The drop off in play from the first to second round had to be expected. If the postseason is really the “second season” or the “real season”, or whatever players are calling it, there will inevitably be a run of unsatisfying games. It took until Game 4 for a second round doubleheader to be thrilling from beginning to end even if the first quarter of Thunder-Clippers was a total beat down by OKC. LeBron finally had the Durant like shooting game he’s been dying to have for a couple months.
It may have started off slow, but we finally have a second round worth talking about.
Durant and Westbrook playing like a force of nature after Durant’s MVP speech. If the Thunder go onto win the NBA championship, the turning point has to be the message Durant delivered to Russell Westbrook during his emotional MVP speech. Durant’s message to his Mom was a truly moving display of human emotion in a public setting, but the most important message Durant delivered was to Westbrook, who immediately answered by going bonkers in Game 2.
This sequence where Westbrook basically loses his shit and became one with his group of supporters who can suffer through the nonsense of the Thunder would be better off without him. This is going to sound like a classic overreaction based off of the last two games, but this is the best flash Russell Westbrook has shown us in his entire career. He’s the Joker. Not the Batman villain, but the Joker who throws a deck of cards off.
Without Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant was forced to up his playmaking ability and become a better all-around player. With Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant actually has a chance to hold up the Larry O’ Brian trophy in mid-June. The combination he’s forming with Kevin Durant and Serge “I replaced James Harden as the third banana” Ibaka is championship worthy, but can they survive the Clippers.
It’ll be interesting to see how quickly Doc Rivers goes to the small ball lineup that devastated the Thunder in the fourth quarter of Game 4 (Paul-Collison-Crawford-Granger-Jordan and then Griffin). Once Paul moved onto Durant, he struggled to even catch the ball, let alone score with it. Scott Brooks couldn’t find an answer quick enough and then all of a sudden the Thunder found themselves returning to Oklahoma City tied at two. One more mistake like that and it could mean the end of the Thunder’s title hopes.
Can we pump the breaks on the Pacers are back as NBA title contenders? This section seemed a lot easier to defend when I originally wrote it late Saturday night, but I’ll modify it after Paul George’s 39 point eruption in Game 4. The Pacers might be 5-1 in their last six games, but (and I mean this with all respect to the Washington Wizards) they haven’t played against a level of talent like they will in the ECF and the NBA Finals if they can get by the Heat.
There’s a lot to like in Washington right now, but this Wizards team reminds me quite a bit of the Indiana team that was up 2-1 on Miami two seasons ago in this very round. They need to comeback from the adversity of being ousted in this stage of the playoffs so they can understand what they have to do in order to not only get back, but advance to the next round and then to the finals. The Thunder have done it. The Pacers have done it. The Heat skipped a step, but I mean c’mon it was effing LeBron, Wade with 100,000 miles on him and a fresh Chris Bosh.
John Wall has taken big star like steps this season, but we’re literally watching him doubt his own shot when he has a wide open look in crunch time. The Professor Andre Miller, Al “I get buckets” Harrington and Aaron Rodgers’ favorite player Drew Gooden provided the Wizards with the double digit lead the starters ended up blowing in the second half.
The resiliency the Pacers (specifically David West) has been remarkable, but they’re nowhere close to where they need to be offensively if they’re bound for a Finals appearance. Their dominating defensive performance in Game 3 was awesome to watch because it was like seeing an old friend finally make it out of rehab clean, but you can tell that they have changed. This isn’t the same Pacers team that appeared to be a colossal challenge for the Heat. Paul George’s massive game is misleading. He was due to finally have a game where he you know actually shoots the ball like he did in November and December.
The Pacers still going to be a problem for the Heat if the two teams square off in a much anticipated conference finals series, but Indiana is still very much damaged goods at this point.
We finally got a LeBron eff you game against Brooklyn last night and boy was it a show. Only in Brooklyn can you talk to Jay Z and then convert a steal into a transition dunk. It’s a shame LeBron was just one missed free throw away from putting up the 33rd 50 point playoff game in NBA history. It was interesting to see how nonchalant LeBron was about his performance when he talked with Rachel Nichols after the game.
James quickly deflected any notion of his individual performance and immediately pointed to how important the win was for his team. I wonder what it’ll take for him to actually be visibly excited about an individual performance.
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