The first seven playoff games were lackluster affairs, but the Clippers dynamic duo more than made up for it with outstanding play
The opening weekend of the NBA playoffs is the league’s best showcase. With eight games over two days and the league’s biggest stars proving they’re the best athletes in the world, there is nothing like it.
Last year’s opening weekend was arguably the best we’ve ever seen, as an enthralling slate rang in a first round of unprecedented competitiveness and excitement.
This opening weekend was nearly a dud, however.
The first seven games were mostly lopsided affairs, with an overtime slog between the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors being the only exception. And while that game was close, it had the entertainment value of a high-school swim meet.
Fortunately, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin put on their capes to save the day.
The Los Angeles Clippers hosted the San Antonio Spurs for Game 1 late last nigh, and the contest had almost everything you could want in a game.
Paul was divine, pouring in one of the best performances in a career full of them. Blake Griffin showed why him catapulting towards the rim brings exhilaration like nothing else in the sport. Really, nothing brings more edge-of-your-seat, eye-bulging anticipation than when a Paul/Griffin pick-and-roll opens up the court and Blake is rolling to the rim waiting for a pass. You know what’s coming, the defense knows, and Griffin knows there is no hope for the opposition.
Twice last night Blake elevated. Twice Spurs reserve center Aron Baynes challenged him at the cup. And twice Blake dunked the ball as if he was not just indifferent to the 7-footer’s presence but like he was personally offended the man would even dare share the court with him.
But it wasn’t just Griffin who made this the best game of the weekend.
The pace of play from both teams was electric from the opening tip, and Chris Paul did wonders with the ball in his hands all night.
He made play after play on his way to 32 points, with the coup de grace coming late as the Clippers were putting the final touches on their win and Paul hit Boris Diaw with a lethal crossover on the way to the hoop.
Never one to be left out — not anymore anyway — DeAndre Jordan got in on the fun, throwing back Spurs’ shot attempts like undersized salmon.
He finished the game with 4 blocks and none impressed as much as when he sent a Manu Ginobili floater into the stands with what appeared to be an invisible tennis racket.
The NBA is a league of stars, and the Clippers’ big three delivered in Game 1.
It’s also a make-or-miss league, though, and the Spurs certainly helped the home team in that regard. Normally the epitome of excellent offense, they shot poorly as as team, largely due to bad games by their three Hall of Famers. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili connected on just 11-of-31 (35.5%) shots.
Despite that inaccuracy, San Antonio stayed close all night as Los Angeles showed its biggest flaw: a sorry bench that got thrashed in the second quarter and was so unreliable that Doc Rivers was unable to give his starters much rest in the second half.
So while the Clippers held serve on their home floor in the opening contest, there will be plenty of intrigue left to come in what should be the best first-round series.
Yes, there were other notable storylines this weekend.
We got a throwback performance from Derrick Rose, a breakout fourth-quarter from future-MVP Anthony Davis in his first playoff game, and some standout trash talk from Paul Pierce that he backed up. And there were the overall dominant efforts put forth by the Cavaliers, Rockets, and Grizzlies.
But it was mostly a snoozefest that did the association no favors among fans hoping for a repeat of last-season’s first-round dramatics. Playoff series are rarely defined by the first game, but that’s all we have to go on so far.
And so far, Clippers/Spurs is the only game in town.
Few opening round match-ups have ever featured as much talent as these two squads boast. Both are legit title contenders, and while they are both a long way from winning a ring, they did combine to save the postseason’s opening weekend.
Here’s to more of the same on Wednesday when they square off again.
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