The first round of the 2011 NBA postseason came to a close Friday night when the Grizzlies beat the Spurs 99-91. Randolph (21.5-9.2 on 50.0 percent shooting) and Gasol (14.2-12.3 on 53.3 percent) dominated inside all series and in Game 6 it was no different. Gasol had 12 points and 13 rebounds while Randolph scored 31 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies advanced despite poor outside shooting. After making 6-of-10 threes in Game 1, the Grizzlies made just 16-of-56 the last five games (28.6 percent), including 1-of-9 in Game 6. Note that there have been 218 series contested over the last 15 postseasons. The Grizzlies became just the FOURTH team (of 218 winners of series-clinching games) to do so by making just a single three-point shot.
Of course, the big story of the series was the No. 8 seeded Grizzlies, who entered this year’s playoffs 0-12 SU (2-10 ATS) in three previous postseason appearances, beat the West’s No. 1 seed San Antonio in six games (5-0-1 ATS). They became just the fourth No. 8 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in 56 previous opening round series since the NBA went to a 16-team playoff field back in 1984. This marks the ninth postseason since the league has featured best-of-seven series in its opening round and the Grizzlies joined the 2007 Warriors, who beat the Mavs, as the only other No. 8 seed to upset a No. 1 in that format. There was just one four-game sweep in this year’s first round (Boston over the NY Knicks) but not a single series got extended to seven-games. The only other time the first round was devoid of a single seven-game series the first year of the best-of-seven series in 2003, was in the 2007 postseason (note: there were a record three, seven-games series in 2009’s first round). The only time there hasn’t been at least one, four-game sweep in the first round came back in that first year of 2003. The 2004 and 2007 postseasons each saw three, four-game sweeps.
The storyline of the first round of last year’s postseason was the domination of the home teams, as they went 32-13 SU (.711) and 29-16 ATS (64.4 percent). Home teams were actually slightly better in this year’s first round SU going 32-11 SU (.744) but were just 17-23-3 ATS (42.5 percent). Home favorites were 10-19-2 ATS while home dogs went a solid 7-4-1 ATS. That left all favorites a ‘money-burning’ 14-26-3 ATS (35.0 percent). Friday’s game went over but under bettors finished a solid 26-17 after 43 first round postseason games (60.5 percent). Those following the Zig-Zag Theory finished the first round 14-18-3 (minus-5.8 net games). This is not new, as the Zig Zag Theory is headed for its sixth straight losing postseason ATS (last winning year was 2005, when it went 37-31-1 ATS).
Last year’s second round surprisingly featured three, four-game sweeps along with the Celtics’ upset win over LBJ’s Cavs in six games. Home teams won seven of the first eight games while going 6-2 ATS, but visiting teams would win EIGHT of the final 10 games of the second round (also 8-2 ATS). This year’s second round opened Sunday with Memphis at Oklahoma City and Boston at Miami. The Thunder were about 3 1/2-to-1 favorites to win the series and closed as 6 1/2 points in Game 1. The Grizzlies led by 10 points at the half, opened up a 17-point lead in the early 4th, withstood a small Thunder rally and pulled away for a 114-101 win. Randolph (21.5-9.2) and Gasol (14.2-12.3) dominated inside vs San Antonio and did so again vs the Thunder. Randolph had 34 & 10 with Gasol adding 20 & 13. Durant was the No. 1 scorer in the first round at 32.4 PPG with Westbrook adding 23.8 (6.0 RPG and 6.2 APG). Durant had 33 & 11 on Sunday while Westbrook’s line was 29-8-6. Ibaka added his fourth double-double (16-11) in six postseason games plus had five blocks (now 29 or 4.8 per). All that said, the Thunder looked overmatched, as the Grizzlies moved to 6-0-1 ATS this postseason.
The Heat were just shy of 2-to-1 favorites to win their series vs the Celtics and closed as five point favorites in Game 1. The Celtics were the only team to sweep a first round series (over the Knicks) and had won three of four regular season meetings against the Heat but were not up to the challenge in Game 1. Dwayne Wade, who averaged 12.8 PPG on 28 percent shooting against the Celtics in four regular-season matchups, had 23 points by halftime (the entire Boston starting five combined for only 21 points in the first 24 minutes). Wade finished with 38 points while James Jones set a Miami postseason record with 25 points off the bench, as he made five-of-seven three-pointers (did not make a two-point basket) and added 10-of-10 from the free throw line. LBJ had 22-6-5 (8-of-19 FGs) and Bosh seven points and 12 rebounds (3-of-10 FGs).
Monday’s games are Atlanta at Chicago (8:05 ET) and Dallas at LA (10:35 ET) with both games airing on TNT. The Bulls’ 62-20 regular season record was the best in the league but they struggled with the Pacers (37-45) in the first round (won in five games but went 1-3-1 ATS), the lone postseason team this year with a losing record. Atlanta entered the postseason on a six-game losing streak and even though the Hawks were 44-38 on the year, they joined Indiana as the only postseason participants to have a minus point differential during the regular season (-0.8 PPG). That being said, the Hawks eliminated the Magic in six games, going 5-1 ATS in the series. Chicago is about a 9-to-1 favorite to win the the series and in Game 1 is favored by 8 1/2 points (total is 178).
The Mavs have participated in each of the last 11 postseasons while the two-time defending champs, the LA Lakers, have been in 10 of the last 11 postseasons not to mention 33 of the last 35. However, this will be the first meeting between the two franchises since the 1988 Western Conference finals (a seven-game win by LA). The Blazers were a ‘sexy’ choice to upset the Mavs in the first round but Dallas won in six games, including going 6-0 ATS. The Lakers lost Game 1 at home vs the Hornets in their first round series but then won four of the next five games. LA is about a 4-to-1 favorite to win the series and in Game 1 is favored by six points with a total of 188 1/2.