The first round is over, and due to real life (writing a paper) and a bachelor party in Rehoboth (decidedly not real life), I’ve been behind on my BSB(R) game. Still, I’d like to think that posting a first-round recap before the second round is over qualifies as a buzzer-beater, which would be appropriate for a tournament named after Robert Horry.
The first round saw sweeps, game-winners, highlight dunks, and a Game 7. Before diving in, let’s take a look at the state of affairs in the BSB(R).
Some brief thoughts..,
- Several people predicted every winner of the first round. Chaz, however, stands alone atop the leader board.
- Even the low performers–Mom and Darwin–picked 5 out 8 series correctly. Y’all aren’t so bad.
- People connected with UM psychology aren’t doing so hot, especially if Briana is included in that group. Yeesh.
- On the other hand, Briana did learn today that she passed the bar, so she could probably care less about the BSB(R) now that she’s a cot-damned lawyer! Congrats!
- A wide range separates my parents, but nearly nothing separates me and Jesse. There is something elegant about that.
And now, onto a quick recap of the first round:
First Round: East
Celtics-Bulls: Nothing went quite as planned in this series. The Bulls stole the first two games from Celtics in Boston, and looked primed to upset the C’s before Rondo suffered a thumb injury in Game 2. Meanwhile, Isaiah Thomas suffered misfortune when his sister Chyna died in a car accident. Despite travel and tragedy, he and Al Horford led the Celtics to their series win in 6 games. The series gave us more questions than answers. Did the Celtics’ four straight wins demonstrate who they really are, or do the two games they dropped reveal a vulnerability as a 1-seed? Could the Bulls have won with a healthy Rondo? And did Rondo play himself into a future with the Bulls, locking the team into a poor-shooting future?
- Hero: Isaiah Thomas, leading his team amid tragedy
- Goat: Bad luck, from Rondo’s injury to IT’s family loss.
Wizards-Hawks: The Hawks made things interesting—they gave the Wizards a scare in the first two games in Washington, and held down the fort in ATL for games 3 and 4. Schroder held his own, Taurean Prince played beyond his years, and Paul Millsap was Paul Millsap. The Wizards showed grit of their own, though, defending home court and winning a gutsy Game 6 on the road. Wall and Beal were too much in the end, culminating in their unreal combined 73 points (27-42 FG, 16-18 FT) in the closeout game in the “Highlight Factory.”
- Hero: John Wall, who was the best player in the series and did this
- Goat: All remnants of the 2014-15 Hawks, which are all but extinct
Raptors-Bucks: The Bucks showed they could hang, with a road win in Game 1, and eventually, a 2-1 series leads. The Greek Freak’s regular season performance carried over to the playoffs, confirming his eventual takeover of the league. But they also didn’t score more than 93 points any of the final three games. The Raptors are the more well-rounded, experienced, more offensively gifted team, allowing them to find ways to win even though they themselves weren’t firing on all cylinders.
- Hero: Giannis, who managed to be the best player despite losing
- Goat: Bucks point guards, who failed to make plays and take the burden off of Giannis
Cavs-Pacers: The Cavs didn’t do much to silence doubters through the first couple games. Their atrocious defense continued, they played some of their best basketball without Irving and Love, and generally relied on superhuman efforts from LeBron James (who still bricked his free throws…58%). On the other hand, they won both games in Indy–including overcoming a 25-point halftime deficit in Game 3–resulting in another sweep of an Eastern Conference team (James has more best-of-7 sweeps than any player in NBA history). The loss left the Pacers wondering about how to proceed, in regarding what to do about Paul George, who’s reported wanting to be a Laker. What we do know is that Larry Bird won’t be answering those questions, having stepped down from his position as president of basketball operations.
- Hero: LeBron James, who started his transition to Playoff LeBron
- Goat: Paul George, who despite playing well, threw his teammates under the bus and is halfway out the door
First Round: West
Warriors-Blazers: Poor Portland. They thought they could win. As someone who both cares deeply about sports, competitive spirit, and rationality, I never know what to make of such proclamations. It’s true that the Warriors upset the Mavs in 2007, and the Grizzlies upset the Spurs in 2011, so you can’t fault Lillard too hard–the man is just Loyal to the Soil. Plus, they even played games where Durant sat as an injury precaution. Regardless, they were wrong–Golden State swept, winning their games by an average of 18 points.
- Hero: Steph Curry, who continued his brilliant, underrated season
- Goat: Competitive spirit. Not that the Blazers didn’t compete, but when it’s easy despite a guy like KD sitting, you know there’s no real competition
Clippers-Jazz: Poor Clippers. Poor Chris Paul. Another season, another premature postseason exit. In a season where five MVP candidates were debated (none of them names Chris Paul), it’s worth remembering that Paul was as good as anyone. He led all players in ESPN’s RPM, was second in Win Shares per 48 minutes, and third in BPM. Come playoff time, the Clippers lose Game 1 on a Joe Johnson buzzer-beater and then lose Blake Griffin to a season-ending toe-injury injury in Game 4. Don’t get me wrong–the Jazz more than deserved this. They had a fantastic season and managed victory despite Rudy Gobert’s limited play due to injury and foul trouble. Gordon Hayward was fantastic. Still, this series felt like more of a loss for the Clippers than a win for the Jazz.
- Hero: The depth and well-roundedness of Utah, which won the, the series
- Goat: The Clippers curse
Rockets-Thunder: It was the series that everyone wanted–Russ vs. Harden. Could Westbrook’s unmatched will test the Rockets? Sometimes, fantasy is more fun than reality. The Thunder were overmatched by Houston’s talent and teamwork, although to be fair, Houston only blew them out in Game 1. Still, when things well apart, Westbrook’s hero-ball and shooting deficiencies reared their ugly heads. Yes, Westbrook averaged a triple-double (again!), but taking a step back, it seems that his play did more to test the limits of the extent to which a single player can will a team to victory rather than focus on finding the best ways to beat the Rockets. Don’t get me wrong–the Thunder blew their leads and fell apart when Westbrook sat–but when the going got tough, Westbrook didn’t play them back into games.
- Hero: Team basketball
- Goat: Oklahoma City’s supporting cast; Andre Robeson’s free throw shooting
- Line of the series: Russell Westbrook had a monster closeout Game 5, hanging 36 points (13-23 FG), 12 rebounds, and 9 assists on the Mavs.
Spurs-Grizzlies: The most underrated series of the first round resulted in a Spurs win, but perhaps a moral victory for the Grizzlies. No one predicted the Grizzlies to win, and few predicted them to get more than a win against another 60+ win Spurs team. But then again, few predicted Mike Conley to play like a top-5 point guard or that Gasol would be a 58% three-point shooter. The Grizzlies fought hard, highlighted by Gasol’s buzzer-beater in Game 4. But the other team had the best player in the series (and my MVP pick), Kawhi Leonard, who singlehandedly won his team the series.
- Hero: Kawhi Leonard
- Goat: Chandler Parsons, because he ruined everything
As usual, below I’ve relayed the NBA’s handpicked highlights of Round 1:
What I was looking for in Round 2 before it started:
- Will the Raptors push the Cavs, as their superior point differential might suggest, or will the Cavs talent overwhelm the Raptors? (Update: the talent overwhelmed).
- Will the bad blood between the Celtics and the Wizards continue into the playoffs (Update: It has)
- Who will win the unofficial title of best point guard in the East between Isaiah Thomas and John Wall (even if Kyle Lowry and Kyrie Irving would like to have a say in that conversation)?
- Can the Jazz manage to win a single game off of the Warriors? (Update: they couldn’t)
- Will it be superior play from an MVP candidate (Harden vs Leonard), or their similarly talented supporting casts that determine the winner of the Spurs-Rockets series?
Next week you can check back in for a second round recap and an updated BSB(R) standings.
Who are your picks to win, both the playoffs and the BSB(R) tourney? Comment on the article or email us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook