By Brad Thompson–
The NBA playoff openers were awfully entertaining and were an intriguing start to the NBA’s second season. What’s important to remember is that the playoffs are not the NCAA Tournament; the better team almost always wins the series?
It was a spectacular start to the playoffs. Each road team and lower seed had a chance to win, which is rare. New Orleans and Memphis made the most noise with their upsets of Los Angeles and San Antonio, respectively. Indiana pushed Chicago to the brink and only a sensational finish by MVP frontrunner Derrick Rose saved the Bulls. A questionable offensive foul on Carmelo Anthony and a clutch three-pointer by Ray Allen propelled the Celtics to victory over the Knicks. And despite Dwight Howard’s Superman performance, Atlanta knocked off Orlando.
What do all these upsets and unexpectedly competitive games mean to the big picture in the playoffs? Not much. Does this mean the top seeded Spurs and heavily favored Lakers might not advance to the second round? No.
While it is concerning for the favorites that the underdogs were so effective and competitive, this isn’t March Madness. Seven game series result in the better team winning. As great as VCU’s Cinderella story was, it’s not happening in the NBA.
Should the Lakers be concerned about the lack of passion and hunger they displayed in game one? Of course, but it’s something that’s easily correctable. Are the Spurs vulnerable because of Manu Ginobili’s sprained elbow? Yes, but a veteran team like the Spurs and an experienced coach like Gregg Popovich will make the necessary adjustments to correct the problems in game one and overcome the absence of Ginobili.
What helps level the playing field in the postseason is the intensity that each team brings every game, especially at the defensive end. Even the defensively challenged Knicks showed some fight on Sunday, holding the Celtics to 87 points. The hustle and hunger that sometimes seems missing in the regular season, suddenly shows up in the playoffs.
The Grizzlies, Hawks and Hornets showed their hunger and desire over the weekend. The only problem is they have to win three more games to move on. With the exception of maybe the Hawks, the hope of winning a series, even with a game one win, is bleak.
If this was the NCAA Tournament, then Memphis and New Orleans might have a shot at the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight. The upsets and close games make for exciting, engaging basketball and make the seemingly lopsided series intriguing. Unfortunately for Memphis and New Orleans, the series are long, grueling and the better team usually wins, which is the Spurs and Lakers. So while the upsets are great, don’t expect them to continue.
Do you agree with Brad? Post your comments below.
Brad M. Thompson, a former college football player and coach, made his return to the Midwest in 2009 after fighting wildfires out West. He earned his master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and covers the Big Ten Conference and Chicago sports. Follow him on Twitter at @Brad_M_Thompson. Find more of Brad’s blogs here.