Monday, April 30, 2012

2012 NBA Playoffs (Round 1)

Well, now that everyone's played a game, it's a great time to take a look at what's down the road, what we have to look forward to, and what will undoubtedly disappoint/thrill us.

Western Conference

San Antonio (#1) vs. Utah (#8)

What Game 1 told us:  Other than the fact that the Jazz have the most underwhelming big men in the NBA, it's showed us the Spurs are back and ready to tear shit up.  The West's "Big Three" (Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili) showed a renewed sense of athleticism we'd all thought died in 2007.  From Tim Duncan getting his LeBron on to Ginobili...  well, doing the same, the Spurs were out to prove something.  Though frequently injured, going bald, and French, San Antonio did some serious work.  Tony Parker let it rain with 28 points, proving that those floaters are still lethal.  Unless the Jazz do something dramatic and ridiculous, there's no reason the Spurs can't coast into the second round. 

Series impact player:

The Spurs aren't individuals, they're a unit.  They're old and achy, but they've still got a whole lot of wow in them.

 Series Prediction:  Spurs, 4-0

Oklahoma City (#2) vs. Dallas (#7)

What Game 1 told us:  This series is going to be pretty damned close.  We have a young, explosive, hungry team against some seasoned vets and last year's Champions.  The Mavericks took an early lead, going up by eight in the first quarter, and held onto it for most of the game.  The Thunder stayed close and went on a 7-0 run in the last 2:30, tying it up, then Kevin Durant nailed the game-winner over Shawn Marion.   A surprise to nobody, KD and Russell Westbrook both went in for a combined 53 points, reaffirming that they are the best one-two punch in the NBA.  Dirk did his thing (25 points, 9-10 from the line) and Jason Terry continues to be a problem in the playoffs.  It'll be a good one, folks.

Series impact player:

Serge Ibaka contributed a career high-tying 22 points, adding 5 blocks, 6 boards, and a steal.  He proved that he's got surprising offensive prowess and he'll keep putting up 20 or more if something isn't done presently.

Series prediction:  Thunder, 4-2

Los Angeles Lakers (#3) vs. Denver Nuggets (#6)

What Game 1 told us:  I know it's stating the obvious at this point, but Andrew Bynum is a monster.  He had a triple double with blocks, the vast majority of which seemed to be against Kenneth Faried.  Kobe was on his game with 31 points on a solid 45.8% from the field.  I've said it before and I'll continue to say it:  without Carmelo Anthony, the Nuggets don't matter.  They just don't have the talent to get it done.  Faried has proven to be insanely explosive and athletic, but he's no superstar.  Gallo's not bad, but he's no franchise player.  Without Nene to round out the frontcourt, thanks to the worst trade of the last few years, the Nuggets unsurprisingly left the paint wide open for Andrew Bynum to chew up.  Add these factors to their lackluster 35% shooting, and you've got yourself a first round bye for Los Angeles.

Series impact player:

Once again, he had a triple double with blocks.  The Nuggets did not, will not, and cannot do anything about him with their current roster.

Series prediction:  Lakers, 4-0

 Los Angeles Clippers (#4) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (#5)

What Game 1 told us:  It's always the teams in the mid-seeds that give us the best games.  Without a doubt, this was the best game of basketball in the playoffs thus far.  The Clippers spent most of the game getting their asses handed to them, so much so that it put them in a 27-point hole.  Memphis spent the first three quarters dragging L.A. up and down the floor, shooting 50% from the field and a staggering 67% from downtown.  The fourth quarter was spectacular, though.  The Clippers got their shit together and came back to win, carried by Nick Young's team-high 19 points (he started 3-3 from downtown).  Zach Randolph, renowned pit bull breeder and the most dominant man in last year's playoffs was nowhere to be found.  Z-Bo played 32 minutes and shot 3-13 from the field for six points, adding three personal fouls and two blocks against.  The overly dramatic up-and-down nature of this game gives me hope that the Grizzlies will once again be a part of the best series in the playoffs.  Despite the Grizzlies giving up a 27-point lead, the window is far from closed.

Series impact player:

Since Zach Randolph has apparently decided to stop showing up for work, the direction the series takes rests on Rudy Gay's shoulders.  How well the Grizzlies do is dependent nearly entirely on how well number 22 does.

Series prediction:  Clippers, 4-2

Eastern Conference

Chicago Bulls (#1) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (#8)

What Game 1 told us:  Derrick Rose got injured again.  Shocking, I know, but still sad.  According to, the knee injury he sustained against Philly is the sixth body part he's hurt this year (the others were:  toe, back, groin, foot, and ankle).  What could have shaped up to be an incredibly one-sided affair is just going to be a standard one-sided affair.  Though they are a good team independent of Derrick Rose, I don't see them going too terribly far in the playoffs without him.  Saturday's game wasn't entirely without spectacle.  Here's what happened with the Bulls:  Derrick Rose played a shitty first quarter (1-7), ended with 23 points, and blew out his knee.  Rip Hamilton proved that he still has plenty of gas in the tank,  scoring 19 points on 6-7 field goals and 6-6 free throws.  Carlos Boozer almost got in a fight with Evan Turner.  They had seven more turnovers and seven less free throws made than the Sixers.  Here's what happened with the 76ers:  Nobody cares.  Seriously.  The Bulls lost their best player, turned the ball over more, gave up more free throws, and still won.  Louis Williams, Philly's top scorer during the regular season, was 1-6 from the field.  As a unit, the 76ers were 1-9 from the three-point line.  Seriously, though, with Derrick Rose out, this series no longer matters.  The Bulls still take it, no problem.

Series impact player:

In case you hadn't heard, this series no longer matters.  Let Brian Scalabrine play point for all I care; the Sixers still don't have a snowball's chance in hell.

Series prediction:  Bulls, 4-0

Miami Heat (#2) vs. New York Knicks (#7)

What Game 1 told us:  LeBron James is a rapist.  32 points (10-14 from the field, 11-14 from the line) and 4 steals.  This all happened, by the way, in three quarters.  Why the Knicks lost:  Two reasons.  First, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler (NBA leader in FG%), shot a combined 5-25 from the floor.  Second, LeBron James asserted his dominance too early and too forcefully for New York to do anything about it even if they'd wanted to (see:  Tyson Chandler).  LeBron aside, though, the Miami Heat reminded everyone that they are the best team in the NBA.  New York gave up 28 free throw attempts in the first half; Miami gave up 11 free throw attempts in the game.  The Heat added 12 steals, four blocks, and a respectably efficient 8-13 for 19 points from D. Wade to top off their blowout win over the Knicks.  Look anywhere else for a seven-game series.

Series impact player:

LeBron James; 'nuff said.

Series prediction:  Heat, 4-0

Indiana Pacers (#3) vs. Orlando Magic (#6)

What Game 1 told us:  This series isn't going to be a whole lot of fun.  We've got two clubs of low-scoring underachievers grinding it out.  While this game wasn't without some really cool moments (Jason Richardson going 5-7 from three-point land), it's going to be a real shit show.   Both teams were under 40% shooting (Orlando - 39.5, Indiana - 34.5).  Both teams were well under 40% from three-point territory (Orlando - 37%, Indiana - 30%).  Both teams combined for 95 rebounds.  People who can't shoot well miss a lot of shots, then one of them (Jason Richardson) does something unexpected.  This was easily the least interesting of the eight first round games, though Chicago/Philly was a close second.  Whoever wins here absolutely loses in the second round, so it doesn't really matter.

Series impact player:

You remember David West, right?  The guy who caught all those fancy passes from Chris Paul for a few years.  If anybody's really going to score points and make a noticeable difference on offense, it's this dude.  Good luck and godspeed, Mr. West.

Series prediction:  Magic, 4-3

Boston Celtics (#4) vs. Atlanta Hawks (#5)

What Game 1 told us:  It reaffirmed that the middle games in the first round are always the interesting ones.  While low scoring as all get out, it was quite entertaining.  Offense on both teams was piss-poor for the most part.  The Celtics were 0-11 from beyond the arc.  Both teams shot 40% from the field.  Together, Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce were 8-34 from the field and 0-15 from three.  Why, you ask, would this game be remotely interesting?   Two reasons.  First, Josh Smith.  As I've said for quite a while now, J-Smoove should be an All-Star.  He went off for 22 points and a lovely 18 rebounds.  Second, Rajon Rondo, the best point guard in the NBA.  Rondo did what Rondo does; he had 20 points and added 11 assists, four steals, and one ejection from the game (see:  video).  So we all understand each other, this game marked Rondo's 25th consecutive game with 10 or more assists; BAMF.  He's super efficient, a little immature, and kind of a dick.  That's got HoF written all over it.

Series impact player:

Like I said, he's the best point guard in the NBA.  He's got enough of an attitude to actually care about losing, and I've got a feeling that Boston won't take dropping the first game of the playoffs to the Hawks lightly.  Look for at least one triple double before the series is over.

Series prediction:  Celtics, 4-2

When everything's said and done, the playoffs look to provide some excitement, lots of boredom, and plenty of LeBron James destroying people.  The second round is where things are going to get sexy.

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