The Wizards’ 102-93 victory in Game 1 didn’t happen at all the way you’d expect. Washington’s dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal were a combined 7-25, but the Wiz still managed to keep it together in a tight fourth quarter against a supposedly more savvy, playoff-tested Bulls squad. One thing carried over from the regular season, and that’s Chicago’s inability to score worth a damn. By my count, the Bulls made just two field goals in the final five minutes, both of which came from within a couple of feet from the basket.
Seemingly every playoff series has those few players who make a surprising impact, guys who manage to stamp their arrival as marquee players or turn back the clock to better days. For the Wizards, it was the oft-injured Nene who went off for 24 points, augmenting the 15 and 13 from fellow big man and possible series X-factor Marcin Gortat. That’s yet another body for the Bulls to pay attention to in a series that’s suddenly looking ripe for an upset.
Game 2: Tue. April 22, Washington at Chicago, 9:30 p.m., TNT
The last game of the opening weekend of the NBA playoffs was easily the best, with the Trailblazers edging the Rockets in overtime 122-120.
LaMarcus Aldridge went off for 46 points and 18 rebounds, joining only Wilt Chamberlin as the only player to have over 40 points and 15 rebounds in a road Game 1. But when he fouled out in overtime trying to set a meaningless pick on constant irritant (and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible) Patrick Beverly, it was Damian Lillard who took over for Portland. Dame finished the day with the best commercial of the weekend and 31 points, including an returning the favor by fouling out Beverly on and-1 with just 41 seconds to play.
Portland overcame some awful refereeing down the stretch to become the fifth road team to win Game 1 this weekend, a record, leaving just the Spurs, Thunder and Heat (for my money the only actual contenders for a title) as the lone home victors this weekend.
Dwight Howard finished with 27 points and 15 rebounds, but he also watched as Aldridge scored the tip in over him that allowed the game to go into OT. James Harden didn’t fare so well despite matching Dwight’s 27 points. Along with his typical awful defense, Harden shot an Iverson-like 8-28, including 3-14 from three. The Beard missed a potential game-winner at the end of regulation and ended the game on an awful attempt when he had a chance to win or go into a second overtime, very un-Iverson-like.
Game 2: Wed. April 23, Portland at Houston, 9:30 p.m., TNT.