What we've learned from the 1st-round of the NBA Playoffs

Posted by Clevis Murray on Friday, April 25, 2014 with No comments
The NBA regular season is entertaining due to seeing all 30 teams put out their best effort day-in and day-out. With that being said during the 2014 NBA Playoffs we've begun to learn that the regular season isn't as important as we first thought. In hindsight, teams aren't as formidable and players are gaining respect on a national level. Class is in session and we've learned a lot about multiple teams and players through week one of the postseason.
Predicable?


For years we've heard people call the NBA playoffs predictable because traditionally the higher seed would decimate the lower seed and it's always easy to have an idea of which franchise will be holding the Larry O'Brien Trophy late into June. The thoughts of predictability led viewers to prefer the NCAA Tournament, NHL Playoffs and NFL Playoffs as they aren't predictable.

Surprisingly, the 2014 NBA Playoffs have been far from predictable with multiple games ending in over times, 4-point plays that make you rub your eyes asking yourself “Did he just do that?”, star performances and more. What no one predicted or saw coming was road teams winning 9 of the first 16 games with two sweeping the first two games on the road (Washington & Portland). Also it's the first time in NBA history road teams are 9-7 through the first two games of the postseason.

Superstar players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul are expected to put up insane stats but it has yet to happen however Portland Trail Blazers All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging 44.5 PPG and 13.0 RPG on the road. No one expected him of all people to breakout this early in the playoffs — his 89 points through two games the most since Allen Iverson's 90 points through two games in the '01 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. It took eight years but Aldridge has finally received a invitation to join the "elite players" group which wasn't expected. 

Regular Season Impact: 


San Antonio Spurs Head coach Gregg Popovich won the Coach of the Year Award after leading his team to a regular season best 62-20 record.  It's Popovich's third time winning the award joining Pat Riley and Don Nelson as the only coaches to receive the prestigious award that amount of times.

Now it's great for Popovich to win the award, it shows that more coaches can regularly rest their players during the regular season as he did in San Antonio with not one player playing 30 minutes per game. Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did pick-up Popovich's method and rested his "Big-3" throughout certain points of the season. Popovich winning C.O.Y is going to promote more teams to rest their key players throughout the regular season and looking at it from a fans perspective, it's going to suck seeing million dollar sitting on the bench healthy, especially if your a season ticket holder.

The consistent winning of the road team is a NBA record and raises the question, Why compete during the regular season? The 2014-2015 NBA Season could be in jeopardy because teams like the Indiana Pacers put in max effort for 82-games to secure homecourt throughout the East section of the playoffs just to lose in Game 1 to the only playoff team with a losing record which was the Atlanta Hawks.

Early Collapse?


Ever hear the song "Started from the Bottom" by Drake? Yea well a few teams have started at the bottom and are staying because their whole team isn't there. The Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers have been exposed for their weaknesses which could lead to their demise.

The Chicago Bulls entering the playoffs were thought of as "The team you don't want to face" but right now with the way they are playing against Washington Wizards, that assumption by many has become invalid. Chicago is known for their great defense and were thought by many to be able to put the clamps on the Wiz's offense. Bill Russell said is best, "It's all about getting buckets" and the Bulls can't do that. It doesn't matter how good your defense is, if you can't put the ball in the hole then expect to be bathing in the sun early. No disrespect to D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich, but they should not be your leading scorers through two games in the NBA Playoffs. Along with their lack of offense, Chicago has been exposed for their lack of depth as their starters are over played; most notably Jimmy Butler who played all 53 minutes in Game 2 and has only had a 4:54 minute break through two games.

You've heard the cliche "If it ain't broke don't fix it", but apparently Kevin Pritchard and Larry Bird saw a mistake in something perfectly good. When long-time Pacer Danny Granger was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers it made us say two of the Ws "what and why" because it was a shock as Evan Turner came to town. Andrew Bynum came to town also and fast forward to today and the championship hopes in Indiana are becoming as slim as the Charlotte Bobcats' chances to eliminate the Miami Heat. The panic button for the Pacers should've been hit repeatedly because now they have problems with Evan Turner and Lance Stephenson reportedly getting into a scuffle, Roy Hibbert doing his best Kwame Brown impersonation, Andrew Bynum having knees worse then a 80-year old and Paul George's off the court issues.

The Houston Rockets were chosen by many as championship contenders with the pairing of Dwight Howard and James Harden as they were thought of the second coming of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. While they might achieve something close to Shaq and Kobe, both Howard and Harden have issues they need to resolve. Harden is struggling through two games as his shooting woes have led him to 29.8% shooting and 26.3% from the 3-point line but as for his sidekick Dwight Howard, well he's been dominate averaging 29.5 points, 14.5 rebounds and 4.0 rebounds through two games. You'd think with Howard making a mockery of his opposition that Houston would lead or at least tie the series, but Harden's insufficient shooting is the reason why the Rockets have a huge problem being down 0-2. Houston should not be running their offense inside-out because it's hindering the success of others. Also worth noting is that Harden's temper is as thin as Mohawk when he verbally attacked a reporter after Game 2.

Since 2011 we've talked about Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Their relationship reminds me of a married couple that has so many flaws but for someone they stay together. Both are great players at their respective positions but they will not a championship by living outside the paint. Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal have said it the best, "You don't live by the jumper you die by the jumper" and right Westbrook is digging OKC's grave next to other teams that thought they could win a ring by consistent shooting. In Game 2 Westbrook and Durant combined for 56 shot attempts (28 a piece). Now Durant can take 28-shots but Westbrook can't and that might seem like a double-standard but it's true. Durant is a 4x scoring champ and likely MVP for a reason and Westbrook is just a sidekick with great athletic ability. OKC may go far but they won't win it all unless Westbrook learns that his hand isn't always hot.

Show some respect:


Respect is earned not given and Al Jefferson has earned it rightfully from us all. A few minutes into the Charlotte Bobcats' playoff game, Al Jefferson heard a pop in his foot and was diagnosed with plantar fascia. Plantar fascia is a painful injury according to those who have had it and "Big Al" Jefferson is a 7-foot burly man who is currently playing through it. Jefferson hopped his way up and down the court against Miami because he's determined to get Charlotte their first ever playoff win. The injury was so bad that Jefferson needed to take a injection to even walk but had the heart of a champion to keep fighting. 

Jefferson entered AmericanAirlines Arena the same way he left which was in a boot for Game 2. Before tip-off he needed to take another shot to play and did and just like in Game 1 he was hobbling up and down 94-feet. Jefferson has earned the respect from anyone following the series because he could easily be shutdown for the season with that injury but refuses to go down without a fight.

Wrap-up:    

In general we've seen a great start to the NBA playoffs with nothing turning out as many expected it to with teams becoming exposed for their weaknesses and collapsing at the wrong time. As we get deeper into the 1st-round their are just so many questions; Will the Chicago Bulls get swept by a young Wizards team? Will the Indiana Pacers have the biggest collapse in NBA history? And can Russell Westbrook realize that OKC won't a ring with him shooting 20+ shots? These are all feasible questions to think about as we progress to crowning a champion.

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