8 Things We’ve Learnt from the NBA Playoffs so far…

Sixteen has become eight, with everything from trips into overtime and flagrant fouls for us to mull over. So, with over 40 games already played in the post-season what have we learnt?

Golden State Are Legitimate Championship Hopefuls…

GSW Playoffs

Any thoughts about Golden State’s regular season form not translating into the post-season were quashed with their 4-0 sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans. This isn’t to say that the Warriors had everything their own way though – with Anthony Davis showcasing his talents on numerous occasions through the series.

The most notable performance for the Warriors was without a doubt their game 3 fourth quarter comeback, pulling back a New Orleans team that were running amuck of the famed GSW defense earlier in the game. Stephen Curry did little to harm his MVP chances either – averaging a shade under 34ppg within the opening series and hitting one of the shots of his career in the OT victory in game 3 (which should have been a four point play, by the way).

However, other teams will be buoyed by the performances New Orleans put in, as well as seeing some parts of the Golden State machine showing some signs of wear and tear. There were very few points during the series where the Pelicans were truly outclassed – despite the first appearances of the 0-4 record. Also, free throws were something of an issue for the Warriors, with 80%+ shooters failing to cash in at the charity stripe on several occasions.

There’s no guarantee this will continue, but it does so a small chink in that seemingly impenetrable Californian armour…

The Cavs will probably be going to the Finals

Cavs Playoffs

The East has definitely been underwhelming this season, and it seems that the Cleveland Cavaliers could be ready to take advantage of this in the post-season. With Lebron leading the way, Cleveland cruised by the Celtics, a team which never looked like realistically causing them any problems over seven games.

However, the vibe which often got shown off throughout the series was one of a warm up rather than a competition – something which doesn’t bode well for many teams in the East.

Whilst the loss of Kevin Love to a dislocated shoulder may look like bad news on the front of it – it could well be a blessing in disguise. Lebron and Kyrie will no longer feel obligated to create shots for Love on offense, whilst his notably poor defensive abilities will likely be replaced by a more able candidate.

Chicago will be a sterner test for the Cavs, but one which looks unlikely to force them into a seven game series. After this, Atlanta will likely be their most intrusive examination – but considering the style they’ve shown so far, many will expect Cleveland to get past them. Regardless, the Western Conference side which meets them in the Finals will be a much more dangerous opponent, and one which could ruin Lebron’s homecoming season.

Washington Shouldn’t be Slept on…

Wizards Playoffs

Admittedly, the Toronto Raptors were a shadow of the team which took last year’s Brooklyn Nets to seven games in 2014. Jurassic Park was full to the brim each time the Canadian franchise suited up, but their roster let them down dramatically.

Kyle Lowry was outshone in each game by point guard counterpart, John Wall. Bradley Beal was a constant nuisance offensively. Even Paul Pierce brought some of his veteran savvy into the games, and even got inside the heads of numerous Toronto franchise members.

Whilst Toronto were surprisingly poor, we should offer credit to the Wizards, who are finally looking as if they’re filling the potential we’ve been hearing about ever since John Wall headed into the Capital from Kentucky. But now they face one of the best teams of the regular season in the Atlanta Hawks.

They’ll need to rely on their stars to turn up throughout the series if they want to progress – but the onus will surely lie on Wall’s shoulders. His evolution this year has been one worthy of discussing, and in an era of golden point guards, if he helps guide the Wizards further through the postseason he could be up their right next to the likes of Steph Curry, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook.

Portland weren’t themselves, Memphis were

Memphis Grizzlies Playoffs

Health insurance brokers in Oregon must be making a fair amount of money from the Portland Trailblazers. It’s not just this season where they’ve been cashing out either – with high profile players like Brandon Roy, Greg Oden and Bill Walton all spending plenty of time on the treatment table.

This season’s been another catalogue of injury issues as well, with the biggest loss being Wesley Matthews – who until his Achilles injury was playing at a great level, and shooting the ball at a phenomenal rate. The loss of Matthews, along with others during the postseason clearly played a part in their demise to the Memphis Grizzlies in five games, although we should give credit where it’s due.

Despite lacking a legitimate ‘star’ player, Memphis has glided through the first round of the Playoffs – and looks a tricky match-up for Golden State. The likes of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol will create problems for the Warriors’ bigs without a doubt, whether the Grizzlies can get a leash on the splash brothers is another question however.

Plenty of eyes will be on Mike Conley’s health for the second round, where he’s expected to don a ‘Westbrook-style’ mask – Golden State will no doubt be hoping that it doesn’t have the same effect it did on the Oklahoma point guard when he returned from injury, putting up huge numbers with the mask on show. However, you get the feeling that it will be a battle of the bigs when it comes to Memphis taking on the NBA’s best team in the regular season…

Derrick Rose is Back! (Kind of…)

What can we make of Chicago's chances of getting past the Cavaliers?

Whilst D-Rose is unlikely to show the sort of athleticism that saw him become the NBA’s youngest ever MVP, it’s certainly been a breath of fresh air to see him rekindling some of it in the playoffs this year. He averaged 19 points per game during the Bulls’ 4-2 series win over the Bucks, and whilst this might not be quite up there with some of the other scorers in the postseason, it’s definitely an achievement for someone who’s coming off multiple surgeries at such a young age.

It’s not just the D-Rose show that the Bulls faithful have been tuning into either, with Jimmy Butler once again proving his mettle on both sides of the court and Pau Gasol showing off his European razzle-dazzle. Milwaukee did show their playoff inexperience during the series however, with their game 6 performance definitely raising some eyebrows – but they provided a decent test for the 3rd seeded Bulls.

It’s definitely opened up another exciting match-up for the NBA fans – with the Bulls now facing the Cavaliers. Most will have their cash on Cleveland getting by the Bulls through seven games, but if Chicago plays as well as they can, it might not be such a clear cut series.

Chris Paul has Hamstrings made of Rubber

LA Clippers Playoffs

By far the most exciting of all of the opening series’ in this postseason so far, the L.A. Clippers and San Antonio Spurs produced seven showcases of the very best the NBA has to offer. This was topped off by an electric series decider, which eventually saw Chris Paul will the Clippers into the second round with a last ditch layup.

What was most astounding by the game 7 performance though was how CP3 managed to play arguably the best performance of his life with his hamstring hanging by a thread. After coming away with a steal in the opening quarter, Paul immediately grabbed at his left leg before drilling a three and then heading to the locker room. But whilst most expected his day (and season) to be over, Paul came back onto the court in the second quarter – and despite some visible pain and a noticeable limp, somehow helped the Clippers get by the beleaguered Spurs.

Many had questioned Paul’s legitimacy as a playoff closer. All of those critics have promptly quietened down…

As Paul stated after the game, San Antonio should also be commended for the part they played throughout the series. Tim Duncan answered questions about his ability to play after this season with several post-play masterclasses – giving hope to Spurs fans looking to see him suit up once again, even though he could still decide to hang up the sneakers.

The one area where San Antonio will feel hard done by is injuries, which had an impact on the likes of Tony Parker and Thiago Splitter. Had they been healthy, it could have been them suiting up in the second round against Houston – but it wasn’t too be.

Atlanta haven’t found a groove just yet

Atlanta Hawks Playoffs

Coming in as one of the surprise teams of the season at the number one spot in the East, many expected the Atlanta Hawks to brush aside a Nets team which lost twice as many games as them in the regular season. However, despite Mike Budenholzer’s award-winning coaching, Atlanta hasn’t played at the level they showcased since the start of the year.

Of course, Brooklyn played their part in the six game series, with big games from Deron Williams and Brook Lopez keeping them in touch with the one seeded Hawks. But fans of the Georgia franchise will be aware of the team’s shortcomings against a much tougher opponent in the Washington Wizards.

Atlanta will need to find their way back into their regular season groove if they’re going to get by the Wizards, and then will need to continue that to make it past whoever lines up across from them should they make the Conference Finals. Either way, Mike Budenholzer still has plenty of work to do if the Hawks are to continue their breakout season…

Dallas is a Mess, and James Harden doesn’t care

Houston Rockets Playoffs

James Harden’s home cooking is quickly becoming something of Houston legend, with his concoction on stepback jumpshots, circus style finishes and numerous free throws being more than enough to down the Dallas Mavericks in five games. The Rockets’ trust in their all-star shooting guard is something to admire – especially considering the volume of shots he takes, and if he keeps on making them, who’s to say they won’t be causing headaches for the L.A. Clippers?

Dallas was definitely a messy kitchen for Harden to cook up his special brand of basketball within, but he wouldn’t have minded one bit. With an outward bound Rajon Rondo struggling and Chandler Parsons sitting out through injury, the Mavs were an easier than expected job for the Rockets.

The series was even spiced up by a job-costing social media post late on in the series, which depicted the Mavs as a horse getting ‘put out to pasture’, which although not being in great taste – was something this writer enjoyed just as much as those James Harden jumpshots hitting home. Either way, the Rockets will likely rely on Harden once more to produce the goods against the Clippers.

Rockets Tweet

Hell, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them have Harden handling those Twitter posts either considering the fact that he pretty much does everything else for the franchise at the moment…

What have you made of the NBA playoffs so far? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!

Luke Hatfield is the creator and editor of BouncyOrangeBall, with an extensive knowledge of the NBA and basketball in general.

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