3 Card Monty
Now that I've had a little time to catch my breath, if the rest of the NBA playoffs are like the first two days it's gonna be epic. TNT has this famous catchphrase of '40 games in 40 nights.' By night 22 Chuck, the Jet, EJ, and all the fans are usually sick of the playoffs. Charles gets so grumpy he once called his producer a 'female body part' on national tv. I have a feeling in 2011 after 40 nights we'll want 40 more!
Indiana set the tone of excitement opening the playoffs with a near upset of Chicago at the United Center. Despite being outclassed, Danny Granger, Darren Collison, Roy Hibbert and Psycho T battled and never backed down when the Bulls made runs. Probable league M.V.P. Derrick Rose and sharp shooting Kyle Korver bailed out the Bulls with their late game heroics.
Philadelphia came out of the gates swinging against the Heat. Miami came out flat the the 76ers played a flawless first quarter. Philly led 31-19 after one, but it would not last as the Heat found and extra gear and outplayed the Sixers in quarters two and three. However, the Heat's disturbing trend of blowing big fourth quarter leads reared its ugly head late in this one. The Sixers went on a late 12-0 run and cut a 13 point lead to one. Chris Bosh hit some clutch free throws and D-Wade hit a tough bank shot to seal the deal.
Despite 46 from Dwight Howard the Magic fell to the Hawks 103-93. Atl had a rare inspired performance away from the friendly confines of Phillips Arena. Four out of five Hawk starters scored in double figures, and Jamal 'the microwave' Crawford came off the bench for 23 electric points. Orlando embarrassed Atlanta in the playoffs last years, leading to firing of Mike Goodson. Maybe the Hawks will play tougher in the post season under first year coach Larry Drew.
In the night cap, Dallas survived a cagey Portland team 89-81. This series was the trendy upset pick because of Dallas's poor track record in the post season and Portland's athleticism. LaMarcus Aldridge is the best player no one talks about and Gerald Wallace was a sneaky trade deadline acquisition. I feel for Rip City because no franchise has been more cursed when it comes to players staying healthy. First is was Bill Walton, then Sam Bowie, and now Greg Oden and Brandon Roy. Portland is an amazing small market NBA town and I would love to see them make a deep run and give the fans a thrill.
There was no way Sunday could top Saturday's excitement. San Antonio and L.A. would blow out Memphis and New Orleans. That's why they play the games!!!
Without Manu, people feared for San Antonio against the Grizz. The Spurs were seen as the most vulnerable high seed because they are old and banged up. The young, athletic Grizz took advantage of the depleted Spurs. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph dominated the paint, but the Spurs being the Spurs grinded away and tied the game late. Shane 'who's your daddy' Battier stepped up and knocked down a big three to give Memphis the franchises first ever playoff victory.
The biggest shock of the first weekend was L.A. falling to New Orleans at home. The Hornets were the team all the top seeds wanted in the first round. They were seen as the lame duck heading into the playoffs. Yea Chris Paul is amazing, but with out David West they would lack any real firepower. Once again......THAT'S WHY THEY PLAY THE GAMES!!!
CP3 reminded everyone how good he can be with a 33 point, 14 assist, and 7 rebound performance. Aaron Gray was the unsung hero with 12 points on 5-5 shooting. Gray did leave the game late with an apparent knee injury. His status is a big story to watch. The number of the game was 3. The jersey number of Chris Paul and the amount of turnovers the Hornets had. Three turnovers in a game ties a playoff record set by the Pistons in '08. The box score will tell you Kobe had 34 points, but they were a selfish 34. When the game was still in doubt Kobe turned the blinders on and didn't even look to get his teammates involved.
Boston outdueled New York 87-85 in a vintage Eastern Conference slugfest. What's a playoff game without a little controversy. Leading 85-84 late in the fourth a referee called a questionable offensive foul on Carmelo. Anthony was trying to establish position and Paul Pierce was trying to deny position. Neither player had any advantage and Melo was blown for the foul. The Celtics did what champions do and took advantage. Ray Allen hit a clutch three with 11 seconds. The Knicks were out of timeouts and Carmelo settled for a contested 3 to win the game instead of trying to drive the ball. To add injury to insult, Chauncey Billups is questionable for game 2 with a leg injury.
After all that the Nuggets and Thunder played a thriller. Denver/OKC was the antithesis of Boston/New York. It was a track meet from the opening tip to the final buzzer. Kevin Durant dropped 41 and Russell Westbrook was right behind with 31. Denver got much more balanced scoring and found themselves at the mercy of a bad call. The Nuggets were up one late in the fourth when Westbrook missed an off balanced jumper and Kendrick Perkins appeared to tip it in before the ball left the cylinder. The refs didn't waive it off and allowed the basket to stand. Denver couldn't answer and Westbrook hit the dagger on the next possession. OKC survived Denver 107-103.
What a weekend of games for the NBA. Every single contest was close and exciting. There were no blowouts or apparent mis-matches. When did the NBA playoffs turn into the NCAA Tournament? Because the NBA plays 7 game series the better teams will probably prevail, but even the most fervent of NBA haters would be hard pressed to complain about the opening weekend of the playoffs (well except for some of the officiating).