2010 NBA Playoffs: Five Things We Learned Over Opening Weekend
The playoffs are a magical time of year where every play can be a game-changer.
This opening weekend was one to remember, with many great story lines emerging from the highly competitive basketball action.
From elbows and suspensions to playoff career-high scoring and a major upset, this weekend of extremely aggressive NBA contests had everything a fan could want.
The following is a list of the five biggest things we learned this opening playoff weekend.
There’s still lots of fight in the aging Boston Celtics
The biggest story of the weekend was by far Kevin Garnett being suspended in the madhouse that ensued in Boston Saturday.
As Paul Pierce dribbled around the wing and passed the ball off to a teammate, his arm was caught around defender Quintin Richardson and he injured his shoulder.
Pierce crumpled to the floor with just over 40 seconds remaining in the contest, and as Garnett went over to stand over his downed teammate, he went crazy.
Garnett yelled like a madman in Richardson’s face and both teams ran to the spot of the altercation as it blew up.
Garnett was grabbed from behind and threw two wild elbows as the two teams wrestled each other.
Now Garnett, one of the Celtics' aging superstars, is out for the next game against the Heat. Not only did Boston just edge out Miami in the game, 85-76, the Heat were the hottest team (no pun intended) entering the playoffs.
The Celtics will miss the offensive and defensive production of KG, and the Heat may be able to steal the series’ next game in Boston, turning the tide and flopping the home court advantage.
Many, this writer included, picked the Heat to take the series and without Garnett in Game Two, the end may be nigh for the aging Celtics.
The World Champion Lakers are older, injury-ridden
Kobe Bryant was the best player in the NBA. Bryant was as dynamic a player anyone had seen since Michael Jordan. Kobe was magical every time he touched the ball.
Those are the old days.
Sure, Kobe is off partly because he’s injured (hand, knee), but no one can deny he had already lost a step and is a quickly aging shadow of his former self.
Andrew Bynum was the story of the game (13 pts, 12 reb) but he is inconsistent and the Lakers must have Bryant playing awe-inspiring basketball to hope to return to the Finals this year.
Plus, LA is one of the older teams in the league and they got matched up with the youngest, possibly deadliest underdog in the playoffs currently, the Thunder.
Kevin Durant had an off night in Game One (24 pts on 7-24, 1-8 from three), well below his NBA scoring lead at 30.1 PPG, and Oklahoma City will have too much energy for the Lakers to keep up with them if this series goes deep.
The King is sitting pretty atop his throne vs. Chicago
LeBron was well, LeBron. He filled up the stat sheet (24 pts, 6 reb, 5 ast, 4 blk) on his way to a 10-point (112-102) victory versus the Bulls, just as he’s done all season long.
There’s no doubt James is the NBA MVP this season, and he and his Cleveland teammates want nothing more than an NBA Championship this season.
With good reason too, LeBron could and most likely will be out of Ohio at the start of the 2010 season as the King of another franchise—possibly the one that calls Madison Square Garden home.
But besides him, the Cavs could lose Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgausgas as well.
This is the best chance the Cavaliers have ever had to win their elusive first championship, and if it doesn’t happen now it may never come to fruition.
And really, winning the championship could work two-fold for Cleveland as it could possibly entice LeBron to stay, and either way the city gets its trophy.
Carmelo Anthony shows he should have been more highly touted as MVP
The Denver Nuggets dominated despite not playing at their best as they blew out the division rival Utah Jazz 126-113.
The two overriding stories of the game were Melo’s playoff career-high in scoring (42) and Utah center Mehmet Okur’s injury.
The Jazz were already bitten hard by the injury bug, losing forward Andre Kirelinko for the series with a strained calf, Carlos Boozer has a strained oblique and is day-to-day, and Okur had a sore Achillies that would hold him out of any regular season contest.
But Okur pushed himself, since it’s playoff timem and completely ruptured his Achillies tendon in the first quarter. The loss of Okur means much for the Jazz, including their best three point threat percentage-wise, and their best rebounding presence.
With both Kirilinko and Okur out, it leaves a gaping void in the middle for the Jazz on either end.
And without the two, Melo was unconscious all night.
Carmelo Anthony scored from distance, in the mid-range game and driving the ball to the hoop. Down the stretch, the Nuggets ran the same play to him numerous times in a row, as Melo posted from the corner of the key on smaller defenders and shot beautifully over them.
Nothing could stop the Melo man as he personally carried the Nuggets through their usual slumping third quarter with 15 points, and put the nails in the coffin with another 13 in the fourth.
But, even though Denver blew out Utah in the box score, the Jazz will not give up without a fight and this series is just getting warmed up.
To wit: As this article is being completed, the Utah Jazz fought extremely tough through adversity and defeated the Nuggets in Denver 114-111. The series is all tied up at one now, heading to Salt Lake City for two games where the Jazz were dominant at home (32-9).
Portland will not roll over and Andre Miller can still ball
The Blazers shocked Phoenix and the NBA, showing they won’t just roll over despite being completely and utterly devastated and depleted by injuries.
As this playoff series set up, Phoenix ended the season as hot as the Sun and the Trail Blazers just got word of superstar Brandon Roy’s knee injury. Portland knew they were without Roy, their leading scorer and playmaker, but they refused to succumb to the pressure of a championship caliber opponent.
Andre Miller was an absolute stud in the game, scoring a career playoff high in points (31) while dropping eight dimes as well. Veteran Marcus Camby and youngster LaMarcus Aldridge combined for 26 points, 20 rebounds and four blocked shots and Jaryd Bayless scored 18 in his hometown of Phoenix.
The Blazers plain got it done with a complete team effort, not just on the backs of a superstar or two.
Steve Nash (25 pts, 9 ast) and Amar’e Stoudemire (18 pts, 8 reb) were solid as always, (although Stoudemire fouled out early in the fourth) but the rest of the team was mediocre at best. The Suns only managed 100 points and felt a devastating upset loss at home in Game One of the series.
This just became a series people, not just the runaway many envisioned. Stay tuned, it should be good.
What other great games will the playoffs bring?
As the playoffs roll along, one can only wonder what other amazing story-lines come to the forefront.
Will the Blazers actually upset the Suns? Could the Thunder do the same to the Lakers? Can Boston fight through missing KG and beat the Heat?
So many questions that only time can answer.
Stay tuned NBA fans, the action is only heating up!
Rich Kurtzman is a Colorado State University Alumnus and a freelance journalist. Along with being the Denver Nuggets FC here on B/R, Kurtzman is the Denver Broncos FC for NFLTouchdown.com, the CSU Rams Examiner for examiner.com and a contributor for coloradosportsdesk.com.
Follow Rich on twitter @ twitter.com/richkurt