How the Conference Finals have exposed each team
As one Conference Finals is set to go to Game 7 and the other appears destined to follow suit, we have seen somewhat of an oddity when it comes to late-stage playoffs: bad basketball. Each of the four teams that remain have certainly had their share of troubles, and it leaves us with a rather interesting rest of the playoffs. Will the Warriors return to former glory? Will LeBron have to carry the Cavs to a title? Will the rising Celtics figure out their road woes? And will the Rockets stop playing so much defense and go back to a superpowered offense? I’m really just here to look at each team’s struggles, being my usual cynical self. And did you see what they said about the baseballs!.....
Golden State Warriors
Oh my Lawd. These Warriors could easily be mistaken for the Orlando Magic or Chicago Bulls if it weren’t for the fact that they have three of the last four MVPs on their roster. It seems the dominant theme in both Conference Finals is heavy isolation basketball that usually results in a contested three pointer. The Warriors seem to be trying to beat Houston at their own game, a silly strategy considering Golden State’s patented ball movement formula has won them two championships, and the futility of this endeavor is quite obvious; the Warriors went from averaging over 110 points per game in their first two series to averaging just 93 in their past two (both of which have really epitomized their shift to poor basketball). They seem lost as a team, and they are defaulting to handing Kevin Durant the ball in the post, which I would say is normally an effective method if he is willing to pass and his teammates are willing to get open, something that hasn’t happened in those past two games. All it would really take for these Warriors to win the series would be get back to what they’ve been doing for four years now (or a key player on the Rockets get injured…………)
They’ve been spectacular at home this postseason, sporting a perfect 10-0 record to go with a +115 point differential on 46% shooting. The road has been a different story for them. Their record is 1-7, their point differential is -94, and their shooting percentage is 42.0. Luckily for them they’ve had home court advantage throughout the Playoffs (thanks to the inept Raptors), so that perfect home record (if it stays intact through Game 7, which I imagine it will now that Kevin Love is out) will be enough to carry them to their first Finals appearance since 2010. However, whether it be Houston or Golden State, the Celtics would be the road team, meaning they would have to steal at least one game from their Western foe’s home ground.
It looked like it was the Rockets year, and in many respects it was, mainly the fact that they posted an NBA-best 65-17 record. They went on to cruise through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but thing have taken a slight turn in the Conference Finals. Much like the Warriors, they’ve had a few good game and a few bad games, and much like the Warriors they have failed to score over 100 points in the last two games after easily averaging much more than that up until that point. Their iso-ball strategy has started to stagnate thanks to a sub-43% shooting effort and a 33.5% efficiency from deep. James Harden hasn’t even made a quarter of his three point attempts in this series, and the stabilizing Chris Paul is now possibly out for the remainder. Houston has started to drive the lane more in lieu of these circumstances, but we all know their claim to fame is their shooting, so they’d better find it again soon.
The story is obvious here. LeBron runs the team and has practically dragged them through the entire regular and post seasons. In these Playoffs, James has accounted for over 33% of his team’s points, 22% of their rebounds, 46% of their assists, 25% of their steals, 22% of their blocks, 42% of their free throw attempts, and 29% of their shots. So yeah.