If the first round of the NBA Playoffs was Broadway, so far, the second round has been more like an elementary school play: Still a lot of fun to watch, but not quite as entertaining (and with much lower production values). The higher seeds had been dominant, and heading into the weekend, the lower seeds looked as if they were going to be running home to mommy.
But that’s the thing about the league; you can always expect the unexpected, and this past weekend gave us plenty of left turns … including some that took place off the court. As always, the postseason is plenty educational, so here are the 10 things we learned during round two; most notably, that Blake Griffin should start wearing a cup.
1. Ripped City: The Portland Trail Blazers looked like world beaters coming off their series win against the Houston Rockets. But against a team made up of international stars, it’s the world that’s beating the Blazers. The Spurs took a commanding 3-0 lead over Portland on Saturday, a deficit no team in league history has ever overcome. We don’t want to say it’s over for the Trail Blazers, but yeah … it’s over.
2. Brooklyn’s in the House: After dropping the first two games to the Miami Heat in South Beach, the Nets appeared to have their tails tucked between their legs heading back to Atlantic Ave. for Game 3. But on Saturday, Paul Pierce and Co. made a stand at Barclays Center, letting Miami know that they weren’t scared of the defending champions. Not even Jesus Shuttlesworth was safe. As the late, great Notorious B.I.G. said, “Spread love, it’s the Brooklyn way.”
3. Most Valuable Parent: Kevin Durant’s MVP speech was one of the most moving we’ve ever seen and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room when he described how much his mom, Wanda Pratt, means to him. It was such a moving moment that sponsors everywhere want to align themselves with KD, and you know what that means, right? Yup … Mo money! It looks like Mr. Durant is gonna be dancing all the way to the bank now.
4. Balls Don’t Lie: It was the nut-punch heard ’round the world. Ever since that fateful evening in March last year, Serge Ibaka and Blake Griffin have had beef. As expected, the two big men have continued their rivalry in the second round of the playoffs, but we can’t figure out how the Clippers superstar continues to catch the worst of it. So far in this series Ibaka has left Griffin battered, bloodied and, one minute into Game 4 on Sunday, practically de-balled … again. We think he should call the Griffin Force for protection in Game 5.
5. Five > Two: After that crotch shot, the Oklahoma City Thunder were up by as many as 22 points on the Clippers in Game 4, and appeared ready to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series. But the Clips fought back and tied the series due to huge offensive contributions from a number of players (Darren Collison!) while OKC, per usual, relied solely on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. That’s not gonna get it done.
6. Snakes in the Locker Room: We mentioned earlier how the San Antonio Spurs have completely taken the Blazers out of this series and we’ve been racking our brains trying to figure out how they’ve done it. Well, we think we know the answer: Snakes. Before Game 2, the Blazers found a rattlesnake in their locker room at the AT&T Center. We haven’t seen an intimidation tactic like that since Indiana Jones went looking for the Ark.
7. Elgin Baylor has an Axe to Grind: Hey, we said there was some action taking place off the court. The public fallout from Donald Sterling’s racist rant seems to have subsided for the time being, but it’s still a topic of conversation. Elgin Baylor, an NBA Hall of Famer and GM of the Clippers for 22 years made an appearance on CNN to shed light on just how deep Sterling’s bigotry goes. Let’s just say Baylor knows from experience.
8. Meet the Clippers New CEO: Speaking of the Clips, after the NBA banned Donald Sterling for life, the league appointed a CEO to run the team while the Sterling situation is sorted out. Now we don’t know if this was purposely done or just a delicious bit of irony, but the interim leader of the Clippers is Dick Parsons, a black man. We sure Donald’s thrilled.
9. Shelly Sterling Ready for a Fight: California is a community property state, and since Shelly Sterling owns 50 percent of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise, she’s vowed to fight for her stake. The NBA says that once Donald Sterling has been officially removed as an owner, so will she. Those hoping for a quick resolution to the Sterling mess are probably going to be disappointed.
10. The Black Mamba Strikes Again: As he’s gotten older, the filter on Kobe Bryant’s mouth has become almost nonexistent. So last week, during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Bean revealed that he didn’t care that Mike D’Antoni left the Lake Show and says he wants to be involved in the team’s search for a new coach. He also told a story of how he had to remind Michael Jordan that he gave him 42 points in a half once, and dressed like a Banana Republic employee. This is why we love the guy.