The opening weekend of the 2013 postseason has come and gone. Warriors World reached out to Jovan Buha of Clipperblog and Rey Moralde of Forum Blue & Gold to get their takes on the Western Conference playoffs.
1. Best performance from a player on a losing team in the Western Conference?
Jovan Buha, Clipperblog: Dwight Howard. Somehow, Howard always makes a 20-15 game look mundane. That’s absurd. With Kobe Bryant out for the rest of the season, the pressure falls on Howard to lead the offense and churn out dominant performances. He was his efficient self (8 of 12 shooting), made an acceptable amount of free throws in relation to his average (4 of 8), and added a couple blocks for good measure. He outplayed Tim Duncan for most of the game, and did his best to command the Lakers’ shaky perimeter defense and mistimed rotations. Even if he’s Superman, there’s only so much he can do, as has been the case all year, and he’s still visibly not the monster he was in Orlando. Pau Gasol (16 points, 16 rebounds) is the clear runner-up.
Rey Moralde, Forum Blue & Gold: It seemed impactless because the Lakers didn’t exactly keep it close with the Spurs. But Dwight Howard went for 20 points and 15 rebounds. He also went 8 for 12 from the field. Howard probably needed more touches but this is one of the more quiet 20-15 performances I’ve ever seen.
J.M. Poulard, Warriors World: I’m going to cheat a little here and say the Lakers’ twin towers. They helped hold the Spurs to 32 points in the paint and also produced a combined 36 points, 31 rebounds and seven assists on 15-for-28 field goal shooting.
It was tough to separate both given how productive and effective they were, so I submitted them together. Sue me.
2. Best performance from a player on a winning team in the Western Conference?
Jovan Buha: Manu Ginobili. There are a lot of safe, correct choices: Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Andre Miller all had admirable Game 1 performances, and led their respective teams to victory in one way or another. But Ginobili, who had played just 12 minutes in all of April, scored 18 points off the bench for the Spurs – almost double the output of the entire Lakers’ bench (10 points) – and looked like the Ginobili of old, not Old Ginobili. He slashed to the rim, hit momentum-changing 3-pointers, and made key play after key play. If he can provide the spark he used to, he’s the ultimate X factor of not only this series, but also the entire playoffs. The Heat and Thunder look invincible, and they probably are, but a healthy and effective Ginobili changes that dynamic.
Rey Moralde: I’ll give it to Andre Miller, who went 11 for 16 and finished with 28 points, including the game-winner. Denver couldn’t get much going but Miller kept them in the game and, at times, even took over. And it’s not like he had extensive minutes, either; he played 27 minutes. Along the way, he dished out five assists. If it wasn’t for Miller, Denver would be wondering how they lost in the Pepsi Center, which has been a rare occurrence this season.
J.M. Poulard: Before the second day of action commenced, my answer was Andre Miller. But day 2 offered something different: Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder guard was simply out of this world. He spent the bulk of Game 1 playing at a breathtaking speed in a contest that already had a fast pace. Westbrook was simply a terrorizing force that completely flustered the Houston Rockets.
3. Which Western Conference player that had a poor showing in Game 1 do you expect to break out?
Jovan Buha: Stephen Curry. He didn’t have a bad game by any means – 19 points, 9 assists and four 3-pointers is nothing to scoff at – but he wasn’t as efficient as we are accustomed to (7 of 20 shooting, 4 of 10 from beyond the arc). With David Lee now out the remainder of the postseason, Curry will have even more of an offensive burden on his slender shoulders, and will likely need to replicate some of his insane scoring outbursts from earlier this season (it’ll be tough to match his 54-point performance at MSG, but it wouldn’t hurt). The Nuggets’ have a slew of perimeter defenders to throw at Curry, and the length of Andre Iguodala or Corey Brewer can certainly bother him, but he’s had to deal with those dilemmas all season, and if the Warriors are creative, they’ll find ways to get him open (or he’ll find his own). Once he has a sliver of space to get a shot off, he usually doesn’t miss.
Rey Moralde: Jeremy Lin didn’t do bad in the regular season against Oklahoma City (14.0 PPG, 7.3 APG in three games) but he was dismal in Game 1. Four points on 1 for 7 shooting is terrible. But he’s a resilient kid, as he has shown in his short NBA career. He’ll come out more aggressive on the next game.
J.M. Poulard: There’s poor showing, and there’s Stephen Curry poor showing. The Warriors’ leading scorer struggled in his first ever playoff games, converting only 7-of-20 field goal attempts and coughing up the ball five times.
Nonetheless, he made timely shots and tied the game with a ridiculous 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter. Curry will bounce back and play his regular brand of basketball.