NBA Playoffs Conference Semi-Finals Preview
No. 1 Milwaukee vs. No. 4 Boston
Prediction: Bucks in 7
|Point Guard||E. Bledsoe 15.9 ppg||K. Irving 23.8 ppg|
|Shooting Guard||M. Brogdon 15.6 ppg||J. Brown 13.0 ppg|
|Small Forward||K. Middleton 18.3 ppg||J. Tatum 15.7 ppg|
|Power Forward||G. Antetokounmpo 27.7 ppg||M. Morris 13.9 ppg|
|Center||B. Lopez 12.5 ppg||A. Horford 13.6 ppg|
Both the Bucks and the Celtics cruised through their first-round matchups. The Bucks didn’t allow the Pistons to even come within 15 of them! Almost more impressive is the Boston sweep of a very solid Indiana team. Boston is excelling by taking care of the ball and playing smart, while Milwaukee is pushing in transition. Everyone knows Giannis will get his, but this series will come down to two things: the supporting cast stepping up, and Milwaukee’s ability to defend the three-point line. This series will go at least six games unquestionably.
Adjusted +/- X: Factor A. Horford 11.07 points above average
Milwaukee: M. Brogdon, D. DiVincenzo, P. Gasol
Boston: M. Smart, G. Yabusele
- Number of Possessions: Milwaukee likes to run, ranking in the top five in pace of play. If it can control the game tempo, it will be very fast paced.
- Boston Three-Point Percentage: The Celtics can shoot the lights out. They shot nearly 40 percent from behind the arc against Indiana. If Milwaukee is going to win, it will have to close out.
No. 1 Golden State vs. No. 4 Houston
Prediction: Warriors in 7
|Point Guard||S. Curry 27.3 ppg||C. Paul 15.6 ppg|
|Shooting Guard||K. Thompson 21.5 ppg||E. Gordon 16.2 ppg|
|Small Forward||K. Durant 26.0 ppg||J. Harden 36.1 ppg|
|Power Forward||D. Green 7.4 ppg||P. Tucker 7.3 ppg|
|Center||D. Cousins 16.3 ppg||C. Capela 16.6 ppg|
The two most efficient offenses per possession in all of basketball meet in this Western Conference Semifinal matchup with surely the highest caliber of play. Golden State was challenged by a good-not-great Clippers team, while the Rockets rolled through the Jazz in a quick five game series. With an injured Demarcus Cousins and a Draymond Green who has lost his outside shot, the Warriors are more vulnerable than they’ve ever been. Meanwhile, the Rockets are firing on all cylinders, winning 80 percent of their last fifteen games. I’m not saying this is for sure where Golden State goes down, but it’s a definite possibility.
Adjusted +/- X Factor: E. Gordon 3.65 points above average
Golden State: D. Cousins, D. Jones
- Warriors Three-Point Percentage: It’s no secret that both these teams like to shoot threes. Golden State was nearly 40 percent in the first round. It’s the most important factor anytime Golden State takes the floor.
- Non-James Harden Points: James Harden had a historic season averaging almost 40 points a game, but if this series is going to go Houston’s way, he will need some help.
No. 2 Toronto vs. No. 3 Philadelphia
Prediction: Raptors in 6
|Point Guard||K. Lowry 14.2 ppg||B. Simmons 16.9 ppg|
|Shooting Guard||D. Green 10.3 ppg||J. Redick 18.1 ppg|
|Small Forward||K. Leonard 26.6 ppg||J. Butler 18.7 ppg|
|Power Forward||P. Siakam 16.9 ppg||T. Harris 20.0 ppg|
|Center||S. Ibaka 15.0 ppg||J. Embiid 27.5 ppg|
From top to bottom, both these starting lineups are as talented as any lineup in the East. Both these teams also cruised by their first-round opponents. Philadelphia is sharing the ball well, ranking in the top five in assist ratio, but it also makes its share of mistakes, ranking 24th in turnover ratio. It’s hard to pinpoint one key factor in this series, because both teams have tons of depth and score in a variety of ways. If you have to narrow this series down to one thing, it’s stopping Kawhi Leonard, who is on fire, shooting better than 55 percent from the field this postseason. Meanwhile, the 76ers are spreading the wealth, with six players averaging more than 10 a game. All in all, this is the most evenly matched series of the round.
Adjusted +/- X Factor: Danny Green +15.12 Points above average
Toronto: O. Anunoby, C. Boucher
Philadelphia: M. Scott
- J. Embiid Points: The 76ers offense gets started from one place. If Siakam and Ibaka can body up Embiid without having to generate help from the wing, it will help even more.
- Philadelphia Assists: For the 76ers offense to be fully functional, they need to spread the ball around and get everybody involved.
No. 2 Denver vs. No. 3 Portland
Prediction: Nuggets in 7
|Point Guard||J. Murray 18.2 ppg||D. Lillard 25.8 ppg|
|Shooting Guard||G. Harris 12.9 ppg||C. McCollum 21.0 ppg|
|Small Forward||W. Barton 11.5 ppg||M. Harkless 7.7 ppg|
|Power Forward||P. Millsap 12.6 ppg||A. Aminu 9.4 ppg|
|Center||N. Jokic 20.1 ppg||E. Kanter 13.1 ppg|
Portland rolled through Oklahoma City, winning the series on an amazing Damian Lillard 37-foot last-second shot. Meanwhile, the Nuggets had to fight through a tough San Antonio team in a seven-game scrap. In addition to Jokic being flawless, Jamal Murray stepped up and had a great series. In a battle between the Portland backcourt and the Denver frontcourt, this series will come down to how well each team’s supporting cast plays.
Adjusted +/- X Factor: Paul Millsap 12.75 points above average
Denver: M. Porter Jr.
Portland: E. Kanter, J. Nurkic
- Jamal Murray Effective Field Goal Percentage: Jokic will get his. What matters is what happens when he has to move the ball, and that starts with Jamal Murray.
- Number of Possessions: Denver plays at a slow pace and Portland plays a more average game. If Lillard and McCollum can push the tempo, they can catch Denver off guard.
- Denver Assists: Denver ranks second in assist ratio, and most of its profit comes from how well it moves the ball, using Jokic as a threat.