Get the Funk Out

Let's face it. There was some funky stuff going on during the last seven days. The NBA's regular season ended with several teams jockeying for playoff position, but the biggest headlines came from an organization that wouldn't play past Tuesday. Once the postseason began, the weekend brought another item to note. First, though, for that team on vacation...

... It's hard to replace the New York Knicks as the most dysfunctional franchise in the Association. However, this past week, the Los Angeles Lakers appeared to briefly steal that moniker. We've known for a few weeks that the team was going to miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season. That was going to end a streak for one of the greatest to ever play the game.

LeBron James has been a mainstay in late April, May, and early June. After missing the second season the first two years in the league, James found his way beyond mid-April for the last 14 years. At this point of his career, quite a few folks thought that the best player over the last 15 years could lift this moribund roster into the Western Conference's top eight. He appeared to do that last season surrounded by a lesser cast. But this scenario was in play throughout the year.

The part that wasn't expected happened the day of the team's season finale. Laker legend Magic Johnson's reputation has basically been above reproach. He hasn't had a perfect run since the nation first got to know him in the 1979 NCAA championship. When reviewing his high points, including that epic college title game, his transcendent NBA career, his battle against HIV, or his business dealings, Magic comes up roses frequently. But one of the blemishes on his overall resume has been roles in NBA management.

Johnson tried a stint as the Lakers' head coach. That ended up poorly, with him leaving the post after just 16 games. Now, I'll fully admit that I'm in the tank for Magic. He's my favorite basketball player of all-time. However, when he took the job as the organization's President of Basketball Operations, I'd be lying if I said the coaching tenure didn't cross my mind a few times.

On Tuesday, Johnson announced his resignation from the position ... in an informal press conference ... without informing his boss (owner Jeanie Buss). Now, even for a die-hard admirer like myself, there was a sense of "Oh, boy" with how this whole affair was handled. Do I get the reasoning why he would leave the position? Yes. Do I wish he would have taken another year or two to see if everything could've panned out? Yes. Was this executed pretty poorly? (Sigh) Yes. Magic will always be Magic. There's no denying that. It was disappointing, though, seeing how this part of his life came to a close.

Now, we fast forward to Saturday. It's the first day of the NBA playoffs. Four games kick off the postseason schedule, including two that feature favorites in the Eastern Conference. Going into the weekend, it's clear that the top half of the East are contending factors to reach the NBA Finals. For Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Boston, this first set of series is the hors d'oeuvres to a main course full of showdowns. Aside from fifth-seeded Indiana, none of the bottom four seeds finished better than two games over .500.

In Saturday's first game, Brooklyn started off slow in Philly. With about 2:30 left in the first quarter, though, the Nets found a groove. A 20-1 run gave them a solid lead over the 76ers with about 2:30 gone in the 2nd. The Sixers squeezed the deficit a few times, but Brooklyn held strong for a 111-102 victory.

In the early evening Saturday, Toronto opened their playoff push hosting Orlando. The Southeast Division champs could only garner the 7-seed, but they proved difficult to deal with, building a 16-point lead right before halftime. The Raptors closed the gap and made the second half a back-and-forth affair. Behind guard D.J. Augustin, the Magic found the fortitude to pull ahead with 4.2 seconds to go in regulation. A Kawhi Leonard miss later, Orlando finds themselves up 1-0.

Adding in a San Antonio win at Denver, the first 12 hours of postseason action resulted in three wins for road teams. Now, while this may have been a bit funky, the most uncommon trait to this is that ... well, it isn't too uncommon. Since the first round of the playoff went to seven-game series back in 2003, this is the seventh time at least three teams have picked off the first game of a first-round series away from home (all eight home teams won Game 1 only twice since 2003). In that time, the road team has won Game 1 in 37 out of 136 series (after Sunday's games). That's a 27.2% success rate. And in the instances where road teams snatch the first game of a series, those squads went on to advance 16 out of 34 times (47%).

Don't get me wrong. Philadelphia, Toronto, and Denver all have the talent to shake this off and end up in the conference semifinals. In light of that, Brooklyn, Orlando, and San Antonio (especially San Antonio) have the experience that they can win in the other team's building. For a postseason where home-court advantage does create a big factor, that's a feather in the cap you wouldn't like to offer your opponent.

So, for the Lakers, they hope that their funky ending can lead to brighter days ahead. For the teams that went through a funky beginning to their postseason pushes, they hope to regain the edge that made them contend all year. However that happens, all of these organizations want to get that funky taste out of their mouths.

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