NBA Playoffs: What have we learned so far?
We’re only 2 days in to the NBA Playoffs and it’s lived up to expectations as a crazy and wild ride. But what have we learned so far? Let’s have a look at each series, starting with:
Portland vs. Houston
Game 1 was an absolute classic, and people are still talking about it and watching replays. It’s a shame the series is in the first round, because by the time it’s over, whoever advances will probably be so drained that their chances of advancing to the conference finals would be incredibly low. But the flip side is we could be treated to the best series of the millennium here, that’s how close these teams are. They’re also a complete contrast in the way they’re built, and that’s why it’s so compelling. In game 1 we saw historic performances from LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, and while I wish I could say that I’m expecting to see more of the same, I’d be lying. There’s no way they can keep up that pace. Aldridge, Matthews, Lillard and Batum combined for 109 points in game 1. Portland will need more balance going forward, but the game plan won’t change too much, and because of this, Dwight Howard has to accept the challenge of slowing him down. It is Dwight Howard who has built a reputation as being the best defensive player of his generation, and whilst he isn’t accustomed to playing mid-range players, he has no choice. If he continues to protect the rim and guard Lopez while Aldridge dominates the series, it would go down as one of the most gutless moves by any big time player in recent history.
Washington vs. Chicago
As much as I love the energy that Chicago plays with, they are completely overmatched in terms of talent here. In game 1, they overreacted to the perimeter players of Washington and Nene and Gortat had an absolute field day. Chicago doesn’t need to complete over extend to Beal and Wall and commit so many defensive resources to stopping them at this stage. If they play them straight up, with help once they put the ball on the floor, Washington will struggle to score. I expect them to make this change before game 2. I had high hopes for this series being competitive before the playoffs started (I picked Washington in 7 games) but with Indiana laying a massive turd in Game 1 of their series, that side of the bracket has opened completely up. Both Chicago and Washington must believe that if they make it to the second round, they’ll have a great opportunity to make it to the conference finals.
Charlotte vs. Miami
What an impressive and competitive showing by Charlotte! I was very impressed with their “no-care” attitude out there and ability to play their game. They stepped their game up and weren’t intimidated at all by the defending champs. In doing that, they gained the respect of the entire basketball world. The reality is, though, that Jefferson will be limited the rest of the series, which is a complete shame. I still expect Charlotte to win a game at home, but without Jefferson, there’s just too much of an offensive burden placed on Kemba Walker for them to push Miami. All Charlotte really needs is another scorer and they could easily take the next step and be a force in the East.
Dallas vs. San Antonio
What a brilliant, hard fought battle, game 1 was! And I expect the same throughout the entire series. Both teams are full of veterans and confidence, and have great coaching, so the execution and belief will be there. The only issue for Dallas will be depth, and that hurt them in Game 1 as they ran out of gas. But there is no guarantee that if we see a similar situation to game 1, that San Antonio can overcome a 4th quarter deficit like they did in the opener. This will be such a fun series to watch.
Memphis vs. Oklahoma City
I wonder if there is a more stubborn team in the NBA than Memphis. Down by, what was it, 26 points in the first half, they didn’t panic or give up. They stuck with their style and structure and brought it back to 3 midway through the 4th quarter. I love the confidence and belief. It actually reminded me of how they played against the Clippers in the first round last season. But the problem is this Thunder team is not the Clippers, and for the first time in his playoff career, Durant looked relaxed whilst being focused. Regardless of the opposition, he feels he can do whatever he wants on the court, and that is a scary situation for the rest of the league. Memphis isn’t going anywhere, they’ll stand and fight, but they’re overmatched.
Atlanta vs. Indiana
What else can I say after what I wrote yesterday about Indiana’s disgusting and disgraceful performance? They were abmissal and it was embarrassing to even watch, and frustrating to think that they really aren’t even showing signs of caring. Atlanta deserves credit for going in and kicking their arse, but this is all on Indiana. If they don’t wake up, they’ll be out of the playoffs. Game 2 is a must win, and they have to win either game 3 or 4. If they go down 3-1, even with game 5 and 7 at home, The Pacers are so weak mentally, I don’t think they come back. And if that’s the case, good riddance to them.
Golden State vs. Los Angeles
The epic game 1 between these two teams has not been forgotten, and I expect game 2 to be the same kind of blockbuster. Over the years, it’s obvious that I haven’t been Chris Paul’s biggest fan, but the way the blame was placed on him was insulting to anyone that understands the game of basketball. Chris Paul played brilliantly (along with DeAndre Jordan) to keep The Clippers in the game. It was Blake Griffin who did not live up to the hype and hurt the Clippers. If they have any chance in this series, he has to play not just up to the standards of the regular season, but he has to exceed them. The problem is, Iggy will also be playing and not hamstrung by crappy foul calls, so both teams will receive a boost. I don’t like The Clippers position at the moment though: they have a history of folding in the playoffs (being swept by the Spurs in 2012, and losing 4 straight to Memphis last year). If they drop game 2, it’s all over. If they win game 2, they still need to win in Oakland. I don’t like their chances.
Brooklyn vs. Toronto
This series has been completely buried under all the GS/ Clippers and Portland/ Houston noise, but don’t sleep on it, there is still some compelling storylines to it. I think Toronto takes game 2 and 5, but loses in 6. The Nets know exactly what they’re doing and how to close a series out. The thing is, Toronto can give them trouble with their speed on the perimeter. If they steal a game in Brooklyn, this series is back on being on a knife edge.