NBA Western Conference Round 2 Takeaways

Luke O'Connell, Sports Editor

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Nuggets-Blazers

In an expectedly close series, Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers overcame

the Denver Nuggets in seven games. In Game 1, Murray and Jokic combined for 60 points in a Nuggets win. Though the Blazers lost, Lillard had 39 pints and 6 assists, and Kanter had 26 points and 8 rebounds. The main reason the Blazers failed to steal one on the road was their inability to control the ball. Portland had 18 turnovers which became 23 points in the hands of the offensively skilled Nugg

ets. Along with that, the Blazers put up a poor defensive performance on defense, allowing the Nuggets to score on 50% of their attempted shots.

In Game 2, the Blazers made up for their poor defensive effort in Game 1 by stealing a game on the road 97-90. The Nuggets were held to only 35% shooting in Game 2, and shot 0-10 from three. Overall, the Blazers played a scrappy defensive game, and an ugly offensive one. Lillard went 5-17 shooting on his own, but the other half of Portland’s infamous backcourt duo, CJ McCollum, picked up the slack with a 20 point game. Along with that, Kanter scored 15 points to edge the Blazers along, who were headed home with the series tied up.

Game 3 was a thriller, going into quadruple overtime and ending in a 140-137 Blazers win. Without the help of Rodney Hood, who finished with 19 points (7 of which in 4OT), the Blazers would have probably lost Game 3. McCollum tied his playoff high with 41 and Lillard had 28. For the Nuggets, Murray had a career high 34, and Jokic had 33 and a triple double, which marks his third this playoffs. Kanter added 18 points and 15 rebounds, but re-injured his shoulder during the game. This game must have been particularly tough for the fasting big man due to its length, but his contribution helped the Blazers secure the victory.

After taking a 2-1 lead in their 4OT victory, the Blazers were eyeing up a commanding 3-1 lead in Game 4. While simultaneously getting his second consecutive triple double, and fourth this postseason, Jokic led the Nuggets in a 116-112 victory against the Blazers on the road, crushing their dreams. Riding the back of Jamal Murray and his 34 point game, the Nuggets handed the Blazers their first home postseason loss of the season.

Game 5 was one of the least exciting games of the series, with the Nuggets blowing out the Blazers by a dominant 26 point margin, 98-124. Millsap was a strong player all series, averaging 19 points per game, and in Game 5, he scored 24. The Nuggets played an all around tight game in Game 5, with Murray scoring 18 and scoring 25. On top of that, Jokic tied the team’s playoff rebound record with 19. Having to control all of these different offensive players for the Nuggets is clearly taking its toll on the Blazers, but it’s also helping them prepare for the star studded Warriors.

In Game 6, Lillard brought back the fire, leading the Blazers to a 119-108 win to force Game 7. The Portland backcourt of Lillard and McCollum finished with 62 combined points, 32 and 30 respectively, and Hood added 25 off the bench. Consistent as always, Jokic had 29 points and 12 rebounds for the Nuggets, and Murray added 24.

Game 7 was another cold game for Lillard, but McCollum picked up the slack on offense and defense. Dropping 37 in the 100-96 Blazers win, McCollum pushed them on to the Western Conference Finals, their first since 2000. Murray didn’t do much for the Nuggets, going 4-18 for the night, and becoming the victim of a momentum-shifting chase down block at the hands of McCollum. The first half didn’t go too well for the Blazers, who ended up down eleven points at the half. They never gave up though, slowly coming back and finishing off the Nuggets with a strong defensive performance in the fourth quarter.

One thing NBA fans learned from this series is that the Blazers have some serious talent, and if one player doesn’t play great, there is always someone else on the roster ready to fill his spot. For example, the dynamic duo of Lillard and McCollum can always rely on each other, which can be seen all throughout this series. Even though this Blazers team is the best we’ve seen in years, they probably won’t make it past five games against the Warriors next round. This team has done what most thought they couldn’t this year, and were projected to miss the playoffs, but look where they’ve gotten already. Who’s to say they can’t do more?

 

Warriors-Rockets

Expectedly, the Warriors-Rockets series was an exciting and dramatic one. Game 1 was a 104-100 Warriors win, and  the big story for the night was the lack of calls on the Warriors over the top defense. Watching back the film, it’s clear to see that the Warriors often closed out on Rockets players, especially James Harden, more than they should have. In the first half, refs missed clear shooting foul calls where Klay Thompson came down in Harden’s landing space, which can often cause injury. Later on in the game, Harden began exaggerating his landing, which still didn’t get him the call, and led to the counterargument of Harden flopping, rather than Klay Thompson cutting off his landing zone.

Game 2 was a game of good officiating and injury. Both teams praised the improvement in the officiating compared to Game 1, and both Curry and Harden left the game for a short time due to injury. Harden suffered a hard hit to the face from Green, who was coming down off of a rebound. The hit caused bleeding in both his eyes and blurry vision. Early on in Game 2, Curry tried to steal the ball from Clint Capela on a defensive play, and dislocated his left middle finger. He left the game and came back out taped up with about 5 minutes left in the first half. The Warriors took a 2 game lead in Game 2, heading to Houston after beating the Rockets 115-109.

The Rockets beat the Warriors in overtime 126-121 in Game 3.Harden had a stellar game in Game 3, pushing through injury to score an astounding 41 points in 45 minutes. Eric Gordon, Rockets forward, also pushed the team along, with a few clutch plays and 30 points. Durant scored 46 for the Dubs, and kept them in contention the entire game. Curry, still recovering from his Game 2 finger injury, shot 7-23 in a pretty ugly performance.

In another hard fought game, Harden and the Rockets tied the series up at 2-2 after a 112-108 victory at home. Harden finished with 38 points and 10 rebounds, and Durant and Curry combined for 68 for the Warriors. Harden was the deciding factor for this series and Game 4 exemplified that. Even with two bloody eyes, Harden has continuously put the team on his back this series.

The Warriors beat the Rockets 104-99 in Game 5, setting themselves up for a 6 game series after taking a 3-2 lead. Harden had 31 points in an MVP convincing performance, but the Splash Bros and Durant had a combined score of 74 points to push the Warriors over the top. Although the Dubs took a 3-2 series lead, Durant came down with a calf strain in the third quarter and didn’t return for the rest of the series.

The Rockets headed home after game Six, losing 118-113. The game was pretty tight the entire time, but after going scoreless in the first half, Curry caught fire, scoring 33 points in the second half. Klay Thompson made up for Curry’s disappointing first half, finishing with 27 points to add to the Warrior’s lead.