The opening round of the NBA playoffs has gone as expected with the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets jumping out to 2-0 leads in their respective series. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers have won their first two games against the Indiana Pacers as their two biggest perceived challengers in the Eastern Conference have struggled early on. Here is a look at the NBA top five power rankings for this week.
1. Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 1
NBA Championship Odds: -175
The Warriors are coming off a 29-point win over the Portland Trail Blazers without Kevin Durant. Portland is a tough opponent, but they don’t seem to have a shot against Golden State right now. Stephen Curry needed only 19 points in that victory as Klay Thompson, Javale McGee and Zaza Pachulia all pitched in with double-digit point totals. Meanwhile, Draymond Green had six points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and three blocks in the win. The Warriors are playing at an elite level right now and the fact that they will avoid the Spurs and Rockets in the second round makes them that much more dangerous as championship contenders.
2. San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 2
NBA Championship Odds: +750
San Antonio has held Memphis to 82 points in each of its first two wins in the series but lost Game 3.. Kawhi Leonard set the bar in game two with a playoff career-high 37 points and 11 rebounds as the Spurs cruised to a double-digit victory. Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale has been critical of the officiating in the series but San Antonio deserves credit. The Spurs have won 10 of their last 11 postseason games against Memphis and before Game 3, they had led for all but 13 seconds in game two. The Spurs will have to be wary of the opponent that awaits them in the second round but they should be able to get there without too many problems.
3. Houston Rockets
Last Week: 3
NBA Championship Odds: +1400
Russell Westbrook scored 51 points with 13 assists, 10 rebounds and four steals in game two against Houston on Wednesday night. It didn’t matter though since Oklahoma City lost. The Rockets hung around with Oklahoma City for four quarters and when Westbrook finally cooled off in the fourth they finished the job. James Harden had 35 points in the win. Eric Gordon and Lou Williams combined for 43 off the bench. Houston is getting strong contributions across the board and can’t afford to let up with the series shifting to Oklahoma City. Harden should be motivated over these next two games in particular. The Rockets need to continue to play with a sense of urgency in order to finish off the Thunder and stay fresh for their second round series.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 4
NBA Championship Odds: +350
For all of the talk about the importance of the Celtics finishing first in the Eastern Conference and clinching home advantage, it seems like the outlook has changed drastically this week. Boston dropped its first two games against the Chicago Bulls, while Cleveland is out to a 3-0 lead against the Pacers. The Cavaliers understand they have a long road ahead of them. Like the other teams on this list, they want to take care of business efficiently in order to stay fresh. Paul George will continue to do his best to delay the inevitable. However, as long as LeBron and this group stays healthy they will remain the favorites to emerge out of the Eastern Conference. It also helps that the Toronto Raptors have looked terrible, so the Cavs could have an easy path to the NBA finals.
5. Boston Celtics
Last Week: 5
NBA Championship Odds: +5000
The Celtics are in a tough spot following an unpredictably awful week. First, they were matched up with the eighth-seeded Bulls, which is probably the toughest opponent they could have played. Then before their series opener, the younger sister of their leader Isaiah Thomas passed away in a terrible car crash. After falling down 0-2 to Chicago, Thomas flew home to be with his family before joining the team for game three. The circumstances couldn’t be worse for a Boston team that finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and suddenly their backs against the wall. The Celtics still have the talent to rally back and win the series. However, they are in a tough spot and it’s just as likely they suffer disappointing playoff exit that happens a lot sooner than anybody would have imagined it would.
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