A Look Back At The 2016 NBA Playoffs So Far

A Look Back At The 2016 NBA Playoffs So Far

We started with 16 teams, and now we’ve whittled our way down to the last four standing in the 2016 NBA playoffs. Amazingly, none of those teams are the San Antonio Spurs. It seems like a damn shame unless you’re an unapologetic fan of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder will try to manage the unthinkable against the Warriors starting Monday night, while Toronto will have to hold on for dear life as they try to withstand LeBron James and the undefeated Cavaliers. Let’s take a look back before we spring forward in to the Conference Finals.


(Sweep Detroit 4-0 SU and 2-2 ATS and Atlanta 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS)

Don’t even act like you saw this coming. Cleveland’s gone from this completely dysfunctional crop of idiots to an undefeated juggernaut in a damn hurry. Sure, they beat up on the Detroit Pistons (who are so staggeringly close to being a contender) and the helpless Atlanta Hawks (what the hell happened to them?), but in the process they’ve become the best offensive team in the playoffs.

Cleveland is posting a net rating of +10.4 in the playoffs, trailing only Golden State. Beyond that they’re also posting some phenomenal numbers elsewhere. Their 46.2% three-point shooting is by far the best in these playoffs, and they’re scoring 117.0 points per hundred possessions. The Cavaliers also boast a 2.20 AST/TO ratio which also leads all teams that made the post season.

LeBron James is the obvious engine, but Kevin Love has also become a cutthroat assassin from range. He buried 8-of-15 from beyond the arc in the series clinching win over Atlanta in Game 4. And he’s done this amidst all the noise that he was ignored and unhappy in Cleveland.

So much for that.

Now we know why Cleveland seemed so bent out of sorts in the regular season. They were bored. You need the pressure of a big moment, or a great rival, to bring out the best in you sometimes. The easy route is to knock the level of their competition, but this team has had no control over the caliber other teams reach.

The apex that Cleveland is cresting is unbelievable given all the circumstances and hyperbole that they dealt with this season. All of that nonsense will continue if LeBron makes his seventh appearance in the NBA Finals. And do you really expect Toronto to be the team to upset them?

What we’ve seen in Cleveland isn’t a revelation. We always knew they were capable of being this good. Every other team at the top end used the regular season to polish their edges and refine their game. The Cavaliers just did it a lot later than everyone else.


(Beat Pacers 4-3 SU and 2-5 ATS, Beat Heat 4-3 SU and 3-4 ATS)

A Look Back At The 2016 NBA Playoffs So FarBetting spreads serve an analytical purpose. They allow us to create a reasonable expectation of a team against an opponent. Teams that have great ATS runs basically tell people that they’re exceeding expectations. So what do you make of Toronto’s 5-9 ATS record in the playoffs so far?

You tell it like it is. This team sucks. The handicapper in me hates teams that play inconsistently, and there’s no other way to color the putrid performance of these Raptors. They’re posting a net rating of -2.1, meaning that they’re getting outscored per hundred possessions by that many points.

If you’ve actually bothered to watch the Raptors play basketball in the post season, then you know that they run an unrecognizable form of the game. A lot of people pointed to Kyle Lowry’s .316 shooting percentage against Indiana, the worst by any All-Star guard in the history of the NBA. Even more blamed DeMar DeRozan, who shot .319 when playing against Indiana.

I continue to blame the coaching. Dwayne Casey was coached out of his shoes by Frank Vogel, who had a lesser team by every stretch of the imagination. I still don’t really understand how Toronto wormed their way past the Pacers. At no point did they seem like they were that much better than a team that ranked 11th in net rating during the regular season. Toronto was ranked 6th in that advanced stat category.

A chance to re-instill some faith in their side didn’t come against Miami. Dwyane Wade and Goran Drajic routinely tortured the Raptors, and Toronto’s own coaching seemed to get in the way again. People like to laude Casey, but I find it criminally offensive that a coach doesn’t have a clutch play drawn up with a tied game on the final possession. In two instances, Lowry and Corey Joseph hoisted up pointless 19-foot shots after dribbling around like a child lost at the mall.

That kind of minutia shows you how misguided the Raptors are. Sure, they eventually silenced the Heat with a convincing 116-89 win in Game 7, but how are we supposed to take that game seriously? We’ve watched this team for 14 games and it’s lunacy to think that they can patch four great games together against Cleveland. They could barely manage to do it against much lesser teams.

The Raptors have started each series with harrowing losses. In fact, each run against Indiana and Miami went L-W-W-L-W-L-W in that order. Every time we think that Toronto’s turned a corner, they fall off a cliff. That kind of unreliable behavior drives gamblers crazy.

Toronto has long stood as the only team deemed capable of dethroning the Cavaliers, but those hopes seem wishy washy at best now. Cleveland has turned in to a force of nature, and the Raptors are four losses away from extinction. Anyone willing to bet on Toronto might as well just throw their money in a dumpster fire.


(Beat Dallas 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS, Upset San Antonio 4-2 SU and ATS)

If you’ve been reading me through the NBA playoffs, then you know I have an unabashed adoration for the Durant-Westbrook combination. I simply find it fascinating that two players on such mercurial levels can work so harmoniously together when they both need the ball to be effective. As I’ve written in the recent past, I never want to see them breakup. Please sign a one-year deal to stay in OKC, Kevin.

What can Steve Kerr do to keep this dynamic duo at bay? Unfortunately the reigning Coach of the Year won’t find much solace in reviewing the Thunder’s past two series against the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs. Durant and Westbrook have mauled two of the best coaches in the league. Can they do it against this year’s best?

Beating the Dallas Mavericks 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS was pretty run of the mill. There was a narrow one-point loss in Game 2 and that was the only dent in an otherwise dominant performance by a complete team that did everything it needed to. Westbrook and Durant combined for 52.0 points on average, and the Thunder will need all the scoring that they can get to whirl past one of the best defenses in the league.

The good news is that they just buried the top rated defense pretty handedly. The San Antonio Spurs were believed to be the only team worth considering as an upset specialist to the defending champions, and the Thunder averaged 100.8 points per game in that series. The concern is that they allowed 101.3 points against on average in that series.

Critics are going to hammer Oklahoma City because of their defense, but this isn’t a team that’s really predicated on creating stops. Instead, they opt for a more curious game plan by forcing teams to take tough shots. Having big units like Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams in the middle helps reduce the chances that teams will drive on them relentlessly. Dallas and San Antonio almost refused to do it.

The presence of Ibaka and Adams also turns Oklahoma City in to a rebounding factory. The Thunder actually lead the playoffs in rebound percentage with 54.7%. This is well above any other team in the playoffs. It’s the one thing that makes up for their lacking defence – if there are rebounds to be had, this team’s going to get them.

Let’s not forget that Oklahoma City did the impossible by knocking of San Antonio after everyone wrote them off at the beginning of the series. Already, they’re +7.5 dogs heading in to Golden State for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Are you really ready to discount how special this team actually is?


(Crushed Houston 4-1 SU and ATS, Survived Portland 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS)

At some point, the basketball gods were supposed to rear their ugly heads. Golden State continued to rack up wins, awards and records faster than any other team ever had. Chaos theory basically stated that the universe was to intervene and balance the scales.

Things started to look bad when Curry was held out of Game 2 and Game 3 against Houston due to bad ankles, which had almost ruined his career early on. The Bay Area released a sigh of relief when he came back in Game 4, but those collective breaths quickly turned in to gasps of panic.

Steph Curry slipped in a completely freak accident that involved a sweaty Donatas Motejūnas tripping and sliding through the exact spot where the 90-50-40 man himself would plant his left foot. Curry suffered an MCL sprain though we all feared the worst. It seemed crazy. Almost as crazy as winning 73 games.

The Warriors rallied as great teams do and went up 2-1 SU and ATS against the Blazers. When Portland won Game 3 of the semi-finals, news percolated that Curry would be making a return but in limited fashion off the bench. So much for that. Curry played 37 minutes, dropped an absurd 40-9-8 line that included accounting for 17 points in overtime.

Curry was hard pressed to regain his form thanks to Damian Lillard, who wouldn’t relentlessly tried to match game winning shots with attempts of his own. Despite the Warriors winning 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS, that series felt like the closest five-game series in NBA playoff history. It reminded us all that Golden State is undoubtedly the team to beat and that bringing your best will only bring out the very same in them.

It’s not like we needed reminding of that. Golden State leads the playoffs with an unreal net rating of +14.7 in advanced metrics. It seems like a formality that they’ll outwork the Thunder, but we said that before.

We all prayed that the Warriors and Spurs would meet. Now we get an even more tantalizing matchup. Game on.