LetsRUMBL NBA Picks: We're down to the Association's elite eight
The NBA Playoffs are heating up. The conference semifinals see eight teams left in the fight for the NBA Championship. The Golden State Warriors are back to being the NBA juggernaut they have been for the last four seasons. Steph Curry is on the court and the Warriors look good for at least one more NBA Western Conference finals appearance.
The Warriors aren't the only team looking good as the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers have started the conference semifinals well. By the time the weekend ends, will these teams all have one foot in the conference finals or will things have changed?
Friday May 4
Chris Paul, Houston Rockets vs. Utah Jazz
LetsRUMBL average: 40
The Houston Rockets took down the Utah Jazz in game 1 of their series, 110-96. Chris Paul had a solid game as he put up 17 points and six assists in over 31 minutes of game time. Paul's contributions are one reason the Rockets had the best regular season record in the NBA.
In the postseason, Paul has been steady as the point guard has averaged 18.7 points, 6.5 assists, 2.3 steals and four rebounds a game. Paul is hungry for success with the Rockets, something that continually eluded him while playing for the Los Angeles Clippers. This week, the guard stated his friendship with Utah's Donovan Mitchell is on hold until the series is over. Paul is focused and the Rockets are the best team – and possibly only team – that can end the Golden State Warriors' NBA dominance.
Saturday May 5
Al Horford, Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers
LetsRUMBL average: 34
The Boston Celtics weren't supposed to get past the Milwaukee Bucks once the series went to seven games. The team ultimately did with Al Horford scoring a team high 26 points. The series was hot and cold for the big man as Boston underachieved at times against the No. 7 seed Bucks.
In game 1 of the second round against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Celtics surprised onlookers with a 16-point win. For the second straight game, Horford scored 26 points. He added seven rebounds in just under 33 minutes of hardwood action.
Boston is without Kyrie Irving. His loss was supposed to prevent the Celtics from going deep into the playoffs. However, Boston is just three wins away from the Eastern Conference finals, and the team is playing well in the guard's absence.
The Celtics were buoyed by their home support in game 1 and the raucous crowd threw Ben Simmons and his teammates off their game. The 76ers should be better in the following games, but Horford could be the key to the Celtics' postseason progression. The big man is a playoff monster and unexpectedly he, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum have become Boston's unstoppable big three. When the season started in October, the trio was never expected to combine for this impact, and it could be Horford and company that gets the Celtics back to the Eastern Conference finals.
Sunday May 6
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz vs. Houston Rockets
LetsRUMBL average: 38
Donovan Mitchell has the unenviable task of leading the Utah Jazz past the Houston Rockets. The rookie was stellar during the regular season leading the Jazz in points per game (20.5), minutes played (33.4) and three-point attempts (seven).
His postseason performances have been just as good as those during the regular season, and the guard should have little problem getting enough votes to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award. While the Rockets did hold Mitchell to 21 points in game 1 (joint-leading scorer for the Jazz with Jae Crowder), the guard scored 38 to get the team past the Oklahoma City Thunder in the team's previous game. Mitchell is capable of big games and monster points performance. He just needs the rest of his teammates to join in more than they did in game 1 against the Rockets.
Mitchell has received expert advice from Kobe Bryant ahead of game 2. Mitchell is reportedly ready to use the five-time NBA Champion's analysis and it could be the difference in game 2. Advice from Bryant alone won't get the Jazz past the Rockets in the series, and Mitchell will need his teammates to chip in, if the team is going to win. Regardless, Donovan should continue his phenomenal NBA rookie season.