Game 1 has come and gone everywhere, and here’s 8 things we took away.
The Toronto Raptors had a hype rally before the game Saturday and were as pumped up as ever, even Masai Ujiri was in on it… Unfortunately, they couldn’t close out the Nets at home and are now facing a 1-0 deficit against a more experienced team. What lost them the game? How bout 19 turnovers and a combined 17 points from DeRozan and Terrance Ross. Taking care of the ball is the most important thing, next comes their need for DeRozan and Ross to become scoring threats as the series continues. They out rebounded Brooklyn, so all they need is to value each possession and get DeRozan going. Series Prediction: Nets in 7.
Blake Griffin played 19 minutes and had 5 fouls for the Clippers while Chris Paul shot 50% from the free throw line for the first time in god knows how long. Despite those two disappointing Game 1 stats, the Clippers only lost by 4 points. That doesn’t look good for the Warriors, especially because Chris Paul scored 28 points and if Blake can stay on the floor for 30 minutes or more, that combination means good things for Los Angeles. Jamal Crawford also shot 2-11, something we can’t expect from him going forward. Unfortunately, for the Clippers fans, Stephen Curry and Andre Igoudala combined for 22 points and 10 assists, including a foul out for Iggy. Who knows what happens if Curry scores his normal 24 points next game and Igoudala can stay on the floor for more than 20 minutes. More unfortunate news is the Warriors winning despite their 23 turnovers. The Clippers shot surprisingly well from deep, which kept them in the game but I don’t think 10 threes a game is something they can maintain, while 11 threes for the Warriors is hardly surprising nor hard to keep up. The Warriors did a good job of limiting the Clippers in transition and will need to keep it that way for the rest of the series. All in all, I think there are many ways to interpret Game 1 and weigh the pros and cons for each team, but for me the Clippers are taking this. The Warriors only won Game 1 because Blake Griffin played 19 minutes. They played terribly and their 23 turnovers are not going to be acceptable if Blake is on the court and running in transition. I think Stephen Curry can continue to be subdued by Chris Paul/Darren Collison who gave up the 2nd least amount of points to starting point guards all season with 17 a game. They only lost by 4 points with Blake Griffin fouling out, Jamal Crawford scoring 2 points and Matt Barnes scoring 2 points. The Warriors fall very in love with the three ball, and if it’s not falling for them and they turn the ball over at the same rate they did in Game 1, the Clippers will win the series. The Clippers on the other hand have a good balance of half-court and transition offense. In the half-court they have many options to go to, while the Warriors depend very heavily on Thompson, Curry and Lee. Blake Griffin will pick it up, and the Clippers will take it. Series Prediction: Clippers in 6.
Tim Duncan playing against Dirk Nowitzki in a playoff series is a sight for nostalgic eyes. The Mavericks almost stole Game 1 in San Antonio, but if you ask me it’s all part of the way the Spurs get in your head… Letting you think you have it when really they’re pacing themselves for the end. Call it crazy, conspiracy or whatever you want, but they’re masterminds down in San Antonio. The Spurs’ big 3 combined for 65 points and as a team they out rebounded Dallas by 8. Dirk Nowitzki was limited to 11 points but we can expect the German wonder kid to make up for that with big scoring outputs the rest of the series. It might be frightening for Spurs fans however, knowing they won by only 5 points with only 11 from the opposing teams best player. Their bench also needs to step it up for the rest of this series, the Mavericks are very well rounded and had 5 guys hit double digits in Game 1, with three of those 5 coming off the bench. The Spurs, neglecting the 17 points from Ginobili, only produced 6 points off the bench. However, like Dirk’s quiet night, the Spurs’ depth can be counted on later in the series to help the starting lineup out. Series Prediction: Spurs in 7.
The Indiana Pacers continued their late-season struggles with an 8 point loss to the Hawks and all of a sudden, this matchup is looking perfect for the Hawks who just made the playoffs over the Knicks. They’ve taken away Indiana’s home-court and have furthered the mental funk the Pacers have been stuck in for the past two months. Jeff Teague had an unbelievable game penetrating the lane and should be able to continue to do that in this series until Indiana puts another defender on him. Indiana played another disappointing and shocking game, and it’s beginning to seem like the Pacers will never get out of their slump. The Pacers can’t score the ball easily and so their 93 points isn’t shocking, but they can’t afford to give up 101 points to the Hawks. They also can’t afford to turn the ball over 17 times. The Pacers need to shake up their approach to the Hawks because Pero Antic is someone who is comfortable playing on the perimeter knocking down open threes. That pulls Roy Hibbert out of the paint, which not only puts him at a disadvantage having to move around the perimeter, and at some points even fighting through screens, but it takes a rim protector out of the paint and opens it up for Jeff Teague. If Roy Hibbert helps, that leaves a wide open three point shooter in Antic, and if they help on Antic the Hawks have either Millsap (36% 3 point shooting) or Kyle Korver (47% 3 point shooting) open to hit a three. David West is not a rim protector so leaving him as the only big man in the paint isn’t going to work against the Hawks. They’ll have to play more of a Mahimi/West or a Scola/West or even a Copeland/West combination to counter the small-ball of Atlanta as well as switching either Paul George or Lance Stephenson onto Teague to limit his penetration. If the Pacers decide to keep Hibbert on the floor, they have to make it a priority to pound the ball in the paint and get Hibbert touches, thus forcing the Hawks to match him instead of the other way around. The Hawks are underdogs, with an early advantage and nothing to lose up against an offensively handicapped team in a defensive funk with match-up issues… I think I’ll go with the upset on this one. Series Prediction: Hawks in 6.
Nobody on earth can stop Kevin Durant anymore and the Grizzlies certainly can’t bother him one on one. Tayshaun Prince could’ve in 2004, and Tony Allen could if he were a couple inches taller but unfortunately for them they are who they are and they can’t stop KD. The Grizzlies need to control the pace for the rest of the series if they want to contain the Thunder. The Thunder scored 32 fast break points on the Grizzlies and the more they get easy baskets the more comfortable they feel, the more excited their fans get, and the harder it is for the Grizzlies to gain momentum once again. The Grizzlies like playing in the half-court and they need to keep the game in the half-court in order to be successful. For the Thunder I don’t think guarding Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will be a problem, they have the defensive assets to do it (Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins) mainly Ibaka who is far more athletic then both of those guys and will cause problems with his energy and activity defensively. Both Memphis big men had solid games in Game 1, but for one, solid games won’t cut it and two, the rest of the team is very offensively challenged, similar to the Pacers. I think their scoring problems will come back to bite them as the series progresses and if the perimeter guys can’t step up offensively consistently, the series won’t go on for long. I also think down the stretch, the Grizzlies are going to find it hard to score in crunch time and to keep up with the superstar talent the Thunder have between Westbrook and Durant. Series Prediction: Thunder in 6.
The Bulls scoring issues are going to hurt them going down the stretch, and with only 18 points in the 4th quarter, their lack of a go to scoring option was evident. The Bulls’ half court offense is usually efficient and although they don’t score a lot, they make the most of every possession but when they need a basket in a critical time of the game, it’s becoming a struggle. Losing at home isn’t a good start to Chicago’s postseason hopes but their energy and defense enables them to win anywhere. Looking forward I think Joakim Noah will watch the game tape and see what Nene was doing to him and fix that in their next matchup. If the Bulls can keep the Wizards to 95 points or lower in the rest of their games they can win this series. Something is very interesting about the Wizards however. They’re combination of youth and athleticism fused with their defensive identity and veterans makes them kind of unpredictable. Everybody is playing well, Nene is fresh off an injury and I think the Wizards might be able to squeeze this one out. However, knowing the Bulls I don’t think they’d lose a Game 7 at home and I think they played a good offensive game by their standards, they had 7 guys in double figures, all they need is an extra spark from somebody. They have to consider playing Jimmy Butler on John Wall to limit his activity and overall their defensive performance was hardly characteristic of the Bulls. If they play their stingy 91 points allowed type of defense, they can take this series. However, the Bulls struggled with the Wizards during the regular season going 1-2 against them. That plus their Game 1 disadvantage puts them in poor position to take this series. If the Wizards are up 3-2 going into Game 6 in Washington they will win, if they have a Game 7 I’ll give it to Chicago. Series Prediction: Wizards in 6.
Things don’t look good for the Rockets right now. They lost Game 1 at home, and with Patrick Beverley as the only guy on the team who could guard Damian Lillard, getting injured with a sprained right knee – the same knee in which he tore his meniscus on March 27th. Beverley couldn’t even hold Lillard in Game 1 as he put up 31 points, so with him not at 100% for Game 2 and the rest of the series, guarding Lillard is going to become a huge problem. I also think Lamarcus Aldridge has the best matchup in the entire league right now. The Rockets gave up a horrid 22 points and 13 rebounds to opposing starting power forwards throughout the regular season. Aldridge averaged 27 and 16 against Houston during the regular season. If last nights 46 point, 18 rebound performance is any indication, this series should be a breeze for Aldridge. The Rockets played a good game, they limited their turnovers, they out rebounded Portland, and all their starters were feeling it offensively. The problem will clearly be on the defensive end where they’ll have to contain the duo of Aldrige and Lillard. They’ll also have to watch out for the Blazers’ game plan of attacking harden in the post with Wesley Matthews. They couldn’t quite get Harden in foul trouble but Matthews did have 18 points, and I think that’s a viable strategy going forward for the Blazers. Harden is defensively careless and attacking him and his side of the floor in help defense is the right way to go offensively. Series Prediction: Blazers in 7.
The defending champions vs the former worst team in the history of basketball. It’s a matchup that doesn’t have many people favoring the Bobcats. Now with Al Jefferson dealing with a foot injury, they’re chances are looking slim to none. They’re not as talented and not nearly where the Heat are as a team both with their goals to get a three peat and as a team in terms of personnel. They had a great, feel good type of season and defensively became one of the best teams in the NBA. Unfortunately, I don’t think they have what it takes to beat Miami in this series, especially with Dwyane Wade playing as well as he did in Game 1. He’s been managed superbly by Erik Spoelstra and the training staff and is looking very healthy and like Flash from the old days. Not only is Dwyane Wade’s level of play dangerous for Charlotte but for the rest of the league. This will be a quick one for Lebron and the Heat. It’s a sweep now considering Al Jefferson isn’t 100%, he is their leader and go to guy offensively and without him down low they won’t stand a chance. Series Prediction: Heat in 4.