NBA Playoffs: Durant to dominate game two clash in Oakland
Robbie Purves | May 17, 2016
Toronto Raptors @ Cleveland Cavaliers
- NBA Conference Finals
- Wednesday, May 18th
- Tipoff: 01:30 BST
- Q Arena, Cleveland
LeBron seeks consecutive Eastern Conference title
Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off the back of a 4-0 sweep that saw them defeat Atlanta Hawks. It finished with plenty of time to spare and now Cavs are rested and ready to wreak havoc upon Toronto Raptors – whose series went down to the last game.
The series will feature some intriguing matchups, with the Kyle Lowry and Kyrie Irving point guard clash oozing with talent. DeMar DeRozan will expect special defensive protection by Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert that shut down the Hawks’ sharpshooting danger, Kyle Korver in the last round.
Then, of course, there is the little matter of LeBron James and the almost impossible job of keeping him quite.
Cleveland are unbeaten in the playoffs this year and will progress into the NBA Finals if they perform at the same level they did in the previous two rounds. Cavaliers have multiple sides to their game; they showed a physical, tough edge against Detroit Pistons in the first round, and became master-marksman when faced with Atlanta’s veterans.
The Raptors’ defensive strength this season was guarding the paint, but will now have to find a way to shut down Cleveland’s outside threat.
James hasn’t had to carry Cavs this postseason and comes into the series rested. With Smith and Kevin Love lethal outside scorers, it creates crucial space though which LeBron can cut to the basket. The four-time MVP has averaged 27.9 points per game over his last 10 clashes and Coral has him 5/4 to score 25 or more in a Cavaliers win.
Another key battle will be what ever Raptor is tasked with marking Love. With Luis Scola sitting out nine of the last 10 games, Patrick Patterson’s mobility will be tested. However, if coach Tyrone Lue opts to go for Love at center, then even Congolese Bismack Biyombo will likely look out of his depth.
Oklahoma City Thunder @ Golden State Warriors
- NBA Conference Finals
- Thursday, May 19th
- Tipoff: 02:00 BST
- Oracle Arena, Oakland
Durant drops 25 in Thunder win
Billy Donovan’s Oklahoma City Thunder, stunned the basketball world with a sensational 108-102 triumph over reigning NBA champions Golden State Warriors – opening a 1-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals.
There were handshakes and hugs aplenty outside Oklahoma’s dressing room congratulating Thunder, a team that accomplished a feat that no other side has managed this postseason, a win.
Even when the game clock showed zero, it still didn’t seem real that Oklahoma just walked into the Oracle Arena and delivered hammer blow after hammer blow.
After a poor first half scoring just three, Russell Westbrook took over the game and recorded 24 points in the second. The guard dominated and played with the sort of reckless abandon that has become his signature style, grabbing six rebounds, 12 assists and an outstanding seven steals.
Kevin Durant, rumoured to be leaving Oklahoma this summer, notched 26 points and 10 rebounds. The superstar will be hot property this summer when he hits free agency and averaged 28.2 during the regular season.
However, what should have fans excited is his playoff form, the forward has recorded an average of 31.4 points per game. Durant is 6/1 to score 25 or more in a Thunder win that would open up a significant 2-0 heading back to home-court.
If Golden State are to get themselves back into the series, not only do they need to keep Durant and Westbrook quite, but also Steven Adams. The Australian is hugely influential, his interior defence and physicality has taken Oklahoma to another level this term and he recorded 16 points and 12 rebounds in 37 minutes in Oakland.
Warriors struggled tremendously with their shooting rhythm and were baited into taking rushed three-pointers. When they go in, Golden State are unbeatable but, when they aren’t, Steph Curry’s side are very vulnerable.