Blowouts abound in first round of NBA playoffs
The NBA playoffs are supposed to be the time when the casual approach many teams take in the regular season goes out the window.
Players sharpen their focus. Defenses buckle down. A premium is put on every possession.
That increased intensity was hard to find in the first weekend of action and the search for suspense continues heading into Game 2s in Atlanta and San Antonio on Tuesday night.
The first weekend of action was marked by lopsided scores all over the place, with tight games between the Cavaliers and Pistons and the Celtics and Hawks the exceptions. Five of the eight games over the weekend were decided by at least 20 points while the Indiana Pacers beat Toronto by 10.
The average margin of victory on opening weekend was 21 points, 10 more than the opening weekend last season.
There have already been four victories of at least 25 points, which matched the total for the entire playoffs in 2014.
And another blowout could be coming on Tuesday when the San Antonio Spurs host the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 2. Memphis is severely overmatched thanks to a rash of injuries, and that showed in a 106-74 loss in Game 1 on Sunday.
"We had one great game against a team that's injured," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich cracked. "I'm not all that impressed with us. We'll see what happens."
The other game being played on Tuesday is in Atlanta, where the Hawks and Celtics will play Game 2 after Atlanta held off a late Boston rally to win 102-101 in Game 1.
A look at the two games on Tuesday.
Celtics at Hawks, Atlanta leads 1-0. 7 p.m., TNT
Boston rallied from a 19-point deficit to take a fourth-quarter lead in the series opener, only to lose the game and guard Avery Bradley to a severely strained right hamstring.
Bradley, who is Boston's best perimeter defender, has already been ruled out for Game 2 and likely will miss the rest of the first-round series. He's scheduled to undergo an MRI after the team gets back home on Wednesday.
Bradley isn't the only one hurting for the Celtics. Seven-footer Kelly Olynyk sat out Monday's practice with a sore shoulder, though he's expected to play. Also, forward Jae Crowder is still trying to get back to full speed after a sprained right ankle kept him out for eight games near the end of the regular season.
Boston is eager to break a six-game losing streak in the postseason, its last playoff victory coming on May 1, 2013, against the Knicks.
"Somehow, we've just got to win," Celtics star Isaiah Thomas said. "We've got to get the monkey off our back and win a game."
Atlanta will likely try to exploit Bradley's absence with the dynamic point guard duo of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder. Teague scored 23 points and dished out 12 assists in Game 1, taking control down the stretch after his primary defender went out. The Hawks might even consider a rotation that gets both players on the court for extended periods.
Meanwhile, Hawks lead assistant Kenny Atkinson got some good news in the middle of the series. It was announced Sunday he will become the new head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, but only after Atlanta's season is over.
"He's going to want to make sure we're doing everything we can to advance and do as much as we can before he takes that next step," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "Kenny understands it. We're confident that Kenny will be totally focused, just like our players.
Grizzlies at Spurs, San Antonio leads 1-0. 9:30 p.m., TNT
If the short-handed Grizzlies are going to make this series even remotely interesting, they have to get Zach Randolph going.
The Grit-n-Grind Grizzlies have been anchored for years by Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. But Gasol and Conley are out with injuries, leaving Z-Bo to fend for himself with role players Tony Allen and Matt Barnes against the mighty Spurs.
Randolph was held to just six points on 3-for-13 shooting in Game 1.
Spurs stopper Kawhi Leonard, who won his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award on Monday, played a big role in making things miserable for the Grizzlies' undermanned offense.
"Keep their head up," Randolph said. "We're going to forget about it. Put this one in the backwash and get ready for Tuesday."
The only thing that went wrong for the Spurs in Game 1 was a slow start, when they had just 12 points in the first nine minutes of the game.
"It just takes a little while to get going," Tim Duncan said. "Whatever you want to call it, playoff jitters. It just took us a quarter or two to get our rhythm going."
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami, AP Sports Writer Paul Newberry in Atlanta and AP freelancer Raul Dominguez in San Antonio contributed to this story
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