Tuesday, April 22 NBA Playoff Primer: Schedule, Storylines and Predictions

Jim Cavan@@JPCavanContributor IApril 22, 2014

Raise your hand if you still haven't slept since Sunday's epic overtime tilt between the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers.

Too tired to put your hands up, I see.

It might not yet be time for the showcase rematch, but Tuesday night's festivities—the Atlanta Hawks looking to go up 2-0 on the Indiana Pacers, the Washington Wizards hoping to extend their own lead over the Chicago Bulls, and the Toronto Raptors aiming to even the series against the Brooklyn Nets—promise intrigue-a-plenty.

Let's dig a bit deeper into the day's docket. 

Today's Games
HomeAwayTimeNat'l TVHome TVAway TVSeries
IndianaAtlanta7:00 p.m. ETTNTFSSATL 1-0
TorontoBrooklyn7:30 p.m. ETNBA TVTSNYESBKN 1-0
ChicagoWashington9:30 p.m. ETTNTCSN-ChicagoCSNWAS 1-0

Key Storylines

1. How will DeMar DeRozan rebound from Saturday's dud?

Toronto's All-Star shooting guard struggled in his playoff debut, scoring 14 points on 13 belabored shots and never getting into a consistent rhythm. And while Kyle Lowry (22 points and eight assists) and Jonas Valanciunas (17 points and 18 rebounds) were intermittently spectacular in Saturday's series opener, Toronto has no hope of advancing past the veteran-laden Nets without a little DeRozan magic.

Credit Brooklyn's defense—long, engaged and experienced—with disrupting the flow of DeRozan, who attempted only three shots in the paint all game. To even the series, the Raptors have to use dribble-drives and pick-and-rolls to put more pressure on the Nets' interior D—something DeRozan is more than capable of doing.


2. Does Indiana have an answer for Atlanta's floor spacing?

If ever there was a No. 8 seed tailor-made to give the Pacers fits, it's the Hawks. Owing to an offense predicated on floor spacing and punctuated by the inside-out capabilities of its big men—Pero Antic and Paul Millsap, in particular—the Hawks have a unique ability to draw defensive menace Roy Hibbert far out of his comfort zone.

Hibbert's struggles have been well-documented. The question is will Pacers head coach Frank Vogel stick with the status quo, or will he adjust his lineups to better combat Atlanta's—perhaps even limiting Hibbert's minutes?

Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley offered an interesting blueprint for a possible Pacers lineup adjustment:

Vogel could get creative here, too. He doesn't simply need to plug-and-play the player that most resembles Hibbert. Luis Scola could slide in alongside (David) West to give Indiana more scoring punch up front. Lavoy Allen even has more of an offensive game than (Ian) Mahinmi and more of a defensive slant than Scola. But if the Pacers really want to spice things up, maybe they could unleash a potentially explosive small-ball attack with West moving over to the 5 and Chris Copeland getting the nod as a stretch 4.


3. Can Joakim Noah avenge himself? 

The first postseason game wasn't pretty for the recently named Defensive Player of the Year. 

Even though Joakim Noah had spent the entirety of the regular season making defensive sets his own personal playground, he was flat-out torched by the offensive versatility of Nene on Sunday. The Brazilian big man took advantage of the floor spacing provided by Marcin Gortat—who drew plenty of attention from Noah—and finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and three assists. 

Can that happen again? It can, but not if the Bulls want to draw even in the series before things shift over to the nation's capital. Allowing Washington's starting big men to shoot 17-of-27 from the field and make nine trips to the charity stripe is a bad idea, both in terms of involvement and effectiveness. 

It's time for the DPOY to prove that his award wasn't just being doled out for the regular season; things actually matter now. 


Key Matchups

John Wall (Washington) vs. Kirk Hinrich (Chicago)

In Game 1, John Wall recorded 16 points, six rebounds and six assists en route to a nine-point victory over the foes from the Windy City. He benefited from Kirk Hinrich's offensive responsibilities, which sapped the opposing guard's energy, as well as a bit of foul trouble that limited the be-goggled Bull's time on the court to only 29 minutes. 

Hinrich must stay out of foul trouble and keep Wall out of the paint in Game 2, which would allow the interior of the Chicago defense to remain focused on the talented Wizards frontcourt that exploded for 39 points in the opening salvo of the series. 


Paul George (Indiana) vs. DeMarre Carroll (Atlanta)

While P.G. finished Saturday's game with a team-high 24 points and 10 rebounds, the play of Carroll—who did much more than make life miserable for George—turned into some fine found money for the Hawks.

Only five of George's 18 shots in Game 1 came from inside the paint. For a team desperate for an offensive answer, the Pacers need their top option to rediscover the offensive versatility that had him squarely in the MVP conversation for the first two months of the season. 


DeMar DeRozan (Toronto) vs. Joe Johnson (Brooklyn)

Johnson and Shaun Livingston (who got into a bit of early foul trouble) shared the task of defending DeRozan in Game 1.

It's paramount that Toronto's rising star put as much pressure as possible on Brooklyn's wings on Tuesday and, just as crucially, not allow Cool Joe to get the hot hand early. If DeRozan wants to be considered in the same shooting-guard class as his elite counterparts, taking it to Johnson would be an impressive step in that direction.

Speaking to the press (via Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun) after his team's loss, DeRozan was adamant that the Nets weren't as complicated as rocket science or trigonometry, because duh:

It ain't like it's rocket science or nothing. Everybody keeps talking to me like, bringing it up like it's rocket science or I've got to know trigonometry or something. You just figure it out. You just go out there. I've been playing this game long enough, I've been in the league long enough, been in a lot of situations. So it shouldn't be hard.

Um, yes it will.


Playoff Stat Leaders


Points: LaMarcus Aldridge, POR (46.0); Kevin Durant, OKC (34.5); Damian Lillard, POR (31.0); Jeff Teague, ATL (28.0); Dwight Howard, HOU (27.0); LeBron James, MIA (27.0); Tim Duncan, SAS (27.0); James Harden, HOU (27.0)


Rebounds: LaMarcus Aldridge, POR (18.0); Jonas Valanciunas, TOR (18.0); Dwight Howard, HOU (15.0); Marcin Gortat, WAS; Terrence Jones, HOU (13.0); DeAndre Jordan, LAC (11.5); Tiago Splitter, SAS (11.0)


Assists: Mike Conley, MEM (11.5); Chris Paul, LAC (9.0); Greivis Vasquez, TOR (8.0); Kyle Lowry, TOR (8.0); Stephen Curry, GS (7.5)


Steals: Chris Paul, LAC (4.5); Paul George, IND (4.0); Wesley Matthews, POR (3.0); Jimmy Butler, CHI (3.0); Tony Allen, MEM (2.5); Stephen Curry, GSW (2.5)


Blocks: DeAndre Jordan, LAC (5.0); Serge Ibaka, OKC (4.5); Dwight Howard, HOU (4.0); Elton Brand, ATL (3.0); Taj Gibson, CHI (3.0)



Atlanta vs. Indiana

If the Pacers have any hope of reversing their cursed course, it has to start Tuesday. Expect a bounce-back game—if not a full-on bellwether—from Hibbert and for Indiana's defense to do a much better job of containing the paint-roving exploits of Jeff Teague.

Score: Pacers 92, Hawks 84


Brooklyn vs. Toronto

Now that the 'Ptors (it'll catch on, you watch) have gotten their first taste of playoff basketball, it's time for them to even the count. Brooklyn will likely end up taking this series, but it might not be until Game 6 at Barclays.

Score: Raptors 101, Nets 97


Washington vs. Chicago 

Don't expect Noah to take it easy on the Wizards, especially now that he has an award waiting to be set up on top of his fireplace. This Bulls defense is just too good to drop consecutive games at home to a team filled with such inexperienced postseason players. 

Score: Bulls 95, Wizards 92


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