What a way to kick off the Playoffs. I have never seen, rather, the NBA has never witnessed this type of surprises.
For the first time in NBA Playoff history, the top 2 seeds of a conference lose their Game One’s. The Memphis Grizzlies lived up to their words, and beat the Spurs without Rudy Gay for a 101 – 98 thriller. What was not thrilling though was the loss of my beloved LA Lakers, which I still don’t understand how, but they somehow found a way to lose to the New Orleans Hornets, 109-100.
The other games were close, and only the Orlando Magic was the upper seed (#4) to lose to the Atlanta Hawks.
Anyway, let’s take a look at how, for a change, there was no game that was one sided:
Indiana Pacers  vs Chicago Bulls  (99-104)
Derrick Rose said that it wouldn’t be easy.
He was damn right.
With the critics and analysts saying that the Pacers’ record isn’t good enough to be in the playoffs, they proved otherwise. Putting up a challenge in the entire night, they just weren’t able to finish the game right as they started it. Derrick Rose showed why he should be the league’s MVP (39 points, 6 assists), leading the Bulls to end the game on a 16-1 run after trailing 98-88 with over 2 minutes left.
What to expect in Game 2: Expect Carlos Boozer to have a better game, and the rest of the Chicago Bulls to take the Pacers more seriously. Game Two should be Chicago’s.
Philadelphia 76ers  vs Miami Heat  (89 – 97)
As expected, the Heat beat the Sixers. Also, the Sixers didn’t give in easily. With a mediocre shooting game from LeBron James, and finally taking into the decoy role that he should have been doing all season in the last two minutes of the game, Dwayne Wade managed to score five of his 17 points in the last 2 minutes, securing the win for the Heat. The game kicked off with Philly leading 25-11, yet the Heat bounced back and managed to pull a 12 point lead in the fourth quarter, only for the Sixers to rally back one last time and cut the deficit to 1 point, yet Wade showed them who’s boss, ending the game in favor of the upper seed. Let’s not forget Chris Bosh putting on his A-game with those 25 points and 12 rebounds. The Sixers in general had a good game, but they simply can’t match up with the Heat.
What to expect in Game 2: Another Miami Heat victory unless the Sixers find a way to stop both LeBron and Dwayne at the same time.
New York Knicks  vs Boston Celtics  (85-87)
I had a feeling this series would be good. I just never thought the games would be this good.
As great as the rivalry was Game 1. Carmelo Anthony didn’t impress as much, Amar’e Stoudemire was awesome, and I’m worried about that Chauncey Billups injury. The New York trio weren’t good enough to beat the Celtics, where Ray Allen shone again with 24 points on 15 shots, including that late 3 that won them the game. It was an exciting game, yet the series took an unfortunate turn for the Knicks with Billups’ injury at the end of the game and is questionable for Game 2.
What to expect in Game 2: If the Knicks don’t feed the ball more to Stoudemire, and Billups not coming back (no offense to Toney Douglas), expect a Celtics victory again.
Atlanta Hawks  vs Orlando Magic  (103-93)
I haven’t seen a one man performance like Dwight Howard’s in a while. 31 points in the first half? One would think the Magic were dominating the game! *Annoying buzz* Wrong answer. Despite those 31 points, the Atlanta Hawks were outplaying the Orlando Magic.
Other than Dwight Howard’s 46 points and 19 rebounds, there was nothing really to see in the Magic. And they said that Jason Collins was going to bother Howard. Jameer Nelson had a slow start in the first half, but finished strong with 27 points. But that’s about it.
Joe Johnson, Jamal Crawford and co. put on a strong game, and seem to be confident about themselves given they won the season series 3-1. Why not? They played big after a not-so-good first quarter.
What to expect: The Defensive Player of the Year for the third year in a row can’t go any bigger than those 46 points, but his teammates assumingly would step up their game. Orlando tie the series.
Memphis Grizzlies  vs San Antonio Spurs  (101-98)
Memphis rested their starters for the last 4 games to make sure they are ready AND end up with the Spurs in a playoff matchup. They could’ve went up to sixth and played the Dallas Mavericks, who they owned in the regular season. Yet they chose to stay 8th.
They lived up to it. Big time.
Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol put on a show, and despite the game taking lead changes at the end, the Grizzlies were able to get their first playoff win for the franchise. As an eighth seeded team against the best team in the West. Now that’s good.
Yet no need to worry, I still think that, despite my hatred for the Spurs, they’ll still win this series in six games.
What to expect: San Antonio bouncing back like they always do. Spurs win. Very hard for the Grizzlies to pull off another stunner at the AT&T Center.
New Orleans Hornets  vs Los Angeles Lakers  (109-100)
I watched the game the other night, and I still couldn’t understand. Why would Pau Gasol play so horribly like that? Kobe Bryant was the man for LA with those 34 points and those amazing shots, and Ron Artest put up a decent game with that double-double, but seriously Pau Gasol, WTF?! 2 from 9, 6 rebounds?! And you wonder why championship-less center Stoudemire calls you soft? Get your act together! Andrew Bynum had 13 points and 9 rebounds, but wasn’t as good as he was in the streak. Kobe couldn’t pull it off by himself this time. And LA’s defense sucked big time.
Chris Paul, the player who came second to Kobe in MVP voting back in 08, scored 33 points, had 14 assists, 7 rebounds and 4 steals and played around the Lakers defense at free will. The way the Hornets were knocking down those one handed layups was as if they were playing alone. THE LAKERS SHOULD HAVE DOMINATED THE DAMN GAME! The Hornets don’t have David West. Emeka Okafor had a bad game with more fouls than points. Aaron Gray and Carl Landry outplay Pau Gasol???!!! IN WHAT WORLD?!
It’s a good thing Kobe called out Gasol today. He seriously has to start playing like a 2 time champ.
What to expect: I still think the Lakers are going to win this series in 5. So expect a Lakers win.
Portland Trail Blazers  vs Dallas Mavericks  (81-89)
It felt so good to see the Mavs win. They got such a good team that I’ll never understand why they just can’t win in the playoffs and play the way they play the regular season. Everyone undermines Dirk Nowitzki and thinks he chokes in the playoffs. Really? He’s one of 4 guys in NBA history to average 25 points and 10 rebounds in the playoffs. Don’t forget those performances against the Suns and Spurs back in the day. And whoever tells me that he choked in the 06 Finals, we all know what happened then. So enough about that.
I enjoyed more than anything my favorite non-Laker player being the X-Factor of the game. That’s right, 38-year old Jason Kidd had 24 points, including 6 3-pointers, and with Nowitzki’s 27 points, the Mavs were finally able to quiet those who are foreseeing an upset in this series and pull off a well deserved win.
What to expect: This series is puzzling, and I’m not expecting Kidd to have another 24 point game. But I still think the Mavs are going to win both at home. So another Mavs win.
Denver Nuggets  vs Oklahoma City Thunder  (103-107)
This could easily be the most exciting series in the playoffs. Why not? The youngest and most athletic players in the NBA going at each other? The leading scorer? The team that the Ewing Theory seems to work perfectly on? Yeah, I want this series.
Kevin Durant (41 points) and Russell Westbrook (31 points) combined for one of the best guard performances so far and were able to overcome the winningest team since the All Star break.
Kendrick Perkins had 4 points, but 2 of them gave the Thunder the lead for good.
Denver had a good game, and despite dominating the NBA since the Carmelo Anthony trade, they just can’t seem to beat the Thunder. What I like about Denver is that they had eight players with at least 8 points, led by Nene Hilario’s 22, which makes them a threat given you can’t tell who is going to dominate the game at any given night.
What to expect: I honestly don’t know. This is one of the series where any team can win on any given night because they are so young. I’ll go with the Thunder on this one, although the Nuggets are going to give them hell again.