Ranking the Game 1s in an epic opening weekend of the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
Posted by Matt Moore
What a weekend, huh? The NBA's first round is often looked at with a "ho-hum" response most years. Not in 2011. The opening weekend we had three upsets, two near-upsets, and the other three games were close right down to the finish. It may have been the best opening weekend of the playoffs in league history. So we thought we'd look back and rank the eight Game 1s on a level of awesomeness.
8. Miami 97 Philadelphia 89: Leave it to the Heat to give us the least interesting game of the weekend. It says a lot that the worst game of the weekend was one in which the 7th seed lead after the first quarter and made a serious run in the 4th before falling to the power of Wade. This one suffered from letdown, having to follow the Pacers-Bulls insanity of the opening game, and with the Heat grinding out a tough one against a feisty Sixers team, the playoff intensity didn't really shine through, no matter how much Chris Bosh (rightfully) yelled.
7. Atlanta 103 Orlando 93: Again, how amazing is it when a game where Dwight Howard scores 45 points isn't even in the top half of the games? Howard was incredible, and watching the Hawks' energy was really infectious, but the game itself wasn't as compelling. The Magic's shooting, combined with the Hawks casual dominance, was enough to overcome the thrill factor of watching Howard dominate in what would have been a classic performance. This series looks like it might be mighty interesting overall, but matched up against the insanity of the top, it didn't hold.
6. Dallas 89 Portland 81: A good game of runs, featuring a furious fourth quarter comeback by the Mavs behind a vintage Dirk Nowitzki clutch performance. The Blazers had about fifty alley-oops in this one, and the game featured a Jason Kidd 3-point barrage for crying out loud. It had everything you look for in a classic, right down to a series of questionable calls that will probably get the visiting coach fined for his post-game comments. The Mavericks hang on, but everyone has to think this is going to be a long, great series based off of Game 1.
5. New Orleans 109 Los Angeles 100: The defending champs, the second seed in the West, falls to a seventh seed team without its second best player behind one of the best point guard performances in recent history, and it's not even in the top half. This one would have been higher if the Lakers had made any effort whatsoever. They did not. A truly pathetic defensive effort individually, systemically, categorically from the Lakers. It was exciting due to the Hornets pulling off a huge upset. But the game itself was a massive conglomeration of defensive fail by the Lakers. Now, if we're ranking top performances of the Game 1s? Paul's got a case for the top spot.
4. Oklahoma City 107 Denver 103: Maybe the best played game of the opening weekend. It was an offensive slugfest where every time a team thought they had made the play to put the other one away, the opponent would respond. An incredible effort from Kevin Durant (41 points, 9 rebounds) who was simply unstoppable, and a heroic game from Nene, fighting off a knee injury to nearly push the Nuggets to the win. It came down to a series of tough, tough shots from the Thunder and a questionable non-call. If it weren't for the drama of the top three, this would have easily taken the top spot.
3. Memphis 101 San Antonio 98: The 8th seed gets a win versus the top seed in the West, earning their first ever franchise win with a Shane Battier 3-pointer and a last second miss from Richard Jefferson. The actual game featured a ton of free throws, but it also featured scrappy play, great aggression on the perimeter, vintage Tim Duncan, and brilliant interior offense from Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. The world didn't know who the Grizzlies were on Sunday morning. On Sunday afternoon they had a pretty good look.
2. Chicago 104 Indiana 99: The team with the worst record in the playoffs leads all the way until the very end, when the presumptive MVP leads a furious 16-1 comeback run capped off by a drive-and-kick assist to the little-known crack 3-point assassin for the win, destroying what would have been one of the biggest Game 1 upsets in history. What more can you say about Derrick Rose? What more can you say about how heartbreaking the game was for the Pacers? What more can you ask for in the first game of an incredible weekend? The Bulls' defensive effort was severely lacking, the Pacers' offense was impressively on target. It had all the makings of a magical upset. And yet the cliches come a-running in. Big-time players make big-time plays. Derrick Rose made the plays.
1. Boston 87 New York 85: I assure you this isn't big-market bias. You can check my zipcode if you want proof of that. This game had everything. The juggernaut struggling to get its feet under it. The impressive upset bid from the upstart New York team. The defending Eastern Conference champs buckling down and doing what they do best, creating opportunities for borderline calls and turnovers, then crunching down on shooting percentages. Amar'e Stoudemire takes KG to the rack. The twisting layup. Toney Douglas' step-back 3-pointer. And of course, Ray Allen, Ray Allen, Ray Allen. Throw in the dramatics of Carmelo Anthony's failures and how close the Knicks came towards that big step forward and you've got the best Game 1 in a weekend full of them.
Let us know where we screwed up in the comments.