The conference semifinals of the NBA playoffs can finally begin, starting off with the #1 seeds in both conferences. The Atlanta Hawks host the Washington Wizards, followed by the Golden State Warriors playing against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Despite the Grizzlies sitting at the number 2 seed for most of the season, they probably aren’t the biggest threat to the Warriors in this postseason. The Grizzlies won the first of three regular season meetings against the Warriors, but might be in quite an ordeal if Mike Conley can’t play. It’s not just his defense and ability that’ll be missing. It’s a problem going up with Beno Udrih and Nick Calathes against Stephen Curry and one of the deepest benches in the league.
There’s no real key, but there are numbers that matter. The Warriors are a better shooting team than the Grizzlies, although not by much in this postseason: 44.9% from the field, 37.9% from beyond the arc. Memphis haven’t been far off: 43.8% from the field, 37.1% from beyond the arc. Keeping those numbers close and especially the 3-point range figure will make this series more interesting than the previous ones for both these teams.
This means Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and Vince Carter playing to the top of their level and beyond. Lee had a good series against the Blazers, scoring 17.2 points per game. Jeff Green was limited to just 9.2 points and 26.9% from the field. Abysmal numbers, and disastrous now that Conley isn’t playing. Vince Carter wasn’t a factor until the closing game, and the Grizzlies need him to make ti a nightly thing.
Golden State are the favorites, and don’t need to change much. Curry was on fire in the first series with 33.8 points, followed by Klay Thompson with 25 a night. Draymond Green has been doing everything on both ends of the floor. Their defense wasn’t perfect in the series against the Pelicans, but they’re probably going to need to win those battles in the paint quite often against Gasol and Randolph in order to make sure the offense runs smoothly as in the first round.
Wizards vs Hawks
One thing we learned from these teams first round series is that regular season results mean nothing. The Hawks swept the Nets in the regular season but had a lot of trouble with them, winning their #1vs#8 series in six games. The Wizards failed to be the Toronto Raptors during the regular season, but swept by them with ease in the first round. Playoffs basketball is very different.
The Wizards shot a lot better than the Hawks in the first round, and that kind of difference, unless the Hawks manage to set the kind of pace they were able to in the final game of their series against the Nets (which means scoring at around 110 points a game), is going to be disastrous. The Wizards shot 48.2% from the field and 44.3% from beyond the arc. Paul Pierce, Otto Porter and Drew Gooden were especially efficient, all making those shots at 50% or better.
The Hawks, often caught up in the slow pace the Nets were trying to dictate, didn’t get the kind of open looks in transition they’re used to. They shot 44.1% from the field and 35.4% from beyond the arc. Only once Jeff Teague plays running and not walking do things start looking good for the Hawks, who will try to make it a fast paced series, and not about grinding the ball in the paint against Marcin Gortat and Nene.