Opening Weekend Digestion

With the NBA Playoffs officially underway, there is a lot to digest from the outcomes of each Game 1.

Some squads are rolling along, unfathomed by the raised intensity of playoff basketball, while other teams look as though they rammed head first into a wall in their opening matchup.  To gather our collective thoughts, now is a good chance to break down the big wins, shocking losses, and the weekend’s biggest reason to invest in Alka-Seltzer and Maalox stock.

Biggest Upset 1a:  New Orleans 109 -  Los Angeles 100

In case anybody has been too focused on this season’s bright lights of stars like Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Dwight Howard and the like, Game 1 of this series reminded NBA fans of the identity of the sole savior of the rocky New Orleans Hornets franchise: Chris Paul.  Paul was dominant, even arguably flawless in the 4th quarter to guide New Orleans to an unbelievable upset in the Staples Center.  Quite honestly, Paul made Pau Gasol look silly in the closing minutes of the game, juking the Spanish defender left and right.  The icing on top was seeing Paul give Derek Fisher a taste of his own medicine, as Fisher was repeatedly drawn into fouls to send CP3 to the line multiple times.

Yet, while Paul was running the show, his supporting crew sealed the deal for the uber-improbable Hornets victory.  Both NBA journeymen Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry played really well, as did Aaron Gray who finished with 12 points.  The Lakers did not necessarily play poorly; New Orleans was just that hot.  It says something that the Hornets shot below 70% from the line, and still managed to beat the Lakers by 9.  Yet, with Gray’s injury in the closing minutes, New Orleans may be without a crucial piece in the lineup for game 2 as Kobe and crew look to right their damaged ship.

Biggest Upset 1b:   Memphis 101 – San Antonio 98

The Spurs finished the season one win shy of the NBA’s best overall record, good enough to secure 1st place in the West and a lock for home court advantage throughout the playoffs.  Memphis finished 15 games back behind San Antonio during the regular season, good enough for the 8th seed in the West.  So, San Antonio should be a lock to clean sweep the Grizz in the 1st round, then, right?

Wrong, apparently, as Zach Randolph’s 25 and Marc Gasol’s 24 delivered the Grizzlies franchise its first win in 16 years.  Besides the shock that the Grizzlies have actually existed for 16 years, Marc Gasol, for once, actually looked like a bigger NBA star than his brother Sunday.  Memphis had the look of a well put-together squad with good enough chemistry to snatch the win away from the Spurs in San Antonio.  The young Grizzlies roster really seemed to make the older Spurs begin to look their age, perhaps carrying over from the regular season where Memphis actually had 2 wins against the hot Spurs team.

Does Memphis have the firepower to pull off the ultimate upset, snatching the 7 game series from San Antonio?  I really don’t think so, as the Spurs should get back on track with or without Ginobili.  I don’t see Duncan and Parker laying down to the Grizzlies of all teams, but Memphis’s performance in game 1 suggests this series is all of a sudden worth watching.  

 

Biggest Rush on Alka-Seltzer:  Atlanta 103 –  Orlando 93

Plop, plop, fizz fizz… Central Florida drugstores likely saw a spike in heartburn remedy sales after 7/9 of the Magic roster completely flatlined Saturday night.  While Dwight Howard did everything he could to carry the team with an unfathomable 46 points and 19 rebounds, while Jameer Nelson tacked on 27 himself, the rest of the Magic lineup was nowhere to be found. 

Just for good reference, let’s break this down a bit further to emphasize the Magic troubles:

Event Location Date Player Total NBA Points Scored
Lady Gaga Concert Amway Center

Friday Night

Lady Gaga 0
Game 1 - Magic vs. Hawks Amway Center Saturday Night Ryan Anderson 0
Game 1 – Magic vs. Hawks Amway Center Saturday Night Brandon Bass 0

 

Lady Gaga performed for about 120 minutes at Amway Center Friday night and went 0/0 shooting for a total of 0 NBA points.

Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass played for a combined 41 minutes at Amway Center Saturday night and went 0-6 for a total of 0 NBA points.

Save for a handful of rebounds and assists, Lady Gaga had essentially the same statistical performance the night before as two major pieces of the Magic roster against the Hawks.  Although my sarcastic comparison is out there, the goose egg performances from Anderson and Bass is indeed a reality that has even the most faithful Magic fans concerned about the team’s ability to win a title this year.  The team, with the exception of Dwight and Jameer, looked completely flat and disengaged, and the Magic were never able to realistically challenge the Hawks lead.

Fortunately for Orlando, Atlanta has years worth of track record showing that the team tends to fizzle when their opponent puts up a serious fight.  See last year’s second round Magic sweep over the Hawks as a prime example.  But, for the Magic to really challenge Atlanta, the entire team needs to play with a win-or-go-home mentality for every single game.  During the regular season, the Magic grew accustomed to getting away with sloppy first half play by putting in solid 4th quarter performances, but playoff opponents are no pushovers.  Saving quality basketball for the final 12 minutes is not going to win the O’Brien trophy in June.

The Magic have no reason to panic, as many favorites this weekend were either upset or fiercely challenged.  Game 2 is the perfect opportunity for redemption.  But, if Bass and Anderson repeat their Lady Gaga scoring impression of 0 points Tuesday night, Orlando’s heartburn is just going to flare up even more.  Game 2 is a must win for the Magic. 

Other Notes from Opening Weekend:

Biggest Non-New Orleans/Memphis Shocker: Indiana’s near upset of Chicago

Most Much-Ado-About Nothing: Boston’s win over New York – even though the Knicks nearly pulled off the win, and even though the Celts are Perkins-less, New York simply does not have enough pieces to beat Boston in a 7-game series

Most Scrappy: Denver vs. Oklahoma City matchup, as both teams are fighting to prove themselves to the NBA world as contenders

Most Predictable: Miami’s flirt with upset, only to seal the deal in the end against undermatched Sixers 

Most Difficult to Make Sound Exciting: Dallas vs. Portland – unless you live in Texas or Oregon, this matchup honestly sounds quite dull compared to the other games this weekend

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