This has been an absolutely horrid first round of the NBA playoffs. Two franchise talents (Chris Paul, Blake Griffin) saw their championship hopes come to a grinding halt. The league MVP (Steph Curry) suffered an injury that kept him off the court and re-introduced the notion that he is physically fragile and that the Warriors may be vulnerable.
While there were good stories such as Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin, there were horrific and mind numbing action like the Houston Rockets and their once franchise star Dwight Howard appearing frozen and mummified.
There were two sweeps (Cleveland, San Antonio) and two teams that won it in five (OKC, Warriors). The second best team in the east, record wise, has yet to throw off the label of “choker” and it hasn’t given anyone confidence the east will be competitive for LeBron James.
But thank God for Dwayne Wade and Paul George. The two superstars did what they are being paid to do, what makes them special. They were staring elimination in the face and they acted as if it was the last great war of their careers.
George and his mixed crew of young and old totally whipped the Raptors and further pushed the narrative along that something is wrong with Kyle Lowry this time of year. He is not mentally tough, he is definitely not a star. Lowry is shooting 31% and 17% from three for 14.3 points a game. His partner in crime, DeMar DeRozan, thinks he is deserving of a max deal, but not after this playoff performance.
DeRozan has a playoff PER of 7.3, the lowest of the entire team. He is shooting 32% and 15% from three. That’s why the Raptors have an elimination game on Sunday, a game 7, and why should anyone have any confidence that for the third year in a row, they will not choke? The Pacers are playing with house money. They have nothing to lose.
The other game 7 is the Dwyane Wade special. When Charlotte took a 3-2 lead only the North Carolina faithful believed they had the experience to pull out a win, only because they didn’t understand the pressure of eliminating a team in the playoffs, particularly a former champion. The Hornets approached it like any other game and Dwyane Wade approached it as a holy war. It was standing between him and a failed season and he wasn’t having it. He went through a Wade lull in the second half only to recover in the last two minutes to drain a couple of threes and an impossible shot with Courtney Lee in his face to seal the victory. Wade is special and those are the type of players that will their teams to wins, that carry them. Game 7 in Miami is going to be raucous South Beach party.
And so here we are after two weeks of mostly wretched basketball. 26 of these brutal afffairs were double digit wins, 68% of the games played. Thirteen of the horror shows were 20+ point margins, a third of the playoff games. Only 9 were decided by 5 points or less (23%) and 6 of the 9 were games in the east.
These 2 game 7’s came at the perfect time, the last of the brutality after 38 games.
Round 2 has to be better. For the NBA’s sake.