Is the Western Conference Finals all but over? Is the Eastern Conference Finals, in essence, a final round tune-up for the prohibitive favorite?
Both semifinals series put the respective conference’s top two teams in head-to- head match-ups — Golden State (1) vs. San Antonio (2) in the West – the Warriors leads 2-0; and Boston (1) hosts Cleveland (2) in the East – this series begins Wednesday in Boston.
Kenny Smith and Chris Webber are both working the East finals for TNT — the former in studio and the latter as court side analyst. Jalen Rose is in the studio for NBA Countdown on ESPN, which is covering the West finals. All three former NBA players took media questions earlier this week in separate conference calls, that included the MSR.
Following are excerpts from the two conference calls:
Rose told the MSR that the West’s main story line dramatically changed in the third quarter of Game 1 on Sunday. “The story line coming into the series was a contrast of styles,” he explained. “One team has four All-Stars and prides itself on ball movement, and one team has a guy in Kawhi [Leonard] [who] really just ascended to be a superstar this year. That lasted before my eyes as I saw the Golden State Warriors have a season-low in points and field goal percentage in the first half.
“[But] those thoughts came crashing down when Kawhi Leonard goes out of the game and they’re up 23 points, and it looks now like a dramatically different series,” continued Rose on Leonard’s ankle injury.
When later asked on his thoughts about the play involving Leonard and the Warriors’ Zaza Pachulia — some called it intentional and dirty, Rose said, “The term ‘dirty’ to me adds emotion. I don’t think that he was trying to put Kawhi in a position to where he couldn’t play basketball again. I do know there is a difference between being injured and being hurt. That clearly should be a flagrant foul. It’s not necessarily dirty. It’s more irresponsible. It’s more reckless than anything else.”
When asked Smith told a reporter that Cleveland should not be expected to cakewalk over Boston to the finals. “When they struggled at times [during the season], they got defended. The Boston Celtics have a lot of defense-first guys, which will make it much more difficult for Cleveland.”
“I want to see if they match the defensive intensity of Boston,” added Webber. “They’ve made a re-commitment back on that defensive end, at least in the first two rounds.”
Finally, Golden State heads to San Antonio up two games to none.
Rose surmised that the West finals had the potential to be a seven-game series “Had they won Game 1.” But now, “You can’t count out San Antonio, but if Golden State picks up their game and [the Spurs] shorthanded and Kawhi’s [remains] hobbled,” the series will most likely end in four or five games, he said.
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Charles Hallman is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org