The 2016 NBA playoffs have stormed out of the gate with riveting Round 1 action hooking hoops fans to their screens.
OK, fine. Let's be honest. The opening round has mostly laid an egg.
A couple of underdogs stole one on the road, and the Detroit Pistons at least made the Cleveland Cavaliers sweat in a captivating Game 1. Other than that, not much excitement is boiling yet.
A measly four games have ended with a single-digit margin, and that includes the Golden State Warriors' nine-point Game 2 victory without Stephen Curry. Their potential Western Conference Finals opponent, the San Antonio Spurs, would need to sit their entire starting lineup to make their series with the Memphis Grizzlies a fair fight.
Alas, the postseason remains in its infancy. Each series will shift venues before Game 3, creating fresh opportunities for the underdogs to spice things up at home. Let's look at the remaining first-round schedule before highlighting two of the more intriguing matchups.
|NBA First Round Playoff Schedule|
|Eastern Conference: (1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons|
|1: Detroit at Cleveland||Sunday, April 17||CLE 106-101|
|2: Detroit at Cleveland||Wednesday, April 20||CLE 107-90|
|3: Cleveland at Detroit||Friday, April 22||7 p.m.||ESPN|
|4: Cleveland at Detroit||Sunday, April 24||8:30 p.m.||TNT|
|*5: Detroit at Cleveland||Tuesday, April 26||TBD||TBD|
|*6: Cleveland at Detroit||Thursday, April 28||TBD||TBD|
|*7: Detroit at Cleveland||Saturday, April 30||TBD||TNT|
|Eastern Conference: (2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Indiana Pacers|
|1: Indiana at Toronto||Saturday, April 16||IND 100-90|
|2: Indiana at Toronto||Monday, April 18||TOR 98-87|
|3: Toronto at Indiana||Thursday, April 21||7:30 p.m.||NBA TV|
|4: Toronto at Indiana||Saturday, April 23||3 p.m.||TNT|
|5: Indiana at Toronto||Tuesday, April 26||TBD||TBD|
|*6: Toronto at Indiana||Friday, April 29||TBD||TBD|
|*7: Indiana at Toronto||Sunday, May 1||TBD||TBD|
|Eastern Conference: (3) Miami Heat vs. (6) Charlotte Hornets|
|1: Charlotte at Miami||Sunday, April 17||MIA 123-91|
|2: Charlotte at Miami||Wednesday, April 20||MIA 115-103|
|3: Miami at Charlotte||Saturday, April 23||5:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4: Miami at Charlotte||Monday, April 25||7 p.m.||NBA TV|
|*5: Charlotte at Miami||Wednesday, April 27||TBD||TBD|
|*6: Miami at Charlotte||Friday, April 29||TBD||TBD|
|*7: Charlotte at Miami||Sunday, May 1||TBD||TBD|
|Eastern Conference: (4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Boston Celtics|
|1: Boston at Atlanta||Saturday, April 16||ATL 102-101|
|2: Boston at Atlanta||Tuesday, April 19||ATL 89-72|
|3: Atlanta at Boston||Friday, April 22||8 p.m.||ESPN 2|
|4: Atlanta at Boston||Sunday, April 24||6 p.m.||TNT|
|*5: Boston at Atlanta||Tuesday, April 26||TBD||TBD|
|*6: Atlanta at Boston||Thursday, April 28||TBD||TBD|
|*7: Boston at Atlanta||Saturday, April 30||TBD||TNT|
|Western Conference: (1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Houston Rockets|
|1: Houston at Golden State||Saturday, April 16||GS 104-78|
|2: Houston at Golden State||Monday, April 18||GS 115-106|
|3: Golden State at Houston||Thursday, April 21||9:30 p.m.||TNT|
|4: Golden State at Houston||Sunday, April 24||3:30 p.m.||ABC|
|*5: Houston at Golden State||Wednesday, April 27||TBD||TBD|
|*6: Golden State at Houston||Friday, April 29||TBD||TBD|
|*7: Houston at Golden State||Sunday, May 1||TBD||TBD|
|Western Conference: (2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies|
|1: Memphis at San Antonio||Sunday, April 17||SA 106-74|
|2: Memphis at San Antonio||Tuesday, April 19||SA 94-68|
|3: San Antonio at Memphis||Friday, April 22||9:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|4: San Antonio at Memphis||Sunday, April 24||1 p.m.||ABC|
|*5: Memphis at San Antonio||Tuesday, April 26||TBD||TBD|
|*6: San Antonio at Memphis||Thursday, April 28||TBD||TBD|
|*7: Memphis at San Antonio||Saturday, April 30||TBD||TNT|
|Western Conference: (3) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks|
|1: Dallas at Oklahoma City||Saturday, April 16||OKC 108-70|
|2: Dallas at Oklahoma City||Monday, April 18||DAL 85-84|
|3: Oklahoma City at Dallas||Thursday, April 21||7 p.m.||TNT|
|4: Oklahoma City at Dallas||Saturday, April 23||8 p.m.||ESPN|
|5: Dallas at Oklahoma City||Monday, April 25||8 p.m.||TNT|
|*6: Oklahoma City at Dallas||Thursday, April 28||TBD||TBD|
|*7: Dallas at Oklahoma City||Saturday, April 30||TBD||TNT|
|Western Conference: (4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (5) Portland Trail Blazers|
|1: Portland at Los Angeles||Sunday, April 17||LAC 115-95|
|2: Portland at Los Angeles||Wednesday, April 20||LAC 102-81|
|3: Los Angeles at Portland||Saturday, April 23||10:30 p.m.||ESPN|
|4: Los Angeles at Portland||Monday, April 25||10:30 p.m.||TNT|
|*5: Portland at Los Angeles||Wednesday, April 27||TBD||TBD|
|*6: Los Angeles at Portland||Friday, April 29||TBD||TBD|
|*7: Portland at Los Angeles||Sunday, May 1||TBD||TBD|
|NBA.com; *=if necessary|
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks
One game in, this series looked over. Then the Dallas Mavericks followed a 38-point loss by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road.
Put a fraction of a second more on the clock, and Steven Adams' overturned tip-in gives Oklahoma City a commanding 2-0 lead. Now the Thunder must bounce back from an evening in which Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook went a combined 15-of-55 in an 85-84 defeat, precisely the low-scoring grind Dallas prefers.
Durant especially endured an off night, making seven of 33 shot attempts. ESPN Stats & Info noted his historically bad combination of volume and inefficiency:
While the former MVP accepted blame, he also won't put his head down and shy away from shooting, per ESPN.com's Royce Young.
"Bad shooting night for me," Durant said. "It's a part of it. I wish it didn't happen tonight, but it's a part of it. Got some great looks all night and just didn't knock 'em down. Just stick with my routine, don't do too much extra and go out there tomorrow and get ready for practice."
Dallas capitalized on Oklahoma City's lack of scoring depth outside of Durant and Westbrook, who accounted for 59.8 percent of the Thunder's shot attempt. ESPN.com's Zach Lowe was especially critical of Dion Waiters, who offered eight points in 26 unproductive minutes off the bench:
One of the world's best shooters suffered the worst shooting performance of his life, and the Thunder still would have won if not for the benefit of modern technology correctly waving off Adams' game-winning bucket. On a night where Dirk Nowitzki's brittle knees made him look every bit like a 37-year-old, they needed 21 points and 11 boards from Raymond Felton.
The Mavericks probably can't sustain Game 2's formula three more times, but the Thunder should not have expected to coast past a team coached by Rick Carlisle. Even though Durant and Westbrook will see better days, someone else—whether it's Waiters, Serge Ibaka or Enes Kanter—needs to provide some scoring support for the two superstars.
The Thunder should still prevail, but they're not making a strong case for standing a shot against San Antonio or Golden State.
Toronto Raptors vs. Indiana Pacers
Among the league's heavy hitters, the Toronto Raptors are in the gravest danger of going home early.
They avenged Game 1's 10-point loss to the Indiana Pacers with an 11-point victory in Game 2, but the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed now hits the road with the best-of-seven slate tied at 1-1. Along with burdening the expectations of opposing Cleveland in the conference finals, the Raptors must first escape Round 1 for the first time in 15 years.
It's no lock if Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan stay cold. Both guards are shooting below 30 percent through two games, and they have combined to go 1-of-17 from behind the three-point arc:
|Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan: Games 1 and 2|
|Player||FGM-A||FG %||3PM-A||3P %|
Those struggles may amount to more than a fluke. Per NBA.com, the Pacers finished the regular season ranked No. 3 in defensive rating behind the Spurs and Atlanta Hawks. As noted by ESPN.com's Mike Mazzeo, DeRozan has gone 4-of-18 when guarded primarily by Paul George. Toronto's star shooting guard, who netted a team-high 23.5 points per game this season, didn't express concern about his tough adversary.
"I feel like it's nothing to get frustrated about, I really do," DeRozan said on Tuesday, per Mazzeo. "I don't mind having bad shooting nights. You have to be able to take the good with the bad. I had a great season, the season is over with and I've had two rough shooting nights."
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Unlike OKC, Toronto's teammates picked up its stars. Patrick Patterson and Cory Joseph combined for 30 points on 14 field-goal attempts in Game 2, but Jonas Valanciunas provided the heavy lifting with 23 points and 15 rebounds.
While the Raptors boast depth, the Pacers will only go as far as George carries them. That could very well be to a six- or seven-game series, as the 25-year-old is playing inspired basketball on both ends.
Toronto has already secured 25 more rebounds than Indiana, so it's mostly a matter of getting Lowry and DeRozan back on track at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.