The NBA Playoffs have begun and we're taking a look at the players, lineups, and moments assisting teams the most during the postseason action.
The big upset of the first weekend of the NBA Playoffs with the Atlanta Hawks continuing the struggles of the Indiana Pacers. The Hawks spread the floor with five perimeter guys, which gave point guard Jeff Teague all of the room to operate that he could want. It resulted in 12 of Teague's 19 shots coming inside the restricted area as the Pacers' perimeter defenders couldn't figure out how to stay in front of him. George Hill and Evan Turner were turned into saloon doors on defense.
The big stretch came in the third quarter when the Hawks gained total control of the game. Teague was the leader of the attack with 14 of the Hawks' 30 points in the period. He nearly matched the Pacers' third quarter total of 16 points all by himself. Can the Pacers counteract his effect on the game in Game 2? Do you put Paul George on him for the full time he's on the floor? Something has to change defensively.
2. Nene's return to the starting lineup was a big move for the Washington Wizards
Nene has been in and out of the starting lineup for the Washington Wizards all season long, typically rejoining them off the bench when he comes back from injury. That's how he ended the regular season with his last four games involving him as a reserve. Randy Wittman inserted Nene into the starting lineup against the great defensive frontcourt of the Chicago Bulls and the Brazilian big man annihilated the trio of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Taj Gibson.
The Wizards' big man had 24 points, just his fifth game of 24 points or more since the start of the season, and did it by spreading his scoring around all over the floor. He left the Bulls' frontcourt pretty uncertain of how to defend him and did a great job of being an initial option or a safety valve. Should the Bulls react to Nene's impact and start Taj Gibson against him in Game 2?
The top game of the weekend was the epic contest between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Houston Rockets Sunday night. We saw enormous peformances from the duo of LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, cementing them as two of the must-see talents in the opening round of the playoffs. Aldridge dominated the Rockets' frontcourt with 46 points and 12 of his 17 made shots coming in the restricted area. He even knocked down a couple 3-pointers.
Lillard help save the game and erased an 11-point deficit inside of the last five minutes of regulation. He hit big shot after big shot, combining with Aldridge to score 29 points in the final 9:50 of the game (regulation and the overtime period) to grind out the two-point road victory. The Rockets will need to find a better way to contain these guys for the full 48-plus if they want to advance to the second round.
The depth of the Oklahoma City Thunder has been a strength for them all season long and it was much needed in win over the Memphis Grizzlies. It will take that again Monday night in Game 2 if they want to hold home court advantage and go up 2-0 in the series. Nick Collison gave them 19 minutes of solid defense and literally bled for this team. He combined with Steven Adam to help shut down the interior of the Grizzlies.
Reggie Jackson didn't shoot the ball all that well, but he got to the free throw line eight times, rebounded extremely well for his position, and had some solid passing. He also didn't turn the ball over.. Somehow the team was +15 in 12 minutes with Derek Fisher on the floor and Caron Butler even had a monster dunk in his 9-point effort that helped the Thunder record a plus/minus of plus-18 with him on the floor.
The Golden State Warriors once again received big shots from the backup forward combination of Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes to help out in the first round of the playoffs. Green was very solid in the regular season, but Barnes struggled to keep his outside shot going and fit into the team concept. He never really found a consistent role or effort in the regular season. But all of that goes out the window for these two in the postseason.
Last year, Green and Barnes helped shock the world against the Denver Nuggets and they continued that inspired play in Game 1 against the Los Angeles Clippers. They combined for 21 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists as they gave the Warriors a big boost. Is this going to just be a regular thing for these two in which their postseason success will come regardless of how they play in the regular season? You can have a long career being the clutch guy.