- Which team has the most to lose? Who is the third-most important Cavalier? Crossover TV's Matt Dollinger and Rohan Nadkarni answer those questions and more.
With the playoffs nearing, we posed a handful of postseason questions to Matt Dollinger and Rohan Nadkarni, who can be seen every week hosting The Crossover on SI TV. Tune in on Amazon Channels to watch. Without further adieu, we'll hop right into the questions.
Sports Illustrated: If you’re Golden State, how nervous are you about Steph curry’s knee, which will keep him out of (at least) the first round?
Matt Dollinger: Minimally. The Warriors become mortal when Curry is sidelined (14–11 this year without him), but they’re still godly compared to the bottom half of the West’s playoff field. An MVP and two other All-Stars should be enough to dispose of teams that are just happy to be in the postseason. Maybe they lose a game, but not the series.
Rohan Nadkarni: I’m actually decently nervous if I’m the Warriors. Draymond Green has been a step slow for large parts of the season, and the team is just a lot easier to defend when Steph Curry isn’t pulling defenders 40 feet from the basket. Which team Golden State draws in the first round will be crucial. The T-Wolves with a healthy Jimmy Butler could be interesting.
SI.com: The Rockets have won 31 of their last 33, and the two losses were by a total of five points. Is it possible they’re peaking too soon?
MD: If the 73-win Warriors can peak too early, anyone can. But while it’s tough to erase the memories of James Harden (left) and Chris Paul choking in playoffs past, this team has handled adversity beautifully, playing well with Harden and CP3 out of the lineup. With an army of dangerous role players, the most versatile, potent offense in the NBA and a sneaky-good defense, this is Houston’s year.
RN: I agree, no chance. The playoffs come down to top-end talent and matchups. If anything, the Rockets’ regular-season success is merely a precursor to what they can do when they tighten their rotation and play even more of the Harden-Paul duo, which is smoking opponents of all caliber every night. If Houston loses, it will be because of the opponent, not regular-season success.
SI.com: Often a team’s fortunes will ride on the performance of one player. Who is the biggest x-factor this postseason?
MD: John Wall. The Wizards are limping into the playoffs (6–8 since March 1), but if his knees are healthy, the East features another potential spoiler. Wall was dominant last postseason (27.2 points, 10.3 assists per game), and he has a deeper supporting cast this year. If he’s healthy, the Wizards, who don’t figure to finish better than sixth, are a nightmare first-round matchup for a top–three seed.
RN: Joel Embiid. If he returns from his fractured orbital bone and concussion, the 76ers will be an extremely tough out. This is a team that’s actually built for the playoffs. With no back-to-backs, Embiid won’t have to sit out any games and Philly can play its starting five—one of the best units in the NBA—big minutes. With their 7-footer, the Sixers are Threat Level Midnight. Without him, the danger subsides.
SI.com: Outside of Kevin Love (when healthy), LeBron James’s Cleveland teammates haven’t exactly been giving him much help. Who is the third-most-important Cavalier?
MD: It’s Hill. Remember when he was as an All-Star-caliber point guard for the Jazz last season? If the Cavs can coax a similar performance out of the 10-year vet they become a juggernaut again. I think he’s been steady since arriving in February, but when he's assertive and looks for his shot, he becomes one of the best two-way players on the floor. Otherwise, he’s a respectable, but not dangerous, role player. The Cavs already have that in José Calderón; they need Hill to channel his Utah days.
RN: Rodney Hood, who gives the Cavs youth on the perimeter that they’ve lacked in recent seasons. With J.R. Smith struggling and George Hill still washing the Sacramento off him, Hood will be a key piece in the playoffs. His success will hinge on how he plays on the defensive end, though. The results haven’t been promising so far.
SI.com: With all that’s at stake, which team has the most to lose?
MD: Cleveland. So there’s this guy named LeBron. He’ll be a free agent at the end of the season. And he has a history of leaving teams that don’t give him the best chance to make it to the Finals. And he’s kind of complained about the roster already. And the owner. And the coach. He also occasionally sends coded messages on social media that make you think he might want to play elsewhere. I’ve also noticed a handful of billboards suggesting he might be welcomed in the NBA’s 29 other cities. So, yeah. It’s Cleveland. Don’t blow it, guys. No pressure.
RN: The Warriors. No one will have sympathy if Curry’s left-MCL sprain keeps them out of the Finals. Not with that roster. The Internet jokes would be ruthless. Kevin Durant would have to become a full-time podcaster to deflect his critics. Golden State has been the prohibitive title favorite since July 4, 2016. There will be an avalanche of Schadenfreude if the Warriors somehow lose.