Lots of noises. Over the course of each first round series, we’ll get more signals. Yes, there are issues with plus-minus numbers, but they can tell a story over the course of six or seven games. After one game, here are a few notable plus-minus numbers, plus a big old bag of observations from each Game 1.
Brooklyn-Toronto (Dinosaurs vs. Raptors)
Kevin Garnett: +10 (20 min)
Andray Blatche: -16 (16 min)
Greivis Vasquez (18 pts, 8 ast, 4 reb): +8 (29 min)
Paul Pierce’s 4th quarter mini-heroics (9 points, classic slow-motion drives) were lovely. Amir Johnson looks like he’s playing while injured, which makes the Nets rebounding issues slightly less important. DeMar DeRozan’s first half was nonexistent. After all of those years watching Pierce and Garnett as a Celtic, it’s hard to believe, but I genuinely want them to advance as Nets. I suppose I can’t ignore my love for both guys. Go Nets.
Golden State-LA Clippers (Dubs vs. Lob City)
Draymond Green: +17 (22 min)
Jamal Crawford (2 of 11 from field, 1 of 5 from deep): -15 (22 min)
Blake Griffin played fewer minutes than Draymond Green (22 to 19). Chris Paul received zero help due to the impressive Warriors defense, led by Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The Warriors defense blanketed the perimeter. The great ball movement that Griffin helped provide the Clippers through much of the second half of the regular season was absent to his presence on the bench. Game Two should be intriguing.
Atlanta-Indiana (Overlooked vs. Over-with?)
DeMarre Carroll: +15 (39 min to lead Hawks)
Luis Scola: -12 (19 min)
Wow. I guess I shouldn’t be so stunned, but I am. I remain steadfast in the belief that the Pacers will not lose this series, but they are doing their best to convince everyone that they can. Still a bit surprised Larry Bird went public with his criticisms of Frank Vogel. That didn’t help. Roy Hibbert needs to inspire this group and get over himself. Man, they could use Danny Granger’s outside shooting right about now.
Memphis-OKC (Grit and Grind vs. Loud City)
Mike Miller: -21 (20 min)
Caron Butler: +18 (31 min)
Derek Fisher: +15 (12 min)
side note: Grizzlies shot 18 of 31 (58%) from the line, Randolph 7 of 12. For Memphis to have a chance this has to improve. Oklahoma City jumped out early. Memphis crawled their way back into the game. Durant took the Thunder home. Caron Butler was a sneaky good signing, and may make the difference in a few games during this Thunder run.
Portland-Houston (Rip City vs. Hardly-any-D)
Many will mention Aldridge’s heroic effort because of the 46 points and 18 rebounds. How about the importance of taking decent shots without turning the ball over? How about doing that against a team that loves to push the pace and get easy buckets in transition? How about 46 points on 31 shots (efficient because of the 13 free-throw attempts) and only 3 turnovers. Aldridge was a force all night. A stabilizing force that derails Houston’s attempts to get out in the open floor. The Blazers couldn’t have drawn it up any better. Still, they gave up 106 points in regulation and 120 including overtime. Houston’s offense is that good. Dwight Howard is a match-up nightmare for Robin Lopez, but Lopez fought hard all night. This series will feature numerous nail-biters. The Blazers played their best players major minutes (42 or more for the starters except for Lopez, who fouled out) as expected. Terry Stotts’ strategy to wear Harden down worked beautifully. James Harden shoots 8 of 28 and 3 of 14 from distance. Wesley Mathews forced James Harden to work all night on the defensive end, which contributed to that woeful shooting. The Blazers play good defense among those starting five and they refuse to foul. Houston didn’t get to the line in the first half. If the Blazers can continue to take care of each possession, they will give themselves a chance to win each game. Howard will play better as the season progresses
The questions: Can Kevin McHale regroup and figure out a way to keep Harden fresher and will McHale take Howard out if Hack-a-Dwight continues to trip up the Rockets offense?
San Antonio-Dallas (Old Masters and Kawhi vs. Old Master and Okays)
Talk about a strange game. The Spurs played impeccable defense in the 1st and 4th quarters, holding Dallas to 12 in the opening period, and holding the Mavs without a field goal for the final 7 minutes and 45 seconds of the game. I’m not counting a meaningless lay-up by Devin Harris as time expired. The Spurs are the steamroller of the NBA. The Mavs folded like a…(House of Cards? Tent? Lying kindergartner?). Wow.
Amazingly, Dallas kept their turnovers way down, committing only 8. On the flipside, they shot only 13 free-throws and had only 15 assists. Long, contested mid-range jumpers. Despite shooting 3 of 17 from deep, the Spurs survived. For all of the Patty Mills regular season love, he was invisible in this game (0 for 3 from deep, 0 assists, o steals in 14 minutes, minus-15).
Chicago-Washington (Slow and Ugly vs. Nene’s Knees)
Who deserves more love: Nene or Professor Miller? Both were crucial to the Wizards win over the Bulls in Game 1. Coach Randy Wittman was forced to leave the ageless Andre Miller in the game deep into the fourth quarter, because he was running the offense with more precision and effectiveness than the fantastically athletic John Wall. Wall sat on the bench and looked somewhat saddened by Miller’s savvy on the court. Nene was huge for Washington, hitting 11 of 17 from the field, and keeping the Bulls rebounding in check.
D.J. Augustin, who has received heaping buckets of praise over the past few months, came crashing back to earth with a 3 of 15 shooting performance, though he did make all 10 of his free-throws. Chicago’s 5 of 20 shooting from distance kept their offense from clicking. Credit the Wizards’ swarming defense. This series will likely go the distance.
Miami-Charlotte (Dwayne’s Knees vs. Al’s Ankles)
Not much to say here. Al Jefferson’s great first quarter was all Charlotte could muster offensively. Jefferson limped to the sideline early in the second quarter, seemingly bothered by an ankle injury, and wasn’t the same afterward. Without a dominant Big Al, Charlotte can’t score at all.