The first games have been played and The NBA Playoffs have begun for all 16 teams. What follows are what I as a viewer have learned from those games:
Detroit showed us that they are the best team in the league and can turn on the 'A' game whenever they choose. Only leading by 6 at the half the Pistons cam out and opened the lead to 19 during the third, then seemingly bored of the game already they let the lead dip to 4 before a quick 9-0 run sealed the victory. Detroit should coast to the second round as Andrew Bogut is totally overmatched by Rasheed Wallace and no one can box out Ben Wallace (17 rebounds).
Miami taught us that Shaq knows what he is doing. A super efficient 27 and 16 with 5 blocks showed that the diesel is still flowing like old. Dwayne Wade's 14 point fourth quarter showed that he is capable of taking over at any point in a game, especially when it really counts. That tandem of Shaq carrying them through 3 quarters and Wade finishing the game should dispense with the still 'baby' Bulls and their lack of inside presence. Chicago wont even make this interesting if they continue to rely on the three pointer to stay close. As the famous saying goes, Live by the three, die by the three.
New Jersey and Indiana proved that they are the best matchup of the first round even though their game was boring as ever. The Nets seemed to forget that they have the second best point gaurd out there, Jason Kidd, and as Charles Barkely noted Vince Carter fell in love with the fadeaway jumper (he actually airballed 3 of them). If New Jersey is to win they will have to get the ball in Kidd's hands much more. A measley 5 points is not enough. Also Richard Jefferson needs more than 11 shots, no ifs ands or buts about it. Quite simply Vince needs to pass to those other guys if they are to have a chance. On the Indiana side a nice win considering that Peja and JO had a total of 27 points. Indy could win easily if JO can get the ball and put up some points on Jason Collins and the lack of a Nets frontcourt.
Cleveland or should I say LeBron showed that he does have another level for the playoffs. A triple double to start his second season career is wonderful, even better is the job Larry Hughes did on Gilbert Arenas, 26 points on 7-20 shooting. If the Cavs continue to play defense at the level that they did in game one this shouldn't be that close. The only alarming note is that Lebron played all 48 minutes and this might lead to some tired legs in the second round. For the Wizards more balance and better bench production will be the keys to making this a close series.
The Spurs like the Pistons showed why the are the reigning champs. A simple domination from the opening tip on quickly deflated Ron Artest's hopes of the Kings being the best team in the playoffs. As usual the Spurs proved that their system just gets it done. If the spurs shoot 57.5% and the Kings shoot 39.3% for the rest of the series this will end in four games, all blowouts. Bonus for the Spurs, Manu Ginobili showed no signs of the injuries that slowed him all season and Tim Duncan played 24 minutes scoring 11 points and they won by 34.
The Suns showed they are more than just a running team. Forced by the Lakers to play some half court, Nash and Co. showed that they can score in that offense. The Lakers are claiming its okay that they lost because the others (not Kobe) are gaining confidence, I'm not buying it. The Lakers, as Shawn Marion said, were the Lakers not the Kobe Bryant Five and they still lost to the Suns. Who on the lakers will stop Tim Thomas? If you say Odom than I ask who stops Marion? This series will be close and eventually Kobe will score over 60 but in all likelyhood the Suns will win rather easily in five games because they showed they are more than just a run and gun team.
The LA Clippers showed they know how to win, actually Sam Cassell showed he knows how to win and he tought the rest of them how during this season. Coaching on the floor Cassell led the team to its first playoff victory in what seems like forever. The Nuggets never seemed to have an answer for Elton Brand, not surprising because no one had an answer for him all season long. But regardless this should be extremely close because the inexperienced Clips did let the Nuggets back into the game. This should go seven and Sam Cassell will likely be the difference for the Clippers.
The Mavs showed maturity in their win. Playing defense first and making an extra pass or two to get a good shot characterized this Mavs victory, a striking change from their mentality in previous years. A nervous and maybe even scared Grizzlies team seemed to take their cues from Pao Gasol who played a mediocre game and will need to step up dramatically if they are to win one game in this series. Realistically this matchup favors the extremely deep Mavericks over the pereniall playoff losers, the Grizzlies.
As for the rest of this week it will be interesting to see what changes are made by the many great coahces still working for thier paychecks. Expect every game to different than those already played. Either way though its great to have playoff basketball being played.