The Conference Finals are set to begin already, just a day after the Pacers finished off the Knicks in the only remaining series of round two. Will the Heat advance to their third straight NBA Finals? Will San Antonio get back to the promised land that Gregg Popovich knows so well?
Today is the NBA’s first day off since the playoffs began. So, in the spirit of an off day, let’s regroup and discuss the winners and losers of the playoffs so far.
Golden State’s backcourt: Stephen Curry is playing out of his mind and is capturing the attention of the nation’s basketball fans. He set records this season, but his coming out party is currently in session. Curry is averaging 26.5 points in the playoffs to go along with 8.9 assists and 2.0 steals. He is knocking down 46.3 percent of his shots and 43.1 percent of his three pointers. Curry has owned the third quarter, and not to mention, he led the sixth-seeded Warriors to a first round series victory over the Nuggets and has stolen home court advantage from the Spurs.
Klay Thompson’s value to the Warriors has been on display in the first two games of the second round. In game one, he fouled out, and then the Warriors collapsed. In game two, he notched 34 points including 29 in the first half. Thompson is averaging 17.6 points and 5.1 rebounds while shooting 47.9 percent from the floor and 41.7 percent from downtown. His effectiveness allows Mark Jackson to play him at small forward late in the game, so Jarrett Jack and Curry can pair in the backcourt. This creates a much quicker lineup, which is much more difficult for San Antonio to contain.
Don’t forget Jack. He is shooting an even 50.0 percent from the floor in the playoffs, averaging 17.0 points, 6.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds. His veteran leadership and knowledge of when to slow down the offense has benefitted the Warriors all playoffs, especially Wednesday night when they almost collapsed again.
The Knicks and Grizzlies head into tonight’s matchups facing a 1-0 series deficit. New York lost home court advantage when it laid an egg in game one against Indiana. Memphis lost on a Kevin Durant mid-range jumper with 11 seconds left, and put up much harder of a fight than did the Knicks. If either team wants to even the series up before traveling to a new venue, here is what they must do:
After it looked like nearly all the first round series were heading towards a sweep, the playoffs took a bit of a turn. Five series went to six games and one went down to the final minutes of game seven.
The second round features some potentially entertaining and high-flying matchups. It tips off in just a few minutes, so, with that, here is who I’m picking to move on and battle for a conference title.
Going The Distance’s list of the NBA’s top 30 centers continues today with No. 5-1. Scroll down to the bottom of the article to find the previously posted rankings (No. 30-6).
5. Tyson Chandler – New York Knicks: Chandler helped put the Mavericks over the hump in 2011 to win the NBA title over the Heat. He has shot at least 60 percent in five different NBA seasons, including a league-best 67.9 percent last year and 63.7 percent this year. Chandler’s true impact on the game does not show up in the box score. He does average 10.4 points and 10.7 rebounds on the year, and he did string together three straight games of 20-plus rebounds, but he makes his living as the glue that holds together the Knicks’ defense.
New York has a notoriously poor defense, but without Chandler, it would have no defense at all. He blocks shots (1.1 per game), he is athletic enough to handle switches in pick-and-roll situations, and he alters entirely too many shots to keep track of. Chandler is also an expert at running the pick and roll with Raymond Felton, and is always a threat to throw down a thunderous alley-oop.
The newest facet of Chandler’s game, however, is his offensive rebounding. The seven-foot-one center leads the NBA in offensive rebounds with 4.1 per game. Surprisingly enough, that average doesn’t include many of the missed shots and loose balls that he swats back outside the arc for his teammates to corral and begin a new possession.