After a surprisingly competitive first round of the NBA Playoffs, we are fully into the conference semi-finals stage. Looking at how the round is going, we’re in for another bout of exciting matches, especially looking at how the series between Boston and Philadelphia is panning out. Cleveland Cavaliers vs Toronto Raptors seems to be a totally different story on the other hand.
As we’re keeping a close eye on the playoffs, we decided to share some major trends and observations! From LeBron’s domination of the Raptors to Steph’s return and more, we’ll discuss how it bodes for the ongoing playoffs.
First up, is Terry Rozier consolidating himself as an important piece of Brad Stevens’ high-flying Celtics.
‘Scary’ Terry Rozier haunts Ben Simmons and the 76ers
During the culminating months of the NBA Regular season, the Boston Celtics were hit by some bad news. All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving had undergone knee surgery in April that sidelined him for four-five months.
Boston’s star man was gone, as was Gordon Hayward who had suffered a horror leg-break in only the season’s first game. Thus, expectations in the post-season were a bit low, to say the least.
Terry Rozier, however, had other plans altogether. He was more than a capable player off the bench during the regular season. In Kyrie’s absence, Rozier has taken on the responsibility of being the Celtics’ starting point-guard with aplomb.
Rozier had a very NBA-esque go-to-go with Eric Bledsoe of the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. Rozier referred to Bledsoe as Drew Bledsoe, a former star QB for the New England Patriots. The basketball Bledsoe then went on to forget Rozier’s name.
Rozier and Bledsoe’s (the basketball one) banter had an exciting culmination where Bledsoe (the American Football one) also made an appearance.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) April 29, 2018
Rozier was Celtics’ star man in Game 7 against the Bucks, dropping 26 points and dishing out nine dimes. The former Cardinal shot 10 off 16 from the field, including five off eight treys. The moniker of ‘Scary Terry’, that came from a t-shirt on Rozier’s website, was coming to life on the court. Rozier’s performance helped Boston in downing the Bucks, 112-96, and advance to the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
Currently, Boston lead 2-0 in the series against Philadelphia. Looking at the teams’ rosters, Boston have no business doing so. But, they do, and it is primarily due to Rozier raising his game in the post-season.
In the first game, Rozier dropped 29 points while shooting 11 of 18 from the field. Astonishingly, he shot 77.8% from beyond the arc, recording seven threes in the game. Rozier also gave six assists in the game, taking center-stage in the 117-101 win over the 76ers.
The second game was not as amazing as the first one, but ‘Scary Terry’ contributed to Boston getting their second win over the 76ers. The guard put 20 points on the board along with nine assists. He was again deadly from long range, shooting four off nine from three-point territory.
Boston might just win another series it has no business doing so considering it’s roster and Rozier is the primary reason for this.
Oh look, the American Football Bledsoe is back:
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) May 4, 2018
LeBronto James is a real thing
The Toronto Raptors were the Beast of the East this season. They topped the Eastern Conference and with an improved DeMar DeRozan, looked set to finally overcome their “playoff chokers” tag.
Toronto are currently down 0-2 to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Conference Semi-finals. The Raptors are 0-2 down to the team that went to a seven-game series against the Pacers.
Let that sink in for a moment.
Considering Cleveland’s struggles this season and, Toronto’s improvement and adoption of the three-point game had us peg them as the East’s favorites. Looking at the series right now, we’ll have to take back the proclamation.
The main reason for this is LeBron James. ‘LeBronto James’ considering how dominant King James has been against the Raptors. In their last two Playoff appearances, the Raptors have been eliminated by James’ Cavaliers. From a combined 10 games played in the 2016 playoffs, the Raptors have only won two.
If that doesn’t explain LeBron James’ dominance, then the above infographic should. Averaging 39 minutes per game in his career against Toronto, LeBron has torched them. He averages 27.7 points per game against them, along with 7.7 assists and 7.9 rebounds. Though this is nothing incredible for LeBron. Aren’t these numbers exactly what you call LeBron numbers?
In this series, LeBron has been instrumental in getting the two-game lead over the top-seeds. In the first one, he posted a triple-double en route to a nervous 113-112 win in Overtime. James was everywhere in that game and his clutch play saw him provide two game-winning assists to Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith to hit from distance.
In the second game, LeBron absolutely obliterated the Raptors. The Akron-born forward scored an astonishing 43 points, and added 14 assists, and eight rebounds to his tally. The 43 points, in spite of missing half of his free-throws in the game. Dwayne Casey and the Raptors had no answer to LeBron’s heroics as Toronto slumped to a 110-128 blowout loss.
LeBron has had help this time round, unlike the series against Indiana. Tristan Thompson is playing like the Tristan Thompson of 2016. He has put in impressive shifts on the defensive end, which has allowed LeBron to contribute a bit more offensively. If the other pieces around James can haul their weight, then the Cavaliers have a shot at the NBA Finals.
But one thing is for sure, the Toronto Raptors on facing LeBron do become the ‘LeBronto Raptors’.
Warp in the west?
The Western Conference semi-finals have also seen a surprise or two. Utah Jazz were able to win Game 2 against the Rockets after suffering a blowout loss in Game 1. Joe Ingles came to the fore with a 27-point outing, shooting a solid 76.9% from the field. Donovan Mitchell, meanwhile, is continuing his impressive play becoming one of the quickest rookies to score more than 200 playoff points.
New Orleans, in spite of sweeping the Trail Blazers, were defeated in the first two games against the Warriors. Also, Steph Curry has returned and he scored 28 points in just 30 minutes on the court in his return game. The Pelicans did win Game 3, behind Anthony Davis’ 33-point performance. It still remains to be seen if they can overcome a Warriors squad which has Curry back in the fray.
Where Utah impressed with their Game 2 win over Houston by utilizing a fast-paced defence, they slumped to a blowout loss today in Game 3. No Jazz player scored over 20 points in the 92-113 loss where James Harden and Eric Gordon scored 25 each.
The Jazz have impressed with their deep run into the playoffs especially when they were considered to be a lottery pick team in pre-season. If Quin Snyder isn’t in the running for NBA Coach of the Year, I’ll be damned. But expecting the Jazz to defeat the NBA’s top seeds, the Rockets would be foolhardy.
Pelicans, on the other hand, still have the pieces that can dent the Warriors. AD has all the tools to dominate a seven-game series, but he will miss the injured Demarcus Cousins against the Warriors. AD has to go toe-to-toe with Draymond Green, who is a pest, but also a supremely talented defender. Now that Warriors have Steph back, they probably become the top contenders for the NBA Championship yet again.