Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics @ Cleveland
Cavaliers lead 1-0
For a team that has this unique mix of a 2-time NBA Champion who also happens to the best player alive, and two elite level playoff debutantes, the Cavs did a more than fair job of taking care of the “upstart” Celtics in Game 1. Both Love and Irving were very good and lived up to their regular season abilities. Irving especially impressed with this new found aggression on the defensive end. Something he (rightfully) took flak for almost his entire career. Lebron was, well, Lebron. His ability to do anything needed to elevate his team at almost any point of the game is something we have not seen since Magic Johnson. What impressed me is the maturity with which he handled the debut of Love, Irving and Mozgov, even saying while being mic’d up that it is normal to be excited, but they just needed to calm down and play their game.
“Things are gonna go back and forth, just stay the course. Be back, purposeful offense.” – Brad Stevens
These guys aren’t intimidated and will not back down. It isn’t like they have irrational confidence guys like Stephen Jackson or Nate Robinson playing for them, but they don’t need those guys. They have Stevens in their corner. If anything, the comeback 16-2 run over a span of three minutes in the 3rd quarter was indication enough that these guys came to play. Their inexperience showed in places, especially when (they felt) calls were not going their way. Someone needs to tell them that thises are the playoffs. And you are playing Lebron at home in his first playoff game back as a Cavalier. Get used to not getting the calls you want. It is going to be an uphill task against a title contender so the Celtics would do well to stick to the basics and bring that heart, that system and that Stevens to every game.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Portland Trailblazers @ Memphis
Grizzlies lead 1-0
They continue to do what they do best, play stifling defense. They throttled the Blazers for nearly the whole game while making simple plays ending in high percentage shots at the other end. Conley struggled with his injury, but Udrih stepped in style to cover up for any shortage on the offensive end. Both Randolph and Gasol were as effective as expected and I am running out of thoughts for this paragraph. The Grizz did everything right. Nothing to see here…let’s move on.
Surviving the regular season without Mathews was commendable, but they missed him and his phenomenal two-way play terribly in Game 1. If Portland cannot find a rhythm, look for Memphis to wrap this up earlier. The good news is that Memphis shot very well, something that history tells us isn’t going to happen in succession often. Portland also win the home crowd war in the series by a mile and then some, so look for them to take at least two games back at home. Alridge (although playing hurt) and Lillard both struggled significantly, something that does not seem likely to happen for four games back to back. Portland will need to be patient with themselves and trust that they can give the Grizzlies a run for the second round appearance.
Atlanta Hawks vs. Brooklyn Nets @ Atlanta
Hawks lead 1-0
If the Hawks were affected by the night club incident, they certainly did not show it. Yes, they are missing Sefolosha, and miss him even more when the move to the second round. As good as they still are defensively Sefolosha adds another level to it. Brooklyn aren’t a worthy competitor on any level, so the Hawks will have their way with them throughout the series, just like they did in Game 1. Coach Mike can use this series to test a few lineups / formations in preparation for whoever comes for them in the second round.
Not much to be said after The Truth said it all last week. They make the playoffs only because they play in the weaker conference and the NBA refuses to budge on its stance on having the top 16 teams in the league make the playoffs as opposed to the top eight teams in each conference. There were some bright spots on the offensive end, especially from Deron Williams who still controls the heart of this team. Even the late run in the 4th quarter was a good sign for the Nets who look to make a series out of this. How successful they will be, is yet to be seen.
Los Angeles Clippers vs San Antonio Spurs
Clippers lead 1-0
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this should absolutely not be a first round match up, and this first game showed us why. That one of these two elite teams will be eliminated in the first round because of a silly technicality is proof that the playoff seeding rules need to change. And change fast.
CP3 was in assassin mode. He was determined the Clips stay in the game from whistle to whistle and took full advantage of banged up Spurs team. The other star for the Clippers was their defense which was beyond spectacular for large periods of the game. The Clippers are right to double up on Kwahi as soon as he touches the ball, but need to rotate quicker when he passes out of the double team. This may become a challenge as the series progresses since the Spurs, as a team, shift formations at great speed and no one adjusts better from game to game than Pop’s teams. Jordan needs to work on his free throws during downtime to eliminate Hack-a-Jordan, a strategy that takes away the Clipper biggest strength, transition offense.
The Spurs struggled immensely, both from the field and the free throw line. That is both good and bad news. Bad because they are now down 1-0 against an elite team they should have ideally met in the second round. Good because it can only get better from here. That Parker ankle twist made me nearly crap my pants, and the way Paul’s been playing that’s the one injury the Spurs cannot afford at this time. In classic Spurs style they took their time coming out of the blocks, feeling their way around the Clippers before coming through at the start of the second quarter. As much of a purist he is, do not expect Pop to not take advantage of Hack-a-Jordan to break the Clippers flow. I’m all for taking advantage of an NBA player who cannot make at least 60 percent of his free throws. And let’s not forget that Duncan was there at some point in his career as well. The Spurs will bounce back. And let’s be honest, how many of us are willing to bet against the defnding Champions winning four of the remaining six.