The opening day of the NBA Playoffs featured two thrilling upsets and nearly a third. Is more magic in store today? And can Russell Westbrook be the responsible magician?
We started off the NBA Playoffs by remaining hot. The Milwaukee Bucks were heavy underdogs by paid Vegas no attention by storming into Toronto and adding another chapter to the Raptors Game One historical woes. They not only covered, they bullied the Raps and sent them home with a resounding loss and a ton of familiar questions. Kyle Lowry finished with four points on 2 of 11 shooting and DeMar DeRozan chipped in 27 points, but it took an inefficient 7 of 21 from the floor to get there. If you are keeping score at home, and trust me Raptors fans ARE, they duo combined for 9 of 38 shooting, or roughly 23% from the floor.
Elsewhere, the Cavs survived a last-second miss from CJ Miles and escaped the Pacers 109-108 – earning a win but doing nothing to dispel the notion that this is a very vulnerable basketball team, the Spurs won in a snoozer and the venerable veteran Joe Johnson banged home a game-winner in Los Angeles as the Jazz immediately wrestled home court advantage from the Los Angeles Clippers.
It was a pretty thrilling opening day of the NBA Playoffs. Let’s hope we have more in store today!
Today’s NBA Pick:
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets -7
In a day full of first round opening-game upsets (or near upsets), this matchup seems the most likely to keep the party rolling into Sunday. The Thunder are surprisingly large dogs, but as I have written several times, this series feels even to me. The Thunder are thought of as “just Russ” but they have good size and interior defensive presence and scoring, and Victor Oladipo is a capable backcourt mate for Russ after several years of playing alongside good defender in Roberson, but an offensive “self-check” as teams went under screens and prayed he would take them up on the offer. Teams can’t just ignore Oladipo, though he isn’t a ‘knock-down’ shooter.
Houston sputtered in the last few months of the season, coasting in easily with the three seed, but falling well behind the Golden State/San Antonio realm they played around in in the first half of the season. Houston took three of four against Oklahoma City this season, perhaps the reason they are so heavily favored. They were able to withstand the size of OKC and even had a +1.8 rebound differential in the series.
But the Playoffs are a different animal, and there’s no one I’d rather have running and gunning than Russell Westbrook. I am not sure they grab the upset today, but I think we will close out the slate of Game One’s with a thriller. That makes seven points a soft landing spot.
Roberson, despite his offensive issues noted above, earns his check as a defender. He held Harden to just 20.8 points and 48% True Shooting Percentage this season. That’s Harden’s lowest against any team in the NBA.
Today’s Pick: OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER +7