This feels strangely awkward. Kind of like hooking up with an old girlfriend whom you used to have amazing sex with. After that initial surge of nostalgic excitement, you start to worry: Will it be as good as it used to be? Does she like the same things she used to? Maybe she's been with some guy with a freakishly large, well, you know.
Well, maybe that's the case, but let's all try to get some pleasure out of this, shall we?
The Boston Celtics:
Thanks to a strong first half performance by Jeff Green (26 points, 8-for-15, 7 rebounds) and a solid all-around game from Paul Pierce (21 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 steal), the Celtics kept this one close and actually had a 70-67 lead heading into the fourth quarter. And during that final quarter, they held the Knicks to 18 points on 8-for-21 shooting, including 0-for-7 from three-point range.
Here's the problem:
Boston scored only 8 points in the fourth quarter. On 3-for-11 shooting. 0-for-5 on threes. With 8 turnovers.
That's right. The Celtics had almost three times as many turnovers as field goals in the final quarter. In fact, they lost the ball on their final two possessions, with future Hall of Famers Pierce and Kevin Garnett each taking a turn coughing it up.
Here's a breakdown of Boston's final 12 minutes of "offense," with scoring plays in bold:
KG missed 11-footer
KG missed 19-footer
Jason Terry missed three-pointer
Jeff Green offensive rebound
Jeff Green turnover
Jason Terry missed three-pointer
KG made 5-footer
Avery Bradley missed 7-footer (blocked by J.R. Smith??)
Jeff Green missed three-pointer
Paul Pierce made 18-footer
Jeff Green turnover (traveling)
Jeff Green turnover (pass stolen by Jason Kidd)
Paul Pierce made 14-footer
Avery Bradley turnover (pass stolen by J.R. Smith)
Paul Pierce missed three-pointer
Paul Pierce turnover (pass stolen by Carmelo Anthony)
Jeff Green turnover (ball stolen by Jason Kidd)
Jason Terry missed three-pointer
Jeff Green 2-for-2 from the free throw line
Paul Pierce turnover (ball stolen by Jason Kidd)
Kevin Garnett turnover (ball stolen by J.R. Smith)
Yes, folks, it was historically
bawful. From Elias Sports Bureau:
The Celtics 8 points in the 4th quarter in Game 1 against the Knicks are a postseason franchise low for a 4th quarter. the previous low was 9 in Game 2 of the 1983 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Bucks (the Celtics were swept 4-0 in that series).
So, yeah, Boston was shut the hell down by a New York team that ranked 17th in Defensive Efficiency
this season. Then again, we're also talking about a Celtics squad that ranked 20th in Offensive Efficiency
, is playing without its superstar point guard, and has to masquerade Avery Bradley at the one spot because Danny Ainge never stopped to consider, "Hey, I might need a backup point guard at some point."
By the way, if you're a Knicks fan, I wouldn't start feeling too smug just yet. Sure, 'Melo scored 36, but he shot like crap (13-for-29) and finished -3 on the day. Three starters -- Chris Copeland, Iman Shumpert and Tyson Chandler -- combined for three points...all from Shumpert. And I'm not sure Kenyon Martin (10 points, 4-for-7, 5 offensive rebounds, 2 blocked shots) will play like that again.
The Celtics' bench:
Speaking of historically bawful, Boston's reserves "contributed" a total of 4 points, all on free throws. As a unit, they went 0-for-7 from the field. And yes, Elias Sports Bureau had something to say about that too:
The last time the Celtics' bench failed to record a field goal in a playoff game was in Round 1 against the New York Knicks on May 6, 1990 (Celtics' bench was also 0-for-7). The Celtics lost 121-114. The leading scorers for the Celtics were Larry Bird (31) and Robert Parish (22).
Good to see Ainge's two big offseason signings -- Courtney Lee (0-for-2) and Jason Terry (0-for-5) -- are coming through when it matters most.
Doc Rivers, Captain Obvious:
On his team's 20 turnovers (for 21 points going the other way): "We had some just bad turnovers tonight. If we had those turnovers in any game, we probably should lose the game and we did. We were making post passes from the other side of the floor. I mean, those are just not good passes. Again, all we have to do is trust, make the next-guy pass, let that guy make it. I thought early on even, I thought we did in the first half as well. We were trying to get the ball to Kevin [Garnett]. I think we threw three passes from half court to the post. I mean, you're going to turn the ball over when that happens instead of just making the next pass, letting that guy make the pass when he's in the passing area."
Gee. If only the Celtics had somebody, some almost coach-like figure, who could instruct them not to make those kinds of passes. Oh well.
Co-Captain Obvious: "Turnovers, man. Twenty turnovers. That's too much. You don't give yourself a chance to win like that.
Paul Pierce, Co-Co-Captain Obvious:
On his team's case of butterfingersitis: "I think some [passes] were forced, but some were just boneheaded plays."
Paul should know. He committed 6 of them.
And since we're still on this subject, here's a bonus fact from ESPN Stats and Information: this was only the sixth time in the past 15 years that a team had as many turnovers as points in a single quarter. Good times.
Golden State's Defense:
The Warriors's D actually deserves a little credit. After all, they held an offensively explosive Nuggets team to 96.9 points per 100 possessions (per Basketball-Reference) and limited them to 54 percent shooting at the rim (per Hoopdata), well below their season average of 66.4 percent from that range, which was good enough for eighth in the league. On top of that, Golden State forced Denver into 13 misses out of 16 attempts from three-point range.
It wasn't a bad outing overall. In fact, all the Warriors needed to do in order to steal Game 1 in Denver was contain a 37-year-old man down the stretch. Which they failed to do. Spectacularly.
Andre "I'm not dead yet!" Miller scored 18 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter. All Miller did over those final 12 minutes was go 7-for-10 from the field and 3-for-5 from the free throw line.
The best part is, the game was tied with 14.5 seconds left, meaning the Warriors were 14.5 seconds of solid defense away from forcing overtime and possibly stealing a playoff road game. So of course Miller isolated and drove in for the game-winning layup with 1.3 seconds to go. Game over.
Said Miller: I've never hit a game-winning shot. Never. I've taken a couple and missed or turned the ball over. But that was big for a first playoff game."
Just to sprinkle a little historic salt into Golden State's wounds, per ESPN Stats and Information, Miller is the third oldest player to make a go-ahead shot in the final 10 seconds of an NBA playoff game over the last 15 years, with only Hall of Famers Gary Payton and John Stockton doing it at more advanced ages.
Oh, yeah, one last piece of terrible news for the Warriors: David Lee is out for the rest of the season after tearing a hip flexor in Game 1
Corey Brewer, quote machine, Part 1:
"We were looking at each other. Andre was hot, we were kind of like, 'Why don't we just get out of the way and let Andre have the ball. That's what happened. He had Draymond Green on him and we kind of like those odds."
Corey Brewer, quote machine, Part 2:
"I'm never surprised with Andre Miller. I say he's 'unguardable.' They always talk about these Kobe, LeBron, if you give Andre Miller the ball, he's one of the toughest guys to guard in the NBA."
Heading into the playoffs, Golden State coach Mark Jackson had some advice for Curry: "Keep shooting." And Curry did that all right. Just not all that successfully, going 7-for-20 from the field, including 4-for-10 from three-point range. He also committed a game-high 5 turnovers...almost half as many as Denver committed as a team.
The Chicago Bulls:
This team is a damn mess. Derrick Rose apparently decided a while ago he wasn't going to play this season but won't just say it already. Joakim Noah is limping up and down the court on a foot riddled with plantar faciitis even though he probably shouldn't be playing at all. Poor Luol Deng looks like he's aged in dog years after leading the league in minutes per game the past two seasons, and he sure played like it in Game 1, scoring only 6 points on 3-for-11 shooting while getting lit up by Gerald "I've totally lost my confidence" Wallace (14 points, 5-for-7, 6 rebounds). Chicago's only reliable offensive options -- Carlos Boozer (25 points, 12-for-20, 8 rebounds) and Nate Robinson (17 points, 8-for-12, 1 assist) -- can't play any defense. Speaking of which...
...Chicago's "thing" the past few seasons, other than Rose, was its defense. Well, that defense got absolutely blistered by the Nets, who shot 55.8 percent from the field, finished with 56 points in the paint, and scored at a rate of 125.0 points per 100 possessions (per Basketball-Reference). Oh, and according to Hoopdata, Brooklyn was 20-for-24 (83.4 percent) at the rim and 8-for-12 (66.7 percent) from 3-9 feet. Which means that when the Nets made any move whatsoever toward the basket, they scored.
Possibly most depressing from Chicago's perspective was the contrasting play of Kirk Hinrich and C.J. Watson. In case you don't know the story from last summer, the Bulls opted out of the last year of Watson's contract (worth a little over $3 million) so they could sign Hinrich to a two-year contract worth about $8 million. So naturally Hinrich went on to miss 22 games, have the worst shooting season of his career (37 percent), and compile a Player Efficiency Rating of 10.8. Conventional wisdom is that his defense offsets his lousy shooting and inefficient offensive play, only Deron Williams lit the Bulls up(22 points, 9-for-15, 7 assists) and Hinrich compiled a team-worst plus-minus score of -19 before leaving the game with a leg injury.
Meanwhile, Watson came off the Brooklyn bench to score 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 23 minutes.
So a big thumbs up to Gar Forman and John Paxson on that decision.
Anyway, the Nets finished the first quarter on a 9-2 run and then shot 16-for-20 and outscored the Bulls 35-21 in the second quarter to take a 60-35 lead by halftime. And the game was basically over at that point.
The Memphis Grizzlies:
Fans and the media seem to have a soft spot for the Grizzlies, possibly because they remind everybody of the awesome 1980s, when the best teams featured multiple elite big men, pounded the ball down low, and won their games in the trenches.
And hey, Memphis is pretty damn good, despite shipping Rudy Gay to Toronto a few months back. The Grizzlies won 56 games and some people actually think they might have as good a chance as anybody of beating the Heat. (Which, really, is the same as having no chance at all, but it's fun to dream.)
Anyway, the Clippers were only up by 6 points heading in the fourth quarter of Game 1 before unleashing hell and out scoring the Grizzlies 37-22 the rest of the way.
But in all honesty, here's the real stunner: Despite being the bigger team (in theory), Memphis was gangbanged 47-23 on the boards. That is not a misprint. Not a typo. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Clippers grabbed 67 percent of the available rebounds, making it The Other L.A. Team's highest rebounding percentage game of the season. Oh, and that -24 rebounding deficit was the Grizzlies' worst of the season.
But wait, there's more. The Clippers also had a huge edge on the offensive glass (14-4), which they used to score 25 second-chance points. Why is that such a big deal? Well, as ESPN Stats and Information pointed out, the Grizzlies rank first in the league at allowing the fewest second-chance points (11.8 per game).
Said Marc Gasol: "That's not acceptable. Once we made a stop, they kept running in and getting offensive rebounds and second-chance points. We have to be better than that. The rebounds were the difference."
Well, yeah, that and the fact that the Clippers shot 55.4 percent scored at a rate of 134.9 points per 100 possessions (per Basketball-Reference). Which, by the way, holy crap!
Gasol has nobody to blame but himself, given that he grabbed only 2 rebounds in 41 minutes. Pause for a second. Take a sip of coffee or whatever. Let that sink in. An elite seven-footer that people have been going ga-ga over all season
grabbed 2 offensive rebounds in 41 minutes. Which makes Gasol eligible for the honorary Amar'e Stoudemire Run Away from the Rebounds Award.
Zach Randolph, "What Me Worry?" Quote Machine:
"It's not that big of a deal right now. We want to win the next one. If we can't win the next one, then it's a big deal."
The Atlanta Hawks:
Quick reminder: The Dirty Birds purposely tanked their last two games of the regular season in order to drop into the easier (read that: non-Heat) playoff bracket. And I think we can all agree it's very cute that the Hawks were thinking ahead to the second round of the playoffs. A round they will most likely never, ever see. Unless it's from the comfort of the couches at their homes.
Still, this was a weird game, wasn't it? Paul George shot the ball like his hands had been replaced with chicken wire and some old fishing hooks (3-for-13), but he went to the free throw line 18 times (making 17) and finished with a triple-double (23 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds). Meanwhile, the Hawks somehow managed to get blown out by 17 points despite shooting 50 percent as a team.
Of course, despite getting beaten 48-32 on the boards -- including 15-6 on the offensive glass -- all the Atlanteans wanted to talk about afterward was their 34-14 free throw deficit.
Said Josh Smith: "I felt like we earned the opportunity to shoot a little bit more free throws than what we did, but it is what it is. We have to make sure next game that just one player on the opposing team doesn't shoot more than the whole entire team."
Here's where a point out that the Pacers -- who ranked 19th in Offensive Efficiency
this season -- scored at a rate of 118.8 points per 100 possessions. So maybe Smith should worry more about his team's defense and rebounding than the number of free throws the Pacers are getting.
At least Hawks coach Larry Drew saw what happened. Namely that his team got outworked.
Said Drew: "We didn't come up with the big plays, we didn't come up with the hustle plays, the energy plays. I thought right when we were, I believe it was a nine-point game, them shooting a free throw, they come up with the offensive rebound off the free throw, kick it out, swing it around, they get a three. That's just getting outworked. They clearly outworked us."
But hey, at least the Hawks don't have to worry about facing Miami in round two.
The Los Angeles Lakers:
As I'm sure many of you already guessed, it truly pains me to report on a Lakers defeat. But I'll try to struggle on despite the ache in my soul.
Sarcasm aside, what a treat for Lakers fans, huh? With Kobe Bryant limited to coaching the team via Twitter
, L.A. went with a starting backcourt of Steve Blake and Steve "freshly off the injured list" Nash. That's what we call living the dream.
And while Blake (12 points, 4 steals, 3 assists, 2 blocked shots) and Nash (16 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds) didn't play horrible, and although Dwight Howard (20 points, 15 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Pau Gasol (16 points, 16 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals) had reasonably strong games, the Lakers still looked pretty outmatched despite holding the Spurs to 37 percent shooting.
It didn't help that the Lakers committed 18 turnovers and scored at a rate of 84.0 points per 100 possessions (per Basketball-Reference). And it really didn't help that L.A.'s bench (10 points, 2-for-8, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, zero assists) couldn't even match Matt Bonner (10 points, 3-for-6, 5 rebounds) let alone Manu Ginobili (18 points in 19 minutes).
Oh, and Kobe tweeting "Post. Post. Post." and "Pau get ur ass on the block and don't move till u get it" during the game made things, you know, a little awkward.
Said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni: "Yeah, that's what we did. It's great to have that commentary. ... He's a fan right now. He's a fan and you guys [the media] put a little more importance on that kind of fan, but he's a fan. He gets excited and he wants to be a part of it, so that's good."
But things didn't stop there. Oh no. Kobe later tweeted the following to former coach Phil Jackson
: "I gotta do something. It's horrible not being able to at least be there with them."
To which Jackson responded: "No, you were right on...it'll drive you bananas to just watch the ship go down. Just one game down-get one road win." Then Phil tweeted: "Kobe was coaching this one. he was on the beam."
And still later, Kobe responded to D'Antoni's "fan" comment with: "A fan?? Lol."
Like I said: Awkward.
No, this Lakers team will not win a title, but at least they're still the league's best and biggest soap opera.
The Milwaukee Bucks:
On Friday, my buddy Mr. P texted me: "Brandon Jennings said the Bucks are gonna beat the Heat in 6 games." My response: "Beat them in what? Beer pong? Candyland? Darts?
Yeah. Jennings said it. Well, tweeted it, actually
. And I guess that's "the thing" now, right? Irrational overconfidence. Like when Joe Flacco announced he was the best quarterback in the NFL. He's not, and no, winning the Super Bowl didn't make him the league's best QB any more than it make Brad Johnson or Trent Dilfer back in the day. But there were still some who were saying that Flacco's insane belief in himself is what helped push him to the next level, or whatever other bullshit pro sports doublespeak you can think of.
No. Not really. All that kind of thinking has done is destroy the Baltimore Ravens' salary cap and make Jennings look like an idiot...as you could tell by Dwyane Wade's reaction
. As Nick Fury might say: "Ant...boot."
And hey, what do you know, Jennings shot 8-for-20 and the Bucks lost 110-87, shocking exactly nobody except Brandon Jennings. And hell, the final score wouldn't have even been that close if the Heat hadn't given up 22 points off 19 turnovers. Despite the buttery fingers, Miami scored at a rate of 122 points per 100 possessions and finished with an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 61 percent. LeBron scored 27 points on only 11 shots. So...yeah.
Said Bucks coach Jim Boylan: "Obviously, incredibly efficient. When you have a game like that, what can you do?"
Quick answer: Nothing at all if you're the Bucks. I think we're going to see Boylan pose that question three more times in the next three games. But then he'll get a nice vacation, so it's all good.
Brandon Jennings, quote machine:
"We've got nothing to lose. Nobody should be scared or anything. Let's just hoop."
Nothing to lose. Except the next three games. Moving on...
The Houston Rockets:
It was a renaissance season for the Rockets in which a great many people heaped praise upon the genius of Daryl Morey
. And sure, the Rockets had missed the playoffs under his watch for the past three seasons, but STATS! SCIENCE! MORE STATS!
Yes, Morey used some salary cap loopholes to steal Omer Asik from the Bulls and Jeremy Lin from the Knicks (who actually didn't want him all that much anyway), then orchestrated a trade for James Harden, who was demanding more money and a larger role than the Oklahoma City Thunder were willing to offer.
So Morey's genius -- which was essentially spending a combined $30 million per year on those three players -- propelled the Rockets to an eighth seed and a 31-point loss in Game 1 of their first round playoff series against the Thunder.
It was a rough day for Houston's big three. Harden went 6-for-19 from the field and 1-for-6 from downtown, Lin was 1-for-7 and finished with more fouls and turnovers (9) than rebounds and assists (7), and Asik contributed approximately half of a good game (9 points and 7 rebounds).
The Rockets shot 36 percent as a team, went 8-for-36 from three-point range, and scored at the miserable rate of 89.5 points per 100 possessions (per Basketball-Reference).
While I'm picking nits, I'll go ahead and mention that Houston's defense allowed the Thunder to shoot 53 percent from the field, run out for 24 fast break points, and score 50 points in the paint.
Said Harden: "We didn't have a rhythm as a team. I felt like it was basically one on five every time."
That pretty much sums it up.
James Harden, Rationalization Machine:
"Believe it or not, I think this was good for us. Losing like this was definitely good for us. Now we know how to play."
Jeremy Lin, Co-Rationalization Machine:
"We really don't have an excuse anymore. We've gotten it out and played terrible all the way across the board -- offensively, defensively. That one's over with."