Updated: April 23, 2007, 4:44 PM ET

West's best looking shaky

The Suns needed the speed of Leandro Barbosa to turn back the Lakers, but they couldn't have avoided a Game 1 nightmare of their own without foisting some pretty stingy second-half defense on L.A.

The Nuggets then stunned the Spurs -- in San Antonio, no less -- by amazingly outdefending the masters.

The Warriors then roughed up the 67-win Mavericks -- in Dallas, yes -- with the defense of their lives in support of the Baron Davis Steamroller.

Oh, yeah: Detroit was the only team on the opening weekend of the NBA playoffs to score 100 points.

To recap: That's Phoenix (95-87), Denver (95-89) and Golden State (97-85) winning with D and the Pistons leading the league offensively.

Who had that four-way parlay?

After eight games in a 48-hour span, capped by two Texas-sized upsets, I'm going to optimistically say -- and simultaneously pray that I'm not jinxing things -- that the 2007 postseason is going to be just fine. Scoring feels down, way down, but this immediate burst of early surprises suggests that maybe soon I can finally stop fretting about how these playoffs can't possibly live up to the epic postseason of 2006.

On to the next crisis, then: Do San Antonio and (especially) Dallas have something to worry about now?


It's looking like an early Y-E-S for all three of the West's top teams.

Maybe the best thing you can say about the Suns' Sunday is that their two main rivals were beaten. Phoenix got its victory in the end but was inexplicably flat and jittery against an ultrathin Lakers team that entered the playoffs playing worse ball than anyone else in the field.

The Spurs? Manu Ginobili was snuffed out by the Nuggets' team coverage, Tim Duncan was neutralized by Nene on a joga bonito day for the NBA's Brazilians and Carmelo Anthony hit the hosts with the most composed playoff performance we've ever seen from him. Factor in the grit of a typically fearless-on-the-road Allen Iverson and you can't help but believe that winning the opener in San Antonio is more significant for Denver this time than it was in 2005.

Which brings us to the Mavs.

Full disclosure: I didn't think the Warriors could extend their recent hex over Dallas to the franchise's first playoff game since Chris Webber was a rookie. I did think that the Warriors would (a) be the rattled (and thus ragged) team in their return to the big stage and (b) actually suffer a bit from their five straight regular-season wins over Dallas because the streak ensured that the Mavs wouldn't even consider taking them lightly.

But I was wrong. Way wrong.

It's the Mavs who were rattled. It's the Mavs who looked like playoff neophytes.

Avery Johnson caved into Don Nelson's matchup madness before the opening tip by starting Dirk Nowitzki at center for the first time all season and now Dallas looks somehow farther away than it did coming in from countering Golden State's athleticism … and the Warriors' backcourt size … and their continued success, spearheaded by Stephen Jackson, in preventing Dirk from going left and keeping him out of his comfort zones.

Baron, meanwhile, hasn't looked this dangerous since his Charlotte Hornets made Miami look very old in a first-round sweep in the 2001 playoffs.

I naturally still believe that San Antonio and Dallas will rebound from their unexpected setbacks and advance, as you'd expect. It's just one game, as they say. As Lakers coach Phil Jackson offered Sunday before attempting to put Phoenix in the same predicament shared by the other two-thirds of the West's Big Three: "A good team can recover from one loss."

Yet here's what I know for certain after an opening weekend that definitely didn't follow any scripts: The Mavs are quite grateful that, unlike Pat Riley's Heat in '01, Baron's upstarts still need three more wins to ruin their season.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.

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One Down, Three To Go

Tim Heitman/NBAE via Getty Images
Baron Davis and the Warriors have one win in the bag. Three more wins by the No. 8 seed against Dallas would be simply stunning.

Bell's Hot, His Shot Is Not

Suns shooting guard Raja Bell waded through the media outside the Lakers' locker room, his game uniform still on, a ball in his hands and a fierce expression on his face. For a second, it looked as if maybe he would barge into the visitors' locker room and challenge Kobe Bryant to continue their duel. Instead, he slipped through another door, a few feet away, to the Suns' practice court with a ball boy close behind him.

"I just wanted to make sure I was still hot," he said facetiously, having just scored two points on 1-for-6 shooting (including 0-for-5 from 3-point range) in Phoenix's 95-87 Game 1 victory. "I was hot before the game and at halftime. It was just in the game I couldn't make one. I was going to take 20 3s on the practice court, but I made 10 in a row and said, 'I'm out.'"

Bell tied Gilbert Arenas for the most 3-pointers made this season with 205.

-- Ric Bucher in Phoenix

"I Love The Way The Squad Looks"

It happened before just two years ago to the host San Antonio Spurs, too. But this time, winning Game 1 feels very different for the much different Denver Nuggets.

"It's different, 2005 is over,'' Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony said. ''We can't live in the past. I can't live in the past. I don't even want to answer any more questions about 2005."

Two years ago the Nuggets beat the host San Antonio Spurs 93-87 in Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs on April 24, 2005. Denver, however, was eliminated after losing the next four games in the best-of-seven series.

The Nuggets defeated the host Spurs 95-89 in Game 1 of the first round of this year's playoffs on Sunday night at AT&T Center. But this time with NBA superstar Allen Iverson, a more experienced Anthony and a more talented team overall, Denver is confident that its Game 1 victory is just the beginning of much more to come.

"Last time we won a game down here in a playoff situation we fell asleep," Nuggets coach George Karl said. ''It's going to be a lot of guys' responsibility to be ready to play better than we were the last time we played them.''

The Nuggets won Game 1 in 2005 in large part due to a big 31-point scoring game by Andre Miller. But Denver got drilled 104-76 in Game 2, never could find anyone to complement Anthony again or lessen the double- and triple-teams and ended up losing four straight games to end the series briskly.

But that was then. Now, Melo is an NBA All-Star with maybe the best complementary scorer in the league in Iverson. The two combined for 61 points against the Spurs and are capable of doing it again.

While Kenyon Martin is gone to injury and Miller and Earl Boykins are gone, the Nuggets are now deeper and more experienced with Marcus Camby, Nene, Steve Blake, Eduardo Najera, Linas Kleiza and J.R. Smith. In 2005 the Nuggets were just happy to win. Now with AI and Melo, they have a swagger and expectations of shocking the NBA world.

''We were more happy that we won Game 1 [in 2005],'' Camby said. "And we came out for Game 2 and they beat us by like 25 points. This year, we know what they are capable of doing. We have different weapons and elements to go to."

There is still a long, long way to go in this series. And the Spurs are still the Spurs. But these Nuggets are not living in the past and are very confident of a brighter future this time around.

"I love the way the squad looks,'' Iverson said.

-- Marc J. Spears in San Antonio

What Happened?

Golden State stuns Dallas in opener

Melo Success

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
Carmelo Anthony teamed with Allen Iverson to score 30 or more points in the Game 1 win over the Spurs.

Extreme Behavior

Sunday's Best
Warriors guard Baron Davis: Clutch shot after clutch shot. Terrific D. 33 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. His 19-point third quarter was almost dreamlike in its success.


Sunday's Worst
Mavs guard Jerry Stackhouse: Plenty of blame (or credit to the Warriors) to go around, but Stack can accept this team award. Spends 16 minutes on the floor, misses all six shots he takes, commits five turnovers. That didn't help in the loss to the Warriors.

Quote of the Day:
"But certainly it's not easy to go kind of one-on-one that long."
-- Suns guard Steve Nash, commenting on whether or not Kobe Bryant wore down in the fourth quarter.

Complete line score for every player

-- Andrew Ayres

Nearly An Unhappy Turn For Cavs

His left ankle moments out of an ice bucket, LeBron James paused while getting dressed in the Cavs' locker room Sunday afternoon to watch the replay of when he landed on the foot of Wizards center Etan Thomas an hour or so earlier. Seeing the closeup of his Nike go perpendicular to the floor elicited a sharp grimace.

But it didn't linger; he put on his dress shoes and walked away without a noticeable limp and promised to be fine.

James' rolled ankle four minutes into the second half provided the only drama in the Cavs' 97-82 Game 1 victory. While the outcome was as predicted, the near miss was a cautionary reminder of just how fragile a postseason can be. Which the Wizards, of course, know all too well.

After a timeout, James didn't even have to leave the game on his way to 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. He's turned his ankles perhaps seven or eight times in similar plays this season and always got up. So his teammates said they didn't freeze, like many of the 20,000 fans at Quicken Loans Arena, when he was rolling on the floor in pain.

"Have you seen his ankles?" teammate Larry Hughes said. "They're big."

The left one will be slightly bigger on Monday morning. The posturing aside, the Cavs perhaps should take the event as a sign they cannot afford to mess with the Wizards. After jumping out to a big lead early, the Cavs played even with their depleted opponent until midway through the fourth quarter before taking firm control. Had Antawn Jamison been able to do anything down the stretch -- he scored just three points in the final 16 minutes -- it could have been one of the classic "letting the underdog hang around" outcomes.

While no one at the moment gives the Wizards a serious chance in this series, each game past the minimum increases the workload for the Cavs and the chances for all sorts of things to go haywire. Which should be the lesson the occasionally scatterbrained Cavs take from their otherwise comfortable Sunday stroll.

-- Brian Windhorst in Cleveland

Elias Says

Kobe Bryant's 28 first-half points sparked the Lakers to a 48-39 lead at the break, but Phoenix limited Bryant to only 11 points during the second half and defeated Los Angeles 95-87. Bryant is the only player in the last 10 postseasons to score that many points during the first half of his first playoff game of the year. Bryant posted the same point breakdown (28 in the first half, 11 in the second) in a road win over the Timberwolves in the Lakers' 2003 postseason opener.

More from Elias

Mavs On The Defensive Now
Key observations after the Golden State Warriors stunned the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks, 97-85 in Game 1 of the first round …

What's one way the Warriors successfully defend Dirk Nowitzki, who shot 4-for-16 from the field?

Kiki Vandeweghe: A Don Nelson defensive strategy. Dirk likes to take one dribble, go right or left and then spin back. If you watch, there's often a player running at him, trying to steal on the spin. There were a few fouls, but trying to disrupt Dirk like that shows how well Nellie knows these players.

What do you think about Dallas choosing to bench Erick Dampier and start quicker, smaller Devean George?

KV: You can't let yourself get taken out of your game, and the Mavs had that happen. You have to play your game, and play your players.

Maybe Dampier should be back starting for Game 2?

KV: If that's what got you there. You've got to go with your best game. You're not going to out-trick a trickster.


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