There have been some incredibly great plays made during these NBA’s Western Conference playoffs. High alleys from Rajon Rondo to Anthony Davis against the Portland Trailblazers and the Golden State Warriors. The Donovan Mitchell single-hand slam in the fourth quarter over three Houston Rockets after rebounding his own missed jumper in Game 2 of the Jazz-Rockets semifinals.
There’s been a 20-point quarter by Klay Thompson, 40-point games by Davis, Jrue Holiday, James Hardin and Chris Paul, Rondo’s record number of assists, multiple triple-doubles, double-doubles and one unexpected series sweep, but no buzzer beaters like the two made by LeBron James last week in Games 2 and 3 in the Eastern Conference series between his Cleveland Cavaliers team and the Toronto Raptors that would cause the opposing team’s front office to seriously consider why they’re employing their current head coach.
The Utah Jazz and New Orleans Pelicans semifinal series losses were losses, but respectable ones. The Jazz, a 4-seed in five games to the Houston Rockets, the best team on record this season, 65-17, and the Pelicans, a 6-seed, also in five to the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors, the third best team during the regular season, 58 and 24, second best in the Western Conference. It’s now one versus two, Houston versus Golden State, in the conference finals beginning Monday. The Rockets will have home court advantage in the seven-game marquee series.
During the regular season, Golden State and Houston played three times. The Rockets took two of the three. All of the wins by both teams were on the road. A narrow, 122-121 Houston win in October, opening night of the season, and a 116-108 win in January. Golden State’s one win was a 124-114 victory at the start of this year. In the three games, Houston averaged 117.333 points per game, Golden State, 117.666. In Game 1, Kevin Durant’s game-winning at the buzzer shot was nullified for being a split second late, giving the first game to Houston.
During the first round, the Rockets, the 1-seed, defeated the 8-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves in five games averaging 110.4 points, giving up 101.6. Their highest total scored in the five games was 122, with 105 the lowest in the Game 3 loss. Their greatest margin of victory was 20 points in Game 2.
Against the Jazz, the 4-seed, Houston became more efficient, holding Utah to 98.6 points per game, scoring 108.6. Their greatest margin of victory was 21 points, their lowest, 10. Houston’s best output was 113 in Game 3. Their least amount of points scored was 100, a win while holding Utah to 87 in Game 4.
Like Houston, Golden State had a similar journey. During the first round of their postseason, they defeated the 7-seeded San Antonio Spurs in five games averaging 105.6 points, giving up 96.8. Their greatest number of points scored, 116. Their lowest, 90, in a Game 4 loss. Their greatest margin of victory was 21.
Against the New Orleans Pelicans, Golden State averaged 115 points in five games, giving up 106.4. Their greatest number of points scored was 123 in Game 1, a 22-point margin of victory. Their least, 100. They had a 19-point road loss in Game 3 before their best game of the series, a 26-point road victory over the Pelicans in Game 4.
Both Houston and Golden State concluded their semifinal series Tuesday night. Houston defeating the Jazz 112-102, Golden State defeating the Pelicans 113-104. Both home wins.
Golden State will have the full services of Stephen Curry, who was hampered by injuries at the end of the season, preventing him from playing against San Antonio in Round 1 and the first game of the 5-game Pelicans semifinal series.
Since his return in the semifinals, Game 2, hitting his first three taken off a Draymond Green assist, Curry has averaged 24.5 points, 3.5 assists and 5.25 rebounds in 31.25 minutes of play in the four games.
“Timing could still get a little bit better with the ball and things,” said Curry. “I’ll continue to get better, continue to get my timing right, continue to get back to the normal rotation, the normal minutes I’m out there playing.”