The first round of the NBA Playoffs is underway. So far, it has not been as straight forward as many had suggested. We have road teams up 2-0, elite teams struggling and an eight-seed looking dangerous. With so many surprising results that are going against the form book and a multitude of storylines coming out of the first week of do-or-die action, who are some of the winners and losers to this point?
Winner: Cleveland Cavaliers
Despite a porous defence, the Cavs have taken a 3-0 series lead over the Indiana Pacers to rely almost solely on their offence. After squeaking out a one-point win in Game 1 and a more convincing five-point victory in Game 2, the Pacers appeared as though they could cause serious problems for Cleveland on the road.
Game 3 was a tale of two teams. The Cavs allowed 74 points in the first half, heading into half time on the wrong end of a 25-point deficit. The second half saw Cleveland outscore Indiana 70-40, with LeBron James dominating proceedings on his way to a triple-double of 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists.
Cleveland are lucky they’re playing a franchise that doesn’t have a lot to offer besides Paul George, a player who has been huge for the Pacers with games of 29, 32 and 36 points respectively. When it comes to facing more offensively loaded teams in the East like Washington or Boston, the Cavs could have something to worry about.
Loser: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder have looked incredibly average in their first two games against the Houston Rockets, getting blown out in Game 1 118-87 and falling apart in the fourth quarter to go down 115-111 despite a 50-point triple-double from Russell Westbrook.
The problem for the Thunder is that their supporting cast is far weaker than the Rockets. In Game 2, Houston only needed to play eight guys to get past the Thunder, who considering they played 12, should have been fresher.
When Westbrook left the court with just over two minutes left in the third quarter, OKC were up 12 but when he came back on to start the fourth, they were only three points ahead.
As great as Russell Westbrook has been playing this season, the Thunder simply cannot bank on him to singlehandedly pull out wins night after night, especially in the playoffs. When he came back on in the fourth quarter, the superstar tried to take over like he had in the first three quarters, but what followed was a series of drives into traffic, forced shots and heat checks. He went 4-18 from the field in the fourth playing one-on-five, but when the rest of the team can’t even hold a lead, what choice do they have?
Winner: Chicago Bulls
A team many thought was just lucky to make the playoffs. Now the Bulls have taken a 2-0 lead over the No. 1 seed Boston Celtics on the road, making the Celtics just the second top seed in NBA history to begin a series in this fashion 0-2 from such a lofty perch. Chicago head back to the United Center with a chance to become the sixth No. 8 seed to take down a No. 1 seed . Quite the achievement if they do manage to pull it off.
The Bulls defence has been three steps ahead of every set the Celtics try to run, disrupting passes and forcing them to take rushed shots. Rajon Rondo, especially, has been able to read everything before it happens coming up with steals at crucial times.
The Celtics have looked panicked when things aren’t going their way, trying desperately to drag back leads with deep, contested threes as if they’re trying to erase an eight-point lead in a single play.
When those shots miss, the Bulls have been crashing the boards and picking up rebounds, not just defensively but on the other end too. Robin Lopez has looked as if he’s six inches taller than any of the Celtics bigs, swimming through box outs, grabbing rebounds and picking up second-chance points.
Now with the series heading back to Chicago for Games 3 and 4, the Bulls are in the driver’s seat and look like favourites to advance.