After five of the eight first round series went the distance, Oklahoma City and Indiana ensured there would be no Game 7's in round two.. The Thunder held off another Clippers rally, while Indiana advanced to meet Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year.
We're at the midway point of the postseason, and after all the craziness, we have the top two seeds in each conference facing off in the conference finals. But there's always something to learn from every single game, and last night was no different.
1) Indiana needs more David West and Lance Stephenson
The Pacers' biggest problem since they started their slump way back in January has been their apparent lack of motivation and competitiveness.
How do you fix that? You get the guys on your team who NEVER lack an edge more involved - meaning West and Lance.
After Washington's Bradley Beal hit a three to cap a Wizard comeback that gave them the lead over the Pacers with about 5 minutes left in the game, Indiana coach Frank Vogel went almost exclusively to West and Stephenson down the stretch. The result was a monster run that resulted in a 93-80 victory. West finished with 29 points, and Lance had 17 with eight assists.
David West is one of the most consistent players in the league, so the Pacers always know what he's going to bring.
He's a tough, physical, talented player who is one of the best finishers around the rim in the NBA. However, there's a reason his nickname is "Homicide" - he'll kill the opposition, but he'll also kill his own team. He can be so out-of-control terrible on one play, then split three defenders and dunk on LeBron the next, then turn the ball over on the next possession trying to split three defenders again.
Lance is the most fun roller-coaster in America, and we're all along for the ride.
Why is he this way? Here's a guide.
Both guys carry that swagger that the Pacers seem to no longer have, but they'll need it to beat Miami.
2) Washington might just run the Eastern Conference for the next few years
The Wizards made a great run this year, and were the most successful of the several promising young teams in the East. And they might just be on the cusp of something bigger.
Looking at the disastrous Eastern Conference, the only two legitimate teams in there are Miami and Indiana. Washington just played a great series with the Pacers, and there's no certainty that Indy would beat them next year as guards John Wall and Bradley Beal get more experience. And no one knows what's going to happen to Miami with all of the Big 3 being able to opt out of their contracts this offseason.
So that leaves this surging Wizards team at the top, but they aren't without their faults, either. Trevor Ariza and Marcin Gortat, two key starters, are free agents, and Washington still needs to bolster their rotation to be a true force.
But the Wiz have the cap space to sign both Ariza and Gortat back, and D.C. is a sleeping giant in their ability to attract free agents. If the franchise can maintain the momentum they gained from this year, the league should be on the lookout for Washington.
3) Westbrook and Durant might carry a subpar team to a championship
On paper, Los Angeles is a much better overall team than Oklahoma City - but they didn't have the best duo on the planet.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both went into superhero mode in this series and carried OKC in each and every game. Durant averaged over 33 points a game (including 39 points and 16 rebounds last night), and Westbrook nearly averaged a triple double for the entire series.
Unfortunately, we've begun to take just how good these two guys are for granted.
Let's look at their supporting cast. Thabo Sefolosha is a defense only player, as is Kendrick Perkins. Serge Ibaka is mostly defense, but has the ability to contribute offensively. Reggie Jackson is an inconsistent sixth man while Nick Collison and Stephen Adams are hard-working hustle guys.
And that's it.
This team relies SO much on Westbrook and Durant to do the heavy lifting, and they've been doing it all postseason. Teams don't win championships by being so predictable, but Russ and KD are just so dynamic and have so much heart, they're carrying OKC as far as they can.
The Spurs look unstoppable right now, but they won't make the Finals if they can't slow down these two. Which might be impossible.Back to the NBA Newsfeed