Sunday, April 19, 2009

Just When You Think You Know A League

In the first game of the NBA playoffs, we've seen:

> The #7 seed in the East, with a rookie point guard, a coach that was Dead Man Walking and a frontcourt rotation that includes people who look like they've flunked out of Clown College, win on the road against the defending NBA champions (that'd be Chicago over Boston)

> The #5 seed in the East, with the league consensus second choice for MVP, getting absolutely crushed by the #4 (that'd be Atlanta over Miami)

> The #6 seed come from 18 down in the third quarter to steal Game 1 (Philly over Orlando)

> Oh, and the road teams winning in San Antonio (Dallas) and Portland (Houston)

Just what in the name of Predictable Playoffs is going on here?

Well, a large number of teams that decided to play Game One of the playoffs unlike the way they've played in the regular season, really.

In Orlando, the Sixers overcame the big deficit and Andre Iguodala's two missed free throws with a minute left to steal home court advantage. It's the kind of game the Sixers usually lost in the regular season (they were 6-9 in games decided by four points or less then), and while I'm thrilled to see them get the game, an awfully large number of things broke well for them here. When you get Donyell Marshall erupting for 11 points in 11 minutes, all of them in the fourth quarter, that's found money. It's also stretching things to imagine that Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis will combine to go 7-for-19 with one three pointer again.

Gold stars go to Marshall, Iguodala, Lou Williams (18 points in 30 minutes for my pick for sixth man of the year), and I'm even going to give it up for the ghost of Theo Ratliff, who was certainly a lot more interested in fighting off Superman Howard than the starter, Sam Dalembert. If the Magic make a habit of shooting 5 for 18 from the arc, that would also help. Oh, and the final small point here: gents, would it kill you to hit some free throws? 11 for 20 isn't helping anyone.

In Atlanta, the Hawks held serve with ridiculous authority, holding the Heat to their playoff low with 64 points. Only two Heat players were in double figures, and this game was well into confetti buckets with Mike Bibby throwing degree-of-difficulty alley oops to Josh Smith. Of all of the first round picks that didn't go right for me in Game 1 (and lo, there were many), this one looks the shakiest, just because this Heat team looked like Dwayne Wade and 11 guys from the D-League. But the loss counts the same in the standings when it's by 1 or 26, and it's not as if NBA teams don't bounce back from time to time.

Though, of course, maybe I should also be feeling very shaky about that Blazer pick, what with a 27-point loss at home. Yao Ming's next miss from the field will be his first, and the Blazers just looked downright bad on defense, which was going to trip them up at some point in the playoffs, but jeez, so soon? Houston Fan, if you would have known this would been this easy as soon as T-Mac was gone, how would you have taken him out? Oh, and if Steve Blake wants to lose his matchup by 22 points to Aaron Brooks (and what a comeback for him, from historic failure as an NFL QB -- what, it's not the same guy?), this series won't go long at all.

At least we can count on one thing -- the Cavs-Lakers finals still dead-solid locked, with both of those teams more or less rolling in Game One, and looking much better than anyone else. At least that much has stayed, well, predictable.

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