Four teams remain as the NBA playoffs second round concludes, giving way to the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.
Many NBA fans will tell you that the second round matchups ended predictably. In the West, the 1 seed Houston Rockets knocked off a tough young Utah Jazz squad 4-1. The Golden State Warriors, now fully healthy with the return of Steph Curry, defeated Anthony Davis' New Orleans Pelicans 4-1 as well.
In the Eastern Conference side of things, one constant has remained predictable over the last decade; LeBron James own the East until further notice.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have bumped the Toronto Raptors from the playoffs for three straight years. They made a clean 4-0 sweep of them this year despite a franchise best 59 wins and a 1 seed for the Raps. The Boston Celtics bounced the Philadelphia 76ers last night in a thriller (4-1) despite losing Kyrie Irving to surgery before the playoffs.
This was a relatively quick second round, considering the seven-game-series format for all four matchups. One sweep and three 4-1 victories means a little break and then to the Conference Finals.
What to watch for in the ECF and WCF
Games resume this Sunday, May 13th with the Cavs in Boston for game one. The Celtics are lacking their biggest stars in Irving and Gordon Hayward due to injuries, but have been as tough as anyone. The scrappyness of Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and rookie Jayson Tatum paired with the steadying hand of veteran Al Horford has made for a lethal combination.
For the Cavs, this is likely the weakest squad LeBron has had in years. That hasn't slowed him down though, as a he personally sliced through a tough Raptors squad like butter. The winner in the East will have a brief celebration as they enter the NBA Finals as severe underdogs.
Many pundits agree that the winner of the Rockets/Warriors series will with the NBA Finals as well. Both teams, especially at full strength, are offensive juggernauts with improved defenses to boot.
The Western Conference Championship will be must-see-basketball. The reigining champion Warriors return the same four All-Stars that led them last year. The Rockets sport two unproven (in the playoffs) All-Stars in James Harden and Chris Paul. This is Paul's first WCF despite his successes with the Clippers previously.
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