Well the first week of the NBA playoffs is in the books. A lot of teams have dominated their first games and others not so much.
The Eastern Conference has lead to myriad of what seems like mismatches because only one team in every matchup has won games so far leading to a bunch of 2-0 and 3-0 deficits. Now a 2-0 lead is hard to overcome and nobody has ever overcome a 3-0 deficit in the NBA. Not really good news for the Celtics and Bucks.
The Celtics have been able to keep every game close against the Cavaliers with their team’s depth. Its probably the only thing they have on the Cavaliers and Brad Stevens has been using it well, they are averaging 46.6 points off the bench for the series. The Cavaliers only got 7 points from their bench players in game 2 although it did not seem to matter when you have a guy like Lebron on your team. He is showing that he is still the best player in the NBA when he needs to be. He is closing out the Celtics and should continue to do so to finish them off in game 4
The Nets have put on an interesting display in their two games. I thought they would not even be close but they have hung in there and made the Hawks a little nervous to go into Brooklyn tomorrow. The biggest concern with the Hawks has to be their big men’s health. With Paul Millsap and Al Horford only playing really good in one of the first two games, one can not help but wonder if they will continue to be effective. They cannot count on five of eleven three-point shooting from Kyle Korver every other game. He was a big part of their win in game 1 and has been a key part of the team all year long. I would put him as their playoff MVP so far since he is averaging 19 points for the first two games. If the Nets are going to want any chance on Saturday they are going to need to focus on stopping him from shooting so openly and efficiently.
It was pretty obvious the Bulls would handle the Bucks with ease, but the Bucks maybe heard that and came to play because they have not made it easy for Chicago. Luckily for the Bulls, Derrick Rose is starting to feel healthy again as evidenced by his 34 points in the double overtime win last night. Right now it looks brilliant that he forgo the procedure to repair his knee and instead had a part of it removed so he could return sooner and in time for the playoffs. Between him and Jimmy Butler playing out of his mind right now: scoring 14 points in the 4th quarter of game two, they look close to unbeatable. But the Bulls are an enigma beyond this match-up because of two things; Derrick Rose’s health and the consistency of Jimmy Butler.
The Wizards/Raptors match-up has me surprised because Toronto has dropped the first two at home. I expected them to lose one but to lose both has to be a disappointment for sure. They had high hopes after last years early round exit to the lower seeded Nets. Few things would hurt more than another loss now to the lower seeded Wizards. I think the real difference in the series so far has been the striking disparity between starting point guard play. John Wall is showing you why this is his Wizards team while Kyle Lowry, someone who has been a key part of the Raptors all year long, has put up two absolutely awful performances. Three of ten with only six points in game two and two of ten with only seven points in game one are just not what you expected from him after the year he had. He needs to get it going if they want to win some games. Also the Wizards have the truly playoff hardened Paul Pierce on their side that gives them an advantage over a Toronto roster with minimal playoff experience.
The Western conference had a first week where most of the teams hold a commanding lead going into the second week, with the exception of the Clippers and Spurs series. Will we ever get to see some upsets? Maybe we are destined to watch the seeding determine who moves on and who does not in a boring droll of first round match ups.
Speaking of boring match ups, the Memphis Grizzlies have been basically annihilating the Portland Trailblazers. Memphis’ physicality is proving to be too much for Portland. Also the depth, beyond Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge the Trail Blazers do not have many other people they can rely on. They did have someone like that in Wesley Mathews but have been floundering ever since he got injured and it really shows in this series. The Grizzlies are using their physicality and depth to overwhelm the Trail Blazers and unless their bench players can match up to the guys like Beno Udrih and Jeff Green the Blazers will continue to have no chance.
The Spurs and the Clippers are the only series in the whole NBA where both teams have won a game in the first week. A lot of people are happy with this because of the potential excitement it creates for the rest of the match up. I am sure the Spurs are happy with the fact that the Clippers did not knock down three point shots in their win in game two at the clip that they did in the first game. They shot fifty five percent from beyond the three-point line; giving your opponent that kind of room from the three will not win you a lot of games. It makes a lot more sense that they got that percentage down to thirty percent for game two, the game they won. Still it does not bode well for them that they have not been able to hold the Clippers under one hundred points in either game. That’s not great defense for a team that is the defending champs who happen to have current defensive player of the year. They are going to need to keep the Clippers three point shooting under control and play better defense overall if they’re going to try and defend their championship status. But at least they are not down two to nothing…
Like the two to nothing situation the Mavericks currently have in front of them. And to make things worse, it’s not like the first two games were close. This looks about as one sided through the first two games as the Memphis/Portland series. Rajon Rondo has been atrocious and it now is almost a sure thing that he will not be there next season. That has to be great for team chemistry amid a playoff series. It did not help that before him they were thin at the guard position, now with him playing like he is they have to give more minutes to guys like Raymond Felton and J.J. Barea. It all attributes to a collection of guys who have literally no chance at all at guarding James Harden. Harden is the Rockets heart and soul; if you do not stop him then you do not stop the Rockets.
Perhaps one of the best storylines within these playoffs is the Golden State Warriors. Their series against the New Orleans Pelicans, who had just gotten into the playoffs by playing their way in at the end of the season, was supposed to be an easy blow through for them. They had handled business in the first two games but going into New Orleans proved tougher, as they were down twenty points going into the fourth quarter in game three. But an epic collapse by the Pelicans allowed the Warriors to actually tie the game with a couple of seconds left on a three pointer by none other than Steph Curry. Although probably the most notable thing here is the how that shot developed. Curry had brought it up court and actually fired a miss from the three-point line. Had New Orleans corralled the rebound they might actually be going into tomorrow only down two games to one. Instead they allowed Marreese Speights to grab the rebound and give it back to Curry for another consecutive three point shot. He knocked it down, making it without a doubt the most important shot in the game, which should have not even been attempted had the Pelicans been rebounding properly. They only finished with thirteen offensive rebounds to Golden State’s twenty-two. Golden State got crucial second possessions on those missed rebounds. If the Pelicans want a chance to win tomorrow, they are going to have to rebound properly and play good fundamental basketball because that is exactly what the Warriors do. They look like they could go a long way this year. A win like that makes a team looked destined.