A few thoughts on the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Bulls Show Heart: It’s a shame that the Chicago Bulls don’t have their best player and that they might be the most banged up team in playoff history, because nobody competes as hard as this group on a night to night basis. Without Derrick Rose, without Kirk Hinrich for part of the series, without Loul Deng for part of the series, and with an injured Joakim Noah, the Bulls managed to beat the Brooklyn Nets in 7 games thanks to an outstanding defensive system and pure heart.
The Nets should’ve won this series in six games. Deron Williams was playing at a high level once again, Brook Lopez was an all-star, Gerald Wallace should’ve been able to match the intensity of the Bulls, and Joe Johnson is a pure shooter who makes a ton of money. Yet it didn’t matter.
Williams was hot and cold all series, Noah and Boozer limited Lopez, Wallace couldn’t kick his intensity up another level, and Johnson, oh boy, that game 7 performance was one of the most brutal performances by a guy making that much money that I’ve ever seen. And I know Johnson had a leg injury, but if you’re not able to shoot the ball like you normally do, then don’t shoot the ball.
I think the Nets become overconfident after a game 1 laugher and expected the Bulls to just fold. When that didn’t happen, they were down 3-1 and had to claw their way back into things. To their credit, they managed to do so, but they didn’t have enough left for game 7, which is quite sad because the Bulls still had more passion in their bucket despite being worn out and depleted.
On top of all the injuries and illnesses, the Bulls also had to the deal with “The DRose Distraction.” I really wish Rose would just say, “I’m not going to play this season” so we can be done with this whole thing. Instead he hasn’t completely ruled himself out and his brother said that he could be back in round two. I love Derrick Rose and don’t want him to rush back, but he’s done a disservice to himself and his team with how he’s handled this whole situation.
The Bulls don’t have enough to beat the Miami Heat in a seven game series, but they’re going to make it tough on the defending champions and frustrate them to no end.
Los Angeles Meltdowns: Only delusional Los Angeles Lakers fans thought that their team was going to beat the San Antonio Spurs. The way they lost was embarrassing though. No game was competitive and it was capped off by a game 4 meltdown by Dwight Howard. The Spurs were supposed to be old and injured, thus giving the Lakers a chance. Instead Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan looked as sprite as ever and had their way with the Lakers.
Obviously the Lakers were a different team without Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, but even if they had those two guys, I don’t think things would’ve been much different, especially with Mike D’Antoni coaching.
My biggest problem was with Dwight Howard. With Kobe out, Howard was supposed to be the leader and he proved that he’s anything but. Getting ejected in game 4 and then exchanging words with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchack was not the way you want your star player to conduct himself.
Not to be outdone, Chris Paul handled himself just as bad for the Los Angeles Clippers. His team took a 2-0 lead against the Memphis Grizzlies and then fell apart in the next four, capped off by Paul getting himself ejected in game 6.
Paul didn’t have a lot of help in the final four games, especially with Blake Griffin hobbling around, but as the leader of the team, you expect him to step up, keep his composure, and carry the team on his back. Instead, he tried to do too much, and when his team didn’t play up to his level, he threw a fit.
Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are stars in the NBA, but the way they conducted themselves in the playoffs was embarrassing for them and for their teams. They both have a chance to be free agents once the season wraps up, and they’ll both cash in, but I’m not sure I’d want either guy as my #1 player.
Steph Curry Is A Cold Dude: Steph Curry might be my favorite player to watch. He’s not only a pure shooter who can get his shot off from anywhere, but he’s quietly become a very good playmaker. In fact, he leads the playoffs in assists. On any given night Curry can go off and get 40 points and knockdown seven three’s. When he gets hot, he’s nearly unstoppable.
Against the Denver Nuggets, Curry carried his Golden State Warriors, which lost David Lee in game one. It looked like the series might be lost, but Curry kept shooting and setting up his teammates. He had some tough stretches, but he always kept his composure, played through some pain, and proved that he’s a star in the league and a leader as well.
Even though they lost game one, his step back three that tied the game was a thing of beauty. His best performance came in game 4 though. With the Nuggets trying to mount a comeback, Curry scored 19 points in under five minutes to put the game out of reach.
It’s going to be a tough series for him against the San Antonio Spurs, because they’re not going to allow him to run and get out in transition like the Denver Nuggets, but Curry kicked his game up to another level this year and in the playoffs, so I won’t be shocked if he’s able to help his team threaten to upset the Spurs.
The Knicks Road: The New York Knicks should’ve put the Boston Celtics away in four or five games. Instead, they got overconfident. Even game 6, which should’ve been a route, they allowed the Celtics to make it close down the stretch. Carmelo Anthony is a star and J.R. Smith is instant offense off the bench, but they rely heavily on the three ball and run a ton of isolation plays, which can be a problem in the playoffs.
The Knicks will face the Indiana Pacers in the second round, which is going to be a tough match-up. I don’t think anyone watched the the Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks series, but the Pacers play a tough brand of basketball with Roy Hibbert and David West down low. Tyson Chandler is going to have his hands full with those two, and if the Knicks try and go small, Carmelo could take a beating in the process.
I hope the Knicks learned from the first series that, even if they’re up 3-0 in the series and up 20 with 5 minutes remaining in a game, that things aren’t over until the final buzzer.
Maybe they learned how to win in that first round series and things will be easier for them in the second round, but I wouldn’t count on it. Their two best players are extremely cocky and the team follows them, when they should be following Jason Kidd and Chandler, guys who actually have rings on their fingers.