Can Spurs, Lakers, Nuggets pull even?
Five writers tackle five questions on Wednesday's slate of NBA postseason action
Pop quiz time. We put five multiple-choice questions to five NBA writers to get their takes on three key series in the Western Conference.
1. What's the best five-word summary of Hornets-Lakers Game 1?
A. CP3 played like an MVP
B. Lakers hit the snooze button
C. Lake Show is getting old
D. Postseason now looks wide open
E. [Write your own headline here]
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: E. It's all of the above. Chris Paul once again looked like not just the best point guard but maybe the best player in basketball. The Lakers acted like they could cruise to an easy one while also looking slow and tired the last five minutes. And if the Hornets can make the Lakers look vulnerable, then the West certainly opens up.
Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: A. CP3 played like an MVP. Jumping to any conclusions about the Lakers isn't the best idea. Instead, let's focus on how much fun Chris Paul is to watch, and how talented he is at controlling a basketball game. I only hope that Paul can turn in performances like his Game 1 for many more years.
Joe Gerrity, Hornets 247: E. Gray came up huge inside. The Hornets defied the experts and held their own inside thanks to 20 enormous minutes by Aaron Gray (plus-25). With Okafor playing only two minutes in the fourth due to foul trouble, New Orleans couldn't have won that battle without the contributions of its backup center. CP3 delivered a big night, but Gray's performance was what turned the tide.
Maurice Brooks, ESPN.com: E. L.A.'s been there, done that. The Lakers worked all season to get the home-court advantage, and in just 48 minutes they gave it away. Losing to teams they are supposed to beat is nothing new for the defending champs.
Phillip Barnett, Forum Blue & Gold: A. CP3 played like an MVP. Paul had 33 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and about four incredibly tough shots. With the game still in the balance in the fourth quarter, he dropped 17 points to will the Hornets to a road victory in Los Angeles, where teams have been a combined 4-32 in the postseason since 2008.
2. What's the best five-word summary of Grizzlies-Spurs Game 1?
A. Grizzlies showed they're for real
B. San Antonio is getting exposed
C. Manu, please come back soon
D. Approaching end of an era
E. [Write your own headline here]
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: C. Manu, please come back soon. The Spurs are an entirely different team in about 50 ways without Manu Ginobili. Without his slashing, they don't get the same outside looks. They don't have a crunch-time closer. They miss his knack for coming up with winning plays. The Grizzlies were impressive, but we need to see Manu first before we make a real determination either way.
Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: A. Grizzlies showed they're for real. I think Game 1 of this series spoke more about the Grizzlies than the Spurs. Not a lot of household names on Memphis' roster, but those who watch enough basketball had an idea that this would be a tough series, regardless of the final outcome. Manu coming back would be nice too, though.
Joe Gerrity, Hornets 247: A. Grizzlies showed they're for real. Going into San Antonio against coach Gregg Popovich & Co. is always tough, but never more so than as the 8-seed having never won a playoff game before. Notching that win qualifies them as real in my book.
Maurice Brooks, ESPN.com: E. Knew Spurs weren't that good. The Spurs had the best record in the league almost the entire season, but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone outside of San Antonio who believes they will be planning a parade in June.
Phillip Barnett, Forum Blue & Gold: C. Manu, please come back soon. The Memphis Grizzlies have won the past three meetings with San Antonio, but the Spurs haven't been at full strength in any of those games. Beat the Spurs with a healthy Spurs core; then I'll be convinced.
3. What's the best five-word summary of Nuggets-Thunder Game 1?
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: B. Nuggets needed a go-to guy. You know a playoff game was special when there were about 30 good storylines from it. But the biggest was Denver's lack of a go-to scorer. They tried Danilo Gallinari. They tried J.R. Smith. They tried Raymond Felton. Nothing really worked. The tip-in wouldn't have mattered nearly as much if Denver were able to execute late.
Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: D. NBA playoff action: It's fan-tastic! Maybe I've watched too much basketball this season and I'm getting burnt out, but my reaction to watching basketball games these days isn't usually sitting there and smiling. But that's what I was doing during Game 1 of the Thunder-Nuggets series. Can we get seven games' worth, please?
Joe Gerrity, Hornets 247: B. Nuggets needed a go-to guy. Oklahoma City knew exactly what to do offensively late in the game, whereas it looked like this was the Nuggets' first time in the bright lights. Were they just expecting Melo to show up and take over?
Maurice Brooks, ESPN.com: E. All-Stars always beat role players. The play of the Nuggets after the Carmelo deal was a great story, and George Karl deserves COY consideration, but I'll take seven games of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant over everybody on Denver's roster every time.
Phillip Barnett, Forum Blue & Gold: D. NBA playoff action: It's fan-tastic! This could be the most fun series for fans since the Celtics-Bulls series in 2008. It won't have the same amount of drama, but the fast pace, star power with Durant and big plays waiting to happen with Russ Westbrook, J.R. Smith and Nene will make these games must-see TV.
4. What happens in the SA-Memphis-Denver-OKC bracket on Wednesday?
A. Spurs, Thunder win at home
B. Grizzlies, Nuggets win on road
C. Spurs win, but Thunder lose
D. Spurs lose, but Thunder win
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: A. Spurs, Thunder win at home. I'm afraid I'm going to fail this like I did so many multiple-choice exams in college, but I think the favorites win. The Thunder are a pretty dominant home team and really seem capable of handling business on their floor. And the Spurs aren't going down 2-0 at home. I'd have to re-evaluate my life if that were to happen.
Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: A. Spurs, Thunder win at home. Spurs bounce back and beat the Grizzlies in Game 2. Even if San Antonio goes on to lose the series, which I don't see happening, they won't lose the first two games at home. The Thunder have a helluva home-court advantage and more talent than the Nuggets. That's usually good for another home win.
Joe Gerrity, Hornets 247: A. Spurs, Thunder win at home. Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan simply won't let their team lose two straight as the 1-seed at home to start the playoffs, and the Nuggets still don't have a star to guide them late in the game.
Maurice Brooks, ESPN.com: A. Spurs, Thunder win at home. San Antonio can't afford to fall behind 2-0, dropping both games at home, so I expect Manu Ginobili to be in the lineup and they'll even the series. The Thunder are going to drop a game in this series, but it won't be at home.
Phillip Barnett, Forum Blue & Gold: A. Spurs, Thunder win at home. Reports suggest that Ginobili will likely suit up for Game 2. But even if he doesn't, it's hard to imagine the Spurs down 2-0 before heading out on the road. I expect the Thunder will take care of business, too. No one on the Nuggets can guard Durant, and Westbrook has been unstoppable in the open court.
5. What happens in the Hornets-Lakers game on Wednesday?
A. Lakers win, tie series 1-1
B. Hornets win, take 2-0 lead
Royce Young, Daily Thunder: A. Lakers win, tie series 1-1. As shocking an upset as it was for David Stern's team to beat the Lakers in Game 1, a win Wednesday would be like "Fast Five" not being terrible. Chris Paul was probably good for one win in this series on his own, and the Hornets likely already got it out of the way.
Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: A. Lakers win, tie series 1-1. The hater in me hopes for a 2-0 series deficit for L.A., but that's too tall of a task for an undermanned Hornets squad. The Lakers will flip that switch or get their wake-up call or whatever you feel like calling it. Los Angeles will probably win Game 2 big. We'll always have Chris Paul's jumper over Pau Gasol.
Joe Gerrity, Hornets 247: B. Hornets win, take 2-0 lead. After watching every Hornets game this year, I know one thing: You don't discount their streaks. The team had the same demeanor Sunday they had while winning 11 of 12 to start the season and 10 in a row halfway through. Peaking at the right time, plus a fully rested Chris Paul, means trouble for a Lakers team clearly not playing their best ball.
Maurice Brooks, ESPN.com: A. Lakers win, tie series 1-1. After Game 1, everyone was quick to point out how old the Lakers looked while trying to defend the Hornets. They will look like they discovered the fountain of youth in Game 2, coasting to a Kobe's-not-needed-in-the-fourth-quarter win.
Phillip Barnett, Forum Blue & Gold: A. Lakers win, tie series 1-1. The Lakers got next to nothing from Pau Gasol and the newly named Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom. I expect Chris Paul to be good, but not 33-and-14 good again. I think defensive tweaks and size win this one for the Lakers. No team has won two playoff games in Los Angeles in three years.
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