The NBA playoffs got started this weekend, and someone might want to let the Indiana Pacers and Blake Griffin know. The Pacers as a collective, and Griffin as an individual, where the biggest disappointments of a round of Game 1s that had more surprises than we generally see in the NBA. Here’s a look back at the opener of each series…
Atlanta 101 Indiana 93: An 8-seed beating a 1-seed just isn’t supposed to happen in the NBA. Certainly not the opening game in front of the favorite’s home fans. The Hawks hit 11 treys and point guard Jeff Teague went for 28, which could have been survived. But Indiana did not get to the free throw line, and had only a marginal edge in rebounding, which spelled trouble.
Washington 102 Chicago 93: Another road win, though a 5-seed beating the 4 doesn’t qualify as a huge shock. What was an eye-opener is that this game was right there for Chicago. The more experienced team had a narrow lead in the fourth quarter. Instead, the playoff neophytes from the nation’s capital took over and won it.
What’s more the Wizards shot 49 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Bulls 45-39, both areas were Chicago should have had the edge. The Bulls aren’t going to win games if they can’t rely on defense and rebounding. Chicago had a balanced offense, with seven players scoring between 11-16 points, but that’s not going to be sufficient when you’re losing the defensive and interior wars.
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Brooklyn 94 Toronto 87: Yet another road win, although Brooklyn is the betting favorite in this series. The Nets won in spite of shooting poorly from three-point range, thanks 24 points apiece from Joe Johnson and Deron Williams. The Brooklyn backcourt edge was decisive, as Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan struggled to a 3-for-13 game and only 14 points.
Toronto did get control of the inside, the soft underbelly of the Brooklyn team. Jonas Valanciunas, who had 17 points and 18 rebounds. If Amir Johnson joins in the effort, the Raptors can quickly turn this series back in the other direction.
Miami 99 Charlotte 88: Miami’s problems seem insignificant when you consider them in light of Indiana and Chicago actually losing. But the Heat were outrebounded, they allowed the Bobcats to shoot 46 percent from the floor and got nothing from anyone not named LeBron James or Dwayne Wade.
Fortunately for Miami, those are two pretty exceptions and they combined for 50 points. But if Al Jefferson, who got 18 points/10 rebounds, even after tweaking a hamstring, what happens if he stays healthy.
San Antonio 90 Dallas 85: Much was made of the Spurs having to rally from ten down in the fourth quarter, and I understand that. But San Antonio also won in spite of being ice-cold behind the arc, at 3/17. They won because they got to the glass, with Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter all rebounding the ball well.
Duncan had a big game overall with 27 points, while Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli combined for 38 points in the backcourt. If you’re a Dallas fan, you note that Dirk Nowitzki was held to 4-for-14 shooting and hope that you can continue the good perimeter defense and get more production from your star.
Portland 122 Houston 120 (OT): An electric game with the 5-seed Blazers stealing a road win. All the key players posted big stat lines, but none was bigger than Lamarcus Aldridge, who poured in 46 points and pulled down 18 rebounds. Damian Lilliard hit for 31 for the Blazers.
Meanwhile, Dwight Howard had a 27/15 night, and Chandler Parsons scored 24. The key was James Harden. The Rockets’ star got his points, with 27. But he only shot 8-for-28 from the floor, and missed 11 three-point attempts, part of a tough night for Houston behind the arc. Harden’s shooting compares poorly to Aldridge getting his numbers on 17-for-31, or Lilliard at 9-for-19. Efficiency ultimately helped Portland survive.
Golden State 109 LA Clippers 105: A weekend that saw five road teams win, gets another upset here. I was personally more surprised than most observers were, as I thought Golden State seemed to be melting down. But David Lee was doing anything but. The power forward had 20 points/13 rebounds.
Los Angeles still might have won, thanks to big games from Chris Paul and J.J. Redick. But where was Blake? The Clipper forward had 16 points and an astonishing three rebounds. As good as Paul is, the Clips aren’t going to win games by dominating the backcourt, not with Klay Thompson and Steph Curry on the other side. Griffin has to awaken.
Oklahoma City 100 Memphis 86: This was a wild game, with OkC getting up 24 at the half, seeing the lead shrink to two and then pull back away. Kevin Durant hit for 33, but the big reason for the win was the Thunder not only neutralized the Grizzlies’ inside, OkC actually won the battle down low.
Serge Ibaka had a 17/9 night, while Marc Gasol struggled. The Thunder outrebounded the Grizzlies’ 51-41. Memphis has to completely reverse those numbers if they’re going to reverse this series.
The eight Game 2s will stretch over the next three nights. Here’s the TV slate…
Memphis-Oklahoma City (8 PM ET, TNT)
Golden State-LA Clippers (10:30 PM ET, TNT)
Atlanta-Indiana (7 PM ET, TNT)
Brooklyn-Toronto (7:30 PM ET, NBA)
Washington-Chicago (9:30 PM ET, TNT)
Charlotte-Miami (7 PM ET, TNT)
Dallas-San Jose (8 PM ET, NBA)
Portland-Houston (9:30 PM ET, TNT)
TheSportsNotebook’s coverage of the NBA playoffs will return on Thursday to look back on all these games.