• Mike Ricci

The All-Time Tournament: Eastern Conference Round 1

The All-Time NBA Tournament is officially underway! If you missed the rules and reasoning, you can check out the original post by clicking here! No need for chit-chat. Let’s get right to the results from the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs!

(1) Boston Celtics vs (8) Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 1: Celtics 105-98

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Game 2: Celtics 107-100

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Game 3: Celtics 120-117

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Game 4: Celtics 110-84

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(Celtics win series 4-0)

*Photo via Zimbio

Stop me if you’ve heard this story before. LeBron James is in the playoffs playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers and while he appears to be the best player on the court, hands down, he is unable to advance because his supporting cast doesn’t show up.

Given how the 2015 NBA Finals played out, I can’t think of a much more appropriate end for the Cavaliers during this tournament. LeBron was outstanding while averaging 21.75/8.5/9.25 during the series however flirting with a triple-double average wasn’t enough to win even one game for Cleveland. Somewhere in this alternate “all-time reality” Skip Bayless is nodding at his television*.

I apologize for going all ESPN and leading with James even though his team lost but I have a feeling we’re going to be talking about the Celtics quite frequently over the next couple weeks.

One of the things I’m going to keep an eye on are players who have career numbers that might be bloated thanks to the era in which they played. The two players that come to mind here are Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. For Russell, I’m less interested in if he can maintain his career average of 22.5 rebounds per game and more interested in if he can average double digit boards. Thanks in part to an impressive clinching game (13 points and 15 rebounds), Russell was named player of the game while finishing with a rebounding average of 11 per game.

*Who am I kidding? If this is an all-time reality, there is no Skip Bayless. I create the rules in this world, and in this world, I cancelled First Take back when it was called Cold Pizza.

Series MVP: Larry Bird

It was over when…: With all due respect to LeBron and the Cavaliers, this one was over before it started. Cleveland was made up of one of the all-time greats and 11 really good players. When 12 of the best 13 players in a series are all on one team, it’s unreasonable to expect a different result.

(4) Detroit Pistons vs (5) Miami Heat

ROSTER NOTE: I made two roster changes for each team before the tournament started. For whatever reason, I neglected to include David Bing on the Pistons roster. 1970-71 David Bing will replace Vinnie Johnson. For the Heat, I have switched 2010-11 Udonis Haslem with 2004-05 Udonis Haslem.

Game 1: 105-95 Pistons

Box Score

Game 2: 113-107 Heat

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Game 3: 114-98 Pistons

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Game 4: 113-110 Pistons

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Game 5: 112-102 Pistons

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(Pistons win series 4-1)

During the Boston-Cleveland series, I mentioned how I was interested to see how some inflated numbers from a bygone era would play out in this simulated tournament. The example I used from that series was Bill Russell who averaged a respectable 11 rebounds per game.

Then we got to the Detroit-Miami series and Dennis Rodman happened. Holy hell, did Dennis Rodman happen.

Rodman averaged an incredible 19.8 rebounds per game during this series which will probably be the best per series average during this tournament unless Rodman tops himself. The only other players (assuming we’ve seen what we can expect from Russell) that poses a threat to average nearly 20 rpg are Moses Malone (keep reading) and Wilt Chamberlain but Wilt will be going up against hall of fame centers in every possible round throughout the Western Conference playoffs.

Rodman’s impact on this series wasn’t strictly limited to rebounding and defense. The Worm also averaged 13.6 ppg over the five games. There is a tendency among NBA fans to remember Rodman for who he was on the Bulls teams in the mid-late 1990’s. The Pistons era Rodman (sans colorful hair) had a respectable offensive game.

Perhaps overshadowed by Rodman’s herculean rebounding effort was the play of Grant Hill who messed around and nearly averaged a triple-double (20 points, 9.6 assists, 9.6 rebounds). If nothing else, I hope seeing the numbers and impact Grant Hill makes in this tournament will lead some younger NBA fans to go on YouTube and see the player Grant Hill was with the Pistons. If not for the recurring ankle injuries, I firmly believe Hill would’ve gone down in history as a top ten player. He even made second tier shoe companies look cool.

The Heat rode a strong second quarter in game two to steal away home-court advantage from the Pistons. Wade led all players in scoring with 31 points and Alonzo Mourning notched a double-double (14-11). But this game was the exception in the series for Miami. While Wade proved to be the go-to-guy on the Heat, the team was exposed for not being very deep. Eddie Jones scored 14 points in game four which ended up being the only Miami bench player to score more than nine points in the entire series.

I initially seeded each team based on the number of titles won. So, thanks to the Dwyane Wade era, the Heat were boosted to the fifth seed. If we ranked each team based on strength of the roster from 1-12, this probably is the weakest team in the tournament but were benefited by not having to play Boston in the first round. Of course, the difference between playing Boston or Detroit in round one was the difference of just one game. Still, this is the only team from the expansion era to be included in the tournament, so between that honor and the three titles, the Miami Heat are doing pretty good for themselves 27 years into existence.

Series MVP: Dennis Rodman

It was over when…: This series was over when Rodman and Bob Lanier combined for 33 points, 31 rebounds, and six blocks in the clincher. Alonzo Mourning and Chris Bosh were overmatched and outplayed in almost every game but both failed to provide Dwyane Wade with much help as Detroit pulled away.

(2) Chicago Bulls vs (7) Milwaukee Bucks

Game 1: Bulls 128-107

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Game 2: Bulls 105-93

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Game 3: Bulls 112-103

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Game 4: Bucks 112-109

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Game 5: Bulls 109-107

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(Bulls win series 4-1)

When I broke down the rosters before the tournament began, I mentioned that the Milwaukee Bucks had a scary lineup that was capable of upsetting the Chicago Bulls. The only issue I saw that looked better on paper was an older Oscar Robertson starting at point guard for the Bucks. And while the 1970-71 Bucks won the title, Robertson was at the tail end of his career. During this series, The Big O put a less than stellar stat line: 14.2 points, 5.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds.

This series played out the way you would imagine a typical 2-7 matchup would. The Bucks hung around for five games thanks to a game four victory at home behind Kareem’s best overall game in the series (19 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 blocks).

Let’s take a break from breaking down the box score for a few moments and examine how the series came to a close by looking at the play-by-play during the fourth quarter of the fifth game. The Bucks were dangerously close to forcing the series to a game six in Chicago but failed to secure one rebound that would’ve extended their tournament. Instead, the Bulls pull down five rebounds in the final 33 seconds to the Bucks none thus setting Michael Jordan up to tie the ballgame at 107 with four seconds left and bank in the series winner at the buzzer.

It’s also worth pointing out that with a chance to win the game, Milwaukee went with Vin Baker to take the game winner, right? Granted we only see some of the information, but if you’re a Bucks fan, you can’t be happy with that development. Not with Kareen, Ray Allen, or Michael Redd (who saw a total of five minutes the entire series to go with 3 DNP-CDs) at your disposal. Just wanted to point that out.

Series MVP: Michael Jordan

It was over when…: It was over when Michael Jordan said it was.

(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs (6) New York Knicks

*Photo via CBS

Game 1: Sixers 101-99

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Game 2: Sixers 114-98

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Game 3: Knicks 98-91

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Game 4: Sixers 95-90

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Game 5: Knicks 107-106, Richie Guerin gets hot late, hits GW w/:03 left

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Game 6: Sixers 112-92

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(76ers win series 4-2)

The series went six games and featured two game winning shots with three or less seconds on the clock. Allen Iverson won game one for Philly by rebounding a “badly missed” shot by Patrick Ewing with 17 seconds left in a tie game and hitting the go-ahead shot with one second left on the clock.

Not to be completely out done, Richie Guerin kept the New York tournament hopes alive by hitting his game winner with three seconds remaining in game five which sent the series to game six where the Sixers would ultimately close out the series.

It would seem fair to think of this as the most exciting series during the first round and technically you would be right (I mean, simple math suggests that a six game series would be better than a five game series) but from just looking at the box scores and play-by-plays, the series comes across as…well, boring**.

But not to be lost in the lack of close games is the biggest story of this series: the destruction of the Knicks at the hands of Moses Malone who averaged 25.6 points, 18 rebounds, and 3.8 blocks per game.

**Of course we can’t forget about the Moses Malone-Spike Lee confrontation during game 3. But due to the language used between the two parties, we probably shouldn’t recap because there might be kids reading this. Needless to say, it was wild. Feelings were hurt.

Series MVP: Moses Malone

It was over when…: In game six, Iverson hit a three from the wing at the buzzer before halftime to put the Sixers up by 18. Coming off of an emotional ending in game five, the Knicks were deflated and failed to mount any type of comeback in the second half of game six.


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