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NBA Playoffs Review – First Round

Hey guys, first post for a while, but this post will be a review of the first round of the playoffs. I’ll look at how each team played and then look at how each team’s chances of winning a championship have changed.

The playoffs so far have arguably been the best ever, and we’ve had most likely the closest first round in history. The most OTs (11) in a single round occurred this round, and it’s a tribute to how the lower seeded teams have out performed themselves. We’ve also had the most game 7s in one round since the beginning of the 7 game format. We were also treated to the most games in the first round ever. Hopefully this round is an indicator for the rest of the playoffs, and we see more close, long-drawn series like these for in the road to an NBA championship.

Western Conference

Spurs vs Mavericks

A great match-up between two great rivals in the heart of Texas, this is a blast from the past, and we’ve seen great veterans of the game show off their stuff. We saw Vince Carter stun the Spurs at home with an unbelievable 3 point buzzer-beater only one timeout before we saw Manu Ginobili hit a clutch layup which seemed like the guaranteed game winner. We’ve seen Tony Parker going at it and Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki going head to head. Not often do you see this many future hall-of-famers going at each other in the first round of the playoffs. This series has gone back and forth, but it really makes you question how ready the spurs are to take on the best in the league if it takes them seven games to take down the 8 seed. Overall I see the Spurs’ chances for the rest of the playoffs decreasing, but don’t underestimate the strength of the Mavericks.

Thunder vs Grizzlies

This has been another real shock of a series. The best moment of the series for me would have to have been Kendrick Perkin’s buzzer-beater to send the game into overtime, however it was all for naught as Memphis took out that game. I myself have been rooting for the Grizzlies, I always like an underdog. This series is a rematch of last years second round head-to-head, where Memphis won against a weak Thunder without Westbrook. This time the Thunder had Westbrook and Memphis has still managed to look really competitive at all times against the Thunder. They match-up really well against the Thunder, their fantastic defensive players all over the floor have been the perfect kryptonite for Durant and the Thunder’s good scoring guards. They’ve really exposed the weaknesses of the Thunder by not allowing them to simply run isolations all game like they normally do. Scott Brooks’ sub-par coaching has been highlighted this series, because their isolation-heavy offence simply doesn’t work against the strong defence of the Grizzlies. Despite being the 5th highest scoring offence in the league, this year they’ve only been 11th in assists, and pace adjusted are 15th in the league in assists. That doesn’t make sense for a strong offensive team like the Thunder, and it was exposed this series. We’ll see how they perform in the next round.

Clippers vs Warriors

This was a series that promised to be exciting from the outset. These two californian teams match up well against each other, and both have exciting offences with thrilling players like DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin against Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Of course, this series was over-shadowed by the comments of Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and it’s interesting to see how this game unfolded with that extra element involved. When the comments surfaced, it was game day. Golden State won in a pretty convincing fashion, and it felt almost unfair if the Clippers had won that game. But Adam Silver’s punishment of Sterling came before the next game, game 5. Los Angeles dominated, and it felt like they were playing with a whole lot of weight off their shoulders knowing that their owner had been given his punishment and their team was in the clear again. The warriors held at home to send the game to a game 7, and we saw a close game which the Clippers eventually won. This series was expected to be close, so we’ll see how the Clippers face up against the Thunder next round.

Rockets vs Trailblazers

This has been one of the best series that I’ve ever seen, the first 4 games all come down to the wire, and we even had some OTs. LaMarcus Aldridge showed he was ready for the playoffs with a great 46 points and 18 rebounds. His partner in crime Damian Lillard also scored 31 points, and that’s the first time a duo has gone 45 and 30 in the playoffs since a couple of fellas named Jordan and Pippen. That’s awesome. The Blazers backed up their game 1 performance and took both games on the road in Houston. Houston split back in Portland and defended their home court in game 5. The game went to a 6th in Oregon, with Portland holding a 3-2 lead. Nobody could have seen what came next. The game was an instant classic, The Blazers were ahead the whole game, but a dominant last quarter, where Dwight Howard scored 13 straight points, helped the Rockets to bring the game close in the final minutes. A clutch fader from Batum tied the game up with less than a minute to go. A missed layup from Dwight was fumbled around on the baseline before falling into Chandler Parsons hands right under the rim. He layed it in to give his Rockets a 2 point lead with 0.9 seconds remaining on the clock. At this point, I counted my losses and chalked up a win for the Rockets. But what happened next was literally unbelievable. Within a second, off the inbound, Damian Lillard takes a pass from Nicolas Batum and drains a 3 pointer from down town to win the game, the series, and cemented himself firmly in Trailblazers history. He’s certainly backing up his talk before the playoffs about rings. What a stunning and fitting way to end one of the greatest playoff series of all time, and I can almost guarantee that this series has just created a new rivalry in the West. The Blazers are storming into the next round, and their chances have certainly skyrocketed after this series.

Eastern Conference

Pacers vs Hawks

Another shock from the 8th seed, the Hawks kicked off in good fashion with a stunner in Indianapolis, dominating the 1st seed. The Pacers managed to live up to their mediocre play through the second half of the regular season.
With the Pacers making it through in slim fashion, it raises one question, does anybody want to beat the Heat? Coming into the season, the Pacers were seen as the only team capable of beating the Heat in a 7 game series, if only excluding the Nets. But this has become more and more unlikely as the season progressed, climaxing with sub-par play against a poor 8th seeded team in the opening series. The Pacers aren’t looking good at the moment. We saw one of the worst playoff performances of all time from Roy Hibbert, and he has to pick up his game for the rest of the playoffs if they’re to win in the next round.

Heat vs Bobcats

The first game was close, but the Heat ultimately showed their dominance and swept the side from Carolina. It was their first trip back to the playoffs since 2010 and they are yet to win a playoff game as a franchise. This has been the only matchup with a clear dominant team from start to finish, and nothing of a surprise. The Bobcats ran into the Miami buzz-saw and the Heat managed to give themselves plenty of time to rest up for the next series, which will really help them as the playoffs continue. Whether or not you rate the Heat more or less after this series depends on how much you rate a sweep when it comes against the Bobcats. I give the heat their due, the Bobcats showed they aren’t a joke anymore by earning themselves the 7th seed, albeit in the worst Eastern Conference in a long time. So for me the Heat are definitely the team to beat, we’ll see what the Nets manage to do against them in the second round.

Raptors vs Nets

Another strong series with a few close finishes. I think the Nets came into this series as favourites, despite coming in with the lower seed, and they seemed like the more playoffs ready team. This series went back and forth, but the Nets eventually won in Toronto in game 7 to move on the the second round. I love the raptors, and it’s great to see them playing well now as a franchise after the Bargnani era, but for the rest of the league this is the most favoured result, because the Nets are by far the more likely team to take down the Heat in the next round. The Nets swept their series against the Heat during the regular season, and hopefully they can keep up that performance in the post-season.

Bulls vs Wizards

Who would have thought the second team out of the first round would be the 5th seeded Wizards? This team was the unlikely dominant team, setting the tone by taking the first two in Chicago. Not too much to be said for this team, their offence was dominant, and managed to outplay a consistently strong Chicago defence led by Coach Thibodeou. But it’s clear that the Wizards are a good team and overall I think their odds of making the finals have improved, if only because all the teams expected to win have had a tough time making it through.

Conference Semi-Finals

Western Conference

Spurs vs Trailblazers

I expect this series to be another close affair, and these teams match up well against each other. This show-down may come down to the players starting on the pine, as the Spurs have much greater depth than the Blazers, and they’ll need it in what will most likely be a long series. It will also be interesting to see how the two starting point guards match up. They’re both x-factors, and are known for coming up in the clutch. I look forward to this series immensely.

Thunder vs Clippers

These two teams have faced off well in the past, albeit with weakened sides, but we’ll have two healthy point guards for this matchup. Both teams have concerns. For the Clippers, the problem of who’s going to defend Durant is a big one. The most obvious matchup is Blake Griffin, he’s been consistently given the biggest defensive tasks all year, but with Durant at small forward, who will man up against Perkins and Ibaka. Griffin at Small Forward will not work well for the offence, so that problem will have to be solved. I suspect a lot of zone defence to be used to ease the load on whoever gets tasked with Durant. For the Thunder, the question of their recent form is greatest, they were unable to dominate a 7th seed and that drain in confidence will most likely affect them coming into this round. I suspect the leader after 3 games of this series will eventually book their ticket to the conference finals. The Clippers will have to break early or they’ll have no hope of holding back a Thunder regaining confidence.

Eastern Conference

Pacers vs Wizards

This will be a matchup of a currently overrated team hobbling into the second round coming up against am underrated team on a roll coming off a dominant 4-1 performance. Whether or not the Pacers can pick it up on defence will be the deciding factor in this series, as it has been lacklustre as of late and not capable of stopping a good Wizards offence with Wall and Beal. Hibbert and George both need to step up their games as star players on the team, or count this as Washington’s series.

Heat vs Nets

This is going to be a great series. Pierce, Garnett, Williams, going up against James, Bosh, Wade. These are both experienced sides, especially in the playoffs, and I expect it to be hard fought. Like I mentioned earlier, the Nets actually swept the Heat in the regular season, So this 2nd round matchup of a 2nd and 6th seed is not going to be as easy to pick as most would imagine. This game will come down to how fresh the Nets can keep their starters, verses the Heat starters. The Nets have played 7 games to the Heats’ 4 so far. The Heat haven’t played for a week, so they’re fresh and ready to go, and the Nets will have had only a day’s break going into the first game. The Nets will have to start off early and set the tone in order to win this series, hopefully it’s close.

Alright that’s it for my review of the first round, in my opinion it’s been absolutely fantastic, and I think we might have formed a new rivalry or two already. I look forward to watching all the round 2 action and doing the same style of article before the beginning of the Conference Finals.


About Jack Neubecker

Jack Neubecker is a Science/Mathematics student with a fascination for how analytics and statistics informs decision-making in professional sports. In an abusive relationship with the Los Angeles Clippers, deals with the pain through an affair with the Dallas Mavericks and Kristaps Porzingis. Host, producer and writer for the Point Forward NBA Podcast. When playing games of pickup, Jack can post you up before looking for the fadeaway or the dream-shake, size you up on the perimeter or facilitate in a pinch. Think a combination of Dirk Nowitzki and Rudy Gay. Thing-Doer. Inventor of the computer, penicillin, lying and irony. Twitter: @jackneubecker

One comment on “NBA Playoffs Review – First Round

  1. Pingback: NBA Conference Finals Projections: Oklahoma City Thunder | NBA Aussie Style

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This entry was posted on May 5, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , .
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