Today we get the start of two series of Round II in the NBA Playoffs and here are my thoughts and bet for the series outcome.
Atlanta Hawks – Washington Wizards
Keys for Hawks to win the series
Before Game 6 in Brooklyn, I would have placed a few bucks on Wizards sweeping the series, but second half of Game 6 in Brooklyn, remind the viewers of the regular season Hawks. It starts first of all with the defense. Hawks are a good team in set offense, but good teams don’t go to Conference Finals in the NBA. They are great transition offense team though. They have almost the entire roster of players that can pick up a ball of a turnover or a rebound and take the ball all the way to the basket on the opposite end.
But that doesn’t begin to tell half the story. While they can run the ball, it’s not news that pass is much quicker than a dribble. The entire roster can also pass the ball and they aren’t selfish.
Opponents have to pick their poison. Hawks players can shoot pull up from dribble three pointers, they can go all the way to the basket, they can drive in and kick out the ball for the second echelon trailing from behind for a three point shot. GSW and Hawks are masters at three point spot up shooter in transition offense. They grab a rebound and go hard at the basket, forcing the 2 – 3 defenders that managed to rush back to defense (if any) to go to the paint, only to kick the ball out to a spot up three pointer by Korver, Scott, Carroll and many others.
Looking at Pierce, Gortat, Nene – the speed is on Hawks side without a doubt.
That brings me back to the defense. It’s very hard to go on transition offense after a basket. Two most obvious spots for such an offense is a steal or long rebound off three pointer missed by the opponent. Hawks, at their prime in the regular season, was Top 5 defensive team in the league and that made life so much easier for them.
Teams without stars, always tend to struggle in the half court offense, because they don’t have a star to bail them out and when mediocre players try to take on teh role, it often looks bad and feels sad.
In the second half against the Nets, we saw the Hawks that coach Bud wants to see. Steal and 2 seconds later basket. 20 foot jumper missed by Lopez, 7 seconds later, three pointer by Korver. Another steal, four second later, basket and one for the Hawks. That is the way second half started for the Hawks (and the Nets). Timeout Nets.
Before Hollins was forced to take another time out, Hawks stole the ball two more times and forced Nets to shoot three more three pointers and one 10 feet shot.
Notice, Hawks don’t have any presence in the paint and zero shot blockers. Their ability to force/ trick their rivals to three point shooters and ability to translate it to easy basket is the key for them.
Hawks outscored Nets in the first 6 minutes of the second half, 23 – 3, with no less than 5 steals and 7 baskets in transition offense (8 seconds or less).
If you want to know how Hawks will win this series, they don’t need to spend too much researching – just watch the first 6 minutes of the third quarter in Game 6 of Round 1 and he will get very clear idea.
One more point is Carroll. Carroll, is the ultimate hustle player. Great defender, can knock up three pointers, take the ball to the rim, find the open shooter, hustle with the best of them.
He isn’t Draymond Green, but he is same type of player. He reminds me, both by look and by style of play Crowder, just much much more talented. He was the only Hawks starter that didn’t make it to the All Star pick, but maybe the most important one in this series.
Best player by far in the series against the Nets, true glue guy and the only one that Wizards will have to find the answers for and not the other way around.
Keys for the Wizards to win the series
Here there are few points and I will start again, with a look back to the first round series between Hawks and Nets.
Best players for Nets in this series? Lopez, Young and Joe Johnson. All had size advantage over their rival and all took the ball to the paint. Johnson had the size and the experience, but if you compare him to Pierce, he is a small boy. Pierce has much much more experience and even more size. Gortat and Nene even bigger and post oriented with bigger experience in the playoffs than Young and Lopez.
Hawks have zero shot blockers and Horford and Millsap seriously undersized against any team left standing.
Hawks almost won last year’s series against the Pacers, but forcing their basketball on the Pacers. Wizards will have to be the ones that will send Coach Bud looking for solution and not the other way around.
Wittman is a bad coach, so it’s a very bad idea to have him forced to respond and if you allow Hawks to play their basketball, it’s impossible to stop them.
The problem for the Hawks, that like the Rockets, they are pretty one sided team. Force Korver off three point line and force him to dribble, don’t be tricked to close the paint too much and always remember that Hawks starters all can hit three pointer or at least mid range shot and any team will be fine.
I really don’t see Hawks dealing with Wizards in set offense. Wall is on another level defense wise this Playoffs, Pierce is a very small player that should be able to hide, at least partially, his lack of speed.
Wizards need to play smart on offense, to remember that every turnover and every missed three pointer can very easily be a basket on the other in few seconds.
Wizards are the better team, with better match ups, with more experience, better rest and look much more ready for the EC Finals.
Hawks will need the Wizards to shoot themselves in the leg or reinvent themselves to have a real shot at the series.
You can’t really dismiss chances of top seed playing against fifth seed, but this one as close as they come to complete domination of a lower seed, without any injuries for both teams.
Hawks have a chance to win the series, but both teams will have to play like in regular season and while Hawks will try to come as close as they can to regular season performances, Wizards have no reason to go there.
Wizards are 7 – 1 on the road the last two years in the playoffs, so no reason to think that they won’t be able to win at least 1 – 2 games in Atlanta.
4 – 2 is the most obvious outcome for the Wizards, but I will take the great odds on Wizards to win the series without trying to guess the score.
Wizards to win the series, 3.20 odds – 10 units play – Pinnacle
Golden State Warriors – Memphis Grizzlies
With Conley out for several games of the series or at least playing with broken face and that got to force Conley to some adjustments, GSW should roll.
Teams met three times and while GSW won the series 2 – 1, with Memphis winning by 7 points the first encounter at home, but GSW won by 23 and 4 points in the last month of the season (23 in Memphis and 4 at home).
Keys for GSW to win the series
I don’t want to take credit of other’s work and to be honest, there is much much greater article that will answer this, than anything that I could write.
Here is the link:
Keys for Memphis to win the series
I would like to go back to the first game between the teams and the only one that Memphis won.
GSW came winning 16 games in a row, biggest streak for the franchise.
It was huge game for both teams and Memphis came out on top.
They won, despite playing still with Prince, before Green trade, that improved Memphis offense by a lot.
Memphis made 20 – 0 run to start the second quarter and obviously that is what won them the game, but I would like obviously to go a bit deeper in to that.
Curry finished the game with 1 from 10 behind three point line. Obviously you can’t stop Curry, so he had very bad night, but it’s not the only reason. Grizzlies decided that they will allow any other player to win them, but not Curry. They went hard on him, sometimes, in P&R situation, both defenders went after Curry, leaving the second player open. Obviously that led to few easy baskets, but with at least one big man still protecting the rim (usually Gasol) Memphis still did decent defense in such spots.
But, taking out Curry out of the game, ruined the entire game plan for the Warriors. Curry had +16 in +/- column for that game, while Thompson had -17, but that’s just lying. I watched that game, after betting the Grizzlies and it was obvious that Warriors were forced to improvise almost the entire night, sending Thompson to a great night against the Grizzlies (and he was amazing against the Grizzlies overall this season).
That’s the key to the series. With or without Conley, Warriors are too good on offense for the Grizzlies. They got tons of shooters, they are willing passers and they will find the open man in the end.
You got to do new things – show GSW something they didn’t see before. Force Kerr, for the first time this season, to really find ways to improve team’s offense.
Carter is huge for this series, as he is the veteran, the one that almost won Dallas – Spurs series last year and one that can carry Grizzlies offense and the difference maker.
If I’m Grizzlies, I would focus on Green on both sides of the floor. Green is the glue guy of the team. He can do everything good (nothing great though) and causing him foul trouble and forcing him to be a non factor on offense, can really mess up GSW flow.
I wouldn’t switch defenders in Warriors P&R sets. Yes – that opens a chance that we will see 50 points games from Curry or Thompson, but on the other hand, if 2 – 3 first shots will go out, GSW will have to be looking for new schemes on offense and Kerr didn’t have to improvise that much, in his first and only year as head coach.
I would also try to play with different units. Calathes and Allen can’t be on the floor together. The same for Carter and Udrih. One is too easy to guard, other is too easy to attack.
Green will have to remind people, why he in the beginning was suppose to be Durant’s Pippen and not Westbrook.
Obviously the plan that I wrote for Memphis won’t work in 9 out of 10 times, at least (not one game, but for the whole series that is).
Memphis scored well in two out of three games against GSW, but really struggled on defense and I don’t see it changing too much.
Without Conley, it will be a slaughter. Memphis are great team with so much experience, that they can force close games, but to keep it close and to win, are entirely different things.
I like Over chances here in many games, but games wise, GSW 4 – 1 is the most obvious option, but the odds are terrible. If we had 3.50 odds – it would have been worth a shot, but not for 2.50 odds.
I will be rooting for the underdog here, but I realize that the chances are slim here.
I will be almost shocked to see Memphis win two games in this series, unless Conley is back and to the fullest.
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Best of luck everybody!!!