- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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You can't call it a weekend totally devoid of surprises, even though the higher seeds, all playing at home, went 8-0 in Game 1s for the first time since 1990.
At least I can't.
Not when the Lakers looked so lifeless in Game 1 of the (second) season they've all been waiting for.
The good news: Shaq still has plenty of time, starting Monday night, to be the Lakers' main energy source in this series. I still see Shaq doing more of the carrying against Yao's Rockets, instead of ace closer Kobe Bryant.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson keeps dropping the same answer when asked if a 10th championship ring in June would lead to his immediate retirement: "Good possibility." That's the most you can get out of him, though.
I'll continue to say the Pacers aren't as deep as their reputation suggests, with Brad Miller in Sacramento and a so-so triumvirate of point guards running the offense, but it's tough to see Indy losing Game 2 at home to Boston even if Ron Artest gets two dispatches from the league Monday -- a one-game suspension for straying from the bench during a Game 1 skirmish to go with official confirmation of his Defensive Player of the Year victory. If Artest is forced to sit out a game, Rick Carlisle will inevitably put Al Harrington on Paul Pierce, and Harrington will have an opportunity to show the world why he's convinced he deserves to be a starter next season.
Any leftover confusion regarding Minnesota's desire to acquire Sam Cassell was eradicated in Sunday night's Game 1 against Denver, when Sam I Am erupted for 40 points to steady the nervy Wolves in their first-ever victory in a Game 1. The following will only add to his rep as a ruthless playoff performer: Cassell is one of only six players to score 40 points or more in his first playoff game with a new team. Shaq holds the record with 46 points in his first playoff game as a Laker in 1997, followed by Phoenix's Rex Chapman (42 in 1997), New York's Bob McAdoo (41 in 1978), New Jersey's Drazen Petrovic (40 in 1992) and New York's Bernard King (40 in 1983).
Anyone else get the feeling that Mehmet Okur, who logged only nine minutes in Detroit's Game 1 romp over Milwaukee, is going to be highly available this summer? After averaging 10.8 points and 11 rebounds against the Bucks during the regular season, Okur logged just six more minutes than Darko Milicic. By now it should be fairly clear that, if the Pistons can only afford to sign one of their free-agent big men this summer, it's going to be Rasheed Wallace.
Nick Van Exel: Why so quiet on "Inside The NBA?" You're almost as loquacious as Le Chuckster. Tell those guys to let you talk more Monday night.
Shaquille O'Neal must bring the Lakers to life if they're going to get past the Rockets in the first round.