NBA teams went through the grind of an 82 game regular season in order to gain a high seed and home-court advantage during the post season. But after the opening games of this year's playoffs, you could be left wondering whether it was worth it after visiting teams won all of the first five games for the first time since 1966.
Of the eight teams that started the series at home this weekend, only the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat managed to make the most of their home-court.
The Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls all lost on their home floor and gave up their supposed edge. However the most surprising defeat was the Eastern Conference’s top seeded Indiana Pacers (56-26) to the Atlanta Hawks - the worst team in the 2014 Playoffs with a sub .500 record (38-44).
In fact, the 101-93 final scoreline doesn’t do the Hawks justice at all.
The winning margin only reduced to an 8 points gap because the end result was already a foregone conclusion by the end of the third quarter. So by the time the fourth quarter came round, Atlanta were already in cruise control. And yet they still managed to extended their lead to 20 points with four minutes left in the tie.
If recent history is any indication, then Indiana should be worried by the loss. The Dallas Mavericks in 2007 and the Spurs in 2011 both lost in their series opener against the eighth-seed, and both wound up losing the series. Plus, the fact that the Hawks beat them twice already during the regular season, makes an upset even more likely.
Nonetheless, there were some positives for each team to take from the respective opening matches.
The Clippers was hurt pretty badly by foul trouble as Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both missed chunks of the game. Paul had five fouls, while Griffin was sent to the bench after just 19 minutes of court action, but he was still able to put up 16 points in the 109-105 defeat. That should be a sign of great things to come as the series moves forward.
Houston dominated the offensive boards, finishing the game with 22 offensive rebounds and converting them for 27 second chance points. Defensively, Patrick Beverly hounded Damian Lillard throughout the game and the pressure he brings will surely take its toll as the series goes on.
Chicago had some costly turnovers as the game came down to the wire but for the most part, they took pretty good care of the basketball (8 turnovers) and got some great minutes from Kirk Hinrich and D.J Augustine. The two point guards finished the game with 16 points each and matched John Wall stride for stride in the 102-93 loss.
As for the Raptors, they are the underdogs against the Brooklyn Nets, despite having the superior ranking. That’s because they lack the post-season experience needed to overcome the battle tested Nets who had 380 Playoff starts between the starting 5, prior to the game. Meanwhile Toronto had none.
Nonetheless, they managed to keep pace with Brooklyn, losing by just six points in the end (94-87). Proving that although they may not be able to beat them in a best of seven series, they will push them in every single game.
And as for the Indiana Pacers, Paul George hit the nail right on the head when he said: “It’s just one game. It’s a long series and we just have to come out better prepared for the next game.”
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