Recap of the Early Stages of the NBA Conference Finals
The NBA playoffs roll on. After two games of each series, it’s time to take stock of where each Conference Finals match up stands, and what is next.
Boston 2, Cleveland 0
Boston’s defence has been their strength all season long, and that has continued against Cleveland. Though Lebron James exploded for 42 points in Game 2, the Celtics have still succeeded in stifling the rest of the Cavs’ lineup, with James’ supporting cast shooting only 38% from the field, and 21% from 3-point range.
The Celtics have out-hustled the favoured Cavaliers, forcing numerous turnovers, and limiting Cleveland offensively. “We’re going to fight,” said Boston guard Terry Rozier. “At this point we don’t care if we win by half a point. If we win, that’s all that matters.”
Boston’s depth has made a tremendous difference so far. Through 2 games, the balanced Celtics have 6 players averaging double figures in points, compared to barely 3 for the Cavaliers. If Cleveland is going to turn the series around, someone not named Lebron James or Kevin Love is going to have provide some help.
Houston 1, Golden State 1
Speaking of depth, the Rockets had it in spades in Game 2, as they evened their series with the Warriors. In addition to the usual production from James Harden and Chris Paul, Eric Gordon scored 27 off the bench, while role players P.J. Tucker and Trevor Ariza added 22 and 19, respectively.
“We can beat anybody, anywhere at any time, playing the way we play,” said Houston head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Besides their supporting cast, the key for the Rockets was their perimeter defence. Houston held the Splash Brothers combo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to 3-12 shooting from 3 in Game 2, compared to 7-20 in Game 1.
Continuing to limit Golden State’s long-range success is a necessity if Houston is to come out on top, all tall task when going up against a team with so many great shooters. It is worth noting that Kevin Durant had a second consecutive strong game, finishing with 38 points on 22 shots, adding to the 37 he scored in Game 1. Houston can live with such performances, as long as Steph and Klay stumble. For the Rockets, 2 out of 3 might be enough.