Where Will Amazing Happen Next?
The Bucks may not have done very well this year, but there’s no doubt that the regular season in the NBA this year has been one for the ages. In fact, I believe that the Bucks didn’t get any worse, the rest of the East just passed them up. In addition to the increase in the level of play across the league, the storylines have been awesome. How many stories were there? Well, if you’ll allow me to do my LeBron impression, “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six.” We’ve had the Heat-hit-parade that didn’t quite live up to the Heat-victory-parade from last summer, the Carmelo trade drama, Derrick Rose making his case for MVP without his bigs through most of the season, Blake Griffin doing Blake Griffin things, Kobe dragging an aging and injured Lakers and an aging self to the playoffs only to end up with a two-seed behind the even older Spurs, Kendrick Perkins being traded to Oklahoma City and possibly imploding the Celtics in the process, and the insuing three-way race in the East. Excluding Blake Griffin, those are only the major storylines left in the playoffs, what a season!
Such a fantastic season has led to a playoff bracket that is shaping up to be two months of great basketball starting with three first round series that could conceivably go to seven games.
The first of which is Boston-New York, a matchup that has already produced one of the best games this season. I don’t think Boston will lose this one, but New York has the potential to take Boston to the limit and that’s the last thing an aging and injured team like the Celtics need. The biggest reason New York won’t win this series is Carmelo, which probably isn’t what the city of New York (I’m very popular in New York, they all read my stuff) wants to hear. Carmelo still hasn’t clicked and the jury is still out on whether or not Mike D’Antoni can coach a team like this. Ironically, I think he’s better suited to coach the team half his former roster was sent to, Denver.
After the Carmelo trade, Denver went on a tear to the playoffs. As a response, I have an upset alert on this Denver-Oklahoma City series. The Nuggets play every game like they have something to prove, and George Karl plays them to their strengths. They’re fast, and they have some fantastic shooters who have that uber-confidence, warranted or not, to rise above the pressure of a playoff series. One of the biggest factors will be if the Thunder can control the game and let Kevin Durant decide the series. Unusually for the Thunder, experience will be their advantage on the court for this series after taking the Lakers to the limit last season and coming up just short. Playing against a team that was pieced together after such a blockbuster mid-season trade could prove to push Oklahoma City to victory especially after their mid-season addition of Kendrick Perkins. I’m still taking Oklahoma City, but I can’t wait to watch this series.
The third game that may very well go to game seven, and even I’m surprised about having this opinion, is Miami-Philadelphia. Again, much like Denver, I don’t see them actually pulling it off, but the Sixers can put a ton of defensive pressure on Miami and Andre Iguodala can defend anyone in the league; I’m convinced of that. Bosh is playoff unproven and, after all these years, so is LeBron. LeBron doesn’t generally pack it in until at least round two, but Doug Collins has done some amazing things with this team and deserves more recognition than he has been receiving, a lot like Scott Skiles did with the Bucks last season.
Those are only three of the eight series and it doesn’t include a healthy Bulls team with the overall-one-seed or the defending champions looking to make a run at a three-peat . I'll definetely be taking another look at the NBA playoffs once the conference finals are set, but right now my pick are the Bulls and the Thunder to match up in the finals. Just the thought of that series has me giddy, which makes it even more disappointing that the Thunder were stolen from Seattle, the city I most want to visit in America.
No matter what city the teams are in, the basketball is the best its been in over a decade. So infrequently does a league measure up to their marketing, but this year, the NBA truly is where amazing is happening.