Sports

2017/18 NBA playoffs – Still too close to call

BY MARK ARCHER
Contributor

Friday, May 25, 2018

Print this page Email A Friend!


Up to Tuesday night last, the NBA was four-games deep into each Conference finals and, until the fourth game in each contest, the lowest margin of victory was 13 points. The first seven games have been blowouts (or at least one-sided) and an eighth appeared to be on the cards until a competitive game finally broke out between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors in Game 4. Thankfully, each series is tied 2-2 and will put all four contestants in a best-of-three desperation mode which should translate into great basketball (theoretically).

In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals last Saturday, the Cleveland Cavaliers were in must-win territory. Down 2-0 to the Boston Celtics, a loss would have put them in a deficit no NBA team has ever overcome in a conference finals. However, probably bolstered by the home-crowd energy, the Cavaliers astounded the Boston Celtics' defence en route to a 126-85 win. LeBron James finished with 27 points, 12 assists, and five rebounds, but the entire team contributed to the smackdown.

The Cavaliers' improved offensive effort ignited their energies defensively. They held Boston to an opponent post-season low 86 points on 39 per cent shooting, including 27 per cent from three-point range. Through the first two games of the series, the Celtics averaged 107.5 points on what felt like effortless execution - Game 3 was a much different story. On Saturday night it was as if there were six Cavaliers on the floor at times as they also out-rebounded the Celtics 45-34.

In Game 4 on Monday, it was a continuation of Game 3. James was dominant, scoring 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting with five rebounds and three assists. Kevin Love struggled (9 points), but Kyle Korver contributed 14 points, Tristan Thompson had 13 points plus 12 rebounds, and George Hill stepped up with 13 points. James enjoyed his sixth 40-point game in these play-offs (First player since Allen Iverson led the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Final in 2001) and the team shot 50.6 per cent from the floor.

The series moved to Boston on Wednesday night (Game 5) and the Celtics outlasted the Cavaliers in a 96-83 victory to improve their home win record in these playoffs to 10-0. Sparked by 24 points from rookie Jayson Tatum and 17 from Jaylen Brown, the Celtics looked the more lively and purposeful team. Boston had five players with 10+ points while the Cavaliers had only two – LeBron James (26) and Kevin Love (14). LeBron, while being the main contributor to the scoring, lacked his usual energy and seemed out of sync.

In his 15-year NBA career, this has been LeBron's most impressive post-season run, averaging 34.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 9 assists per game. He will certainly make it difficult for Boston.

In Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday, Stephen Curry scored 18 of his 35 points in the third quarter in the presence of a raucous home-crowd in the Oracle Arena. Along with 25-points from Kevin Durant and 17 rebounds from Draymond Green, the Golden State Warriors secured their 16th consecutive home win in the postseason — An NBA record, one better than Michael Jordan's Bulls in 1990-1991. In beating the Houston Rockets 126-85, they registered an astounding 41-point victory (largest margin in franchise postseason history) to lead the series 2-1. Additionally, it was the largest margin of defeat in Rockets' playoff history and the largest margin of victory in NBA play off history over a team that won at least 65 regular season games.

Curry struggled to make shots in the first two games of the series and, after the first half in Game 3, was just 3-for-20 from three-point range. Then, in the third quarter, he hit all seven field goal attempts, a mix of jumpers as well as lay-ups. He made 11 of 13 shots from the field in the second half, including four out of five from beyond the arc. Houston struggled to keep pace throughout the game, shooting just 40 per cent from the field and committing 19 turnovers. Houston committed seven turnovers in the opening quarter, matching the seven Warriors' first quarter miscues from Game 2. meanwhile, Golden State limited themselves to four turnovers in the first quarter, and none at all in the second. They finished the game with eight turnovers, compared to 20 for Houston. In total, the Warriors outscored the Rockets 28-8 in points off turnovers.

The Rockets missed many 'makeable' shots throughout the game. In the first half, their defensive effort was sound enough to keep the game close, but the third-quarter explosion basically put the game out of reach.

Knowing the implications of falling into a 3-1 hole, the Rockets approached Game 4 on Tuesday with an enhanced sense of urgency. The result was a game that finally lived up to the expectations of NBA Conference Finals basketball, especially between these two teams.

The Warriors opened the game with a 12-0 run, but the Rockets, with their backs to the wall, fought back to take a 53-46 half time lead. The Warriors returned to the court after the break with one of their now notorious third quarter runs led by a Stephen Curry 3-point festival. However, after being overwhelmed by the third quarter flurry, the Rockets rebounded to win 95-92, tie the series 2-2 and break Golden States' run of sixteen straight home playoff wins.

In what must have been approached as an elimination game, JustBet $1.60 favourites Golden State, who were previously 7-0 at home all-time against Houston in the playoffs, will now play their longest play-off round this year after closing out the first two rounds in five games. They can't complain of being tired and, even without Andre Iguodala, should still carve a path to the NBA Finals at the expense of Houston.

The listing of remaining games for the Conference Finals are provided below and full details of all the betting options and odds are available at the nearest JustBet location or online at www.justbetja.com.

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS 2018
DATE TIME HOME TEAM AWAY TEAM
MAY 25 20:30 Cleveland Cavaliers Boston Celtics GAME 6MAY
27 20:30 Boston Celtics Cleveland Cavaliers GAME 7*
*if necessary
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS 2018
DATE TIME HOME TEAM AWAY TEAM
MAY 26 21:00 Golden State Warriors Houston Rockets GAME 6
MAY 28 21:00 Houston Rockets Golden State Warriors GAME 7*
*if necessary
JustBet still offers the best odds and bet options for the NBA and European basketball so place your
bets early at one of the over 100 locations on the prediction of your choice for maximum winnings.
Additionally, to enhance the betting options, JustBet offers odds on selected player-points spread.
The JustBet odds for the NBA Conference Championships and Finals are below. Please note that the
odds are subject to change.
CONFERENCE WINNER 2017-2018
TEAM ODDS
EAST CLE CAVALIERS 1.50
BOS CELTICS 2.40
WEST GS WARRIORS 1.45
HOU ROCKETS 2.55
NBA CHAMPION 2017-2018
TEAM ODDS
GS WARRIORS 1.60
CLE CAVALIERS 14.00
BOS CELTICS 8.50
HOU ROCKETS 3.20
NBA CHAMPION 2017-2018
TEAM ODDS
GS WARRIORS 1.60
ANY OTHER 2.20

ADVERTISEMENT




POST A COMMENT

HOUSE RULES

1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy



comments powered by Disqus
ADVERTISEMENT

Poll

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
ADVERTISEMENT