Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Grizz Grizz, and the Dubs Fade

Tonight in the NBA playoffs, both western conference first round match ups went to 1-1, but in very different ways.

First, the early game; Memphis took out the Thunder in OKC, in overtime, in what might have been their best game of the year. Most of the time when a road team wins in overtime, there were moments that they were long stretches that they weren't the better team, or got good and lucky, but not so much in tonight's game. OKC got an absurd 4-point play from Kevin Durant on a falling down three pointer from the corner, then a putback overtime-forcing bucket from noted offensive machine Kendrick Perkins (?), just to get to bonus time. In overtime, the road dogs kept pounding the Thunder on the glass, owning them in half court, and honestly should have won by more. OKC should still win this series, because the Grizz are not going to get this much from Beno Udrih, Mike Miller and Courtney Lee, but what was looking like a squash for much of Game One has now moved up into Must Watch status.

In the late game, the Warriors mailed it in, with Blake Griffin shaking off the Game One foul trouble to dominate, Klay Thompson disappeared, Steph Curry deferred too much in the first half and the Clips more or less ended things early for everyone. There's a reason why the Dubs are a fraud, and games like tonight, when they didn't need the game and clearly weren't all that interested in going after it, are the reason why.

A real team with steel in their hearts doesn't go for all of that touchy-feely stuff of showing up for coach's Easter ministry service (I have nothing against Mark Jackson's religion, except when it creeps over into work, and becomes one more way in which boundaries are blurred between coach and pal), or letting a hated rival clown you for a 40-point blowout... but the plain and simple of this series, and hoop in general, is that good big men beat good small men, and with Andrew Bogut out and David Lee turning into a softer and softer turnstile, the Dubs are left with long periods of time when they are reliant on 35-year-old Jermaine O'Neal to hold down the fort. Against Griffin and the startlingly improved DeAndre Jordan (dude even hit his free throws tonight, that's unfair), it's really not enough, especially when Chris Paul is eating Curry alive.

Things will change in Game Three, of course; they always do, and I'm not changing my picks for either series. But long, deep, nasty series with road teams winning early to set up serious drama and more Western Conference games? Please and thank you. By any means necessary.

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