|Posted on May 1, 2011 at 1:25 PM|
Best plays of the first round:
- Watch Manu Ginobili go behind the back twice
- Watch Kobe Bryant turn back the clocks on this vintage slam dunk
- Watch Josh Smith spin and dunk over Dwight Howard
- Watch Lebron James get the steal, stumble, and scoop the ball to Dwyane Wade for the dunk
Best individual performances of the first round:
- Kevin Durant scored 41 points in both game 1 and game 5, helping his Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Nuggets. Durant was so good in the clutch in the first round, that in the last five minutes with the score margin within five points, Durant shot an unbelievable 78% from the field, scored 2/3 of his team’s points, and had zero turnovers. It is going to be nearly impossible for the Grizzlies to guard Kevin Durant in round two because the only guys on their team tall enough are too slow, and their best defenders are all several inches shorter than Durant. I expect Durant to have a monster second round series.
- Also a big contributor to the Thunder’s first round success was Serge Ibaka, who averaged 4.8 blocks per game for the series, including nine blocks in game 5. Serge “Iblocka” will be crucial to the Thunder’s ability to guard big men going forward in the playoffs, especially since Oklahoma City will face Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in the next round. Nene Hilaro, the Nuggets’ center, led the NBA during the season in field goal percentage, but in this past series, while Ibaka was on the court, he shot an average 46%. Ibaka reminds me a little bit of one of my favorite retired players, Hakeem Olajuwon. They are both from Africa, they both didn’t start playing basketball until age 16, and Hakeem holds the NBA playoff record for most blocks in a game with ten, just one more than Ibaka recorded on Tuesday.
- Tyson Chandler grabbed 13 offensive rebounds in game 5 for the Dallas Mavericks, two short of the all-time playoff record.
- Chris Paul had some unbelievable games in the Lakers-Hornets series. He recorded 33 points, 14 assists, and 7 rebounds in game 1, and 27 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds in game 5. Unfortunately for Paul, Kobe Bryant decided sometime last week that the Hornets shouldn’t win anymore games. However, Chris Paul did expose the Lakers’ weakness; Derek Fisher is the worst starting point guard in the NBA. Among starting point guards, he is dead last in scoring, second to last in assists, and second to last in shooting percentage.
- The likely MVP of the league, Derrick Rose, showed us why in the first two games against the Pacers, averaging 38 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds in games 1 and 2. Over the course of the series, the Bulls outscored the Pacers by 44 points with Rose on the court, but were outscored by seven with Rose on the bench, proving Rose’s value to his team.
- Dwight Howard scored 46 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in game 1 against the Hawks.
- Carmelo Anthony scored 42 points, dished out six assists, and pulled down 17 rebounds in game 2 against the Celtics. Say what you want about the ‘Melo being the Knicks’ savoir, however, the Celtics outscored the Knicks by 40 points with Anthony playing, but the Knicks outscored the Celtics by six without Anthony playing. The Knicks’ defense also tightened up dramatically when Carmelo was on the bench, allowing the Celtics to score 18 fewer points per 48 minutes. It seems to me like Anthony was a huge negative for the Knicks’ in their first round series, even though he scored all those points. What separates Carmelo Anthony from the other superstars in the NBA is that Anthony doesn’t understand how to take over a game while making sure that the team is getting good shots on every possession. Instead, he monopolizes the ball and destroys the Knicks’ offensive flow, causing the Knicks to average fewer assists per game since the big trade.
- In game 3, Rajon Rondo torched the Knicks for 15 points, 20 assists, and 11 rebounds. Everyone thinks of the Celtics as the "Big 3," but Rondo may be more important to Boston than any other Celtic. Every single Boston starter scores at least 10% more often when Rondo is on the court. In addition, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce shoot 18.4% better on threes when Rondo is on the court.
Best team performances of the first round:
- The Oklahoma City Thunder stormed their way past the first round, beating the Denver Nuggets 4-1. They can match up with any potential Western Conference opponent. I think the Thunder have to be the favorite to go to the finals, especially knowing that the Lakers and Mavs will have a hard, long, exhausting series on the other side of the bracket while the Thunder should have it easy against eighth-seeded Memphis. But you never know – maybe Memphis can do it again.
- Speaking of Memphis, the Grizzlies became just the fourth 8-seed to ever win a playoff series. They did it with three things. First, they dominated San Antonio down low with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, scoring three more buckets in the paint per game than the Spurs. Secondly, they were able to shut down the Spurs’ best offensive weapon (the three-pointer) by forcing San Antonio to shoot only 29% from threes in the series, way down from the 40% the Spurs shot during the regular season. Lastly, they forced the Spurs to play at a very up-tempo pace that the Spurs are uncomfortable with.
Comment and tell me what you think.