June 24, 2017 | 6:16 pm
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Spurs and Celtics shine in NBA conference semis

In the NBA Eastern Conference, all signs point to the Boston Celtics and the Cleveand Cavaliers coming together in the conference Finals, and although they’re struggled at first, it’s looking like the Spurs will defeat the Rockets to face off against the Golden State Warriors in the West. I have to admit that I was hoping to see the Jazz be more competitive with the Warriors, but alas, the super team seems to be charging ahead toward the Finals.

Two matchups have stood out to me in this series, and I’m glad to see some new teams in the mix trying to break up the Cavaliers/Golden State Warriors regime. The Spurs had a meltdown of epic proportions in game one against the Houston Rockets setting a record for the worst playoff series opening loss for the organization. Houston had six players in double figures and went 22 for 50 from the three-point line backed by incredible defense that has been nonexistent for the Rockets until Coach Mike D’Antoni came to town. The Rockets led by as much as 40 points before ultimately beating the Spurs by 27. Coach Gregg Popovich made his usual concise post-game analysis stating that the Rockets simply played better.

 

 

I was confident that the Spurs would level themselves in game two and that Houston’s good luck from downtown wouldn’t last. That’s exactly what happened and the Spurs were subsequently able to capture games 2 & 3 leading the series 2-1. I believe we will see the Spurs take this series, but as the post-season plays out I’m worried this team doesn’t have enough help alongside Kawhi Leonard to bring home a championship. Tim Duncan’s retirement left a void for the Spurs not only statistically, but as the calming presence the team relied upon in moments of fierce competition. Leonard is certainly a team leader, but I’m still waiting to see if he will develop an assassin’s mentality in this playoff series. Sometimes this kind of grit comes from being under extreme pressure and it will be of interest to see if Leonard blossoms as the Spurs move through the playoffs.

Back East, the Boston Celtics are writing quite a story for the NBA history books. In game 2 against the Washington Wizards, Isaiah Thomas had a career night with 53 points after spending several hours at the dentist getting a bridge after extensive dental damage in game one. Thomas’ 53 points is the second highest scoring record in Celtics playoff history. Thomas’ career night coincided with what would have been his sister’s 23rd birthday. His sister was killed in a car accident just before playoffs began, and the Celtics struggled to gain their composure in round one. They finally found their groove and they appear to have gained strength in the midst of their tragedy and they’re building momentum.

Boston leads the series against Washington 2-1, but they’re coming off a 27-point loss in Game 3 where they allowed the Wizards to go on a 22-0 scoring run. Game 3 was packed with drama complete with 8 technical fouls and three ejections, and Thomas was held to just 13 points. As a team the Celtics shot just 35.1%, but a two-day break will allow everyone a chance to cool off and get back to work. As with the Rockets/Spurs Game 1 apocalypse, the Celtics will calibrate to avoid another horrible shooting performance. I was already rooting for the Celtics this year and I’m in their corner hoping to see them make it to the Finals.

As always, time will tell what plays out in the coming weeks, but if you’re like me you’re excited to see things shake up with new teams in line for the title. Few things interest me less than seeing than the Cavs and the Warriors back at it in the NBA Finals.

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