Saturday's best: Derrick Rose looks like MVP; Anthony Davis flips on intensity switch
Best game: Rockets 118, Mavericks 108
Is it possible a 10-point game can best an overtime victory or a single-digit contest that featured two of the NBA's best players? Yes.
We'll get to the Wizards' flat-lined 93-86 overtime victory over the Raptors and the Warriors' up-and-down, seven-point win over Anthony Davis and the Pelicans later, but four games into the 2015 NBA playoffs, a 10-point game has been the best one so far.
The Rockets led almost all night, but Dallas kept cutting it close. James Harden, though he wasn't at his best, was typically efficient (24 points on 11 shots to complement his 11 dimes). Dwight Howard had moments when he actually looked like — gasp — Dwight Howard. Terrence Jones went for 19 points, nine boards and six assists, showing why he might be one of the breakout stars of this year's playoffs. Trevor Ariza stepped up. Corey Brewer made three huge long-range bombs. Plus, any game that gives us playoff Rondo, even if it's just for one fleeting quarter, gets bonus points.
Dallas' main regret, aside from losing Houston's three-point shooters too often and leaving guys like Brewer open for looks, might have been not getting enough shots for Dirk Nowitzki (24 points on 10-of-14 shooting). But allowing Harden to maneuver into the lane and create from there was a real problem for the Mavs as well, especially considering their defensive inconsistency throughout the season. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle is one of the best between-game adjusters during a playoff series. We'll see how he remedies some of the Mavs' issues when the teams play again Tuesday night.
Best stat line: Anthony Davis, F, Pelicans: 35 points (13-of-23 shooting), 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 4 blocks, 5 turnovers
We all wondered how Davis would perform in his first playoff game. For the first three quarters of Game 1 against Golden state, it was somewhat disappointing: 15 points and one board. Ouch. The Pelicans were down 25 with less than a minute to go in the third. But then we got fourth-quarter Davis.
Twenty fourth-quarter points and six rebounds later, Davis had pulled the Pelicans within four of the No. 1-seeded Warriors. But New Orleans couldn't come all the way back. Can you be clutch in a loss? Apparently, the answer is yes. Now, just imagine if Davis brings that intensity for a full playoff game. He's already the next great one, and we've got at least three more games to see exactly how much he can dominate the best defensive team in the league.
Honorable mention: Stephen Curry, G, Warriors: 34 points (13-of-25 shooting, 4 of 13 from three), 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 turnovers
Best dunk: Anthony Davis
Best visual: Derrick Rose, MVP
For a night, Rose looked like an MVP again, finishing with 23 points, 11 of which came in the third quarter as the Bulls pulled away from Milwaukee. Rose, playing in his first playoff game since injuring his knee in the postseason three years ago, took advantage of the Bucks playing him straight up and rarely bringing double teams, and bulleted to the rim in the first half, finishing in the paint with a flurry of explosive, Rose-like layups. In the third, he started chucking up contested threes ... and watching them go in. He finished with three long-range makes. The lasting moment from that period? Rose heading to the line to a sea of "M-V-P!" chants.
Best falling down butt pass: Pau Gasol's dime to Taj Gibson
Man, is Pau lucky we made this a category or what? Pretty sure he had it locked up from the beginning.
Best at being the worst: Randy Wittman's clipboard
The Wizards may have beaten the Raptors in overtime, but it wasn't exactly an A-grade game. Even in playing five extra minutes, the teams — neither of which made 40 percent of its shots — couldn't combine to hit Vegas' pregame over.
Washington kept killing itself with Bradley Beal pull-up shots from mid-range. Toronto was wrecking its offense with one-pass-and-then-shoot-no-matter-what possessions. It wasn't the prettiest, but this is what we should expect from much of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
What was the worst of it? Probably coming into a crucial overtime TO while up five, pumping yourself up wondering what your coach is going to call for your guys, and then seeing he's completely forgotten how to use a clipboard. Can't relate to that scenario? Wittman's Wizards can:
Best quote: "That guy is quicker than gossip." — ESPN play-by-play announcer Mark Jones on the speed of Wizards point guard John Wall
Biggest development: Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans going down.
Evans knocked knees with Warriors wing Andre Iguodala and didn't return. As reported by ESPN's Marc Stein, he was scheduled to undergo an MRI Saturday evening. Evans has become New Orleans' de facto point guard since Jrue Holiday's injury. The team's second-leading assister finished Saturday's contest with one point, one rebound and zero dishes in 12 minutes. Unfortunately, that may not even be the worst news.
Tyreke told @ESPNSteinLine "I never felt nothing like that before." About his sharp knee pain. Doesn't sound good.— Scott Kushner (@ScottDKushner) April 18, 2015
Best trash talk moment: Bradley Beal's wave
Paul Pierce had words for the Raptors. Toronto GM Masai Ujiri had words for Pierce. But when Beal sunk an and-one that gave Kyle Lowry his sixth foul, he used a non-verbal method to say adios to his competitor.
Best thing to look forward to Sunday: The Bestern Conference
Arguably the two best series of the first round begin Sunday evening: Grizzlies vs. Trail Blazers at 8 ET and Clippers vs. Spurs at 10:30 ET.
Grizzlies-Blazers gives us one of the best defensive squads in the NBA matched up against one of the more exciting offenses in the league, even without Wes Matthews. It'll be a blast to see what Memphis throws at Damian Lillard (especially if Mike Conley and Tony Allen are healthy enough to tag-team him for 48 minutes). It'll be just as delightful to find out how LaMarcus Aldridge — who showed how dominant he can be during last year's first-round series against Houston, when he averaged 29.8 points and 11.2 rebounds — responds to the Memphis bigs pushing him around for at least four games.
The final matchup of the evening, the last Game 1 of the 2015 playoffs, is the gem, though: Clips-Spurs. We've got star power. We've got the battle of the minds on the bench between Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers. This almost feels like a Western Conference finals matchup. We might as well enjoy it before one of these teams gets eliminated too soon.