A popular cliché is to never judge a book by its cover. While the first couple pages in the NBA Playoffs First Round Book may have been largely devoid of drama, the book turned exciting with six of the eight first round series going at least six games. The only exceptions were the sweeps by Miami over Milwaukee and San Antonio over the shorthanded and mismanaged Lakers.
The best series was unquestionably, Chicago vs. Brooklyn. Like the Lakers, the Bulls were incredibly shorthanded. Unlike the Lakers, the Bulls had heart and a coach completely in control of his weapons. The saga of Derrick Rose continues as the one-year anniversary of his ACL injury has come and gone. Luol Deng got sick and required, of all things, a spinal tap. Kirk Hinrich was lost to an injured hip.
But the Bulls did have Joakim Noah, a man with a big a heart and more guts than most anyone else playing basketball. Noah came just short of a Namath guarantee after the game six loss at home. He did say they would win game seven but understatedly. What was not understated were 24 points and 16 rebounds in the Bulls 99-93 win in Brooklyn. Even louder was Chicago’s shocking game one win in Miami to start round two, scoring the final 10 points in the process.
The Memphis Grizzlies advanced to round two for the second time, and just as in 2011 must play Oklahoma City. But unlike the matchup two years ago, the Thunder are without all-star Russell Westbrook (lost to a knee injury). The Griz dropped the first two in Los Angeles, but rallied to win four straight over the Clippers. An injury to Blake Griffin hampered L.A. but Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol hampered them more.
Memphis had control of game one in OKC only to have it snatched away by Kevin Durant, but KD could not do everything in game two. The Grizzlies took away home court. Mike Conley finished one assist from a triple-double in the victory. Memphis may have had the edge even with Westbrook playing because OKC simply has few scoring options down low—while Memphis has Gasol and Zach Randolph. The load could well be too heavy for Durant, and the Grizzlies are surging.
Elsewhere in the West, San Antonio and Golden State are locked up in what could be a classic series. The Spurs got the upper hand with a historic comeback in game one, an 18-2 run to end regulation en route to a double-OT win. The Warriors are quicker and shoot better, but inexperience and lack of defense could spell the difference.
On the other half of the East bracket, Indiana earned a split with the Knicks at MSG winning game one. New York blew away the Pacers in game two with an amazing 36-4 run keyed by Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is the star in this series. Indiana really does not have one. That may be their edge.