Double Dribbles: Stunning start to NBA playoffs

BY foxsports • April 18, 2011

No way.

That's what I found myself saying repeatedly during the first two days of the NBA playoffs.

No way did eighth-seeded Memphis just win Game 1 at San Antonio.

No way did Chris Paul and New Orleans do what they did in Game 1 in L.A.

No way did New York's Carmelo Anthony get called for that bogus offensive foul in the closing seconds, and no way did Boston's Ray Allen hit that game-winning three.

Or how about Atlanta, which normally disappoints at this time of year? No way did the Hawks really cruise in Orlando.

Or what about Miami and Chicago? No way did they need major fourth-quarter runs to hold off Philadelphia and Indiana.

Seriously, though. Aren't Cinderella stories restricted to the NCAA tournament? Shouldn't March Madness be limited to March?

And hey, wasn't Portland the one team that we all had pegged to pull off a first-round upset?

Instead, Dallas was the team showing the late-game fight, proving perhaps the Mavericks really aren't just a bunch of old softies.

This has been NBA basketball at its finest, at its most refreshingly unpredictable.

In fact, the postseason hasn't lacked a clear-cut favorite to this extent since 1978, when Elvin Hayes and the 44-38 Washington Bullets surprised their way to the world title.

That's back when the Finals were televised via tape-delay following the 11 o'clock news, when no one cared that the word "Bullets" adorned the front of a jersey, and when the runner-up SuperSonics were still in Seattle.

Today, the Sonics are called the Thunder and play home games in Oklahoma City. And what a home game it was, with the Thunder needing every one of Kevin Durant's 41 points (and Russell Westbrook's 31) to stave off a determined Denver team left for dead in late February.

No way.

That's not all. There were also some fine individual performances.

You can start with Hornets star Chris Paul, who looked like Isiah Thomas, Pete Maravich and Tiny Archibald all rolled into one. Paul dribbled between his legs, pulled up in his opponent's face, and buried the Lakers to the tune of 33 points and 14 assists.

Of course, it didn't hurt that little-used reserve center Aaron Gray (12 points) and forward Carl Landry (17), acquired in a late-February trade, came up big against L.A.'s bigger frontcourt of Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol.

Yes, we're mentioning Aaron Gray and NBA playoff success in the same sentence. If this keeps up, we'll be singing "One Shining Moment" in unison by Wednesday.

There's more.

How about Memphis' Shane Battier hitting the biggest 3-pointer in franchise history to stun the Spurs? Battier was drafted by the Grizzlies with the No. 6 pick back in 2001, but spent his best years in Houston. He was traded back to Memphis in February, and his three in the final minute gave the Grizzlies their first-ever postseason victory.

How's that for drama?

The feel-good story didn't end there, with star forward Zach Randolph (25 points, 14 rebounds) reportedly agreeing to a four-year extension with the team earlier in the day. So much for all the best players wanting to team up to form superpowers, and play only in the league's sexiest markets.

Of course, with the way these playoffs have gone so far, why would anybody want that?

Not to be overlooked in all this were the remarkable and winning performances given by Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (24 points, 9-for-10 shooting), Celtics forward Kevin Garnett (15 points, 13 boards), Hawks guard Jamal Crawford (23 points off the bench), and Bulls guard and league MVP frontrunner Derrick Rose (39 points, including seven in the final 3:38).

Granted, there is a long, long way to go. And granted, there is still the possibility that all the favored seeds will still emerge from the first round, and that Finals regulars Boston and L.A. will play for the championship once again.

But after just one weekend, it's pretty clear this NBA postseason will be anything but predictable and mundane. And for anyone who says otherwise, there is but one logical response:

No way.

Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO


share story