It has been a spectacular first round of the playoffs, with five series going the maximum seven games and many epic tilts. Three series came to an end yesterday, with the favorites hanging on in games sevens in all of them:
The Pacers won two straight over the Hawks to survive a series in which they never really looked very good. It's been a difficult stretch for the Pacers over the last couple of months, and for a while it looked like the Hawks were going to put them out of their misery, but the Pacers ultimately ground it out. The Hawks took an astonishing 44 three pointers yesterday, making only 11, and it was their poor shooting (30% overall) that decided this one. When they weren't clanking from beyond the arc, they were getting blocked inside, as the Pacers blocked 13 shots, with Roy Hibbert contributing five of them (as well as 13 points and 7 rebounds) in something of a bounce back game for him after huge struggles throughout the series.
Oklahoma City blew out Memphis in the 2nd half of their game seven, also winning the final two games of the series to survive. The Grizzlies were without Zach Randolph due to a dubious suspension, but it looked to be working in the first half, as they spaced the floor with more shooting and Marc Gasol dominated. They built a 10 point lead, but the Thunder were able to erase it by halftime, and a buzzer beating three by Westbrook gave the Thunder a lead at the midpoint. You could sense the Thunder run coming, as the Grizzlies were making shots that weren't going to keep going in, and Kevin Durant was finally feeling it. It came swiftly and decisively in the third quarter, as a 17-5 run gave the Thunder a 15 point lead, and that was more or less that. 33 on 15 shots for Durant, an efficient triple double for Westbrook, and 61% shooting as a team, and the Thunder move on. To face the....
Los Angeles Clippers, who beat the Warriors in a classic. I missed most of it, asleep, cause I'm an old man, but it looks like a fantastic game with great shooting and several big plays by Blake Griffin down the stretch. A crazy week in Los Angeles. And now we'll see if Mark Jackson really is done as the Warriors coach after failing to get out of the first round.
So depending on today's games, despite all of the tumult of the first round, it could wind up that the one, two, three, and five seeds emerge from each conference.
This series will be decided in Toronto today, after the Nets took game six in Brooklyn in fairly comfortable fashion. The Raptors need to figure out a way to get some offense from someone other than Kyle Lowry, while the Nets are always something of a roll of the dice. Do they have their legs or don't they? Winner gets the Heat. We the North.
The final game of this amazing first round, the Spurs will look to finally put away the Mavs at home. The Mavs have been unbelievably resilient in this series, coming back from a seven point deficit in game six, and even surviving the Spurs playing with six guys. The winner of this one gets the Blazers.
Enjoy the games. And be sure to check out Slowbreak's musical fan post.