First Impressions of the First Round of the PlayoffsHere are some quick takes on each of the NBA's first round playoff series:
Cleveland 2, Indiana 0
1) The Pacers are who I thought they were: not particularly good on defense, only good on offense sporadically and a mismatched collection of talent that looks better on paper than it performs on the court.
2) I am not sure that I want to go into battle with Paul George; he is the Pacers' best player and should be the leader but he spends a lot of time publicly talking about his perceptions of what everyone else on the team is doing wrong. Why does he have to "take the last shot"? Michael Jordan did not always take the last shot. Kobe Bryant did not always take the last shot. If George thinks that he is so great that only he can take the last shot, then beat the double team, create the last shot--and make it. Jordan and Bryant did that on more than a few occasions. George's body language at the end of game one would be a serious problem for me if I were one of his teammates--and particularly if I were C.J. Miles, who took a quality shot and just happened to miss it.
3) It is not clear what this series tells us about the Cavaliers, because the Cavaliers know that they can beat this team without exerting full effort--and the Cavaliers are quite content to do just that. Do the Cavaliers have another gear? Most certainly they do. Will they shift into that gear when they face tougher competition? I have no idea. LeBron James has quit in big playoff series and he has authored historic performances in playoff series.
Chicago 2, Boston 0
1) Boston is one of the weakest number one seeds ever but I did not expect them to lose two home games to the inconsistent Chicago Bulls.
2) The Bulls have a lot of talent and they also have some championship pedigree with Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo but there is no way that this team should be up 2-0 versus the Celtics.
3) Rondo can be a difficult player to coach but he has also repeatedly proven that he can produce at a high level during the playoffs. I would take him on my team any day, with the realization that he has to be dealt with and communicated with in a particular way.
Toronto 1, Milwaukee 1
1) The Bucks are a talented enigma, at least for me. I struggle to figure out how they will perform over the course of a season or a playoff series.
2) The Raptors are a very well constructed team and, even if it takes seven games, I expect them to win this series.
Washington 1, Atlanta 0
1) John Wall is a spectacular all-around player. If the Wizards can advance one or two rounds, he may start to get the recognition he deserves.
2) Scott Brooks is an underrated coach. He almost annually led the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals and, after a rough start to this season, he may very well have the Wizards on a path to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Golden State 1, Portland 0
1) The Blazers are not scared. They look the Warriors dead in the eye and compete. Unfortunately for the Blazers, they just do not have enough talent to win this series.
2) If Kevin Durant misses games or is seriously limited by injury then the door is open for the Blazers to win a game or two--but not the series.
San Antonio 2, Memphis 0
1) Was Memphis Coach Fizdale taking a not so veiled shot at his franchise's "stat gurus" at the end of his rant after game two? His derisive, concluding comment about data did not have anything to do with his complaints about the officiating.
2) Coach Fizdale has a right to be upset with the front office, as the Grizzlies have once again fielded a team that does not have enough shooting prowess or scoring punch to be a serious playoff threat.
Houston 1, Oklahoma City 0
1) The game one blowout confirmed a simple truth: if Russell Westbrook does not play like a basketball superhero then his Oklahoma City Thunder have no chance.
2) Westbrook did not play like a basketball superhero: he shot poorly and he turned the ball over too much. All that being said and acknowledged, even if he had posted 30-10-10 with a good shooting percentage and a reasonable number of turnovers, the Thunder still would have been blown out.
3) Some have suggested that Enes Kanter should be benched. I would give him more minutes and when he is in the game I would post him up every time, forcing a smaller Rocket to guard him. This series is like the 2006 Suns-Lakers series; at that time, the Lakers' Phil Jackson used an "Inside Man" strategy to push the much more talented and deeper Suns to seven games. The Thunder must punish the Rockets in the paint.
4) My gut feeling is that Westbrook has a monster game two leading to a Thunder win but the Rockets take the series in seven.
L.A. Clippers 1, Utah 1
1) The Jazz are missing their best defensive player and the Clippers had to scramble to avoid a 2-0 deficit. I have never understood the sentiment that Chris Paul is a great leader or that he should be mentioned in the same breath with Isiah Thomas just because they are similarly sized. If Paul were a great leader then he would have actually led this very talented team past the second round at some point.
2) The Clippers will probably find a way to win this series but this team just does not have a championship mindset.
posted by David Friedman @ 7:47 PM