Holy shit, you guys.
I mean, seriously, the last two weeks have basically just melted my brain with the awesomeness that has been the 2014 NBA Playoffs. We’ve had back-and-forth games, buzzer-beating shots, a racist owner getting booted out of the league, and just game after game of incredibly tight, well-played basketball. The stat that sums it up best, I think, is this: The record for Game 7s in one season is five. This year there were five in the first round alone.
With the first round coming to a close yesterday in San Antonio, and my beloved Dubs losing a heartbreaker in L.A. last night, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the amazing last two weeks. Let’s go series by series.
Indiana over Atlanta: The Pacers survived this series with solid efforts from Paul George and Lance Stephenson in Game 7, but what matters is that they got pushed to the brink by a bad Atlanta team that only made the playoffs because the Knicks self-immolated this year. I’ll be surprised if Indy makes it out of Round Two.
Miami over Charlotte: My big fear for the rest of these playoffs is that Miami is going to nuke the rest of the Eastern Conference while the West teams beat the shit out of each other, meaning whoever survives the West won’t have the juice to prevent a Heat-peat. I hope I’m wrong.
Brooklyn over Toronto: While not as good as any of the series in the West, this was a gritty, exciting contest between two evenly matched teams. A great effort from Joe Johnson and a big defensive play by Paul Pierce—both of whom clearly hate Canada—on the road in Game 7 won out for the Nets.
Washington over Chicago: I thought the tough and canny Bulls would be able to outwork and outsmart the athletic, inexperienced Wiz. Boy, was I wrong. John Wall and Bradley Beal were both huge, and Nene and Gortat gave Washington the toughness they needed against Joakim Noah. Washington looks primed for a deep playoff run.
San Antonio over Dallas: The general consensus was that this would be a blowout, but I predicted this series would be close, and I was right—these two teams have just fought too many battles. Dallas really could have won this series with a couple more breaks, but once it went to Game 7 in San Antonio, you kinda had a feeling the Spurs would take care of business. At least we’ll always have the Vince Carter shot.
Oklahoma City over Memphis: My God, what a series. These teams were so evenly matched, they played four straight overtime games. Memphis’ defense and toughness made life difficult for Durant and Westbrook, to the point where an Oklahoma newspaper ridiculously called Durant, who is going to win MVP this year, “Mr. Unreliable.” If Reggie Jackson hadn’t gone off in Game 5, Memphis probably would have won the series 4-1, OKC would have fired Scott Brooks and maybe even traded Westbrook. But in a series this close, the tiniest things can make a difference: Jackson stepping up, Z-Bo getting suspended, and ultimately Russ and KD taking over in Games 6 and 7. The team with the best player usually wins a playoff series, and as close as it was, OKC had the two best players in this series.
L.A. Clippers over Golden State: I’ve been a harsh critic of Mark Jackson, but you can’t hang this loss on him. It was an incredibly tough, close, heated series, broken up in the middle with the Donald Sterling drama, which seemed to effect the teams most in Games 4 and 5 (the Clippers sleepwalked through a Game 4 blowout loss, then rallied to an emotional Game 5 win at home). I’ll always believe that the Dubs would have won this series if Bogut hadn’t gotten hurt, but even with a borderline heroic effort from Draymond Green (clearly the series MVP for the Dubs), without their center they just didn’t have enough big bodies to handle Blake and DeAndre Jordan down the stretch in Game 7.
Portland over Houston: This was the only series in the West that didn’t go the distance, but it was actually my favorite. Between the 89-point LaMarcus Aldridge detonation in Games 1 and 2, the Troy Daniels shot in Game 3, Dwight Howard being Dwight Howard, James Harden morphing into an insufferable, whiny, no-defense mope (actually, that part sucks), all the overtimes … this one had everything. But all that stuff is ultimately secondary, because this series will be remembered for Damian Lilliard’s incredible walk-off shot. Between my affection for Rip City and my official mancrush on the Blazers’ Oakland-born assassin of a point guard, Portland is my favorite team left in these playoffs.
Man, these playoffs have been great. How long can this continue for? By way of answer, here are my quick picks for Round Two:
Washington over Indiana in 6: I shouldn’t need to explain this one at this point.
Miami over Brooklyn in 6: The Nets have the perimeter size to bother the Heat, and we know Pierce and Garnett like playing against LeBron. I think this series will be tight early and after four games it’ll be tied 2-2, and then Miami will win Games 5 and 6 comfortably to head to the Eastern Conference Finals.
San Antonio over Portland in 6: Because if there’s one thing that we know about the NBA Playoffs, it’s that when a cool young team goes on an exciting run, the Spurs will ruin the fun.
Oklahoma City over L.A. Clippers in 7: This is gonna be a great series. OKC has the big bodies to throw at the Clippers that the Dubs didn’t, and the Clips don’t have the athleticism on the perimeter to check Durant and Westbrook. Plus, OKC will have homecourt in Game 7.
If this isn’t enough basketball content for you, check back later this week for my Warriors Season Postmortem.