The NBA playoffs are off to a rousing start, providing some unexpected results in the Eastern Conference and thrillers in the more enticing Western Conference matchups.
After seeing everyone pencil in the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers for the Eastern Conference Finals, the top-seeded Indiana decided to keep us on our toes by sleeping its way through a Game 1 bout against the No. 8 Atlanta Hawks.
That will show us for assuming a foregone conclusion.
There's also other stuff happening in the East. Paul Pierce found the Fountain and Youth just in time to lead the Brooklyn Nets to an opening victory on the road against the Toronto Raptors. The Heat took care of business in Game 1 against the Charlotte Bobcats, and the Washington Wizards reminded everyone that the Chicago Bulls don't receive a first-round bye.
But it's the madness out West that's setting the stage for a classic NBA postseason. If the early batch of bouts are any indication, we're in line for some amazing basketball.
Of course, only a few days have passed, and Round 1 alone spans through two weeks. Here's a look at the opening round's full schedule, along with some interesting tales getting spun early in the playoffs.
|4/20||Spurs 90, Mavericks 85|
|4/23||(8) Mavericks vs. (1) Spurs||7 p.m.||NBATV|
|4/26||(1) Spurs vs. (8) Mavericks||3:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/28||(1) Spurs vs. (8) Mavericks||8:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/30||(8) Mavericks vs. (1) Spurs||TBD||TBD|
|5/2||(1) Spurs vs. (8) Mavericks||TBD||TBD|
|5/4||(8) Mavericks vs. (1) Spurs||TBD||TBD|
|4/19||Thunder 100, Grizzlies 86|
|4/21||(7) Grizzlies vs. (2) Thunder||8 p.m.||TNT|
|4/24||(2) Thunder vs. Grizzlies||8 p.m.||TNT|
|4/26||(2) Thunder vs. Grizzlies||9:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/29||(7) Grizzlies vs. (2) Thunder||TBD||TBD|
|5/1||(2) Thunder vs. Grizzlies||TBD||TBD|
|5/3||(7) Grizzlies vs. (2) Thunder||TBD||TNT|
|4/19||Warriors 109, Clippers 95|
|4/21||(6) Warriors vs. (3) Clippers||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/24||(3) Clippers vs. (6) Warriors||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/27||(3) Clippers vs. (6) Warriors||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|4/29||(6) Warriors vs. (3) Clippers||TBD||TBD|
|5/1||(3) Clippers vs. (6) Warriors||TBD||TBD|
|5/3||(6) Warriors vs. (3) Clippers||TBD||TNT|
|4/20||Trail Blazers 122, Rockets 120|
|4/23||(5) Trail Blazers vs. (4) Rockets||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/25||(4) Rockets vs. (5) Trail Blazers||10:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/27||(4) Rockets vs. (5) Trail Blazers||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/30||(5) Trail Blazers vs. (4) Rockets||TBD||TBD|
|5/2||(4) Rockets vs. (5) Trail Blazers||TBD||TBD|
|5/4||(5) Trail Blazers vs. (4) Rockets||TBD||TBD|
|4/19||Hawks 101, Pacers 93|
|4/22||(8) Hawks vs. (1) Pacers||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/24||(1) Pacers vs. (8) Hawks||7 p.m.||NBATV|
|4/26||(1) Pacers vs. (8) Hawks||2 p.m.||TNT|
|4/28||(8) Hawks vs. (1) Pacers||8 p.m.||NBATV|
|5/1||(1) Pacers vs. (8) Hawks||TBD||TBD|
|5/3||(8) Hawks vs. (1) Pacers||TBD||TNT|
|4/20||Heat 99, Bobcats 88|
|4/23||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/26||(2) Heat vs. (7) Bobcats||7 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/28||(2) Heat vs. (7) Bobcats||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/30||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||TBD||TBD|
|5/2||(2) Heat vs. (7) Bobcats||TBD||TBD|
|5/4||(7) Bobcats vs. (2) Heat||TBD||ABC|
|4/19||Nets 94, Raptors 87|
|4/22||(6) Nets vs. (3) Raptors||8 p.m.||NBATV|
|4/25||(3) Raptors vs. (6) Nets||7 p.m.||ESPN 2|
|4/27||(3) Raptors vs. (6) Nets||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4/30||(6) Nets vs. (3) Raptors||TBD||TBD|
|5/2||(3) Raptors vs. (6) Nets||TBD||TBD|
|5/4||(6) Nets vs. (3) Raptors||TBD||TBD|
|4/20||Wizards 102, Bulls 93|
|4/22||(5) Wizards vs. (4) Bulls||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4/25||(4) Bulls vs. (5) Wizards||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|4/27||(4) Bulls vs. (5) Wizards||1 p.m.||ABC|
|4/29||(5) Wizards vs. (4) Bulls||TBD||TBD|
|5/1||(4) Bulls vs. (5) Wizards||TBD||TBD|
|5/3||(5) Wizards vs. (4) Bulls||TBD||TBD|
Hey Indiana, You Guys Know the Playoffs Started?
The Pacers have picked the wrong time to forget how to play basketball.
After starting the season 46-13, it appears the Monstars have stolen Indiana's basketball talent to defeat the Looney Tunes, unaware that the rematch with LeBron James replacing Michael Jordan was called off.
Frank Vogel's squad has since dropped 13 of its last 23 games, losing any semblance of an offense along the way. But surely the Pacers would wake up during the playoffs, right?
About that. They were outscored 30-16 by the Hawks in the third quarter during an embarrassing 101-93 loss on Saturday.
The #8 seed Hawks just STUNNED the #1 seed Pacers at home. pic.twitter.com/oRXsNiu4BS— ESPN (@espn) April 20, 2014
Jeff Teague posted 28 points, Paul Millsap added 25 and DeMarre Carroll notched a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) during the victory. As Grantland's Zach Lowe noted, Atlanta's starting lineup has Indiana's number.
ATL starting lineup is now plus-41 in 54 minutes vs Pacers over 3 head-to-head games it has been available this season.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) April 20, 2014
While talking heads may sell every game as a "must win" to sell the importance of each one, of course Game 1 in a best-of-seven series doesn't present a do-or-die situation. Teams can make adjustments, such as Paul George guarding Teague after lighting up Indiana's backcourt.
"Yes, I would love to," George told The Indianapolis Star's Candace Buckner about defending Teague. "Just change it up, give him a different look and really battle him out there."
But offense is Indiana's real concern. It has scored at least 100 points in just six of the past 26 games, winning each time it broke the triple-digit barrier. The Pacers should figure out their woes in time to defeat the only playoff team with a losing record, but they won't make it past the second round at this rate.
Thank Goodness for the Western Conference
None of the West's top squads are marred in a terrible slump. While they're all, with exception to the Memphis Grizzlies, not keen on the whole playing defense thing, it yields phenomenal entertainment value.
Take Sunday night's epic Game 1 clash between the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers, which essentially morphed into a game of NBA 2K you have with your pal. The two free-shooting clubs combined to take 62 three-point attempts in Portland's 122-120 overtime victory.
Despite only receiving seven points from their bench, the Blazers prevailed on the road with 46 points and 18 rebounds from LaMarcus Aldridge and another 31 points from Damian Lillard. Those rousing tallies placed them in elite company.
But that's far from all the West has to offer. The Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors are Round 1's golden ticket, giving fans a taste of the game's newest rivalry. Boy, does it taste good.
For a few minutes in the third quarter, fans were treated to basketball nirvana, where the pace never slowed and misses were few and far between. A barrage of baskets ensued with eight minutes and 30 seconds left in the third quarter, led by 10 quick points from J.J. Reddick and a pair of three-pointers from Klay Thompson.
The game was tied at 58. Less than four minutes later, the game stood at a 73-73 stalemate.
According to Basketball-Reference, the Clippers entered the playoffs ranked second in offensive efficiency, while the Warriors trailed closely behind at fourth. With two of the league's premier point guards in Chris Paul and Stephen Curry leading the way, this series will continue to treat viewers.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will look to prove they're fine playing together when the Oklahoma City Thunder clash with the Memphis Grizzlies. While Memphis knocked off OKC last season, they did so with an injured Westbrook watching from the sideline.
The Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs represent the conference's "boring" matchup, because people who don't watch basketball mistake a lack of media scrutiny and drama for actual basketball enjoyment.
San Antonio isn't flashy, but it rode fluid ball movement, crisp shooting and stingy defense to the No. 1 seed for the fourth straight season. Its reward? The Mavericks, who won 49 games and still have Dirk Nowitzki to drain delicate floaters.
Every minute of Western Conference postseason play is recommended viewing.