Three games into each conference finals series, it is hard to get excited about the eventual NBA Finals matchup.
Over in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics certainly stunned everyone by taking an early 2-0 lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers. After the Cavs sweep of the Raptors, it seemed somewhat a foregone conclusion that the veteran team would be able to defeat the Celtics in short order.
However, the Cavs issues that they have had all playoffs and regular season have reared their head again. The athleticism of the Celtics took over in the first few games, as the Cavs role players really do not have a lot to fall back on if they are taken out of their games. If defenders can disrupt the Kyle Korver/Kevin Love two-man game, neither player really can take anyone off the dribble. If George Hill and J.R. Smith are not hitting their three-pointers or able to attack the basket, they are essentially pylon waiting to pass the ball around the perimeter. The smaller lineups that the Cavs run out just get worked by the Celtics.
Of course, in Game 3 the Cavs were able to blow out the Celtics. I would not be surprised if the Cavs are able to right the ship and eventually win this series. They still have LeBron James and, at least for this year still, that may be all that matters in the Eastern Conference.
The problem is what is happening in the Western Conference between the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors. The Rockets essentially spent the entire last year preparing for this moment. They went out and got a few veteran 3-and-D players in Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker, while also pulling off the blockbuster Chris Paul deal. If anyone in the NBA could take on the behemoth, it was this team. The Rockets can shoot threes at a high rate, play defense across the board, and play at any style with their diverse skill sets across personnel.
Three games into the series, it does not look like it matters.
The Warriors are simply too good and when one of their guys goes supernova, there goes the ball game. It is absolutely crazy that the most realistic way for the Rockets to have won this series, the entire rationale for how someone can beat the Warriors, is to aim for that 20 percent chance that three-point shooting variance can tip in your favor in four out of seven games. That’s it. That is basically the only way to do it.
The Rockets have not had those odds go their way, have had Mbah a Moute come back poorly after a shoulder injury, and are getting run out of the gym. This is a series that could easily end up a gentleman’s sweep in 5 games.
Assuming the Warriors win the series, they should quickly demolish whoever comes out of the East. The Cavs will be lucky to survive the Eastern Conference and LeBron can only drag them so far. If the Celtics do win, it would be improbable that this young of a team could play up to the Warriors level in a finals matchup.
So what is left? If the team that is constructed purposefully to battle the Warriors cannot come close, what hope does the rest of the NBA have to truly compete for a title? Is Boston the only team next year that can do it?
Last summer there was an arms race across the Western Conference. No one was seemingly backing down from the challenge of the Warriors. After what looks like utter destruction this year, it will be interesting to see which teams have the optimism to try again.
Odds and Ends
I feel like we should all start pretending the Timberwolves do not exist until the actual offseason begins. These internal reports of dysfunction are starting to make their way to the national media scene, as evidenced by the podcast between Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst where they speculated based upon no sources about a Karl-Anthony Towns trade possibility. Now it has made it’s way to The Ringer today via Kevin O’Conner.
The Wolves cannot possibly be so stupid as to trade Towns. Everyone in the building would hopefully be fired first. It’s just not going to happen.
This offseason is going to be crazy enough for the Wolves. Everything coming out of Wolves-land right now is disheartening and depressing, but Towns leaving Minnesota is not a real possibility.