The first day of the NBA playoffs is in the books, and it got off to a shocking start.
The Toronto Raptors, the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, are already down 1-0 in their first-round series against the Indiana Pacers. While the Pacers shouldn't be counted out of any series for as long as they have Paul George, it's still an alarming feat to see a 2-7 matchup favor the underdogs after Game 1.
Meanwhile, other results were expected, such as the Golden State Warriors defeating the Houston Rockets by 26 points on Saturday. Game 2, however, will be an issue if Steph Curry can't go on Monday due to tweaking his ankle and sitting out for all but three minutes in the second half.
There's still plenty of basketball left to be played in the first round, but here are some predictions that can be made with certainty the rest of the way.
|2016 NBA Playoffs - Saturday's Results|
|Indiana Pacers at Toronto Raptors||Indiana won, 100-90|
|Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors||Golden State won, 104-78|
|Boston Celtics at Atlanta Hawks||Atlanta won, 102-101|
|Dallas Mavericks at Oklahoma City Thunder||Oklahoma City won, 108-70|
The Warriors Will Challenge for 16-0
This may seem unlikely, especially since the Warriors need to still go through the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder to get to the NBA Finals.
But would this surprise anyone?
No team in the history of the NBA playoffs has ever won all 16 games without a single loss. The 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers came closer than any team ever has, going 15-1. Factor in the first-round series being a best-of-five back in the day, and Allen Iverson's iconic step over Tyronn Lue was the only blemish on the Lakers' record that year.
After Saturday, there's little doubt the Warriors will sweep the Houston Rockets in the first round. Since it'll be a quick sweep, Golden State will have more than a week off to prepare for whichever team comes out of the Portland-Los Angeles Clippers series.
The only thing that could derail any hopes of the Warriors breezing through this series and beyond is the health of Curry. The reigning MVP played only three minutes in the second half of Saturday's 26-point win, but he isn't worried about missing any time.
“Obviously, if it's not right and at risk of further injury or whatnot, that's the only thing that I think we have to worry about," Curry said, per Sam Amick of USA Today. "Pain tolerance and all that stuff, I kind of know what I can deal with on the court, but you don't want anything more serious to happen favoring an ankle or whatnot."
What sold me on the Warriors possibly accomplishing this feat was when Curry and Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley received double technicals in the first quarter. After Beverley tried to rattle Curry (which is not the wisest idea), Draymond Green delivered a hard screen to Beverley on the following possession. Flop or not, you could tell Green put force behind that one.
The Warriors can beat you in a multitude of ways, whereas you cannot beat them by trying to get in their heads. The Rockets learned Saturday if you poke the bear long enough, it will strike. That lead got out of hand quickly, and Houston had no chance to come back even with Curry on the bench.
The Rockets won't win with mind games or tough-guy attitudes. Trying to rattle the Warriors won't win games either. And as long as that continues to happen, no team can beat the Warriors right now.
The Hawks Found an X-Factor in Kent Bazemore
Forget the Atlanta Hawks winning games with their point guard duo or frontcourt. The world was sleeping on Kent Bazemore.
Not anymore. The Hawks shooting guard scored 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting, and he's a vital reason Atlanta has a one-game lead on the Boston Celtics right now.
This is significant on multiple fronts. For most of two-and-a-half quarters, no Boston player other than Isaiah Thomas could make a shot. Jae Crowder shot 5-of-16 from the floor. Jared Sullinger missed 10 shots, Avery Bradley missed nine of 16 shots, and Boston's bench combined to shoot 11-of-32.
Meanwhile, Bazemore was only 1-of-5 from three-point range but missed only two two-point attempts. Especially in this series, no one should expect any less from Bazemore, per Matt Moore of CBS Sports:
Not only was Bazemore efficient at the shooting guard position, but he also put pressure on Bradley at both ends of the court. Bazemore had a career night offensively, but he also got to the free-throw line 10 times. This was all while he drew the defensive assignment on Bradley and held him to a subpar shooting night.
The Hawks won't ask Bazemore to average 20 points in this series, but he'll take the pressure off Paul Millsap and Al Horford in the scoring department while allowing Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder to play more of a facilitator role.
But if Atlanta is in need of a serious hot streak on offense, there's no one better than "Blazemore."
No Offense, but the Mavericks Need Offense
So, the Dallas Mavericks lost by 38 points in Game 1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder. That is not good.
Here's what you need to know about Dallas' rough night: The Mavericks scored 70 points, the least ever in a playoff game in franchise history. Dirk Nowitzki scored 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting, which for a 37-year-old is pretty good.
The rest of the Mavericks players, though, did not bring their offense with them.
All other Dallas players combined to shoot 18-of-69, and the Mavericks shot a collective 29.8 percent in Game 1. The Mavericks were also out-rebounded 42-24, and it's clear they are missing Chandler Parsons and David Lee from an offensive perspective. Lee will miss at least one more game with a heel injury, and there's no sure timetable on whether Parsons will be back before this series is over.
But if Dallas wants to stay competitive in this series—and it still can be—it needs someone to pick up the scoring slack and take pressure off Nowitzki. The Mavericks will not last long in this series if stats like this one continue to happen again, per NBA on TNT's Matt Winer:
Beyond the greatness of Nowitzki, the Mavericks need help. There's still time to put this game behind them, tie the series and go back to Dallas after stealing home court, but someone will need to do better in the scoring department to make that so.
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