So like we were saying ... the top seeds are doing just fine, thank you.
After a pair of upsets (Portland, Utah) added a bit of spice to the early stages of the opening round, a sense of order was (sort of) restored Tuesday. Among the highlights:
• Summoning a resilience rarely seen during the regular season, a KevinGarnett-less Celtics team thumped Miami 106-77, to seize a 2-0 series lead. Glen Davis (23 points, eight rebounds in 29 minutes) is no Garnett, but the self-titled "Ticket Stub" gave Boston an infusion of energy in KG's absence, single-handedly outplaying Miami's frontcourt of MichaelBeasley and Jermaine O'Neal (15 points, 12 rebounds combined)
• The Lakers may have a 2-0 series lead after edging Oklahoma City 95-92, but no one is talking sweep. Not with Kevin Durant (32 points, eight rebounds) starting to develop a rhythm, and L.A. having no answer for Russell Westbrook (21.0 points on 57.7 percent shooting in two games) defensively.
• Credit Atlanta for not just recognizing Milwaukee's biggest weakness (a paint presence), but exploiting it. Paced by an energized Josh Smith (21 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists), the Hawks attacked the rim in the halfcourt (48 points in the paint) and ran Milwaukee off the floor (22 fast-break points) for a 96-86 win.
• The Suns finally got Portland to play their way, which is to say a glorified pickup game. Phoenix blitzed the Blazers from the opening tip, winning every quarter and pounding Portland in points in the paint (58-38). After leading the Blazers to an improbable 119-90 win in Game 1, Andre Miller crashed back to earth: Miller had 12 points and just three assists, turning it over twice and finishing a team-low minus-24.
Just two games on tap for tonight. Let's dissect.
The Bobcats have to be a little uneasy after they held Dwight Howard (five points, seven rebounds) and Vince Carter (12 points on 4-for-19 shooting) to subpar games and still got beat in Game 1. Stephen Jackson declared himself ready to go after an MRI revealed no structural damage in his left knee, but it will be worth keeping an eye on his mobility early in Game 2.
The Bobcats did claw their way back into the game after falling behind by 22 in the second half, and Larry Brown has been trying to fire them up by playing the "they are not taking us seriously" card all week. Raymond Felton's ability to contain Jameer Nelson (32 points in Game 1) will be a key. The Bobcats expect to send double teams at Howard; they can't afford to help Felton too much in Game 2 or they risk getting burned by the NBA's third-best three-point shooting team, which connected on 13-of-30 (43.3 percent) from long range in Game 1.
Prediction: Magic win by double digits.
Paging Richard Jefferson. The pressure is clearly on the Spurs' $14.2 million offseason acquisition to make an impact in Game 2. Gregg Popovich didn't single out Jefferson, but it seemed his comments that some players "played like dogs" in Game 1 was aimed at Jefferson, who scored just four points in 32 minutes. Jefferson's struggles with San Antonio's offense have been a topic all year; his game just hasn't molded into the Spurs' read-and-react system. But Jefferson does have 79 playoff games and two NBA Finals appearances on his résumé. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him bounce back.
George Hill is another story. As much as the Spurs can't afford to cough up 17 turnovers or give up 13 offensive rebounds like they did in Game 1, they cannot lose the point-guard matchup in this series. Hill's performance on Sunday (zero points, zero assists in 18 uneventful minutes) was a dud. Some of that has to be attributed to a lingering ankle injury that could keep Hill out of the lineup in Game 2. San Antonio's offense functioned much more fluidly with Tony Parker in the lineup, but with Popovich preferring to keep Parker with the second unit, Hill (if healthy enough to play) will once again get the start. And he needs to deliver, especially with Jason Kidd (13 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds, four steals) looking like his 2001 self in the opener.
Prediction: Spurs steal one in Big D.