While we await the outcome of two of the Eastern Conference first round matchups, all of the Western first round has now been decided and it has left us with two mouth-watering matchups. We take a look at both of the Western Conference 2nd Round matchups and give our tips below.
The Rockets were fantastic in their Round 1 matchup against the Timberwolves, dropping only one game away from home as James Harden continued his MVP form from the regular season. The star shooting guard averaged 29 points and over 7 assists in the series and should be hard to stop again as he lines up against a offensive minded backcourt of Donovan Mitchall and Ricky Rubio.
One thing that will definitely be a deterrent for the Harden, however, will be the presence of Rudy Gobert at the rim. A defensive player of the year candidate for the last few years, Gobert might not have stuffed the stat sheet in the Jazz’ series win over OKC, but he was instrumental in keeping them under 103 points on three out of six games.
Utah’s issue here will definitely be their ability to score at the rate of Houston. All through the regular season, the Jazz struggled to reach 100 points on a nightly basis, and they come up against the highest scoring offence in the league. Gobery will be a deterrent for Harden and co at the rim, but they will likely exploit him by playing a small line-up at times that will see him forced out the perimeter to cover the likes of Ryan Anderson.
The Rockets start as hot favourites for the one and although the Jazz caused a great upset in Round 1, I can’t see them doing the same against the might of the Rockets. Houston just have too many great role players surrounding Harden that all have the potential of big games, while Utah rely too heavily on rookie Donovan Mitchell for scoring output. The Rockets three point shooting might be off one night so I like a 4-1 score line here.
The Pelicans produced one of the best playoff performances of the first round as they downed the higher seeded Portland Trail Blazers in just four games. Anthony Davis played like arguably the best player in the league throughout the series, averaging 33 points and 12 rebounds while Jrue Holiday announced himself as an elite point guard in the NBA as he dominated Damian Lillard on both ends of the floor.
Golden State were impressive too, beating the San Antonio Spurs in five games although the Spurs never really looked in the contest without their star forward Kawhi Leonard. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson had to carry the scoring load for the Warriors and will need to again as star point guard Steph Curry will likely remain on the sidelines for at least the first few games.
I think the Pelicans are a bigger sniff than most people think here. Without Curry to worry about, Jrue Holiday will be able to give all of his defensive attention to Klay Thompson, and Anthony Davis might just be the best player in the series.
Where the Pelicans could struggle is their ability to stop Kevin Durant. They are really short at both guard positions and don’t boast a lot of defensive length at the small forward position. However, I think they are going to be really competitive here, and love the +2.5 game line for them.
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