There really isn’t any other way to describe the past two weeks of first round action. Just wow. Almost every single game was incredible. Just when you thought one series had set the bar, another set it even higher. One amazing highlight was only amazing until the next game delivered it’s own Top 10 play.
Just take a look at all the first-round records that were set in the past two weeks.
And TNT showed this graphic BEFORE the the Nets went to Toronto and won another game for the road teams.
There was a lot of hype heading into these match-ups, and needless to say they did not disappoint. Here’s a look at the top 11 reasons we just witnessed the greatest first-round of playoff games in NBA history, and maybe in the history of all sports, period.
Remember when home-court advantage was a thing? Road teams certainly didn’t during the first round. From the get-go Portland, Atlanta, Washington, Golden State and Brooklyn all stole home-court advantage with Game 1 wins. Memphis and Dallas stole it with Game 2 wins on the road. In fact the only team to hold home-court through the first two games of their series were the Heat. That’s absolutely incredible. All in all, road teams won a record 24 games, going a combined 24-26 and helping give us a record five (5!) Game 7’s.
Overtimes, Overtimes Everywhere!
Yet another record set during the first-round, there were an incredible eight games going into overtime, including a ridiculous four straight OT games between the Thunder and Grizzlies. As if these first-round games weren’t intense enough, a good number of them needed an extra 5 minutes to be decided. These overtime games provided us with highlight after highlight, and this great example of James Harden’s defensive effort.
The Future is Now for Young Guards
Potential is a very important word in the NBA. It gets players drafted higher than they probably should be, and gets GM’s fired a lot more than it should. Heading into this first-round we heard a lot about young guards such as John Wall, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker and DeMar DeRozan. Guards of the future who were going to be getting their first playoff experience, an invaluable necessity that would help them in years to come when they were ready for playoff basketball.
Only these guys didn’t care for the future, they decided now was the time to arrive. And boy did they ever. Wall and Beal were an incredible combination in the backcourt, giving the Bulls fits in a surprising five game series win. Walker helped pick up the slack for Charlotte against the Heat when Al Jefferson was hurt. And after struggling in Game 1, DeRozan had himself a great series against the Nets, averaging 24-4-4 and eclipsing the 30 point mark in two key games. As for Lillard? Well he deserves his own section.
Damian Lillard’s Coming Out Party
Damian Lillard has arrived folks. The second-year player entered his first ever playoffs and put on a show for the ages. How good was Lillard? According to Bleacher Report, Lillard just did something that only Michael Jordan and Lebron James have accompllished in the past 35 years.
ESPN Stats & Info indicates that Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has joined Michael Jordan (1985-86) and LeBron James (2006) as the only players in the last 35 years to average at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists over their first five career playoff games.
Lillard has looked like anything but a playoff rookie, averaging 26 points, 6 boards and 7 dimes a game in the first round. The Blazer guard has been the best guard in the playoffs to this point, and it really isn’t close. With the Blazers heading into a second-round showdown with the Spurs, San Antonio has to be worried about what Lillard will do for a second-round encore. And all of that doesn’t even mention that Lillard did this to the knock the Rockets out of the playoffs.
The Inevitable Indy Collapse
What a story the Indiana Pacers have been this season. They started off blitzing the league and seemingly locking up the best record out East by the All-Star break. Then the trade deadline happened and things began to decline quickly for Indiana. Some people say trading away Danny Granger was their downfall, others point to the Pacers easy early-season schedule and say that we’re finally seeing the real Pacers. One thing is for sure, this team is definitely not what we envisioned when the playoffs rolled around.
After overcoming a 3-2 deficit and beating the 38-win Hawks in Game 7, it seems like only a matter of time until this Pacer squad collapses and heads into a tough off-season. Paul George has done his part to keep Indy afloat, averaging 24 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and nearly 3 steals per game in the first round. Unfortunately for the Pacers, Roy Hibbert, Lance Stephenson and their defense have regressed to the point that it’s only a matter of when, not if, the Pacers get knocked out of the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Lebron Staring Down His Airness
The Heat and Bobcats played in the least exciting first-round series, with Miami sweeping Charlotte. This was basically the only highlight you need to see from the series, Lebron James staring down Michael Jordan before hammering home a fast-break dunk.
The Clippers and Warriors Hate Each Other, And It’s Awesome.
In a first-round filled with seven-game battles, none was more entertaining/captivating/insane than the Clippers-Warriors tilt. These two teams gave us game after game after game of entertaining, up and down basketball, all while under the dark cloud cast by the Donald Sterling controversy. Enough has been said about Sterling, so let’s focus on the amazing basketball we got in this series. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were expected to be the stars of the series, but guys like DeAndre Jordan and DRAYMOND Green played key roles in the outcomes of many close games.
The best part of all this? The obvious disdain these teams have for each other. Their regular season games are always a thing of beauty, but after watching them battle for seven games in the playoffs, it seems we’ve found our next great Western Conference rivalry. You know, as long as they don’t kill each other in the hallway between games.
The Russell Westbrook Roller Coast Ride
Is there a more polarizing player in these playoffs than Russell Westbrook? When the Thunder win, Kevin Durant gets a lions share of the credit and rightfully so. And when the Thunder lose, the basketball world is trying to figure out how poor KD deals with Russell Westbrook and how soon the Thunder can trade him away.
It’s really interesting how insane people get when it comes to Westbrook. One thing we know for sure is that Russ is going to bring 1000% intensity for the entire game once the opening tip is in the air, and with that there will be both good and bad. The thing about Westbrook is no matter how much good he does, the bad always seems to steal the spotlight. Russ is definitely a unique player, how many guys can get a triple-double while also laucnhing 30+ shots in the same game? (Hint: the only other guy plays for Miami)
And after all of the criticism he received the whole series, what does Westbrook do? He comes out and drops 27 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds in Game 7. Guess how many players have done that before?
Russell Westbrook is the 1st player in NBA history with 25 Pts, 15 Ast & 10 Reb in a Game 7. (@EliasSports)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 4, 2014
Wesbtrook also joined Rajon Rondo as the only players in league history with multiple Game 7 triple-doubles.
Russell Westbrook joined Rajon Rondo as the only players in NBA history with 2 Game 7 triple-doubles. (@EliasSports)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 4, 2014
So let’s stop attacking the guy and enjoy the craziness that is a Russell Westbrook playoff game.
The Vets Hold Off the Young Guns, For Now
The Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets gave us a great playoff series showcasing the playoff veteran-laden Nets against the newcomer Raptors. For seven games these teams traded haymakers, ultimately ending when old man Paul Pierce blocked Kyle Lowry’s potential game-winner in Game 7, allowing the Nets to become the only road team to win a Game 7 in this years first round.
Four Point Plays for Days
One of the funnest things about the first-round was the unbelievable amount of four-point plays. There were an unofficial record 14 of them during the first round, with the two biggest coming from the Thunder’s superstar teammates, both forcing overtime games against the Grizzlies.
Another Spurs-Mavs Slugfest
It doesn’t matter if it’s 2006, 2010 or 2014, any time the Spurs and Mavs get together we all get a great series. While some people may have been down on this latest incarnation of their storied rivalry, the teams did not disappoint. Ultimately, the Spurs went out in Game 7 and did what a 1-seed is supposed to do, blow the 8-seed out completely.
Regardless of the outcome, we’ll always have this Vince Carter travel/game-winner to enjoy.
With a great first-round in the books, the bar has been set impossibly high for the second-round of the NBA playoffs. But after what we just witnessed from game to game for the past two weeks, would you doubt that the final eight teams can put on a show again? Me neither.