And then there were four. We’re down to the final four teams, all with high hopes. In the West, we have possibly the two best teams in the NBA, as the Golden State Warriors will face the Houston Rockets. Over in the East, the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers will battle it out, hoping to compete in the NBA Finals.
This Boston-Cleveland series is much more interesting than you might think. The Celtics have an incredible amount of talent for a team with little to no star power. But their most valuable asset isn’t a player. It’s their coach, Brad Stevens. Many expected them not to make it past the Bucks in the first round.
Now, they are looking like a huge threat to LeBron and the Cavs. Cleveland doesn’t have much to offer, except for LeBron. Here’s one of the Cavs’ most glaring problems: Besides LeBron James, they really don’t have another killer. They don’t have anyone who can go out there and get themselves a bucket. If they had somebody like Damian Lillard or Kemba Walker, they’d win the East, easily. But you can’t have it all, right? Look, if we’re being completely honest, the only way the Cavs get out of the Eastern Conference Finals is if LeBron does something we’ve never seen before.
Warriors vs Rockets will be a hell of a match-up. The Finals before the Finals. The two best teams in the league this season. The addition of Chris Paul was obviously a huge relief for James Harden, taking a load of weight off his shoulders. As we saw last season, this time last year, Harden was absolutely gassed. The beat-down of the 82-game regular season took a toll on Harden. This year, he didn’t take as hard of a beating.
He and Chris Paul have created the picture-perfect modern-day offense. Surrounded by consistent knockdown shooters, their floor spacing will be tough to defend. And with the deadly isolation stepback of Harden, it’ll be a shootout between the two teams.
But in all honesty, it won’t compare to the Warriors’ firepower. We saw a glimpse of that firepower in Game 1. Losing 119-106, even with Harden dropping in 41 points on 14-for-24 shooting, and Chris Paul’s 23-point, 11-rebound performance, it’s just not enough. Durant had 37 points, Klay Thompson added 28, and Steph Curry had an off night, to say the least, adding 18 points on 1-for-5 three-point shooting. The Warriors won back home court advantage, which is unfortunate for the Rockets, who spent a lot of time and energy working towards that #1 seed, to get an early advantage on the Warriors, and it is just gone after Game 1.
One topic I wanted to be sure to address this week is Russell Westbrook’s situation or future.
Westbrook wins MVP in the 2016-17 NBA season, is able to lock into the sixth seed with a 47-35 record, and loses in the first round of the playoffs to the Rockets in five games.
The reason the Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t make it further was that Westbrook didn’t have help, they said. With help, the Thunder would be championship contenders, they said.
Step back to the summer of 2017, and Thunder GM Sam Presti is able to acquire two all-star caliber players, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, to play alongside Westbrook. OKC quickly becomes the most hyped-up team in the league, instantly becoming major threats to the Warriors in the West.
The 2017-18 NBA season arrives, and the Thunder improve to a 48-34 record. A one-game improvement to the season prior. One game. The playoffs arrive, and they face the Jazz. They lose in six games this time, not five. Again, a one-game improvement.
For the most part, I blame this underwhelming season on the play style of Russell Westbrook. Don’t get me wrong here, Westbrook is an incredible talent, and wildly entertaining, but he doesn’t play to win. Westbrook is a delusional ball-hog who prioritizes stats over winning. In my eyes, Westbrook is one of the most overrated NBA players ever. He’ll pass during the game, to get his assists, but in the fourth quarter, he won’t pass.
During his MVP season, six other Thunder players had a higher field goal percentage than Westbrook did. He wouldn’t pass to them. Every superstar has a skill that they are known for. For instance, Curry is known for his shooting, LeBron is known for his insane playmaking, as well as speed, strength, longevity, etc. Durant is known for his scoring, Kawhi Leonard is known for his defense, but what about Westbrook? His dunks? Dunking won’t get you anywhere besides the Dunk Contest in this league.
Westbrook is a borderline Top 10 player, but I would never want him on my team.