It’s playoff time in the NBA, the only time when the NBA really matters to me.
I’m especially looking forward to some second-round match-ups in the Western Conference, but some of these first-round series are compelling.
Here are my Top 10 postseason questions moving forward:
Is San Antonio for real?
What a ridiculous question, on the surface. The Spurs tied Chicago for the best record in the NBA during the regular season at 50-16.
They’re almost unbeatable at home and were the hottest team in the league going into the playoffs. But last year, SA was unceremoniously dumped in the first round by the Memphis Grizzlies after compiling the league’s best regular-season mark. It’s an older team, although the sprinkling of youth the Spurs have mixed in with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. This is a much deeper team than the one that lost early last season. I think San Antonio has as much a chance of winning a championship as any other team with the possible exception of Miami. And Gregg Popovich is one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. I challenge you to dispute me on that.
Is Miami this good?
The Heat are one of those teams that can sleep-walk a bit during the regular season, making you wonder if all the great parts really add up to a championship-caliber team. But, finally, LeBron, Dwyane and (to a much lesser extent) Chris look capable of bringing a championship to South Beach. Miami has manhandled a mystified New York Knicks team so far in the first round, building a 2-0 lead. And with Derrick Rose injured in Chicago and the Boston Celtics getting older by the breath, it looks like Miami has clear sailing to the Finals. But we all know clear sailing can quickly turn turbulent. But it looks like the Heat are focused on winning a championship and that a good-but-not-great regular season is in their rear-view mirror.
Which of the underdogs could make a run?
Tough one. I suppose Philadelphia has a chance against the Rose-less Bulls, even though the 76ers are down 1-0 in that series going into tonight’s Game 2. I don’t sense a lot of upsets in the first round, though. Do you consider Atlanta to be an underdog to Boston? Seeding suggests that isn’t the case. But Atlanta’s not a team I take seriously at playoff time. The Hawks have a way of under-achieving. I would love to see Denver make a series of it with the Los Angeles Lakers. I think Dallas is an underdog in its series against Oklahoma City, although the Mavericks are the defending NBA champion and made Games 1 and 2 difficult for the Thunder in OKC.
What is Amar’e Stoudamire thinking?
Clearly, he’s not. I don’t give the Knicks much of a chance to come back in their East series with Miami. But thanks to Stoudamire’s bone-headed decision to punch a glass case that housed a fire extinguisher after a Game 2 loss on Monday night, any chance the Knicks have has been, well, extinguished. Way to think of your team, Amar’e.
Did the LA Clippers really come back from 27 points down to beat Memphis?
Yes, that really happened. I didn’t see it with my own eyes, because when I saw the Grizzlies leading by 20-plus points in the fourth quarter, I went to bed. This looked like the most entertaining of all the first-round match-ups going in and Game 1 certainly didn’t disappoint. I think this will go seven games. I think it’ll be a lot of fun. It’s great that the Clippers and Grizzlies are playing one another. I love this series.
Does Boston have one more run?
Down 1-0 to Atlanta and without spark plug point guard Rajon Rondo in Game 2, the easy answer is “no.” And that’s also probably the right answer. I think the Celtics have finally hit the wall, even though the Hawks or another team will have to stab this proud, veteran team in the heart to get them to die. Any team with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rondo – as long as he’s not bumping officials – is going to be difficult to beat.
Why, Bob, don’t you like the LA Lakers?
I kind of grapple with this one. I guess it goes back to the great Lakers-Celtics rivalry of the 1980s when Larry Bird, my guy, battled Magic Johnson, their guy. I’ve grown to love Magic, but at the time I was against everything the Lakers stood for. I suppose I haven’t been able to let that go. And let’s be real here, it’s not easy to love a team that Andrew Bynum plays for. The guy’s a child, in my opinion. A very big child who can really rebound. I do respect Kobe Bryant and consider him one of the top 10 players of all-time. But I don’t care for Pau Gasol and I think Meta World Peace is a joke.
Is there a real dark horse to win it all?
Does Indiana count? Can a 3-seed in the East be a dark horse? I think so and since this is my blog, I’m making the rules. I was shocked that the Pacers lost Game 1 at home to a Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic team. And the Pacers struggled some with Orlando in Game 2 before taking charge. I’m guessing most people, even NBA fans, can’t name more than two or three players on the Pacers. But it’s a team I kind of like, again probably more for the association with Larry Bird, the general manager, than anything else. I do think Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert and Paul George – that’s four players, somebody stop me – are a nice foundation. And the Pacers have a bunch of other guys who can contribute. I think Indiana might be heard from.
Who do you like in the Finals?
Oklahoma City is a sexy pick in the West, but I don’t think the Thunder is there yet. OKC isn’t good enough in the half-court to win a title, I don’t believe. I think the Spurs and Lakers will meet in the Western Conference finals, with San Antonio winning in seven games. In the East, it looks like a Miami walk in the park. Can any other team in the East get in the Heat’s way? Chicago can’t, not without its best player. Boston can’t. Indiana? Atlanta? Oh, who am I kidding. It’s a Miami-San Antonio Finals.
OK, then, so who wins?
Gotta be the Heat, right? Not necessarily. I think San Antonio matches up well with Miami, although I’m not sure the Spurs have an answer for James and Wade. But who does? This would be a fantastic series, one that I could easily see going seven games. Since San Antonio would have the home-court advantage, how can I pick against the Spurs? Yet I’m hesitating. I’m doubting. I’m thinking too much, to the point of making myself queasy. Can I really pick San Antonio? Sure, why not? Spurs in seven.
Thanks for reading.