In today’s NBA, the No. 5 seed in a conference playoff bracket can be a very advantageous spot to occupy – prime real estate, so to say.
Your first-round opponent is likely to be the division champion with the poorest record. You can even, like this year’s Grizzlies, own the home-court advantage.
The second round would bring the top seed – often a squad constructed more for success over the course of a long season than for a short series, maybe thin on playoff experience and thus (by definition?) vulnerable.
The betting favorite (LBJ) and/or the defending champs, a team on the rise? Check the other side of the bracket.
In the East, the Wizards utilized Paul Pierce will (Game 1) and youthful backcourt skill (Game 2) to exploit their edge in “Been There, Done That.” They’ll attempt the same shell game in Round 2, presumably against the surprising Hawks.
Out West, Memphis and San Antonio actually tied for fourth, But Northwest Division champion Portland (with but one more victory than No. 7 Dallas) can, by rule, be seeded no lower than fourth. So instead of an opening-round slugfest with the Spurs – that duty’s been delegated to the Clippers – the Griz have drawn the Blazers, who seem never to have recuperated from the loss at the season’s three-quarter pole of steady wing Wes Matthews, a mere .500 team since then.
Not even a slow start, a first-half goose-egg from stud Zach Randolph, and a foot tweak to another point guard (Beno Udrih) could deter a double-digit half-time Memphis advantage in Game 2 last night. The Grizzlies executed Coach Dave Joerger’s offense with less than a ten-point lead for but five – count ‘em, FIVE – second half possessions in polishing off a rather pedestrian 97-82 pasting.
Old School Basketball 101 contends that a playoff series hasn’t really begun until the home team loses. If true, then 2015’s opening playoff homestands included 13 preliminary matches.
The Grizzlies’ 2013 run to the Conference Final keeps them well aware of the grind that is the NBA post-season. They will be looking to get things started for real during this weekend’s business trip.
Deuces may be Wild, Sevens and Elevens Lucky, but these Fives can be Deadly.