Sunday was a bizarre day in the NBA.
The first two games of the day featured the top two seeds in the West, the Spurs and the Lakers, and the bottom two seeds, the Grizzlies and the Hornets. The bizarre happenings had to do with the outcomes of the games, as both the Spurs and the Lakers lost the opening games in their repsective series.
The Spurs came in expecting to blow out the Grizzlies, but the young team from Memphis had other plans. They were also helped by the fact that Manu Ginobli was out of the game after injuring his elbow in the last game of the season.
The Grizzlies were led by the combined 49 points of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. However, the game winning shot came from veteran Shane Battier, who put the the lead at three with ten seconds left. Richard Jefferson of the Spurs had a shot to tie, but he missed.
The fans at the Staples Center were visibly shocked by what happened to their Lakers. They were quiet for most of the game and some boos were heard in the final minutes. Kobe did his job by scoring 34, but the Lakers defense had trouble stopping Chris Paul, who had 33 points to go with 14 assists. Hornets big man Aaron Gray also played a huge part until he rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter. He will be needed if the Hornets want to continue their success.
Many fans of both the Spurs and the Lakers are upset after their team’s losses. Some might even think that the series is already lost. This is far from the truth. NBA series are very long with the best of 7 format. Losing the first game still allows the higher seeded team to play game Game 2 at home, as well two more games later in the series. If both the Spurs and Lakers win their game 2s, each series will essentially be a best of 5 game series. If they can just win one on the road, home court advantage will be back in their favor.
That said, if the Spurs or Lakers lose their game 2s, then the fans have real reason to start to worry. Even if this happens, the teams can make a turnaround on the road to even up the series at 2-2. These teams were the #1 and #2 seeds for a reason, and each certainly has the skill and experience to win road games against middle-of-the-pack teams like New Orleans and Memphis.
The only true time to start panicking would be if they were down 3-0. NBA teams rarely, if ever, come back from such a deficit.
I believe that the Spurs will figure things out and take the series against Memphis. They were in a close game without Manu Ginobli. As long as he returns, the Spurs should have no trouble defeating the Grizzlies.
I have similar thoughts about the Lakers. They played poorly against the Hornets in Game 1, but it is only Game 1. Chris Paul will continue to put up great numbers night in and night out, but he cannot win alone. The Lakers will need to play better defense and not allow anywhere near the 109 points they allowed on Sunday. If they can do this, they should come back to win the series. They are also the defending NBA champs, so if any team is going to make a turnaround, it will be the Lakers.
* – Chris Paul and Jarrett Jack photo credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / April 17, 2011 via LATimes.com