With the early parts of the postseason underway, storylines are beginning to emerge. The different series are showing early indications of what we can expect.
There have been studs, duds and one blossomed bud. Some teams spilled blood. Some were stuck in the mud.
We’ve compiled the top stories according to how much meaning they should have.
To our rankings, now scud!
Every postseason needs its ridiculously overhyped story.
We have a clear winner this year with the number of opinions expressed on Bryant’s tweeting activity during the Lakers' Game 1 loss to the Spurs. The announcers responded to Bryant’s tweeting during the game, Bryant tweeted responses to the commentary, coach Mike D’Antoni responded to the coaching advice offered via Bryant’s tweets, Kobe reacted to D’Antoni and then, of course, the media responded (per Ben Golliver of Point Forward) to Kobe’s reaction to D’Antoni’s reaction to the Mamba’s original tweet.
Whew; much ado about tweeting.
Probably the tweetest news you’ll hear all day—if you are just as sick of the non-story as me—is that Bryant promises not to tweet Game 2. I’m all atwitter over the announcement.
Carlos Boozer has famously been absent for the Chicago Bulls during their previous playoff runs. Through his first 22 postseason games in the Windy City, Boozer blew it, averaging just 12.9 points and 9.7 boards per game, shooting a meager .429 from the field.
Expected to be the second star on the team, Boozer has been mostly absent when the team has needed him most. But Game 1 was the opposite of the norm. The “Booze Cruise” launched in Game 1 while the rest of the team forgot to cast off.
Boozer notched 25 points, eight boards and four dimes, shooting .600 in the process, but no one else was on the boat and the Bulls were crushed. In Game 2, the rest of the team must have swum out and climbed on, as the Bulls had a balanced attack and won decisively in Brooklyn.
Boozer is averaging 19 points an 10 boards through the first two games. If he can keep up numbers around 20 and 10, he might get a pass from the fans.
Paul George spent this regular season as the go-to guy for the first time, and his first regular season as “the man” was anything but a disappointment. He made the All-Star Game, quite deservedly, and more than adequately replaced Danny Granger in the starting lineup.
But as the regular season wore down, he struggled. He averaged just 16.4 points on .391 shooting, including .276 from deep over the last 18 games. That’s 1.4 points fewer than the first part of the season, and his shooting was down from .427 overall and .387 from deep.
There were questions, particularly when looking at the drop-off in three-point percentage, as to whether George was feeling the effects of being the first option for the first time. A big drop in three-point shooting can be indicative of tired legs. Was he ready to carry the team in the playoffs?
George stepped up and did his best LeBron James impersonation instead, scoring his first career postseason triple-double, with 23 points, 11 boards and 12 assists. It’s worth noting, though, that he was still 0-of-5 from deep.
One of the feel-good stories of the season came to an abrupt end when David Lee went down with a torn right hip flexor in the Golden State Warriors' Game 1 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
After six years of postseason absence, the Warriors earned a playoff berth and were playing well. The Warriors and Nuggets (am I the only one who thinks it should be Golden State Nuggets?) were the only opening game that went down to the final play.
But in that game, Lee got hurt late, which annuls almost any chance the Warriors have in the series. The pain in Lee’s hip can only be matched by the pain in the Warriors faithful's hearts.
From shortly before he was traded by the Utah Jazz to this year’s All-Star break, Deron Williams suffered through a barrage of ankle and wrist injuries.
While he struggled with his shot early in the season, posting a mere .457 effective field-goal percentage before the New Year, he has been lights out since then, hitting for a remarkable .550. Over his last 10 games of the regular season, he was an absolutely disgusting (in a good way) .589, averaging 23.7 points and 8.1 assists over the spell.
That answered questions about his wrist, but there were still some about his ankle. Those answers should come in the video presented here. Words aren't needed to articulate the answer; just watch the clip.
Carmelo Anthony racked up 36 points in leading the Knicks to a Game 1 victory over the Boston Celtics. He didn’t take a ton of shots to get his 36 points either. The 29 hoists weren’t minimal, but they weren’t excessive.
Of the 53 times that a player took exactly 29 shots in the playoffs (since 1986), 34 of them scored fewer points than Anthony’s 36 (per Basketball-Reference). So, comparatively speaking, it’s not like he was just wasting possessions.
Still, there is criticism of the 2013 scoring champion because he only had one assist, like this column from Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe. Never mind that he also had four steals and six boards.
Who cares that he only had one assist? That hardly means he only had one pass.
Anthony is effectively utilizing possessions, boasting a .517 effective field-goal percentage and a .569 true shooting percentage. That’s an efficient game.
Frankly, it’s become too en vogue to just hate on scorers for scoring. Here’s a stat for you: In games where teams outscore their opponent, they win 100 percent of the time.
Points matter. Don’t hate on Melo for scoring them.
Vinny Del Negro is probably the one coach on an elite team who is on the hot seat.
What he seems to lack is the ability to form a coherent strategy around the team on either end of the court. The elite coaches have a team philosophy in place. Tom Thibodeau's Bulls, for instance, have their suffocating, team-oriented defense as a backbone, while Gregg Popovich's Spurs utilize plenty of movement and screening big men.
Del Negro, though, doesn't approach the series with a strategy. The first two games in the Clippers series, though both wins, have shown us vintage Vinny. The Clippers are reacting to what the Memphis Grizzlies do, and when it comes to the game-saving plays, they just rely on their superstars.
Chris Paul saved the day in Game 2, hitting the game-winner, but how far can he carry them? As we get deeper into the series and the postseason, watch the Clippers to see if they are winning because of Paul or Del Negro.
Earlier this season, Paul called out Del Negro's coaching. If the Clippers don't make it past the second round and Paul still feels the same way, look for him to use his free agency to force the issue.
If Game 1 is any indication, then the playoffs are going to be a lot like the season that preceded it—with a monstrously efficient, positively cyborgian LeBron James annihilating the competition like the NBA version of The Terminator.
It might not be all that impressive that LeBron scored 27 points in the opening playoff game, but that he did so on 11 shots is just ridiculous. In fact, according to Basketball-Reference’s Play Index, his .818 field-goal percentage was the most efficient opening game since 1985, which is as far back as the index goes.
James added 10 rebounds and eight assists, and he did all this barely breaking a sweat, playing just 35 minutes and sitting for a good portion of the fourth quarter. The way he’s playing, No. 6 may have to petition the NBA to change his jersey to T-800.