Purely judging off the opening weekend, this could be the craziest NBA Playoffs of all time. Yes, it's rash to believe that already, but would you really be surprised? The Lakers are fading. The Heat aren't yet the juggernaut they will be in a couple years. Same with the Knicks. The Spurs are nearing extinction. Same with the Celtics. The Bulls and Thunder are a year or two away from maturing into superpowers. Same with the Dirkness. In other words, this thing is wide open.
It feels like the NBA is due for a crazy playoffs. With by far the tamest postseason of all the major sports (mostly due to 7 game seriesesesses), there isn't much precedence for a wild n' crazy (KIDS!) playoffs. In 1999, the Knicks went to the NBA Finals as an 8 seed, but that deserves a huge asterisk because it was a strike shortened season that only saw 50 regular season games (EXACTLY what the NBA should go to). Outside of that, you have the Mavs going down to Golden State as a top seed (I think I finally see why it was such a big deal) in 2007 and the Sonics to the Nuggets as a top seed in 1994 (the images of Dikembe are fannnntastic). We haven't seen a 7 seed over a 2 seed since 1998 (also Knicks over Heat). The last 6 seed to beat a 3 seed was in 2006 (and it was the Clippers!). Beyond the first round, the Pistons over the Lakers in 2004 and the Magic over the Cavaliers in 2008 come to mind, but those definitely weren't shockers. Upsets in the NBA playoffs just don't happen all that often (and yes I live in a sports world that began in the 90's).
Every game of this opening weekend seemed to be a toss up though. The Pacers should have beaten the Bulls. The 76ers put a scare into the Heat. The Hawks whooped the Magic. The Grizz and the Hornets shocked the Spurs and the Lakers, respectively (pinky extension), while the Knicks and the Nuggets led throughout playing on the road. Not one of the home teams dominated the opening game of the opening round. Wild n' crazy? Not yet, but a great start.
Lets hit up some of the seriesesesses for some further in depth analysis, shall we? We shall...
Dirks/Blazers - The Mavs finally have some size to protect Dirk down low. Tyson Chandler might be the perfect compliment to His 'Ness. However, the Mavs are gonna have trouble scoring throughout these playoffs (I feel they were fortunate to even be in Game 1 after their 2nd half shooting slump, and I thank the refs for that). Their best bet is to manage games, keep them close, and then win them in the end. Dirk was able to take over in the 4th quarter (18 points) on Saturday, and will have to continue to do so for the Mavs to advance.
Bulls/Pacers - I felt bad for the Pacers the way they dominated that game, but couldn't pull it out. I'm sad to say, but I think they'll get swept now. The real story of this series is His Forgiveness of Tyler Hansbrough. Once thought to be a permanent Dirkness whipping boy, I've found it in my heart to forgive he. Call it the Josh Freeman Theory. If I speak out against you time and time again, but you prove me wrong, I'll usually come out as a fan of yours. I'm a very flexible fan that likes my impressions of teams and players to adjust on the fly. I've been practicing my Psycho T celebrations ever since.
Heat/76ers - One of the best, if not the best, traditions in sports returns with the Miami Heat playoff White outs!!!!!!! It's time to FAN UP. Just caught the PTI interview with LeBron from Friday, and was shocked to hear Bron concede that he has accepted his role as a villain, when in reality I don't think he has (not showing up for the intros in Cleveland is my best evidence). This is a great example of why I just can't get behind LeBron.
Spurs/Grizzlies - Didn't get to watch it but BOO YAH!!!
Lakers/Hornets - Boy, do I owe an apology to Chris Paul after making this statement...
For whatever reason Chris Paul bores me.From the sounds of it (I didn't get to see this game either) Paul was the most exciting player of the opening games. I was just firing him up! The Hornets only had 3 turnovers in the game. 3!!! Seems like it was all Chris Paul. I had forgotten about Trevor Ariza, who is now going up against his former team, and could have something to prove. Hopefully this series stays fun. For now, the next 3 games are all must see TV.
Celtics/Knicks - Interesting series because both teams best players all matchup with one another. Billups and Rondo. Carmelo and Pierce. Amar'e and KG. Which leaves the difference maker, Ray Allen. The Knicks need a fourth player to step up (Toney Douglas might be he), and will need even more than that if Chauncey is out for more than just Game 2 (which is what they're saying now). Lastly, the call on Carmelo last night was incomprehensibly bad. I really believe the ref forgot where they were at in the game. You can't make that call at that time. And if you argue a foul is a foul (which is a tired, sophomoric argument) then they should've called the illegal screen on Garnett at the other end.
Thunder/Nuggets (similar to stuff you get out in California) - This was a trendy upset pick, but as I was watching this game, I never thought the Thunder would lose despite trailing throughout most of the contest. Everybody's worst fear of the Nuggets shined through, and they were completely unable to score at the end of the game (Kenyon Martin long jumper and Tymond Lawton heaving a 3 on their two biggest possessions).
I conclude thee with a look at the +/- stats (only the most telling stat in the game) from the games this weekend. Here's the high man and low man from each of the games...
Bulls/Pacers - Kyle Korver +13, Keith Bogans -11
Heat/Sixers - Dwyane Wade +17, Jrue Holliday -8
Magic/Hawks - Kirk Hinrich (and his sniper goggs) +21!, Brandon Bass -20
Mavs/Blaze - Dirk Nowitzki (like there was any doubt) +17, Brandon Roy -10
Spurs/Grizzlies - Marc Gasol/Tony Allen +8, Gary Neal -16
Lakers/Hornets - Aaron Gray +25!!!, Andrew Bynum -15
Celtics/Knicks - Big Baby +13, Jermaine O'Neal (odd because he played really well) -11
Thunder/Nuggets - Nick Collison (high on the regular season +/- list) +12, JR Smith -11
There you go, that's who's good and who sucks. Not up for debate. Here's to hoping Game 2's live up to the expectations of Game 1's.