Dan Feldman

Memphis Grizzlies forwards Chris Andersen, front right, and Matt Barnes, front left, sit with teammates on the sideline during the second half in Game 2 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs, Tuesday, April 19, 2016, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 94-68. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
AP Photo/Eric Gay

NBA playoff games more lopsided than ever at this point


Why have the 2016 NBA playoffs seemed exceptionally boring?

Because they have been.

Through two games in each series, the average contest has been decided by 17.3 points. That’s, by far, the most lopsided gap ever at this point in the postseason.

Here are are the average scoring margins through two games in each first-round series since 1984, when the league instituted a 16-team playoff:


Six higher seeds have taken 2-0 series leads this year:

  • No. 1 Cavaliers over No. 8 Pistons
  • No. 3 Heat over No. 6 Hornets
  • No. 4 Hawks over No. 5 Celtics
  • No. 1 Warriors over No. 8 Rockets
  • No. 2 Spurs over No. 7 Grizzlies
  • No. 4 Clippers over No. 5 Trail Blazers

Forget the nonsense about a series not beginning until the home team loses. Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home have won 94% of the time. With No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds in the first round, it’s 100%.

It’d be extremely rare for Boston or Portland to come back and win. For Detroit, Charlotte, Houston or Memphis to do it would be unprecedented.

This postseason has produced just two games that came down to the wire – the Hawks’ Game 1 win over the Celtics and the Mavericks’ Game 2 win over the Thunder, each separated by one point. The Pistons came within five of the Cavs in Game 1, and the Rockets hit a couple late 3s to lose to the Warriors by “just” nine in Game 2. Otherwise, every game has been separated by double digits.

Since the NBA went to a best-of-seven first round in 2003, every first round has included at least seven more games than the minimum 32. So, far we’re guaranteed just two extra – and the first 16 haven’t been that thrilling.

Let’s hope a couple more series, or at least games, get more competitive.

Stan Van Gundy saucily answers question on LeBron James’ playing time (video)

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 06:  Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons looks on during the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on January 6, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Pistons defeat the Celtics 99-94. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Hornets coach Steve Clifford delivered an eloquent soliloquy on how adjustments actually work in the NBA playoffs.

And then there’s Stan Van Gundy.

Cleveland.com reporter Joe Vardon asked the Pistons coach about the Cavaliers starting the second and fourth quarters of Game 2 with LeBron James on the floor, an adjustment from Game 1.

Van Gundy:

LeBron’s always a pretty good adjustment, yeah. Yeah, that’s really smart coaching, to put LeBron on the floor. It is. That’s really smart coaching to put LeBron on the floor. I give him a lot of credit for that adjustment, if that’s what you want to call it.

Vardon actually made a good point, though I don’t think Van Gundy had interest in even considering the question’s nuance.

This wasn’t about how much LeBron played. He actually played 1:07 less than Game 1 (though if the score were close, he probably would’ve played the final 3:59 of Game 2). This was about when LeBron played.

In Game 1, Detroit outscored Cleveland by 13 in the five minutes LeBron sat to begin the second and fourth quarters.

In Game 2 – with LeBron on the court – Cleveland outscored Detroit by 11 in the six minutes before a majority of the Pistons’ starters returned in the second and fourth quarters.

Detroit’s bench has been a problem all season, especially after trading Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova for Tobias Harris. The upgrade of Harris from Ilyasova in the starting lineup outweighs other concerns, but a necessary side effect has been elevating Steve Blake permanently into the rotation. It’s hard for the 36-year-old point guard to run a unit, and he’s a defensive liability. That puts too much pressure on the Pistons’ other backups.

Nobody in this series is more capable of exploiting that weakness than LeBron. So, Tyronn Lue wisely found more minutes for LeBron against Detroit’s reserves. And Cleveland’s other starters held their own in increased minutes without LeBron.

This adjustment worked.

Now, it’s on Van Gundy to answer – not in his post-game press conference, but in Game 3.

Cavaliers get hot from outside, eventually cool off Pistons in Game 2 win

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James reacts in the first half in Game 2 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Detroit Pistons, Wednesday, April 20, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
AP Photo/Tony Dejak

LeBron James rebounded the Pistons’ airball, tore through the defense and made a layup while fouled. He high-fived his teammates and grinned – one of multiple smiles he’d flash during the fourth quarter.

Though LeBron failed to convert the old-fashioned three-point play, the Cavaliers nailed plenty of the new kind.

Cleveland made an NBA-playoff-record 20 3-pointers in a 107-90 win over Detroit on Wednesday. The Cavaliers lead the first-round series 2-0 – a reason to beam after Detroit pushed them so hard in Game 1 and into the second half tonight.

Teams leading a best-of-seven series 2-0 after two home games have won 94% of the time. No. 1, 2 and 3 seeds – like the top-seeded Cavs – are 48-0 in the first round.

The Cavaliers trailed by 10 in the first quarter and five in the third. But once they got going, Detroit couldn’t keep up.

J.R. Smith (7-for-11), Kyrie Irving (4-for-7), Kevin Love (3-for-7) and LeBron (2-for-4) led Cleveland’s 3-point onslaught. The Cavaliers’ 20 3s – on 38 attempts (53%) – tied the 2015 Warriors, 2011 Mavericks and 1996 Sonics for most in a postseason game.

Cleveland also made hay when the teams went to their bench, especially behind Matthew Dellavedova (eight points and nine assists).

And of course, LeBron was LeBron. While his teammates were bombing from outside, LeBron (27 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals) bullied the Pistons inside.

Detroit did better offensively with Love at center, Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond attacking the lack of rim protection. The Pistons scored 35 points in the 12 minutes Love played center. But Cleveland continued to take advantage of Love pulling Drummond from the rim on the other end, scoring 29 points of its own.

Still, outscoring the Cavs by six with Love at center is a big swing from Game 1, when that lineup gave Cleveland a 13-point advantage. But there were just too many times the Pistons had no answer – like when Drummond was at the free-throw line (4-for-16) or Steve Blake was in the game (-20 in 10 minutes with no points, one assist and two turnovers).

Stan Van Gundy will keep tinkering, and maybe Detroit will still notch its first playoff win since 2008. But the Cavaliers continue to show why they’re overwhelming favorites to advance.

Report: Kings’ Quincy Acy opting out

Dallas Mavericks' David Lee (42) and Sacramento Kings' Quincy Acy, bottom, dive after the ball in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Young, minimum-salary players like Quincy Acy don’t typically get player options.

But Vlade Divac, y’all.

So, Acy – who signed with the Kings last summer – is taking advantage.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Acy would’ve made the minimum by opting in, and he still might end up with that. But that’s probably close to his floor. At best, he’ll get a higher salary and/or more years. At worst, he’s likely right back where he started – maybe even right down to returning to Sacramento.

Still mostly an energy player, Acy showed more polish on his jumper this season. He averaged 5.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in 14.8 minutes per game and even made 19-of-49 3-pointers (38.8%). I value him mostly for hustle plays, but it’s comforting to know he can now make a shot if the ball ends up in his hands outside late in the shot clock. This might even be a step in the 25-year-old Acy developing more of an all-around game, though that’s unlikely.

Even if Acy is who he is, that’s someone most teams should want on their bench. Maybe one team will even value him at more than a one-year minimum contract.

Report: Jeff Van Gundy, Scott Brooks co-favorites for Rockets job

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 01:  Head coach Scott Brooks of the Oklahoma City Thunder gives instructions during the game withthe Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on March 1, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  The Thunder won 108-101.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Jeff Van Gundy reportedly tops the Rockets’ list of coaching candidates, but he has company:

Scott Brooks, who’s reportedly also leading the Wizards’ search.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Brooks should probably wait. The Rockets have a better track record team-building, and he has experience with James Harden from their time with the Thunder. If Brooks can motivate Harden, that could be a better job. It’s at least worth finding out. What’s the worst that happens? Washington hires someone else?

If the Wizards truly believe Brooks is their optimal choice, they should wait on him. The Kings and Knicks are the only other lottery teams searching for coaches. New York is in its own world, and Sacramento will have a tough time pitching other candidates. It’s unlikely Washington misses on its second choice if Houston gets Brooks.

The Rockets are on track to lose quickly in the first round, and that should get the coaching cycle churning faster.