NBA Playoffs: Action heating up in second round

Adam Zalewski, Staff Writer

     Eight teams down, seven more to go.

     After the completion of the first round of the NBA playoffs, the field of teams has been narrowed down to eight. We say goodbye to teams such as the plucky Grizzlies and overachieving Bulls, but most of the fan favorites are still in  good position to compete for a title. In fact, there was only one “upset” in the first round of the playoffs, but even that was barely a true upset. The Utah Jazz defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in their first round matchup, with the Clippers being the four seed in the Western Conference and the Jazz being the five seed. The Jazz had held the fourth seed in the West for much of the season before slipping up at the end. Even so, they were able to win a game seven in the Staples Center and advance on to the next round.

     Speaking of the Jazz, they will face the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. The Jazz had more than enough to squeak by the banged up Clippers, but they will have a tough task in the Warriors, who should be able to roll out a rested Kevin Durant. Durant took off several games in the Trailblazers series to rest a minor calf injury. Steve Kerr will not be policing the sidelines during this series, as he is experiencing complications from back surgery, with symptoms including spasms and vertigo. Mike Brown will be the man at the helm of Golden State, and with his prior experiences with the Lakers, should have an easy-enough time dispatching the Jazz in order to move on to face either the Rockets or the Spurs.

     On Monday night, the Rockets made a big statement in beating the Spurs soundly in San Antonio. The Rockets lead this one wire to wire and were up almost 40 points in the fourth quarter. This is an embarrassing loss for a proud franchise, but I expect the Spurs to bounce back and win game two. The game was lost in the second quarter for the Spurs, where they shot 5-23 and only managed to put up 16 points. This is an aberration for a normally potent offense, and with Greg Popovich rallying the troops, San Antonio feels very confident that they will be able to win one away at Houston to steal back homcourt advantage and win the series.

     Moving over to the Eastern side of the bracket, last year’s champions look to be finally hitting their stride in an easy win over Toronto. LeBron paced the Cavs with 35 points, and even considered downing a beer after being fouled, as he playfully grabbed a bottle from a server that was passing by near the court. All kidding aside, the Cavaliers looked well-rested and in-sync, as they did not commit a turnover at all in the second quarter and went into halftime leading by 14 points. The Raptors, who just came to Cleveland after a surprisingly tough series against the Milwaukee Bucks, will need more from DeMar DeRozan, who only managed 19 points while having a +/- rating of -32 during his minutes on the court.

     The last second round playoff matchup features the Washington Wizards against the Boston Celtics. This game was a tale of two halves, as the Wizards looked to be in control in the first half before the Celtics rallied to cruise into a comfortable victory in game one. Al Horford missed a triple-double by one assist, and Isaiah Thomas lost his front tooth on some inadvertent contact. Thomas has being dealing with issue after issue, as he lost his sister in a tragic car accident before the playoffs began. He got back to Boston at 4 a.m. the day of the game against the Wizards, but he played full of energy. The Basketball Power Index doesn’t give the Wizards much of a chance to win the series, giving the Celtics a 74% chance to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.