks, because talent beats teamwork. Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer is trying to implement a free-flowing offense without a low post threat. Good luck with that. With Lebron James taking on everyone on the Hawks basketball squad guarding each of them, the Cavs’ role players have stepped up to contribute to team success. The Golden State Warriors haven’t been to the NBA Finals and haven’t won it in forty years. That will change on June 4, when the Warriors host the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1. Who wants it more? The Rockets have tried to grind out the Warriors in style, but that’s not their game and not the case in Game 5.
The Cleveland Cavaliers came prepared for their first game against the Atlanta Hawks. The Cavs were upped to play up-tempo defense so they could stop the Hawks from running their team plays. The Cavs made sure they didn’t give Kyle Korver any open looks and made it hard on Jeff Teague to get his open looks at the basket. Lebron James was the centerpiece of Cleveland’s offense and J.R. Smith made most of his open looks. The Hawks looked frustrated, partly because they weren’t prepared by the Cavaliers’ onslaught. Every time the Hawks made a basket, Cleveland made sure they run a half-court offense so they could get their two points on the other end. In order to win the game, the Cavaliers had to neutralize the Hawks’ up-tempo offense and they did that with defense and making stops before Atlanta could hoist a three-point shot or a bucket near the basket.
The Cleveland Cavaliers finally left the East semifinals, leaving the Chicago Bulls behind and sending Tom Thibodeau’s squad home. The Cavaliers will be facing the Atlanta Hawks and this will be a showdown between Lebron James and the run-fast up-tempo game that Mike Budenholzer implanted on these Hawks players. Lebron James will have to pick his poison on who to defend on the Hawks whether it’s Jeff Teague or Paul Millsap. The Atlanta Hawks dispatched of the Washington Wizards in six games. The Golden State Warriors, led by NBA league MVP Stephen Curry, will be taking on the winner of the L.A. Clippers and Houston Rockets.
The Chicago Bulls took care of business with Cleveland in Game 1, winning it 99-92. Derrick Rose led the way and Pau Gasol was behind him. Cleveland is without Kevin Love and J.R. Smith. It hurt them. That’s why the Cavaliers lost the game. The L.A. Clippers beat the Houston Rockets 117-101 and they were fresh off their Game 7 victory over San Antonio plus they did win Game 1 with Houston without their star point guard Chris Paul. The Atlanta Hawks bounced back from their Game 1 loss with a Game 2 victory with the Washington Wizards. If the Hawks can withstand a Wizards half-court offense with Marcin Gortat and Nene and play up-tempo basketball, they will have a chance to win the series. Otherwise, a low-post presence will hurt these smaller Hawks players. In Game 1 between the Wizards and the Hawks, the Wizards dominated because they had size and height over Atlanta. The Memphis Grizzlies also bounced back to beat the Golden State Warriors and will go to Memphis with the series tied at one game apiece. In Game 1, the Warriors were playing perfect basketball and in Game 2, the emergence of Mike Conley came back and helped Memphis regain control of the basketball game and the series.
The Atlanta Hawks have knocked off the Brooklyn Nets in six games, behind NBA Coach of the Year winner Mike Budenholzer who has effortlessly led these Hawks, who has heard of DeMarre Carroll and Mike Scott and Dennis Schroder, to a winning record. The Chicago Bulls have outlasted these feisty and long-armed Milwaukee Bucks with their size and half court offense with Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. The Bulls have gotten under the Bucks’ skin late in Game 6, and I would expect a rematch between these two teams in the future. The Golden State Warriors dispatch of the New Orleans Pelicans was no contest. The Warriors will host the Memphis Grizzlies who got rid of the Portland Trail Blazers in five games. The Clippers outlasted the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 as they win 111-109 and will face the Houston Rockets in the second round, Kevin McHale’s squad playing outstanding with the play of James Harden and Dwight Howard were too much for the older, aging Dirk Nowitzki and these Dallas Mavericks.
Behind James Harden and Dwight Howard, the Rockets have advanced. Harden’s sharp play making skills and perimeter shooting and Howard’s defense and rebounding has helped the Rockets play smart despite losing Patrick Beverly and Donatas Motiejunas to injuries. Expect a stronger opponent in the second round and the Rockets will be tested still without Beverly and Motiejunas. The play of Josh Smith has helped Houston and they will surely need Smith’s intangibles.
The Golden State Warriors are up 3-0 over the New Orleans Pelicans, because they have a never-say-die attitude behind Steve Kerr’s coaching. Kerr has let Draymond Green regain hold of his basketball position and has let Green rebound and shoot three pointers and holding his intangibles to help the Warriors reach the second round of the playoffs. The Chicago Bulls are also up 3-0 on the Milwaukee Bucks, because Tom Thibodeau’s squad refuse to say don’t lose and they are able to retain what they know about fundamental basketball on the court with their big front court of Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, and Mike Dunleavy. Fundamentals and the long wingspan of the front court has let the Bulls dangle and win three games in a row.