The four conference semifinals series of the 2017 NBA playoffs can be split into two: Those with a very clear winner en route to the next round (Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors) and those that are probably going to take a bit longer to decide (Rockets vs Spurs, Wizards vs Celtics).
One thing linking all the series up until now is the one-sided scorelines in all 11 games we’ve had up to this point, which comes in contrast to a first round picture which didn’t necessarily mean 7 games every time, but clashes that were a lot closer within the confines of the 48 minutes.
Take the Cavaliers in the East for example. The defending NBA champions and #2 seed once again show that their coasting in the regular season (under .500 since the All-Star break) has nothing to do with their playoff form. They’re up 3-0 against the Toronto Raptors (a team that took ’em to 6 games last year in the conference finals), with LeBron James having a huge postseason, averaging 34.2 points per game and 36.3 points in the series against Toronto.
What’s more worrying for the rest of the NBA and especially the East is how easy it’s been for them: Their 11-point win in game 1 was the closest game in the series. They’ve followed it up with 22-point and 21-point victories. One win away from the conference finals, the Cavaliers have yet to lose a playoff game in 2017.
The other Eastern series is closer (Celtics lead 2-1 over the Wizards) and filled with a lot more animosity, but it hasn’t had any nail biters either: The Celtics won the first two games by 12 and 10 points. The Wizards got themselves back in the series with a 27-point beatdown in D.C., with one more game to go there before switching back to Boston.
In the West, the Warriors are also 6-0 in the postseason, with five of their six wins in double figures. They haven’t been blowing out the Utah Jazz, but both of their wins against a team that hasn’t been past the first round in almost a decade have come by 12 and 11 points. Right now, it’s hard to see anyone even beating the Warriors in a game, let alone an entire series.
The Spurs and Rockets have been putting on a strong series so far, which can very well go the distance (Spurs lead 2-1). However, the games haven’t been close. The Rockets opened the series with a 27-point win in San Antonio. The Spurs responded by winning game by 25 points, and took control of the series with an 11-point win in Houston in game 3.
Not every double digit win is the same, and plenty of wins under 15-points come after long, hard fought basketball battles for most of the 48 minutes. But for those looking for some late drama in their playoffs, they haven’t been getting any of it since the end of the first round. That doesn’t mean it isn’t coming soon, but for now, the ongoing series lack the suspense that makes playoff basketball so special.
This isn’t so different from the 2016 NBA finals: Besides game 7 (93-89 to the Cavs), all the games in the series were double-digit wins.