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NBA Playoffs 2014: Updated Bracket and Takeaways from Early Action

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 20:  LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the Portland Trail Blazers backs in on Terrence Jones #6 of the Houston Rockets in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Toyota Center on April 20, 2014 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2014

The NBA playoffs have just begun, but we have already seen a No. 8 seed upset a No. 1 seed in the first game of a series, an overtime affair between Houston and Portland and a devastating injury for a team that didn’t have much of a chance in the first place (Charlotte).

An updated playoff bracket can be found here.

It is easy to get caught up in the moment after the first wave of games and draw general conclusions, but just because something happened in Game 1 doesn’t mean it will throughout an entire series. 

However, there are some safe takeaways that can be made even in this early stage. Let’s take a look at a couple of them.

 

LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard are going to turn some heads

David J. Phillip

If the Portland Trail Blazers received the same type of national attention that another 15-point loss from the New York Knicks or Kobe Bryant’s latest tweet got during the regular season, more basketball fans would recognize how talented LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard are on any given night.

With the basketball world tuning in Sunday, Aldridge poured in 46 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, while Lillard tallied 31 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Aldridge scored on a critical tip-in that sent the game to overtime, and Lillard carried the Trail Blazers after Aldridge fouled out on an illegal screen. 

SportsCenter pointed out just how clutch the two superstars were, while Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com noted Aldridge joined some elite company in the process:

It’s really borderline ridiculous to think about how close Aldridge came to a 50-point and 20-rebound performance on the road in the postseason.

Now that the first-game jitters are out of the way, expect to see Portland’s two playmakers giving Houston plenty more trouble.

What’s more, there is really nothing to lose for the Trail Blazers in Game 2 after stealing Game 1 from Houston, so they should come out loose and ready. If Aldridge and Lillard steal the show from James Harden and Dwight Howard yet again, they will start to get some national attention from fans and commentators alike.

The Trail Blazers may not take both in Houston, but they are going to battle with the Rockets the entire series if the two stars continue to perform like they did in Game 1.

 

San Antonio summed up its season in one game

SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 20: Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs gets introduced before a game against the Dallas Mavericks in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs on April 20, 2014 at the AT&T Center in San Ant
Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

Forget the cliched line, the San Antonio Spurs are more constant than taxes.

The Dallas Mavericks held a double-digit lead in San Antonio on Sunday in the second half of Game 1 and appeared well on their way to stealing home court.

However, the Spurs did what they always do and showed the resiliency that has made them a mainstay atop the Western Conference standings for years. They dominated the final few minutes of the contest and held serve in the opening game of the series.

Manu Ginobili credited the win to his team’s revamped commitment to defense down the stretch, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:

Defensively, we started making stops. We were at a point where they were getting to the rim. They were making shots and nothing seemed to work for brief periods. There was a point where we were down 10 where we made a couple of steals. We ran, we got fouled, we got a couple of easy buckets, and that changed our mentality.

The comeback effort served as something of a microcosm of the entire season for San Antonio.

The Spurs had to bounce back from a gut-wrenching loss to the Miami Heat in last year's NBA Finals throughout the campaign, fight off age, play through injuries and overcome the doubt of those that have assumed they are too old for years. 

All the Spurs did was earn the No. 1 seed in the loaded Western Conference and finish with the best record in basketball. Count Tim Duncan and company out at your own peril.

 

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