ROSE IS THORN IN PACERS’ SIDES

Having taken a break after last year's NBA finals, the Beantown Blogger is back and this time Niall Gray is talking about more than just the Boston Celtics as the 2011 NBA play-offs get under way.

Have you ever known an opening to the first round as the one we witnessed this past weekend? I certainly haven't and I've been following the NBA for a quarter of a century!

Traditionally, the first round of the NBA play-offs are not great viewing and only once in a while do you get a truly memorable series, such as the one Boston and Chicago fought out in 2009. Most match-ups in the opening round tend not to last more than five or six games and it’s only when the conference semi-finals roll around that you begin to get the good contests.

But this year the play-offs have got off to an amazing start and there’s been no shortage of upsets and close-run games to keep me hooked to my league-pass subscription, although it meant I didn't get much sleep at the weekend!

Here’s a few thoughts from the opening weekend’s action:

Seeing as Chicago v Indiana opened the 2011 play-offs, let’s start there and a few words about their MVP-in-waiting, Derrick Rose. The only reason the Bulls did not suffer a shock defeat in their opener was because Derrick Rose would not allow the Bulls to lose a game that they only led for the last 48 seconds.

The Bulls are a far less-effective team when Rose is out of the game and every time that Rose went to the bench for a breather, Indiana took advantage.

If the Bulls want to go deep in the play-offs this year, it looks as if Rose (left) won’t be able to get much rest during games and I really think that as Chicago gets deeper into the play-offs, this is going to affect his game, unless his team-mates step up more.

Next; what is it about the late-showing crowds in Miami? All season long, whenever I’ve watched a game in Miami, there’s plenty of empty seats at tip-off time.

For their opening game, the Heat had the ‘whiteout’ going, where they leave free t-shirts on every seat for fans to wear during the game. I’ve always wondered why teams do this and now I have my answer. It’s because unless you have a high definition television, you can’t tell there’s a load of empty seats at the tip-off!

If there was ever going to be an upset on the first day, it was going to come in either the Orlando v Atlanta or Dallas v Portland games. Atlanta duly stepped up and did the honours, but when you look back at the games between them in the regular season, which the Hawks dominated,  it was perhaps not that much of an upset.

When Dwight Howard (46 points) and Jameer Nelson (27) account for all but 20 of a team’s 93 points, you don’t deserve to win the game. Orlando need the rest of their roster to stand up and be counted or the Hawks are going through, and Stan Van Gundy will be out of a job.

If Saturday was exciting, then Sunday’s games took it to another level. Who could have imagined that the top two seeds in the West, San Antonio and the LA Lakers, would both lose their home openers?

I suppose when you look closer at it, the signs were there. The Spurs were without Manu Ginobli and this guy is key to their chances. Without him in the line-up they lose a lot of the creativity a guy like Ginobli brings and they just didn't look as threatening. They need him back very soon if they want to go anywhere this spring.

As for the Lakers, it looks as if their late regular season funk continued on into the play-offs. They never looked like a team who wanted to win the game and Hornets' Chris Paul made them pay for it.

The only negative from all these close games and upsets is that with my beloved Celtics not in action until late Sunday evening, I got a little extra stressed wondering just what would happen when their opening game against the Knicks got under way!

In the end I had good reason to be stressed as the Knicks pushed Boston all the way and could have easily won the game. Thankfully Ray Allen did what he does best and with the game on the line he nailed the decisive three-pointer. PHEW!

I have to admit that after that game I was spent, decided to call it a night and watched the Denver v Oklahoma game in the morning. Glad I did as Denver almost took this one and for my money were the better team. While Orlando's duo of Howard and Nelson couldn't win their game, the Thunder's duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook managed to do so, along with the help of a controversial go-ahead tip-in from Kendrick Perkins.

However, like Orlando, Oklahoma will need the rest of their roster to step up more if they want to go further in the play-offs.

Finally, I’ve got a theory why I think this year’s play-offs could turn out to be one of the best ever, but that theory will have to wait until the next instalment…

 

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