Monday 16th May 2022,
The Hoop Doctors

The Weekend Story-lines

A sometimes insane, sometimes depressing, sometimes exhilarating and sometimes bland first weekend of the NBA playoffs is in the books, and there is plenty to discuss. As is the case in any first round, there’s so much going on at once that it’s hard to keep track of it all. Here then is a quick stop at each series and an offering of a main story worth following from every respective pairing with one game down.

Bulls – 76ers (Chicago up 1-0).

Clearly the most crushing news of the weekend came from this series, as Derrick Rose will no longer be on a basketball court for this season. The hullabaloo surrounding the fact that Rose was still in the game late with the Bulls up double digits strikes me as part of the grieving process and not a real blunder or fault of coach Tom Thibodeau. It’s also distracting from the main point: Derrick Rose is gone, so where will the Bulls go from here? As they’ve proven in the regular season, this is still a team that works and works regardless, and can win games with defense and timely offense in Rose’s absence, but he is the difference between legitimate title contender and anything else. For now, Philadelphia is the task at hand, and all the Bulls can do is play on with the ceiling decidedly lower than it was before the weekend.

Spurs – Jazz (San Antonio up 1-0).

Utah will challenge the Spurs in this series, but if Sunday was any indication, San Antonio is on a different level right now than that of a young, dangerous team. Meaning that it will just take more to truly make them sweat; the Jazz should be proud to have made the playoffs in what was supposed to be a written-off rebuilding season, but the Spurs are so razor-sharp right now, so cohesive on the offensive end, that it will likely take a stronger force than Utah is ready to deliver to make a dent in San Antonio’s machine.

Heat – Knicks (Miami up 1-0).

Things got out of hand in a big way for the Knicks on Saturday, which speaks more to the Heat’s capability of blowing the doors off of a contest at any given time, especially at home, more-so than it serves as a reflection of who the Knicks truly are. New York is better than that, and I still believe this series will be a back-and-forth one even after such a lopsided beginning. When LeBron James puts forth an all-emcompassing effort like that one, there seems to be no hope at all. The Knicks, though, can catch fire as well, and will likely be heard from again.

Thunder – Mavericks (Oklahoma City up 1-0).

The Mavericks will probably look back on Saturday night as a missed opportunity. They played well enough to win but couldn’t completely finish the job and the Thunder, despite their propensity to ebb and flow with the current of the game, stay consistent when it comes to being in full-bore attack mode throughout. It was this aggression on both ends of the floor in the face of Dallas’s steady Been There Before calm that eventually caused just enough cracks and rifts in the Mavericks’ meticulous late-game execution for the Thunder to squeeze their way into position for victory, with Kevin Durant getting a friendly bounce to cap the comeback. That experience of Dallas will likely keep this series close throughout, but with a chance to steal a game on the road, you have to wonder how much better of a shot the Mavs will get to truly make this series a toss-up.

Pacers – Magic (Orlando up 1-0).

The Pacers seemingly — for their sake, hopefully — saved their worst for the start, as they looked pretty ugly down the stretch. On the other side, Orlando should be commended for not going down the route many thought they would without Dwight Howard in the middle. With Derrick Rose gone from the playoff picture, the Eastern Conference will be looking for a challenger to make things difficult for the Miami Heat. Indiana got an early reminder that no matter how simple a series may look, and how, in-turn, easy it is to look at the possibilities ahead, a playoff series has to be won, not conceded or fallen into. It might make Indiana better in the long run.

Lakers – Nuggets (Los Angeles up 1-0).

Game one was all about the Lakers’ swift, direct blow to the idea of Denver’s tempo and perimeter speed being a potential series-changer. It could still rear up as a problem for the Lakers, but in Andrew Bynum on Sunday, Los Angeles had all the answer it needed to thwart the Nuggets time and time again. The Lakers looked confident and focused from the start; to truly challenge in this series, Denver will have to further push the pace to as blistering as they can, getting to the rim preferably before Bynum has time to set up shop.

Hawks – Celtics (Atlanta up 1-0).

The Hawks’ style of play can sometimes drive NBA fans batty, but Atlanta pounced on an unprepared Celtics team that could never get into enough of a rhythm for a long enough time to fully make up their early-game deficit. Now, of course, the Hawks appear to be in a sturdy position of power with the likely one-game suspension of Rajon Rondo for his little referee chest bump. I would be surprised to see Rondo get out free after that incident — as disappointing as that is for this series overall — and the pressure will actually be on Atlanta to grab the 2-0 lead while Boston is undermanned. For a team looking towards one last postseason run together, the Celtics are now in a potentially dire situation, possibly without the only guy on the team who can make something out of nothing for the crucial second game.

Grizzlies – Clippers (Los Angeles up 1-0).

For anyone who stuck around to watch this one until the end, it is still hard to fathom what in the hell happened. The Grizzlies, content with a huge lead that they built through their trademark teamwork and energy and not-so-trademark outside shooting, should have been able to coast to a win regardless. But the Clippers never stopped chipping, with Reggie Evans providing an adrenaline shot and Nick Young nailing cold-blooded three after three, that when the time came for Memphis to respond to the run, everyone in that building was too shocked to respond in any sort of meaningful way. This was an absolute stunner, an uncharacteristic release of the gas pedal by a team known for making the most of hard times and an incredible showing of staying the course by the Clippers. It remains baffling that they came all the way back, and even if nothing carries over, momentum-wise, from game-to-game, this one will, at the least, hang over the series as a reminder.

Griffin Gotta contributes to The Hoop Doctors and is a co-managing editor of Straight Outta Vancouver. The story arcs and infinite weirdness of the NBA are addictions he deals with every day. Email him at griffingotta at gmail dot com.

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