Thank all things wonderful, the NBA playoffs are upon us. What a glorious time it is in the world. This weekend, the 16 qualifying teams played Game One of their first round matchups. So naturally, let’s overreact.
Blake Griffin’s Athleticism– For much of the season, the Los Angeles Clippers forward was criticized for taking too many jumpers. The noise got so loud that he took to The Player’s Tribune to defend himself. But the critiques were valid. Griffin is one of the league’s most dominant interior scorers, but this season, he expanded his game to incorporate a midrange jumper. The problem: he shot just 41 percent from the midrange. If you’re an opposing coach, you love seeing Griffin take that wide open 16-footer. It sure as hell beats having him dunk it. That’s why his two thunderous dunks in Game One on Sunday night were so crucial. If Blake is going to keep attacking the basket, it opens up another dimension for the Clippers. Many counted them out because they are playing the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, but Griffin reminded the world that the Spurs are athletically lacking. They have no one that can even think of hanging with him. If Blake Griffin goes off, the Clippers will knock the Spurs out.
Playoff Uncle Drew– Kyrie Irving was electric in his first career playoff game on Saturday. He went for 30 points on 11-21 shooting, including 5-9 from three-point range. The Boston Celtics were completely overmatched and could not figure a way to slow down the All Star guard. Irving’s ability to get, and stay, hot push Cleveland to another level. When the Miami Heat were rolling and winning championships, it was difficult to imagine a better sidekick than Dwyane Wade. However, with his deadly shooting, Irving is the perfect copilot for LeBron James. Look for the Cavs to roll the Celtics in four.
Blooming Rose– Man, was it fun to see Derrick Rose again. Playing in his first playoff game since 2012, the Bulls guard was looking like his old self. In just 27 minutes of action, Rose sprung for 23 points and seven assists. He was able to push the ball in transition and played with a looseness that wasn’t there in the regular season. Maybe that extra bit of rest down the stretch did him well. No matter what happens with the Bulls this spring, it will be a treat to watch Rose rediscover his wings.
Portland’s Health– The Blazers were simply overmatched against the Memphis Grizzlies. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol were overwhelmingly physical with a soft Portland frontcourt. In the first half of the season, it was shaping up nicely for the Blazers to make a push as a darkhorse candidate for the Finals. But then Wes Matthews went down, LaMarcus Aldridge hurt his hand and the whole plan went down the drain. It’ll be a short spring for them.
Brooklyn’s “Strategy”– As the eighth seed, no one should expect the Nets to really hang with the Atlanta Hawks. They were swept in the season series and are just a worse basketball team. But the Nets do have one advantage: the center position. Brook Lopez is simply too big and gifted for Al Horford. In March and April, Lopez averaged over 20 points per game and nine rebounds per game. In Game One, he took just seven shots, but scored a team high 17 points. The Nets need to force feed him the ball if they have any chance of winning the series. Anything else is just coaching negligence.