First round of NBA playoffs prove grit can trump talent

Lebron may have led the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 3-0 lead but not without a fight from the Detroit Pistons. (Keith Allison/Flickr)

First round of NBA playoffs prove grit can trump talent

Matthew Gozzip   Staff Writer

Steven Adams thinks he has just finessed a game winning buzzer beater to survive another fourth quarter meltdown but Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are walking off the court in disappointment. All the electricity in the building for the Oklahoma City Thunder is about to be coupled right through the Dallas Mavericks when they waive the shot off. 

Two days prior the Thunder clobbered the Mavs by 38 points, a difference so great that OKC could have not played anyone of the four quarters and still would have had enough points to win the game. On Monday night, they were defeated at home. 

The architect of the upset for Dallas? Charlie Villanueva. All he had to do was interrupt Westbrook’s pregame handshake and the mystical playoff mojo for the heavily favored Thunder was lost for the whole game.

In the NBA playoffs, there is no time for showboating and games. Anybody can beat anybody at this point if full effort is not given. 

The Thunder have learned that the hard way. The defending champion Golden State Warriors learned that the Harden way.

Up two games to none and seemingly dominating the Houston Rockets, the record breaking GSW team have conceded a loss to the dysfunctional eighth seed.

Only a fool would blame it only on Stephen Curry’s absence. GSW arguably has three of the top 15 players in the whole league and a deep bench but they were caught with their longhorn tails between their legs in Texas.

Steph Curry and the Warriors were up 2-0 and looked poised to sweep the series until James Harden and Co fought their way to a win in game 3 at Houston. (Keith Allison/Flickr)

The reason? Lack of focus. Even after a miraculous inbounds play steal and fast break layup to take the lead with under 10 seconds remaining, the Warriors allowed an equally terrible full court swing and jumper to “James The Beard” with barely a second left. The ensuing inbounds from a GSW timeout was a botched pass off Draymond Green’s foot that essentially ended the play before it began.

These results were nothing but spotty anomalies but make no mistake about it:

The Eastern Conference has experienced much more normalcy compared to their western counterparts but even double-digit victories have become intense battles.

The top seeded Cleveland Cavaliers currently hold a 3-0 series lead over the feisty young Detroit Pistons but two of the games were tightly contested battles going late into the fourth quarter. Mammoth wunderkind Andre Drummond is having a coming out party in the paint over the vaunted Cleveland frontcourt. The Cavs are likely to win the series yet there is a vulnerability to them.

The rest of the Eastern Conference series are playing out status quo with higher seeds leading their respective series. That doesn’t mean they haven’t been entertaining.

The real series of intrigue is between the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks. 

For being constructed of scrap parts and some decently manufactured ones, it’s a pleasant surprise Boston has actually won a game and maintained competitiveness. Isaiah “One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure” Thomas, Jae “Clunky Corvette” Crowder, Jonas “Junkyard” Jerebko and the rest of the Island of Misfit Players have initiated more aggressive collisions than the latest Mad Max movie. 

The veteran San Antonio Spurs have been given every thing they can handle in Memphis. The Toronto Raptors couldn’t even use the hype of Drake to utilize their home court advantage against Indiana. It has taken every Blake Griffin poster dunk to keep the LA Clippers in front of the Trail Blazers. 

The 2016 NBA Playoffs may not be as exciting as others in recent memory but they invoke the old days of exceedingly aggressive basketball. Jump shooters beware, close outs are being design to make contact. The only given on a fast break is a hard collision at the end. A smack on the head and grab on the jersey doesn’t apply in this nearly street ball style officiating. The structure of the sport may have changed but the hard-nosed playoff culture looks to remain the same for the rest of the season.


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