The Saving Postseason?
The first two days have been a blessing from the bball gods.
by Doobie Okon
It’s early. I know. But I can’t help but be excited with what has unfolded in the first games of all the NBA Playoff series so far. For starters, every game was close at or near the end with the exception of that Magic massacre. More on that in a second, but the other seven games featured competitive fourth quarters, star players going out of their minds to rally their teams back, and huge, memorable shots.
It’s only been two days, but already we’ve been blessed with…
…a classic Celtic Shuttlesworth shot that everyone in the world knew was coming except, seemingly, the dumb Noo Yahk NickaBockas. I wish I could phrase it better, but come on. And what kinda shot was that ‘Melo?
…Derrick Rose’s performance. Rose, the second best player in the league behind he-who-shall-remain-nameless-for-now, literally refused to lose that game. You could point to a couple of plays he made in the fourth where he scored nine of his 39 to overcome the 3.5-quarter dominating Pacers (37-45, 37-45, 37-45), led by Danny Granger and Tyler Hansborough who looked like he was harnessing his inner Tar-Heel. The boy can definitely play. But the big shot obviously belonged to Double-K-for-the-tre, my boy, Mr. Kyle Korver, who capped the comeback with a patented three-ball to give Chicago the lead for good. Ok, not really my boy anymore…but good to see the former 76er getting his moment.
…a German goldie. Along the same headlines of superstars refusing to let their team relinquish home-court advantage, a Mr. Dirkus Nowitzki actually implanted his foot on the free-throw line in the final quarter Sunday against Portland. Seriously, go check out the turquoise paint and tell me his shoe prints aren’t there. Dirk went off for 18 in the 4th, including an incredible 13-13 performance from the stripe to jolt his team from six down with six to go to an eight point victory. The run was highlighted by a beautiful high-arcing 3-pointer to put the Mavericks up in front for the rest of the game. By the way, if you’re a Dallas fan, stay tuned. Big D holds some distinct honors I can’t help but point out later on.
…another player harnessing one’s inner-ACC stardom. How bout former Dukie standout Shane Battier getting a chance to show up the top-seeded, albeit Manu-less Spurs with a 25-foot dagger with under 25 seconds remaining. The road-weary Grizzlies are for real, and I think everyone knows it too – they definitely have a shot to steal this series now that they got a victory away from Tennessee.
…the combination of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, well, being the combination of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Did I say Derrick Rose was the second best player in the League? I guess KD heard me and got pissed. That’s OK…I’m comfortable saying either one of them. An incredible 72 combined from the duo to spark the Thunder over the Denver Knicks very late in the game…is just so refreshing. No free agents were lured in to make this incredible combo happen. No stupid trades. Just two great Seattle draft picks that were ultimately signed, sealed and gift-wrapped to Oklahoma. They are just two freak athletes who know each other so well, a chemistry Dwyane Wade and still-nameless hope to mirror. An OKC-MIA Finals would be rather awesome, as nauseating as it would to be see the Heat there.
…Chris Paul reminding us to keep him in the conversation for best point guard on the planet. 33, 14 and four steals. Dayum. The high fade-away over Derek Fisher. CP3 is officially back and therefore so are the Hornets. And we should all take notice. Sure, the Lakers had been crap lately, but I don’t think anyone expected New Orleans to actually win that game. And don’t get your panties in a bunch L.A. fans…Yes, Kobe still belongs in the best player conversation. And it will be interesting to see if he can will L.A. back to the Finals, because right now, they just do not look dominant whatsoever.
…CURSED with a Heated escape. My Sixers made their patented Doug Collins-inspired comeback in the fourth quarter as they seemingly always do these days. Down 13 with six minutes left, Jrue and co. went on a 12-0 run highlighted by a couple three-balls from the former Bruin. I couldn’t believe I was on the edge of my seat but I actually believed for a second that it was possible. However, the Sixers couldn’t get the lead as LeBron, Wade and Bosh were too much down the stretch. A couple breaks here and there, and maybe Thaddeus Young making his free throws…and we could’ve had a gigantic upset in South Beach. Can’t blame Thad though, he was amazing again off the bench and especially in the fourth to the tune of 20 points and 11 boards. All I want for passover is a 76ers victory.
And then we have the Hawks, maybe the most forgotten team in the postseason, pushing aside a monster(?) game from SuperDwight to completely obliterate Orlando in the only blowout there was. The score is not even close to indicative of what occurred on the Magic home-floor. By the way, I use a question mark after monster game because it’s almost an understatement. 46 & 19? That’s Wilt-esque. Too bad the team around Howard is just not that elite.
But what a first weekend. And not only did we have great moments in the opening games, but there are plenty of story lines to also carry these series as well. In the East, you’ve got the David and Goliath matchup in Miami-Philly along with three division rival series. Bulls-Pacers is like some 90′s throwback only you had Rose and Granger exchanging blow after blow, not Michael and Reggie. The West is just wide open at this point to be honest.
And if you compare what we’ve seen so far to last year’s opening games, you’ll notice an entirely different story. Only one game could’ve really changed in the final minute last year which was Portland winning by five over Phoenix, where Steve Nash missed a chance to tie it with a tre with 10 seconds left. But no heroic shot. No nothing. And the other seven games were pretty much blowouts.
So this got me thinking. It’s no secret that the first round of the NBA playoffs is usually extremely unexciting. I mean really, extraordinarily boring. Too predictable. Lacks any parity. The NBA first round should be in the dictionary under futility, at least in terms of what it brings to the table of the playoffs. I went to the past to see just how many memorable series have actually been produced from the opening stages and the evidence is quite staggering:
Firstly, to look at it from a very broad perspective, let’s go back to 1984 which is the first year the playoff format of 16 teams was adopted. If we are to generalize an upset as any lower seed winning the series, including a five seed over a four then we’ve had 42 upsets in 216 series since then. That’s 19.4 percent. Horrible. To dig a little deeper, only eight of those 42 upsets included a one or a two seed getting knocked off. So only eight times in the last 27 years (108 series) has a bottom-two squad won the series. Or if you like percentages like me, that’s 7.4 percent. This isn’t the friggin’ NCAA folks.
In that span, 20 of the 42 upsets came at the hands of a five seed, so you really could say that nearly half those series weren’t even gigantic shockers in the first place. What’s even more incredible is that there wasn’t one year since 1984 where more than three upsets occurred and only one year where three happened in the same conference which dates back to the 1987 West opener. Of course, the top four seeds in the East advanced that year.