So, the 2013-2014 Regular Season has ended and we’ve finally reached the Playoffs. Here’s to weeks of exciting and tense basketball, and Round 1 has definitely delivered. Here are the matchups (with seedings in parentheses) if you haven’t seen them:
|Indiana Pacers (1) vs. Atlanta Hawks (8)|
|Miami Heat (2) vs. Charlotte Bobcats (7)|
|Toronto Raptors (3) vs. Brooklyn Nets (6)|
|Chicago Bulls (4) vs. Washington Wizards (5)|
|San Antonio Spurs (1) vs. Dallas Mavericks (8)|
|Oklahoma City Thunder (2) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7)|
|Los Angeles Clippers (3) vs. Golden State Warriors (6)|
|Houston Rockets (4) vs. Portland Trailblazers (5)|
If you couldn’t tell by the title of this post, in Game 1 of these series, the famed home court advantage didn’t hold as much weight as we thought it did – 5 of the 8 road teams in this year’s first round actually won. Here’s the breakdown on how it happened.
Atlanta Hawks takes Game 1 in Indiana
This is probably the strangest one out of the 5, with the number 8 seeded Hawks taking down the number 1 seeded Indiana Pacers in Game 1. No doubt, the entire Indiana Pacers squad has really struggled over the past month and a bit, with Roy Hibbert in particular struggling – Hibbert didn’t shoot over 50% in his last 13 games, and failed to grab double digit rebounds in his last 11 games. Pretty ridiculous for a 7’2 behemoth. George Hill has also struggled recently, fading into the background (especially on the offensive end). The Pacers issues are mainly on the offensive end.
Hibbert wasn’t fantastic in this game, going for 8 points and 8 rebounds (with 4 turnovers). His rim protection really wasn’t up to scratch, and he had no blocks and didn’t look like he altered many shots (except for in the last quarter of the game). Paul George, despite getting the double-double, only shot 33% from the field. David West’s game was similar, with only 8 points on 40% shooting. Their struggles can really be summed up by this clip of Kyle Korver blocking Hibbert:
What the Pacers weren’t expecting were fantastic games from Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap, with a great defensive effort put in form DeMarre Carroll.
Teague had a fantastic night going off for 28 points, 9 of which came from the line. The Pacers could not stay in front of Teague, and he got into the lane whenever he wanted to. The point guard also had a fantastic crossover on Evan Turner, which culminated in him getting his career-playoff-high in points.
Look at how Teague stares into Turner’s soul right before he pulls up…
Millsap also had a great game, chipping in 25 points and 8 rebounds. DeMarre Carroll grabbed a great double-double and played some top tier defense on Paul George, and Pero Antic (the 31-year old rookie – but don’t treat him like one) helped to pull Roy Hibbert away from the glass.
Both teams had little bench production, although Shelvin Mack for the Hawks hit some big shots, and Evan Turner contributed 9 points in the loss.
Brooklyn Nets take Game 1 in Toronto
I think this game really showed the importance of playoff experience, with the Nets coming away with the win. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce provided great leadership for them, and several of the Raptors struggled in their first post-season game since 2008.
The two bright spots for the Toronto squad were Kyle Lowry and Jonas ‘Vasooenowasauce‘ Valanciunas. Lowry showed no fear or nerves in his first playoff start, chucking in 22 points along with 8 assists and 7 rebounds. Valanciunas became the first Raptor since Tracy McGrady to tally a double-double in their playoff-debut, as he pulled 18 boards along with his 17 points. Their efforts would not be enough however, and All-Star DeMar DeRozan shot 3 for 13 in a disappointing game.
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson’s size was lethal to the Raptors backcourt, and they both threw in 24 points in their win. Johnson was particularly efficient, shooting over 60%. Shaun Livingston also played meaningful minutes, scoring 10 points whilst dishing out 3 assists and getting 3 rebounds.
The atmosphere was electric throughout the whole game, and the home team rallied from a 12 point deficit to gain a 1 point lead in the 3rd quarter, and with just under 4 minutes to go it was only a 1 point Nets lead.
But then, out of nowhere – THE TRUTH.
That’s right, Paul Pierce, in spectacular fashion, came up big in the 4th quarter, scoring 9 of his 15 in the last 3 minutes of the game.
I’m sure Toronto’s fans were disappointed with the result, but I think the team will have gotten over their jitters (they had 19 turnovers in the game, which really cost them and gave 19 points to Brooklyn) and be ready for action in game 2.
Washington Wizards take Game 1 in Chicago
Who would’ve thought? The Washington Wizards in the playoffs this year, after having the 6th worst record in the league last year. The best backcourt of the future, John Wall and Bradley Beal (although Dragic and Bledsoe of the Suns are challenging), have developed greatly, and the organisation stuck by coach Randy Wittman after last year’s terrible season which started with a 12 game losing streak.
Tom Thibodeau worked his magic once again with the Chicago Bulls after once again losing Derrick Rose, and the loss of All-Star Luol Deng (who was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers). It’s amazing what he’s done, and he’s been getting a lot of support (once again) for the Coach of the Year Award.
The Bulls had a balanced scoring effort in Game 1 of the first round series with 7 players putting double figures in the points column, but it’s quite clear they struggle without Rose offensively - I mean, when D.J. Augustine is your leading scorer, you know something’s wrong. They don’t have a go to scorer, and they can’t pretend to be the San Antonio Spurs by getting balanced low scoring players across the roster.
Washington’s backcourt struggled greatly, missing 18 of their 25 shots. Many saw this as being detrimental, but the front court really stepped up and took the game from Chicago – in particular, Nene looked like an absolute monster against the Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, putting up 24 and 8 shooting above 60%. He had great two man game with Andre Miller who played important minutes in the fourth quarter, giving the Wizards 10 points. Marcin Gortat pulled down 13 rebounds to help in the effort, and it truly was a surprising win.
In essence, the Washington Wizards out Chicago’d the Chicago Bulls by bullying their way inside and getting easy points. I’m expecting a long series for this one, and I’d look for Chicago to come out strong in the first quarter and then try to maintain a lead throughout the game in game 2.
Golden State Warriors take Game 1 in Los Angeles
The Golden State Warriors received the terrible news last week that starting center Andrew Bogut would be out for the rest of the playoffs with a fractured rib. This saw many fans in tears as the Warriors really need size against the Clippers scary frontcourt duo of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan - the veteran Jermaine O’Neal, stepped into the starting line up.
Foul trouble plagued both teams in this one, the Clippers more so however, with All-Star Blake Griffin fouling out with just 20 minutes of play in the fourth quarter (which was tightly fought going down the stretch). Andre Iguodala suffered similar fate, fouling out after around 20 minutes of play as well. This probably contributed to the strong backcourt performance from Los Angeles, with Chris Paul putting 28 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, and 4 steals (and 6 turnovers), and JJ Reddick’s fantastic shooting night added 22 points. Matt Barnes did not play as well however, and as a player who could be an X-Factor in the series, 2 points is really, well… shit. The bench had similar failure, with Jamal Crawford being kept to 2 of 11 shooting.
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, despite putting up a decent number of points, shot the ball very inefficiently (combining for 13 of 36 shooting - ouch). Curry also had his trademark 7 turnovers. However, Klay Thompson showed flashes of defensive brilliance during stretches of the game, and he arguably kept the Warriors in the game at points. The frontcourt fared much better though, and David Lee stepped up to be the scorer Golden State needed, giving the team 20 points and 13 rebounds. Jermaine O’Neal also fought valiantly, 13 points with 3 rebounds as well. Their bench fared slightly better than the Clippers’, mainly due to the other X-Factor in this series, Harrison Barnes. Barnes had a disappionting regular season this year, but he really stepped up when it mattered, giving 14 points and 8 boards, hitting a handful of 3 pointers as well. If he plays like this all series, expect it to be closely fought.
This game was unfortunately marred by a no-call near the end of the game, which resulted in a Chris Paul turnover, and his missed free throws towards the end of the game didn’t help – this another series where it could go 6 or 7 games.
Portland Trailblazers take Game 1 in Houston
Wow… what a game. If you missed this, I feel sorry for you. A fantastic overtime thriller -
Houston’s starters all had fairly good games actually, with both Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones giving the Rockets double-doubles (a combined 28 rebounds). Chandler Parsons added 24 points, and although he was a cold 3 of 11 from downtown, he made it for it with an overall 10 of 21 shooting. Beverly’s defensive tenacity was welcomed, but he got injured as he fouled out in the overtime period – luckily, the team reports the Beverly will likely play in game 2, and the Rockets certainly need him to contain Damian Lillard. James Harden added 27 points but on a disgraceful 8 of 28 efficiency, and had some boneheaded plays down the stretch where he settled for jumpers instead of trying to get to the bucket. The bench were quite poor, and only Jeremy Lin playing well, giving them 14 points.
Portland’s bench were absolutely terrible, combining for just 7 points on what was definitely an off night – All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge decided to take matters into his own hands, and he scored a franchise-playoff-record 46 points to go along with his 18 rebounds. He had a great day on the offensive glass, pulling down 7 of them. It was a very physical game, and both teams combined for over 70 free throws – Aldridge would foul out in overtime (which he actually forced with a lucky tip in), and playoff rookie Damian Lillard gladly stepped up to the plate, scoring the next 5 points for the Trailblazers, which gave him a total of 31 points to go along with 9 rebounds and 5 assists. I would not be surprised if Lillard eventually becomes a superstar in this league, his shooting his on point and he’s cold blooded when it comes to clutch moments. Batum and Lopez combined for 17 rebounds, and Wesley Matthews added 18 points.
As far as what caused Houston to lose, it was their late game execution which let them down, with Harden’s failure to drive to the bucket towards the end of the game really losing for the team. This game had me on the edge of the seat, and next game should be just the same (fingers crossed).