Welcome to the best round of playoff basketball. The second round is best because all 8 teams have won a series and therefore built up momentum and confidence. Also, you’ve gotten down to the best teams in the league who all (or most) feel like they have a legitimate chance to win a title. Also, there’s still 4 series going, so you usually get 2 playoff games a night. The same goes for the NFL Divisional Round of Playoffs–the second round is the best round of pro football, too.
Lakers Feel the Thunder
I wonder if the L.A. Lakers are having flashbacks. It was this stage of the playoffs last year when their 2-year reign as NBA champions came to an abrupt half. Then, it was a 4-game sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. In that series, the game were close, hard-fought contests, until the final game. Not so this time around.
This year, the Lakers’ second round began with a 119-90 trouncing in Oklahoma City. The OKC Thunder had a nice lead at halftime, but they really blew open the game in the 3rd Quarter. This simply was a blowout. A lot was made of the fact that the Thunder did this without having extraordinary nights from anyone, getting to 119 while Durant/Westbrook scored their combined average. That was a product of the blowout, where backups played the 4th quarter for OKC. Had Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook played the full game, their stat lines would have been gaudy.
It’s Only One Game
Still, you never know about a series when an ex-champion is involved. This is going back a ways, but the 1985 NBA Finals began with a 148-114 destruction of the Lakers by the world champion Boston Celtics, only to have the Lakers win 4 of the next 5 convincingly. The point being, these things happen. I already predicted a Thunder victory, but that doesn’t mean the Lakers aren’t dangerous. But things don’t look good after one game. The Thunder look like they’ve matured into a young powerhouse and they have the willpower and the firepower to do real damage in these NBA Playoffs. The Lakers have to find a way to make this a different series.
You can say if the Thunder only have 4 turnovers in a game, they’re probably going to win. One of their weaknesses the past several years has been turnovers, but not tonight. I don’t think the Lakers are quick enough on the perimeter to change that equation, though four turnovers is a bit of a fluke. Kobe Bryant obviously has to do more than put in a pedestrian 20 points, but this series only turns around if Andrew Bynum and Pao Gasol seize a big advantage down low.
The Thunder simply look better right now, but the Lakers only need 1 game in OKC to make this series look a whole lot different. The question the Lakers have to ask themselves: can (or will) Russell Westbrook keep this up for a whole series? We all know Kobe and Kevin show up every night. So what Westbrook and the Lakers’ bigs do moving forward makes the difference in this series.
One final note: the Lakers may have come in off the Game 7 win a little physically and emotionally fatigued. I guess it goes without saying, but we didn’t see their best game.
Sixers Even the Series 1-1
First of all, it’s cool to be talking about a Celtics-76ers showdown. Second, it’s cool that the Sixers have actually made a series of it. I’d kind of penciled in the Celtics as the automatic challenger of the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. I still assume that applies, but the Philadelphia 76ers have made a nice accounting of themselves so far. In fact, the Celtics were lucky to escape in Game 1. They didn’t escape in Game 2. This series could easily have the Sixers up 2-0 right now.