11 Things to Take Away From the First Two Games of Round One
*Photo via Getty Images
1.Next year, watch out for the Pelicans
Anthony Davis is a complete beast. If that team had a healthy Jrue Holiday, imagine the noise they could make. Granted, this year it probably still wouldn’t have mattered after running into the Warriors, but next year, they will not be an easy out. By this point next year, whoever is facing the Pelicans in the playoffs may have to be preparing to defense the new league MVP.
2.The Clippers are real
As much as a Laker fan like myself hates to admit it, the Clippers are real. Chris Paul is playing out of his mind. If he can consistently play at this level, the Clippers could ride him all they way to a red, white and blue banner hanging next to all those purple and gold ones. DeAndre Jordan is dominating the defensive end, Griffin is flying over everyone, JJ Redick is dangerous from everywhere, and Jamal Crawford is a living dagger; watch out for those Clipps.
3.Rajon Rondo has played his last game for the Mavericks
I have never seen a development like this come out in the middle of the playoffs before. With his “back injury” sidelining him for the remainder of a probably Houston sweep. Rondo will surely leave in the off-season. Rumors are swirling that he will sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he has played his way out a max-contract. If Mitch Kupchak plays his cards right, he may be able to steal Rondo for $10-12 million per year.
4.Kyrie Irving is really, really good
Yeah, LeBron’s great. Kevin Love is playing very well. The Cavs are having a nice warm-up round. That Irving guy, is jaw-dropping good. He is easily the best lay-up maker in the current NBA, and may be up there with greats like George Gervin and Julius Irving. Kyrie’s trending arrow is still pointing way up, and that should be terrifying for everyone not in Cleveland.
5.Brad Stevens is a damn good coach
Those unfamiliar with collegiate basketball probably had no idea who Brad Stevens was when Danny Ainge tabbed him as the new Boston Celtics coach. Well, they know him now. He took a team that really had no business being in the playoffs, and not only brought them to the seven seed, but has them playing very competitive games with the East favorite Cavs. Isaiah Thomas is carrying the load, and Marcus Smart is gaining valuable experience. Stevens probably would have won Coach of the Year if Atlanta hadn’t run away with the East so early on.
6.If you want to beat the Rockets, figure out their pick and roll
Don’t look at me. I can’t tell you how to do it. When Josh Smith sets picks for Harden, and you go under the screen, Harden will knock down the jumper. If the second defender steps over, he’ll dump it off to Smith. If the down-low help defense stays on Dwight, Smith will slam it himself. If the help sags over to Smith, he’ll lob it to Howard. And if somehow, you can get the weak-side defender to rotate to Dwight, Smith will send it across for the corner Corey Brewer three, who’s been draining big shots like he’s playing NBA 2k. Don’t look at me. And apparently, don’t look to Rick Carlisle either.
7.Wesley Matthews’ injury may break up the Blazers
With rumors of LaMarcus Aldridge heading elsewhere in his impending free agency, one has to think, “what if Wes Matthews didn’t get injured this year?” Portland would have been significantly more likely to move forward if Wes was still playing. That team was the easy two seed in the West before his injury. ‘What might have been’ may be it for Portland, who may have to start a new era in Rip City.
8.The Wizards could be a force
The second half of the season saw the Wizards totally fall off. No one expected any sort of fight from them in the playoffs. After winning both road games in Toronto, John Wall looks to be in top form. They are starting to click at the right time, and that may be dangerous for the East. Nene and Gortat inside, Wall and Beal on the outside, and a savy veteran leader in Paul Pierce; all adds up to ‘you better watch out.’
9.The Atlanta Hawks are a thing of beauty on offense
Everything looks easy when these guys go to work. This is all attributed to the coach’s right hand man, Jeff Teague. Teague has been remarkable running the point, getting everyone involved. When you have Milsap and Horford down low, and then one of the top three three-point shooters sitting outside, watching the Atlanta offense is like sweet poetry in motion. They have a golden opportunity to get to the Eastern Conference Finals, but one game at a time.
10. If Derrick Rose keeps improving, the Bulls will come out of the East
Derrick is getting better. He’s getting strong, and more agile. That should be a scary thought for the Cavs. This is not just Rose on offense and Noah on defense. Now you have 3 real options on offense with Rose, Pau Gasol, and an emerging Jimmy Butler, and Mike Dunleavy and Aaron Brook running around draining 3s. Rose is the lynchpin. If he can get somewhere close to his MVP form, mark my words, they WILL come out of the East this year.
11.The Spurs aren’t done
After the Clippers beat them in game one, many NBA aficionados were planning the Spurs’ funeral. Game two showed that Tim Duncan and co. are not quite dead yet. The fight that they showed in overtime proved that they still have quite a bit left in the tank. Tony Parker will need to pick it up, but Kawhi Leonard is the definition of a budding superstar. With Leonard winning Defensive Player of the Year, he is leading the defending champions again, stealing home court from the Clippers. Yes, the Spurs tried to give the game away after they were up 88-78 with over 4 minutes to go, but they pulled it out. Keep revving that engine San Antonio, you’re not burnt out yet.