By Joe Manganiello
The home team has won 16 of the first 19 games this postseason, which is no surprise. The first round of the NBA playoffs is typically the most lopsided round, as the lower seeds are usually intensely outmatched by the elite teams and, even in the closest series, the home team wins the majority of the time.
The top two seeds in each conference are undefeated thus far, as are the Pacers. The Heat have a +35 point differential; the Thunder and Pacers are +32; and the Spurs and Knicks. Only Wednesday’s game two between Oklahoma City and Houston were single-digit affairs among these series.
* The Clippers began their series with the Grizzles up 2-0, but Memphis buckled down, featured the heck out of its front court and beat Los Angeles Thursday, 94-82. The Clippers never won a quarter; scored 19 points less than their season average; and scored 82 points or less for just the fifth time this season (four regular season losses: @Brooklyn, @Denver, @Toronto, @Houston).
Chris Paul was peeved at himself after the game, and who could blame him: he never attempted a foul shot; he finished with more turnovers (5) than assists (4); and the team was out-scored by 17 when he was on the floor. Yikes. This Mike Conley/Tony Allen on Paul matchup is going to occasionally yield results, even if Paul is the best point guard in the universe.
Zach Randolph was beasting on Thursday: 27 points, 11 rebounds and +19. Dear lord. He is a bear.
Denver lost just three games at home all season, so all signs pointed to it winning the two opening home games against Golden State. When Golden State forward David Lee went down with a season-ending hip injury after Denver’s game one win, the prospect of Denver going up 2-0 shot through the roof.
Then something weird happened: the Warriors beat the Nuggets in Denver.
Seemingly unaffected by the David Lee injury, the Warriors out-rebounded the Nuggets (36-26), out-scored the Nuggets by 24 points when opposing point guard Ty Lawson was in the game, and made 64.6 percent of their shots, the highest playoff percentage since 1991. With a final score of 131-117, Steph Curry takes his team back to California after breaking the league’s most exhausting home-court advantage.
Chicago also broke their opponent’s home-court advantage, as Brooklyn managed just 36 points in the second half of game two. The Bulls, who remain Rose-less, got an inspiring performance from injury-riddled center Joakim Noah, who strung together 11 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of blocks in just 25 minutes of game two.
Deron Williams figures to be the most accurate measuring stick for the series: in game one’s victory, he had 24 points and the Nets out-scored the Bulls by 24 when he was on the court; in game two’s loss, he shot 1 for 9 from the field and the team was out-scored by 11 points when he was on the floor.
** The Bulls held on to beat the Nets Thursday, 79-76, in an ugly, grin-it-out style gam e that is hard to love if you aren’t a basketball obsessive. Thursday’s game was the basketball version of the ugly baby only its mother could love.
As predicted, Williams really was the barometer for this game. His Thursday stat line: 5-14 FG, 18 points, four assists, two rebounds, two turnovers, -3. What hurt Brooklyn even more was reserve guard C.J. Watson’s performance, and not just the air ball to end the game: 1-8 FG, 2 points, -8 in 20:06 minutes.
Friday night features arguably the three most intriguing games of the weekend: Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks travel to Boston to play the first Celtics game since the Boston Marathon tragedy; the Spurs travel to Los Angeles in attempt to take a 3-0 edge over the Lakers; and Golden State looks to take a 2-1 lead over Denver in what would be a stunning turn of events for the young team.
The first game fours of the playoffs begin Saturday as the Grizzles host the Clippers and the Bulls host the Nets. Game three of the Pacers/Hawks and Thunder/Rockets series will also be played Saturday. Meanwhile, Sunday is all game fours: Milwaukee hosts Miami; Boston takes New York; the Lakers host the Spurs; and Golden State plays Denver.
*** Miami defeated Milwaukee Thursday, 104-91. Too much LeBron. Laughably the Bucks were ahead by nine at the end of the first quarter, prompting this tweet:
That out of bounds pass by B.Jennings to end the 1st is almost funnier than the inevitability of Miami still winning this game by 15 #nba
— Joe Manganiello (@joemags32) April 25, 2013
Updated: Friday, April 26 at 12:00 p.m.