Highlights from Weekend One of the NBA Playoffs
The first week of the hectic 2012 NBA Playoffs are in the books and already there are plenty of story lines and drama that will likely ensure to become a very entertaining 40 nights to decide a champion. From the match ups to the injuries and records being broken, every game this weekend had worth watching and plenty of things to discuss: The Magic and Clippers are up 1-0, Derrick Rose is out and the Spurs and Heat look like the best teams in the postseason. Highlights from Weekend 1 include:
- First off, the biggest news was the ACL injury to Derrick Rose in Chicago‘s Game 1 victory over the 76ers.With 1:10 left in the fourth and the Bulls up 12, Rose attempted to jump for a shot but his knees buckled under him and he fell straight to the ground, clenching his ankle while the United Center fell silent. Rose’s injury is the direct cause of having a compacted 66-game season and not simply having enough time to rest the body. This is such a shame for not only the Bulls but the NBA fans and the league, hoping to see Rose do some serious work in his quest for an NBA Championship. Although the Bulls have had plenty of time during the season to play without Rose (missing 39 games total after missing just three total in his first few seasons), this certainly dashes any hope that Chicago had for a championship and will have to rely on C.J. Watson and John Lucas III at the point. The ACL tear also took another victim, New York‘s rookie Iman Shumpert also went down in the first half against the Miami Heat.
- Didn’t expect the New York Knicks to fall so easily, granted they were up against the Miami Heat but still, with a team of Carmleo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudimire, a 100-67 blowout is simply embarrassing. The Heat have the muscle, skill and swagger to advance deep into the playoffs and were in total beast mode with 32 points by LeBron James. The Knicks didn’t stand a chance as Anthony ended with 11 points on 3-15 shooting and Stoudimire only got seven shots up total. That tells you a lot of how selfish this Knicks team is. I thought New York would be able to take a game in this series but after that display on Saturday, I would not be surprised if they were swept again for the third straight time in the postseason.
- The most interesting matchup in the East for me is Indiana/Orlando. Without Dwight Howard to roam under the rim and dominate in the paint, it’s time for Roy Hibbert to shine and help a pretty stocked Pacers team to advance to the next round. I don’t know if the Magic got lucky with their shooting or if the Pacers fell pray to go easy knowing Howard wasn’t playing, but the Magic’s victory in Indiana was surprising, only allowing the Pacers to 77 points total. Hibbert looked like a machine for 8 points, 13 rebounds and 9 blocks, but the Magic got their production from Jason Richardson (17 points), Jameer Nelson (17 points) and Glen Davis (16 points) who will have way more playing time at center. Danny Granger’s costly traveling call that would have tied the game in the closing seconds stung but I believe the Pacers can come back and take a command in this series.
- The best game of Saturday was Kevin Durant’s shot to seal a Thunder victory over the reigning champion Dallas Mavericks in a tight and contested 99-98 win in Dallas. When you watch the replay, normally that fading jump shot would have no chance of going in, but a lucky bounce made it happen and concluded what was a very close game throughout as neither team could gain a sizable lead. The Mavericks got to as much as eight-nine points but the Thunder would find a way to storm back. Durant and Russell Westbrook did what they did best, James Harden came back from being cleared after the infamous hit to the head by Metta World Peace and Dirk Nowitzki took awhile to get heated, but he got deadly as the game went on. This series will be cut-thorat to the end but while the Mavericks do not have the key pieces on their roster that got them the hardware last June, this could easily go to seven-games and both teams have legit chances to advance.
- A sweep could be in the works for the San Antonio Spurs as they were the best team on the court against theUtah Jazz who might be just happy to even see the postseason. The Spurs are looking to get their fifth championship from the veteran core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobilli. Some say the Spurs are simply getting to that point where they are old and sure looked like it when they lost to the 8th seed Grizzlies last season but things have changed. They managed to go on multiple double-digit winning streaks and with uber smart Gregg Popovich as the brains of the operation, the Jazz couldn’t keep up. Parker was dynamite both as a scorer and distributor and the Spurs have great younger players that looked pretty comfortable in the lights. From Game 1 alone, the Spurs will be the team to beat to advance to the Finals.
- Nothing exciting from the Lakers victory over the Denver Nuggets except that center Andrew Bynum broke some impressive records both in the Lakers organization and for the league. While Kobe Bryant was doing what Kobe does (31 points on 11-24 shooting), Bynum tied the league record for most blocks in a playoff game with 10, yes 10 blocks. The Lakers had 15 total compared to 4. Game over. The Lakers also showed that they are more than capable to handle a game without the erratic behavior of Metta World Peace as they were probably thankful they didn’t need him causing more trouble.
- The most boring game came courtesy of Boston at Atlanta. Both mediocre, one team kind of on the downslope of an aging group of Boston’s “Big Three”, Ray Allen sitting with an injury leaving Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to lead their younger players on the road to Atlanta, a team with quality players (Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Hortford ((who’s out with an injury)) but have always been stuck to fall in the first and second rounds. The Celtics were able to strike and take the lead with 40 seconds left with the Hawks up by four, Rajon Rondo lost his cool when the referees didn’t call for a loose ball and was called for a technical foul. Things got worse when he appeared to bump his chest against Marc Davis and resulted in him getting ejected from the game while the Hawks went on to claim a 83-74 win. Charles Barkley during the TNT Post Game Show was trying to prove a point that Rondo tripped over his shoes and resulted into bumped into Davis. Whatever the case, Rondo will certainly be out for Game 2 or maybe more.
- The West’s most interesting series is certainly Memphis and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers are in the postseason for the first time since 2006 and the Grizzlies only continue to improve, grabbing home court advantage and the fourth seed as they were only one game away from the Western Finals last year. The Grizzlies got out to a smoking hot start as they ran circles around a Clippers team that not only had to deal with foul troubles to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin but looked like they were not prepared, the Griz built a pretty large 27-point lead right from the start. Mike Conley was draining from three, Zach Randolph was grabbing some boards and Dante Cunningham posterized Griffin on a putback slam-dunk. Then something happened where the Griz might have slacked off and fell asleep, but Paul and the Clippers came back, shocked the rowdy Memphis crowd and took Game 1 winning 99-98. I can’t believe how Memphis let this one slip away, they played so great and shot the ball well for a team that usually doesn’t. The Clippers feel pretty big right about now.
photo courtesy of thebiglead.com