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States of Fear in the NBA Playoffs

by Photo of Ankit Ahuja

Injuries and some surprising play have potentially shifted the balance of power in the NBA Playoffs.

States of Fear in the NBA Playoffs

At this point in the postseason, most teams know who they are. They have a sense of their strengths, limitations and what they have to do moving forward. With the first round nearing an end, the games are only going to get more meaningful and more physical. A couple of teams stand out over these first two weeks, but team dynamics are shifting based on what's happened so far. Let's take a look at where things stand at the moment in both conferences.

No Worries

Golden State Warriors

The best team all year can sit back and relax for a little longer before the second round starts. There is no reason for the Warriors to worry right now. Their next opponent will be the Memphis Grizzlies, who they beat three out of four times in the regular season. The Warriors are really rolling, and although Memphis is a gritty team, they are dealing with some injury issues. All is well in Oakland. 

Houston Rockets

The Rockets just manhandled the Dallas Mavericks, so they should be feeling pretty good right now. Dwight Howard finished the deciding game with 18 points and 19 rebounds and is starting to look like his old self. His effectiveness, along with Harden's continued magnificence, makes Houston trouble for anyone. Everything is clicking right now in H-Town, and they have some time to prepare for their next opponent, the Spurs or the Clippers.

Washington Wizards

I could not believe the pounding the Wizards put on the Raptors in their first round series. The Wizards laid waste to Toronto in their four-game sweet, getting strong play from starters and role players alike. They are clicking at the perfect time, with all of their pieces playing well. Paul Pierce looks like he teleported back to 2008, and John Wall looks like he is a legitimate MVP candidate. Another thing going for the Wizards is that their next opponent, either the Hawks or Nets, can be beaten. 

Some Concerns

Cleveland Cavaliers

Even though the Cavaliers swept the Celtics, they were hit with some bad news. Star power forward Kevin Love has a separated shoulder and torn ligaments, and his season is over. It's a shame that the injury bug rises in the playoffs, but Cleveland can still make the finals without him. Also hurting Cleveland's depth is J.R. Smith's suspension for the first two games of the next round.

Cleveland will match up with the Chicago Bulls who possess great size in the next round. Although the Cavs should be worried, they still have the best player in the world and one of the best guards in the league in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. This will be an excellent test for Cleveland.

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls made things a bit more interesting than they had to be against Milwaukee. The Bulls just didn't look like they wanted it enough at times. The Bucks outplayed them in games four and five, but Chicago left nothing to chance in game six with a 120-66 thrashing. It was quite an exclamation point for Chicago, who needs to play with that kind of intensity and urgency against the Cavaliers. The Bulls will have an early advantage against Cleveland with their overall depth and will have a good chance to steal home court advantage from the Cavs. 

Los Angeles Clippers

Before last night, LA would have been in the "Terrified" section, but a road win in game six to tie the series shifts all of the power to the Clippers. They get to return to the Staples Center, and although they fell to the Spurs there in game five, they didn't have Chris Paul playing like he did last night. Paul was sensational in the second half, and he finished the game with 19 points and 15 assists. San Antonio's ability to win on the road is troubling, but the Clippers are playing with house money right now.

Terrified

Atlanta Hawks

The best team in the East is on the ropes. They hold a 3-2 edge over Brooklyn, but the advantage is slight. Plain and simple: Atlanta hasn't played a complete game yet. They barely won their first two games at home, and lost both in Brooklyn. While game five was much closer to the Hawks team we've seen this year, it's an awfully small sample size. Brooklyn has defended the perimeter extremely well, and Atlanta has not been able to counter. The Hawks have a chance to close things out tonight, but their play throughout the series makes that anything but a given.

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs won a great game in Los Angeles last night to go home with a 3-2 advantage, but then they dropped a potential clincher at home to the Clippers last night. Now they have to win the deciding game seven on the road, which history tells us happens only 20% of the time. You know what you're going to get out of Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan at this point, but the other half of San Antonio's Big Four has had trouble getting it going all series. The Spurs need a strong effort from Tony Parker and for Manu Ginobili to come up big off the bench.


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