After watching some thrilling basketball, junkies like myself are full of emotion and at times caught in the moment. Tuesday night’s game between the Warriors and Rockets set the stage for what seems to be a scintillating Conference Finals both West and East.
The Rockets were up 16 points in the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Let that sink in. Yet they somehow managed to lose. Enter Steph “Chef” Curry, his pot as well as his supporting cast. Shaun Livingston picked the perfect time to put forth his best performance yet as a Warrior with 16 first half points (finished with 18). Curry and James Harden went tit for tat in the second half, but Harden’s effort was in vain. Dwight Howard was lost with that sore knee, and the rest of the Rockets weren’t able to up their production to hand the Rockets the upset.
Out east, Game 1 between the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers can be summed up by two letters; J.R! J.R. Smith was simply unstoppable as he scorched the Hawks to the tune of 28 points (8-12 3PFG). With Kyrie still hobbled, Smith picked up the slack in addition to 31 big points from LeBron James as he passed Michael Jordan for the most playoff games with 30+ points, 5+ rebounds and 5+ assists in NBA History. Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson both chipped in double-doubles. There were some bright spots for Atlanta, as Kent Bazemore turned in a solid 10-point, 4 rebound performance off the pine. Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Al Horford did their part as well, however those positives will be outweighed by DeMarre Carroll’s knee injury.
As we look closer at both series, I realize that Atlanta is the lone team of the Final Four that does not boast an MVP candidate. Stephen Curry, James Harden and LeBron James finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the voting, and have done their jobs in leading their respective teams this far. Atlanta’s insistence on ball movement and team sacrifice earned them top billing in the east, however in the playoffs, there are times where a go to guy/bonafide superstar is needed to turn the tide. Atlanta’s closest guy who may fit that description is Jeff Teague, and he’s never been here. It should be interesting to see how much of an effect this will have on the rest of the series.
Houston over Golden State in 6
Cleveland over Atlanta in 5