NBA playoffs round three

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TNS

The Atlanta Hawks’ Al Horford hits the game-winning shot to beat the Washington Wizards, 82-81, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, at Philips Arena in Atlanta. The win gives the Hawks a 3-2 series lead. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Tyler Watkins

NBA Playoffs Round three

Matchup: (1) Atlanta Hawks v (2) Cleveland Cavaliers

Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers in 6

Why: Atlanta has experienced a sharp drop in three-point field goal percentage this postseason. Having shot the ball at 38 percent all year, the second highest mark in the NBA, Atlanta has shot just 34 percent from beyond the arc. This may prove to be a problem for the Hawks as they have no offensive superstar, making them rely on floor spacing to get quality offensive looks. Without the three though, there may not be as much floor spacing as the Hawks would like. Another problem that plagued the Hawks this year was their ineptitude on the defensive boards. Cleveland could look to this weak point, as did the Wizards, to solidify their hold on the series, as they have a pair of confident offensive-rebounding bigs in Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov. The Cavalier’s keys to success for this series will be getting after the ball on the offensive boards and getting LeBron James and Kyrie Irving going as quickly as possible, and the Hawk’s keys to success will be floor spacing, passing, and knockdown shooting.

 

Matchup: (1) Golden State Warriors v (2) Houston Rockets

Pick: Golden State Warriors in 5
Why: Both teams are coming off of hard-fought series, with Houston making an incredible comeback after going down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers. Both teams feature an MVP-level guard with Steph Curry of Golden State and James Harden of Houston. However, Golden State’s depth is going to be too much for Houston. The Rockets lack a solid bench, whereas the Warriors have gotten strong minutes out of Andre Iguodala, Marreese Speights, and Shaun Livingston. No one on Houston has the defensive chops to handle either Curry or his fellow perimeter star, Klay Thompson. Meanwhile, Harden will have to expend most of his energy trying to get through Golden State’s formidable defensive wall of Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andrew Bogut. Even if Harden racks up minutes against the Warriors’ bench, Iguodala has been regarded as a lockdown defender in the past and can play solid defense against Houston’s star. The Warriors have dominated Houston, winning all 4 of the regular season games between the two. Golden State has been the best team in the league all year, and there’s no reason to believe that will stop now.