The NBA’s regular season is a grueling campaign. Yet, come mid-April, bottom-feeders and ne’er do wells are sent home early while the league’s best vie for the Larry O’Brien trophy. Of course, some squads will serve as fodder for the ensuing rounds. However this years match ups and trends warrant meaningful discussion. The old favorites return as heavyweights. Nevertheless, road to the chip is as open as it’s been in some time. This could be the year when the old guard gives way to new champions, like it or not.
More importantly, there are a plethora of angles to account for in this year’s post season. Take a look at the following themes NBA heads ought to keep an eye on. We’re all due for some great basketball for the next month and a half. So, without further adieu, let’s kick off the playoffs right.
1. Derrick Rose And The Curse Of The MVP
Remember “The Madden Curse”? What started off as a joke became a full fledged superstition as whoever graced the legendary football game’s cover either had a subpar season or had it cut short due to injury. Well, the NBA has a curse too, but theirs is far less physically taxing. We’re just going to assume Rose has the MVP squared away. It only makes sense, right? He’s top 10 in the league in scoring and assists and the unquestioned floor general for the best team – record wise – in the league. If that honor does come fruition, however, the chances of the Windy City seeing their seventh trophy does not bode well. You see, the last league MVP to go on to win the Finals was Tim Duncan in 2003. Don’t shoot us, we’re just the messengers.
2. The “L” Word
We football fans are dealing with the sports equivalent to a STD right now, that being a lockout. NBA fans will be forced to deal with the same reality in a few months as their players union and owners square off to see who will blink first. The question now is what’s the over/under for how many teams we’ll hear the word “lockout” over the course of the playoffs? 200? 250? Either way, by the time the Finals are decided that word will have become a derogatory term, slightly less offensive than “n*gger” and “f*cking f@ggot.”
Too bad the NFL or NBA has yet to come up with a cure for this STD (sports transmitted disease) even though we already know the name of it – collective bargaining agreement.
3. Spike Lee Vs. Kevin Garnett
Sweet baby Jesus, please let this pop off. Earlier in the season, the world’s most famous basketball fan (with Jack Nicholson being a close second), Spike Lee, had words for Boston Celtics future Hall of Fame power forward Kevin Garnett. Let’s say the Knicks actually make a series out of this and push it to six or seven games. We could possibly see Spike Vs. Reggie part deux, minus the theatrical three pointers, of course. Spike loves toss barbs at players and KG absolutely gets off getting under people’s skin. Add those two ingredients along with Twitter and YouTube to an already combustible situation, and Tyler Perry may have his next script already written for him.
4. Orlando Is More Dangerous Than You Think
The Magic’s rough start played large part in them clinching the fourth seed in the East. However they have the roster capable of beating any of the conferences’ top squads in a series. Regular season series have them tied to potential opponents like Miami and Chicago. Derrick Rose relied on Dwight’s suspension to exploit the paint in a close win last week. Additionally, Miami doesn’t have anyone that can play Dwight Howard straight up as his improved post game warrants more touches. That’ll free up Orlando’s many perimeter shooters for good looks. Speaking of shooting, their Achilles Heel lies in their live and die by the jumper mentality. Nevertheless, they play strong team defense spearheaded by Dwight’s imposing paint presence. Expect them to utilize their strengths to keep them going in close games among the East’s best.
5. Unexpected First Round Drama: Oklahoma City Thunder Vs. The Denver Nuggets
Take a glance at this match up and you’d be inclined to think KD and co. got it in the bag. That’s not really the case since Denver’s galvanized quite well since they traded Carmelo away. Their lack of a star and home court advantage will hurt them. But their depth, commitment to team defense and ability to score inside and out will give OKC problems. Thus it wouldn’t be surprising to see series go down to the wire. It’s in your best interest to stay tuned to it if you’re looking for some first round heroics.
6. Miami Heat Elimination Watch!
We might as well call out the elephant in the room. Almost everyone not in or from Miami wants to see the Heat fall short. Boston dropping Perkins and Chicago’s inconsistent perimeter scoring makes their road a bit easier. Yet everyone on TSS not named J. Tinsley is hard pressed to believe the South Beach Chancletas are the best team in the post season. So what round do you have them going fishing? Will they get their tackle box on deck for the Eastern Conference Semi’s? Perhaps they’ll call in their boat rentals after losing in the Eastern Conference Finals? Or maybe they’ll stop short at, dare we say, the NBA Finals? Place your bets now folks.
7. Can The Grizzlies Do The Unthinkable?
When Rudy Gay went down, most Grizz fans’ dreams of the franchise’s first series victory went down as well. But the Grizzlies may have lucked into the perfect matchup, a fading Spurs team missing their talisman in Manu Ginobili. The Grizz’ strengths—defense, rebounding and athleticism embody what playoff basketball is supposed to be about. If Manu’s elbow acts a little achey and Zach Randolph plays the series of his life, Memphis could be the men putting the final nail in the coffin on the San Antonio dynasty.
8. The Celtics And The Missing Presence Of Perkins
Look to see the full-scale effects of Danny Ainge’s ill-advised shipment of Kendrick Perkins now. On one end, Boston’s presence in the lane has been significantly weakened, allowing opponents like the Magic, Bulls, and Heat to exert their low-post dominance at will. It’s a domino effect and now there’s a considerably higher amount of manual labor riding on the Celtics’ veterans this go around, and consequentially their durability is key.
On the other end of the scale, the Thunder now have a complete team and with young talent brimming in every position, the stars are aligned for a deep playoff run. And if Boston can make it far enough, look for Perkins to massacre his former team with the same intensity that helped them win it all not too long ago.
9. Suspensions Handed Out Like Lunch Detentions
The NBA’s new statutes for issuing techs had refs whistles on point like Quick Drawk McGraw all year. Allowing seven techs before serving a suspension sounds generous. Nonetheless, you better believe the league’s chattiest players will cross that line and cost their teams in the process. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Dwight, Kobe, Dwyane and/or KG dress in street clothes because they had choice words with the refs. We also have a hard time believing all 16 teams will play nice this year. Of course we don’t promote violence. But we won’t be against a humorous, if awkward, scrap between six and seven footers. Kendrick Perkins and Nené will likely set things off considering how they’ve been at it.
10. Bynum’s Knee
The Lakers blueprint is simple. If their big men are healthy, they’re a tough team to overcome. If they aren’t, and by “they” we mean Andrew Bynum, well, look at Game 6 from the 2008 Finals. Reports say his latest scare isn’t serious at all, but Laker Nation will be on pins and needles for the remainder of the playoffs. On paper, the Lakeshow probably won’t need his seven foot frame against New Orleans. It’s potential match ups against Oklahoma City or San Antonio where a fully healthy Bynum could mean the difference between a three peat or going fishing.
Sidenote: Does anyone know if Dwight Howard will wear #12 or change his number once he joins the Lakers?
Editor’s Note: We couldn’t rightly leave out those sneaky Spurs, who despite all the naysayers always seem to make a strong push around this time of year.
Defending the Alamo
San Antonio’s exceptional success in the regular season has them looking like a daunting post season opponent. Moreover, the Spurs could very well come out the West and win it all since they’re one of the most complete squads this year. Let’s not forget their key players have ample championship experience. Thing is, we’re not exactly sold on them taking it home what with Timmy’s diminished role and their hobbling towards the playoffs. Much of their success depends on Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan staying healthy along with their supporting cast filling in the blanks. They’ll be tough to beat when everything is clicking but they’ll need all hands on deck to get the chip.
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