The first round of the NBA playoffs, days ago, looked to be a chalk fest. Save for the intriguing showdown between the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers — a pairing talented enough for a conference finals meeting — we looked to be in for a collection of potential sweeps.
Then, things got interesting. The Atlanta Hawks, who have largely not looked like supermen since their dominant winter, started to slip against a resurgent Deron Williams, who led the Brooklyn Nets with 35 points last night, bringing their series to a 2-2 tie after a second-straight home victory.
The Chicago Bulls began to look unsure of themselves in the task of closing out the young Milwaukee Bucks, who have suddenly developed into poised, shrewd killers in elimination games. After falling down 3-0, Jason Kidd’s squad has won two straight and made the Windy City quite nervous as the series heads back to Milwaukee 3-2 on Thursday.
Closing teams out, even if you’re the better group, is hard. Like the Bulls and Hawks, the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies are seeing that too, dropping sweep opportunities against the the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers, respectively. Veterans and newcomers alike have trouble putting their foot down on the opponent’s neck with finality, and sending their colleagues home for a long, reflective summer.
The Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards, thus, look all the more impressive for being able to complete their bits of postseason euthanasia swiftly. John Wall and Steph Curry catalyzed their teams to sweeps of the Toronto Raptors and New Orleans, and now both survivors sit pretty as they await the arrival of second-round foes who are still ensconced in early struggles.
Now, to see if rest or momentum holds the greater benefit for our remaining title contenders.
— John Wilmes