Unprecedented Upsets The Talk Of NBA Playoffs

The NBA playoffs got underway over the weekend. The No. 1 and No. 2 seeded teams in the West both lost their opening games. That hasn't happened since the NBA went to the current playoff format.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

A couple of big upsets, unprecedented upsets in fact, were the highlights of the opening weekend of the NBA playoffs. The number one and number two seeded teams in the west both lost their opening games. That hasn't happened since the NBA went to the current playoff format. NPR's Mike Pesca is here to catch us up on all the action.

Hey, Mike.

MIKE PESCA: Hey.

KELLY: So let me start with the Lakers, defending champions. They were not supposed to lose to the New Orleans Hornets yesterday. What happened?

PESCA: Chris Paul happened. The great guard for the Hornets had 33 points. If you watched the game, it wasn't just dominance of the box score. It was real game dominance. He was fantastic.

Now, Kobe Bryant, the Lakers guard, I mean, he was great, too. He had 33 points. But if you look a little more closely he only handed out five assists. He had five turnovers. And there is an effect with the Lakers. When Kobe shoots too much - he had 26 shots - the Lakers aren't always great.

It's not Kobe Bryant's fault. It's not that he's a selfish player. It's that he wants to get his teammates involved, but sometimes teammates like Pau Gasol just don't - Pau Gasol just doesn't show up. And so that's what happened with the Lakers. They didn't get a true team effort.

The Hornets won that game. If I was a Laker fan I wouldn't panic too much. They have a history - you know, they're two-time defending champions. Last year they lost a couple games in the first round to the Thunder. The year before that in the second round they lost their opening game against the Houston Rockets. They probably will be fine.

KELLY: OK. So the Lakers are the defending champions, as you mentioned. Not so, interestingly, the top seed in the west. They're number two. Top seed are the San Antonio Spurs. And they also lost. What happened in that game?

PESCA: And they lost, too. And I don't want to not give credit to the Grizzlies, the Memphis Grizzlies. This was their first every playoff win. So they've made the playoffs three times. They get swept every time. So they come out. They win a game in the playoffs. Huzzah to them.

But the Spurs are in a tough situation because during the season they were playing so good. Kind of quietly. That's how San Antonio does everything. But at one point they were on a pace to be one of the best all-time records - one of the best. But what happened was they are beset by injuries. And probably their catalyst - their best scorer - Manu Ginobili did not play in the game.

I mean, to give you an idea how good San Antonio is - Indiana made the playoffs this year. The Pacers had 37 wins on the entire season. San Antonio achieved 37 wins three months ago. But they've kind of fallen apart down the stretch. And that's why Zach Randolph especially was able to exploit them. The big center on Memphis had 25 points, 14 rebounds.

KELLY: OK. So you mentioned Zach Rudolph, the great play by Chris Paul. Any other standout performances this weekend?

PESCA: Yes, there are - the guys who are going to finish one and two in MVP voting probably - Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard - had great games. Derrick Rose won his game. They just - the Bulls just beat the Pacers. Rose had 39 points. And Dwight Howard had a phenomenal game - 46 points, 19 rebounds. But his Orlando Magic weren't even close to the Hawks. So that was an interesting outcome.

KELLY: Mike, let me ask you about another team, New York Knicks. This has been one of the worst teams in the NBA in recent years. They are in the playoffs, though, this year. First time in seven seasons. How did they fare?

PESCA: Right. And they haven't won a playoff game in 10 years. And that is still true. They lost to the Celtics in a close one. Their recently acquired Carmelo Anthony - their big acquisition - was pretty awful down the stretch. That's the reason the team lost.

And you know what? We almost got through an entire NBA segment without talking about the Heat. But we're not going to break that streak. The Heat won, too.

KELLY: Out of time today. All right. Thanks so much, Mike.

PESCA: You're welcome.

KELLY: That's NPR News' Mike Pesca in New York.

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