Last night on TNT, between the Miami Heat’s sloppy, but convincing, win over the Milwaukee Bucks and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 29-point defeat of the Houston Rockets, Charles Barkley opined that this year’s first round of the NBA Playoffs could end up being one of the worst in history.
“Worst” probably isn’t the right word. While this weekend’s games lacked drama and may have been foreshadowing several non-competitive four- and five-game series, there was plenty for NBA fans to enjoy.
We got to see Thunder center Kendrick Perkins channel his inner Chris Paul—grabbing a loose ball, leading a fast break, and throwing a perfect lob to teammate Serge Ibaka and Chris Bosh heat up from behind the arc. We also saw Paul George become the first member of the Indiana Pacers in 15 years to register a triple-double in the playoffs, going for 23, 11, and 12. Viewers also got to watch LeBron go for 27, 13, and eight while shooting 82 percent from the field, and saw Russell Westbrook weave through five defenders at full speed en route to the rim. That’s fun regardless of how lopsided the numbers on the scoreboard may be.
But aside from the occasional highlight or impressive stat line, will this end up being one of the most forgettable opening rounds in recent memory?
For the first time since 2004, all eight of the higher seeded teams won their first playoff game. Most did so in convincing fashion. The only game that was still in doubt as the clock approached 0:00.0 was the Denver Nuggets-Golden State Warriors game, which was decided by Andre Miller’s last-second lay-up. But the Warriors lost their lone All Star, David Lee, to a hip flexor strain.
Carl Landry should be able to step into the starting lineup and mimic Lee’s point production and suspect defense, but depth will be a concern as the series moves forward. And with Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson healthy enough to play 39 minutes, there’s a good chance that this series won’t be as close as Saturday’s Game 1 suggested.
One would expect at least one of the four-five match-ups to give us a compelling series, but both four seeds won by convincing margins on Saturday. The Brooklyn Nets, in their borough’s first major postseason professional sporting event since the Eisenhower administration, pulled away from the Chicago Bulls early and never surrendered their considerable lead. Hobbled Bulls center Joakim Noah had no answer for the Nets’ Brook Lopez. And Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams appears to have reverted to 2010 form. I’m not one to doubt a Tom Thibodeau-coached team, but the injury-riddled Bulls didn’t acquit themselves well in Game 1.
The Los Angeles Clippers-Memphis Grizzlies series may be our best hope for some first round drama. While the Clips pulled away in the fourth quarter, it was a one-point game with 10 minutes remaining. We shouldn’t expect the Grizz – who have arguably the league’s best defensive player, and who have fresh memories of losing in seven games to the Clippers in the first round of last year’s Playoffs – to let this series get away from them.
This year’s first round could be one of the least interesting since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams. But we’re only one game into each series. Today’s conventional wisdom could turn to foolishness by the middle of the week. Such is the nature of a seven-game series. But we know this for sure: regardless of what Brandon Jennings thinks, the Bucks aren’t going to beat the Heat, and certainly not in six games. Oh, and we also know that Jerry Stackhouse does a nice job with the national anthem: