April 18, 2011
The Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Orlando Magic all suffered this fate, losing their playoff openers at home and their home court advantage along with it. The Miami Heat avoided such a scenario but were fronted with a formidable effort by the Philadelphia 76ers. And the same can be said about the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks, which all survived scares in their first round openers.
But shouldn't we have seen this coming? Aren't the playoffs that time of the year when wild things happen and teams rise to the occasion? Yet we still were caught by surprise?
The cliche holds true: expect the unexpected.
It's this taken-for-granted attitude that motivated teams like the New Orleans Hornets to stun the Lakers. The same goes for the Memphis Grizzlies and their valiant effort in derailing the Spurs. This just further proves that the playoffs are full of surprises.
Fortunately, the Heat faced their surprise without suffering a loss. In essence, Miami experienced valuable, team-building adversity and survived, unlike the Lakers, Spurs and Magic. Better to take an ugly win and learn a lesson than take a loss and learn the same lesson the hard way. Now it's all a matter of adapting and fine tuning for Miami so they can avoid any more close calls and finish in four.
As for the underdogs, give them credit for proving doubters wrong. But now the surprises are over. You can bet that seasoned-playoff teams will respond with greater urgency and alertness.
These playoffs have been entertaining thus far, but I hope you saved some of that popcorn. It's about to get better. The early jitters are gone and the intensity is quickly rising. Get ready for some serious playoff basketball and "expect the unexpected."
And don't worry Heat fans, the Big Trio and Company will be ready for game two. We know this because they've already said the magic words: "I got this Coach Riley" (P.S. This is "Not Intended to be a Factual Statement").