The Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic are one of six first round series that currently sit at 3-1. Of course, when looking for something a little less lopsided, glancing at San Antonio and Oklahoma City's first round sweeps doesn't help matters much. It's a simple fact the first round of the NBA Playoffs haven't quite been up to its expected splendor. The breakneck regular season was a blast, albeit slightly overwhelming at time, but when looking for excuses as to how the shortened schedule plays into this one-sided first round affair, they're almost endless. Blame injuries, blame the fatigue. Perhaps lack of practice is a preferred wheelhouse.
Of course, that's not to suggest these things haven't played a factor; you don't have to look much further than half of the Eastern Conference playoff teams to see how injuries have shaped and in some cases decimated their chances in this postseason. The injury note has been the most dominate piece of discussion for Indiana's series with Orlando as it's been buried away from sight of the national eyes on NBA TV for three of the series' five games so far. Far be it to suggest the Pacers have actually earned their 3-1 advantage against the Magic and you don't have to look much further than Magic big man Glen Davis to get that sense.
The "woes" of the Magic can be seen as well with Chicago and New York. Even Atlanta and Boston have had to overcome playing games without their full arsenal of top tier players. The response of these teams to their adversity, especially Chicago, has played a key role in the general lack of competitiveness these first round series have had. As mentioned, six series currently sit at 3-1 with the other two wrapping up as sweeps. To be fair, series sitting at 3-1 isn't anything new. Just last year, five first round series got off to 3-1 starts, leveled out by a pair of 2-2 series.
The biggest difference in this year and last regarding that lack of competition is that there's a fair perception on how lopsided these games have actually been. Last year through four games, even though five series sat at 3-1, the average margin of victory was 7.4 points. This year, it has ballooned to 10.4. While the small sample size can be swayed by one blowout, it does attest to how tight the games were last postseason compared to this. Five postseason series average over 10 point margin of victory, while not a single series through four games did last year.
It's somewhat ironic that the hope of a quality first round series falls on the Grizzlies and Clippers, a matchup between two of the most historically inept franchises in the league's history, but given Clips held on in overtime to go up 3-1, that may not be fulfilled despite the entire series having been decided in just 13 points across 4 games. Of course, the NBA doesn't need great first round series this year because the marquee matchups, especially out West, are well on the horizon.
In the meantime, however, that begs the question, can any of the six teams down 1-3 actually come back and win the series? It's happened just eight times, but with so many series at that crossroad, couldn't it still go a lot of ways? Could the Grizzlies with better production from Zach Randolph turn the Clippers on their heads? If Denver amps up a Game 5 win following Andrew Bynum's bulletin board material, that series could certainly go the distance itself.
The playoffs may not have been great game to game, but any one of these series could yet turn into a classic. So what series do you think have the best chances at going beyond the fifth game and maybe going the full seven? It's something any basketball should be cheering for. Well, just as long as it doesn't happen to the Pacers.