The opening weekend of the 2013 postseason has come and gone. Warriors World reached out to Jared Dubin of Hardwood Paroxysm and Jim Cavan of Knickerblogger to get their takes on the Eastern Conference playoffs.
1. Best performance from a player on a losing team in the Eastern Conference?
Jared Dubin, Hardwood Paroxysm: This is tough, because all the losing teams in the East played really, really poorly. I guess I’ll go with Jeff Green, who had a sublime first half for the Celtics in New York. Working mostly against Carmelo Anthony and then Iman Shumpert, Green scored inside and out, from the post, in isolation and in transition on his way to 20 first half points… and then was promptly shut down after halftime.
Jim Cavan, Knickerblogger: Jeff Green. Although you could consider his 26 points and seven rebounds more of a great performance unfulfilled. Green is seen by many to be Boston’s bellwether – if he can get going, that eases the scoring burdens of Pierce, Garnett, and…. Basically just those two. Green was unstoppable for the first 24 minutes, but – in a development all too familiar to Celtic fans – disappeared down the stretch, going just 1-5 in the second half.
Following Saturday’s Game 1, Mike Woodson suggested that the return of Pablo Prigioni (ankle) to the stating lineup would mean more Jeff Green face time for Iman Shumpert. That could go either way – Shump is certainly a good enough defender to make life difficult for Green, but the latter’s size advantage could make for a punishing assignment for the Bocker soph.
J.M. Poulard, Warriors World: Jeff Green. He was simply superb in the first half of Game 1 against the New York Knicks. He poured in 20 points in the first two quarters and led the Boston Celtics to a four-point lead of the Knicks. He struggled in the second half, but his overall performance was impressive nonetheless.
2. Best performance from a player on a winning team in the Eastern Conference?
Jared Dubin: LeBron. Do I really need to elaborate?
Jim Cavan: Paul George had himself a Sunday HAM sandwich – 23 points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists, and one Atlanta team completely devoid of answers. Coupled with a defensive effort that forced Josh Smith into a blizzard of terrible outside jumpers, George’s measured marauding is exactly what Frank Vogel and the Pacers wanted to see out of their new franchise cornerstone.
But what made George’s performance so encouraging was his ability to get to the stripe. His 18 trips (he made 17) tied the franchise playoff record previously set by Reggie Miller, and served as an effective recourse on an afternoon when the jumpers weren’t falling. If George can keep this up, this series is over in four.
J.M. Poulard: Paul George would have been the answer here if not for LeBron James’ performance in Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks. The reigning league MVP dictated the pace and flow of the Miami Heat’s offense, all the while flirting with a triple double.
George actually managed double figures in three statistical categories, but James’ 9-for-11 field goal shooting coupled with his great overall play gave him the slight edge.
3. Which Eastern Conference player that had a poor showing in Game 1 do you expect to break out?
Jared Dubin: JR Smith. Earl scored just 15 points on 7-for-19 shooting and had a grand total of zero assists. He took only one free throw. This is not the decisive, attacking JR Smith we saw for the last six weeks. He’s got a size advantage on Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee, the two defenders Boston used on him most often, so it wouldn’t surprise to see him more aggressive as the series moves along. If he starts getting to the basket, he’ll get to the line, and his jumpers will be more open.
Jim Cavan: A couple come to mind. Ersan Ilyasova was dreadful – DREADFUL! – in Game 1. Chalk it up to playoff nerves (it’s his first postseason burn since 2010, his rookie season), the terrifying Heat defense, whatever – Ersan was clearly out of his element. Don’t expect him to single-handedly carry the Bucks to a Game 2 victory, if for no other reason that LeBron will be there to check the heat as soon as it’s warm. But 1-7 with only a single three point attempt? That ain’t happening again.
Speaking of playoff nerves, Chris Copeland may have peed on the Garden floor Saturday afternoon. After getting tapped to start in the wake of Pablo Prigioni’s ankle tweak, Copeland – himself belabored by a minor left shoulder injury – looked out of sorts for most of his 13 minutes of action (0-2, 13 points). The fact that it’s the Celtics has little to do with it: he tallied 22 in the two teams’ final regular season showdown on March 31st,, and arguably locked down his roster spot with a 31-point outburst in the two’s preseason tilt. As soon as Prigs is good to go, Copeland will re-assume his role as bench spark plug, where he played well enough to garner Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honors in April. With his effective inside-out game (42% from three on the season), Copeland could pose some mismatch nightmares for the frontcourt-thin Celtics.
J.M. Poulard: Luol Deng. I can’t possibly see him producing another six-point outing in 38 minutes of playing time. If the Bulls are going to win and/or compete in the series against the Brooklyn Nets, Deng has to be a factor.
And his play during his career suggests he will bounce back.