And it made history last night when the eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies defeated the first seeded San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs had reinvented themselves this year as a fast paced offensive juggernaut. That garnered them the second best record in the Association. But for just the second time, it mattered not. The Memphis Grizzlies did what only the 2007 Warriors have done – defeat a first seed in a seven game series as the eighth seed.
The Oklahoma Thunder advanced as well and will face Memphis. The Thunder used their newly bolstered size and Kevin Durant’s unparalleled shooting ability to taken down the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets had shocked the league by improving after having their star player, Carmelo Anthony, traded away. But even their barrage of three point shooters, hustlers, and high flyers was not enough to overcome Oklahoma’s improving defense.
The L.A. Lakers had a harder time with New Orleans than expected. Ultimately, their size and multiple options offensively proved to much for the Hornets. Chris Paul posted some of the meanest Playoff boxscores that a point guard has ever put down. However, it was not enough for the short handed Hornets, who had to play without their leading scorer, David West.
The Dallas Mavericks finally showed some of the Texas spirit and held tough against a Portland team that many had picked to upset the Mavericks. Portland played their hearts out, and the series what hard fought. But the Mavericks stayed disciplined, and rarely let a Portland run go unanswered.
The Chicago Bulls played four, tough, close games with the Indiana Pacers, who suddenly looked like a veteran squad, and then blew them out in the clinching game. Some minor aches and pains for Boozer and Rose stick in the back of the Bulls fans minds. However, they’ll be ready to go in the next round. With Rose and Deng playing at the highest levels of their careers, and with Rose as possibly the best clutch player in the Playoffs, the Bulls have a great chance of dominating the next round as well.
The Boston Celtics, though initially struggling, secured the only sweep of the first round. They escaped with wins in Boston, and then decimated a Knicks team whose injuries grew progressively worse as the series went on. It appeared, in those last two games, that Boston had gotten some of their Ubuntu back. Hot shooting from Pierce and Allen have to bolster the Boston faithful.
The Atlanta Hawks extracted revenge on their rivals, the Orlando Magic. Last year, the Magic blew out the Hawks in every game. This year, the Hawks used the Magic Formula. They covered Dwight Howard one-on-one, knowing that he could not pull a Chamberlain every night. With Orlando’s three point barrage on double secret probation, the Magic never had a chance. The victory did not come without a price, as the Hawks have lost their point guard and defensive star Kirk Hinrich to a pulled hamstring.
Finally, the Miami Heat defeated the Seventy-Sixers in five games. It looked like Miami was on their way to a sweep, when the Sixers managed to steal a win in game four, and hang tough in game five. Good signs for Miami included Mario Chalmers finding his shooting touch, Chris Bosh putting up big series numbers, and both LeBron James and Dwayne Wade looking they are both capable of having a huge night at the same time.
The second round will feature Atlanta playing against Chicago, Boston against Miami, Memphis against Oklahoma City, and Los Angeles against Dallas. With the exception of Chicago versus Atlanta, which I expect to be completed in four or five games, the rest of these series will easily go six games. Round two of the most exciting Playoffs in years begins on Sunday with Memphis at Oklahoma City and Boston at Miami.