Indiana only has themselves to blame. As the series has gone one, it becomes highly evident that the Pacers simply can’t match the Heat’s intensity. They clearly have no response for LeBron James. The best player in the playoffs so far has torched the Pacers from the start of the series. It doesn’t help when Lance Stephenson tries to call him out, for no apparent reason. Nothing in sports bothers me more when someone boasts or decides to criticize another player/team, when their own team is losing either that game or that series. Same goes for showboating. Anyways, let’s get back to last night’s game. Miami cruised over Indiana last night, winning from wire-to-wire in impressive fashion to take a big 3-1 series lead. I don’t think it’s too controversial to say that this series is over. Unlike the Thunder, the Pacers have not responded well to adversity and it’s very surprising to me. Indiana is a team that’s supposed to thrive under these circumstances. But last night showed that their mouths bit off more than they could chew. Now they’re looking at a deadly 1-3 deficit against a Miami that all of a sudden, wants to prove them, and everyone else wrong. Why would the Pacers go and wake the sleeping giant? I understand the Pacers are proud of their own confidence but when you’re down in the series, the last you need to do is call the other team out. Or bring up other excuses. Miami won the game fair and square. What worked best for the Heat last night? To begin, LeBron, who has improved as the playoffs have gone on, was once again in great form (32 pts, 10 reb, 5 ast) as he led Miami. Hold on, what about Chris Bosh? For whatever reason, Bosh had been slumping for Miami. Last night the Miami big man had a big game, something that’s been rare against Indiana and rare as of late in the post season. Great sign for the Heat going forward and terrible sign for the Pacers, as they try to do everything they can to stay alive in this series. With a “win or go home” situation in front of them, how will Indiana respond? If they fancy themselves as a tough team that loves pressure situations, tomorrow night’s game is where they can prove it. Because Miami smells blood and they’re ready to strike to earn a fourth straight (crazy!) trip to the finals.
At least we have the Thunder to make the western conference an actual series. Interesting turn because after the first couple of games, I thought it was going to be Indiana who would make Miami work. Now, it might be the Spurs who are going to have work a bit harder to advance in the postseason. The Spurs are in Oklahoma City for game 4 tonight, as they try to take a big lead while the Thunder are looking to continue their momentum and even up the series. Can the Spurs bounce back after being so dominant in the first two games? The addition of Serg Ibaka adds so much athleticism to the Thunder squad and makes them a nightmare match up for San Antonio. But if any team can adjust to whatever is thrown at them, it’s the Spurs with their superior coaching and immense experience. San Antonio’s guards need to play better and make their presence known inside the paint. If Oklahoma City can dictate the paint like they did in game 3, this series has a good chance of being tied tonight. The Spurs will play better, as they always do after a loss, but the Thunder thrive on momentum. Can they ride their big names again? I expect another big game from Ibaka, Durant and Westbrook as they all continue to take advantage of their superior athleticism. Will we see another big game from Tim Duncan or Tony Parker? Massive game for both of these teams and I can’t wait until the tip off (9:00 ET) gets the action going tonight.
Just because I love these mini-movies so, so much:
Not the prettiest of games between Miami and Indiana last night. Just look at the final score of 87-83. And then you take a look at the box score, wondering just how Miami was able to pull out a win last night. The Pacers had the advantage on rebounding, turnovers, points in the paint and to the naked eye, this was the type of game that Indiana was built for. Then you look at the 10% FG advantage the Heat had and then you remember that the two best players last night (James and Wade) were wearing in a black uniform. Miami was carried on the backs of their two superstars, grinding out a win in Indiana to even up the eastern conference finals at 1 game for each team. This was a difficult game for both teams. Plenty of fouls mixed with some stagnant offense made for an ugly battle. Neither team gained that much of an advantage throughout the game. Indiana controlled the game early, then Miami took over, followed by Indiana and then finally in the 4th, the Heat took over for good. That’s what it came down to really. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were the two best players on the court when it mattered most and the game was on the line. Surprisingly enough, Wade was more of a hero than LeBron. Wade almost got to his late-2000s level, making big shot after big shot. LeBron looked, at times, disinterested but more or less woke up in the 4th quarter to help Miami seal the game. It also didn’t hurt Miami that David West wasn’t in the game after an eye injury and Paul George didn’t look the same after being knocked in the head by Wade. The Pacers offense was not well run late in the game, unable to find Roy Hibbert (who played well) or George good looks. Lance Stephenson did his thing in the 3rd quarter but when it was crunch time, Miami turned up the defense and the Pacers had no answer. That’s the thing about Indiana. They miss one of their starting five and it’s like they’re playing 4 on 5 out there. The series takes a couple days of much needed rest as it shifts to Miami. Which team steps up as the series takes shape? Before the series began, I was sure that Miami could win the series but now, it’s turning into a complete toss up. Fun times should be ahead.
Before we take a couple of days away from the action, we still have another game to play in San Antonio tonight. Spurs have the early lead and they’re looking to take a commanding 2-0 lead that surely all but ends the Thunder’s postseason hopes. Can OKC bounce back to even the series and steal home court advantage from the Spurs? Last game we saw the Thunder rallying in the 3rd quarter but being outclassed in the 4th by the experienced Spurs. At times, San Antonio looked like a machine against the Thunder but despite all of the mismatches they had, OKC managed to hang around until late in the game. The Ibaka injury will continue to be a sore subject for the Thunder but they can rely on the superstars to carry them. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have to have some sort of superhuman effort for at least some of the games if they hope to make this series turn in their favor. OKC will also be looking at their supporting cast to step up and make something happen against a Spurs team that runs on all cylinders. Will we once against see a balanced Spurs attack or will they require big games from their big names. There’s not doubt that Duncan and Parker will once again dominate the paint, but will they shoot just as well from beyond the arc? I expect the Spurs to take a commanding lead in the series but it wouldn’t shock me to see the Thunder even things up. All i’m hoping is that we can some good basketball tonight.
Somehow, the Cavaliers won the NBA lottery and get the #1 pick…again. I won’t get into this “rigged!” stuff swirling around. I’d rather focus on Mallory Edens, the NBA’s new sweetheart. OW!
Well, it looks like the Heat will actually have to work to get back to the Finals. And once again, it’s the Pacers that are giving them the biggest trouble of all. No one doubted that the Pacers could do what they did yesterday afternoon. After all, this is the same team that took Miami to seven a year ago and the Pacers were on a crash course to meet them once again. Indiana faced bigger obstacles but when you reach your goal either way, does it really matter? I do. Or at least I thought it did for this Pacers team. Indiana surprised the Heat and the rest of the basketball world with their game 1 win over Miami, holding down their home court with an impressive victory that has led them to an early 1-0 lead in the eastern conference finals. I’m still having a hard time reading that and believing it’s what actually happened yesterday. Remember that this is the same team that needed 7 games to beat the Atlanta Hawks just a few weeks ago. Now this same Pacers team has the two-time defending champions on the ropes (somewhat) with an impressive win to start the series. Why isn’t anyone discussing the fact that the Heat never lead in this game. Not even for one second of basketball. Indiana did a nice job using their strengths and exploiting Miami’s weaknesses at the same time. If I had to describe how the Pacers played, it would be balanced. Paul George (24 pts, 4 reb, 7 ast) might get the headlines but the rest of the starting five deserve as much credit. Miami’s inability to answer the Pacers for more than a couple minutes doomed the Heat. LeBron and Wade played well, but they didn’t have much help. Where was Chris Bosh yesterday afternoon? Nine points and a couple of rebounds? Not going to cut it. Despite Miami playing so bad yesterday, I expect them to bounce back. I’m still rolling with Heat for this series but at least we know that Indiana will make them work for it. We might be in store for another classic show down between the Pacers and Heat.
Let’s move to the western conference. We have a re-match of the 2012 series between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. I’ll just cut to the chase: I liked the Spurs before Serge Ibaka’s playoffs-ending injury and I like the Spurs to win even more now. Of course, Ibaka’s injury won’t affect the Thunder as much as if it were Durant or Westbrook, but it does pose a big problem. The Thunder were able to take down the Spurs two years ago because of a pivotal game where Ibaka killed the Spurs on offense. OKC needs to take advantage of their superior athleticism but without their most athletic big man, that advantage takes a big hit. Can the Thunder realistically challenge the Spurs and make this a long series? Yes and no. Yes because only Tony Parker (on his best night) can challenge Durant or Westbrook for the best player on the court. But when you think about it, the Thunder’s individual player advantage is about the only advantage they have. Do I even need to get into how big of an advantage the Spurs have in the coaching position? If the Thunder offense sputters like it has, at times during the playoffs so far, San Antonio is going to take full advantage of the situation. The Spurs have the balance, experience and leadership to make this a very quick series. They’ve looked the most impressive so far in the playoffs. But I can’t count the Thunder out so quickly. They have the MVP and they have one of the best PGs in the league to counter the Spurs at those positions. It’s going to take some heroic efforts from OKC but I don’t think the ball rolls their way like it did against the Clippers. The Spurs have been on a mission since the first game of the season and this series is their biggest obstacle yet. But it’s one that they can overcome. Spurs in 6.
When did the NBA turn into the NFL? I only mean that in terms of this season and the fact that, much like the NFL, the NBA playoffs have taken a turn for some predictability. Before the season started, the Heat and Spurs were the clear favorites with the Thunder and Pacers closely behind them, all vying for title contention. And what do you know, that’s exactly where we are right now. After a chaotic first couple of rounds to get the playoffs going, order was restored as both the Thunder and Pacers join the Heat and Spurs to round out the four teams left in the NBA postseason. Indiana closed out the Wizards in a neat way, reverting back to their winning ways that we had expected from them. David West (29 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast) stood out on the individual stat sheets, but West’s performance wasn’t the most impressive aspect of Indian’s night. The Pacers’ ability to win big despite not having their best game (out-rebounded and inefficient from 3s) was what stood out for me. They didn’t need to be flashy or anything like that. Indiana just used their defense and experience to win the game. The Wizards rallied in the 4th quarter, leading by a point halfway through but the Pacers just settled down, didn’t panic, and took the lead back for good. What went wrong for Washington? I think most of the blame has to settle on their back court. John Wall and Bradley Beal have a strong future but last night their inexperience showed, never getting into rhythm and never being able to set their tone on offense. I like the Wizards’ future but they’re not quite ready to take down the big men from the conference. Now the Pacers have moved on to face their familiar foes. Can they do well against the Heat and put their underwhelming season behind them? We’ll just have to wait and see.
For a while during last night’s Clipper-Thunder game, it looked they were going to be settling things with a 7th game. Then things changed in the second half and the 4th quarter. Kevin Durant rallied the Thunder, looking every bit like the MVP down the stretch against the Clippers last night as the Thunder closed out the series and are back in the western conference finals. I was actually watching the game at a bar with brother and next to us were a couple of Clipper fans that were actually from Los Angeles, in town for a college graduation in their family. They, like most of the country, marveled at Durant’s performance (39 pts, 16 reb, 5 ast, 2 blk) down the stretch. Just as the Clippers were getting some sort of offensive rhythm, here comes #35 on the Thunder with a contested jumper or a quick-release 3 to put a dagger into the LA crowd. Shades of LeBron in 2012 or Dirk in 2011. When a player that great gets going, there’s nothing you can do but double-team him and hope that his next shot doesn’t go in. Unfortunately for the fans in LA, their attempts to slow down Durant and the rest of the Thunder team wasn’t enough to win them the game. Blake Griffin (lingering with foul trouble) and Chris Paul played well but the Clippers needed another member of their support staff to step it up just a little more. Don’t be down on yourselves people of LA. Your Clippers team is going to be back in contention next season for a spot in the conference championship and possible the finals. For Durant and co, it’s their third western conference finals in four seasons. They missed out last season but they’re back and, like the Pacers, they’re up against a familiar foe in the San Antonio Spurs. Can they stop the machine that is the Spurs?
I’ll preview the Spurs-Thunder with a bit more depth on Monday before they get going. But the Heat-Pacers starts on Sunday afternoon (3:30 ET on ABC) and i’m still confused about what will happen in this series. The Pacers have been hard to trust since the all-star break and Miami looked lethargic for stretches during their series against the Nets. If the Pacers can take down the beasts from the east, their bad season will be forgotten just like that. Will we see the same Paul George from last year’s eastern finals? Maybe. Despite all of the advantages that Indiana SHOULD have, I can’t trust them in any scenario. For that reason alone, I have a feeling that Miami wins the series and heads to finals for a fourth straight year. It’s the boring, but logical prediction: Miami over Indiana in 6.
Last night’s games were more of what I was looking forward to in this round. Now we can rest assured that at least two of the series are extended to at least a fifth game, if not more than that. I can’t say the same for the two that we’re going to watch tonight. But we’ll get to those in due time. The Pacers, and more specifically Roy Hibbert, bounced back from their first game woes to take care of business against Washington at home and evened up the series at 1 game each. The Indiana center has been taking plenty of heat for the entire playoffs but last night, finally, he responded with a great game (28 pts, 9 reb) to lead the Pacers in their victory. Despite his great game, NBA fans are wondering if this is something that the Pacers will build on or if it was of a “flash in the pan” situation going forward. Here’s the thing: the Pacers got an big game from Hibbert but they only managed to win by four points. Let’s pump the brakes on this being some sort of resurgence from Indiana. Or maybe Andrew Bynum really does ruin teams. Either way, the Wizards shouldn’t dwell on this game too much. Washington made some key mistakes down the stretch, most by John Wall, and were still within one possession until the final 30 seconds or so. The Wizards have a couple of things to iron out but I still like them in the series and they will be getting a very warm welcome by their fans tomorrow night. As the series shifts to the nation’s capital, i’ll be interested in what kinds of adjustments both teams make. It’s one of the things that I love about the NBA having a best-of-7 format. How teams adjust and adapt become such a important part of their success.
Much like the Pacers, the Thunder were also in danger or dropping their first two games of the series to the Clippers. The stars on the Thunder led the way for OKC, putting up big numbers on the Clippers defense to even up the series at 1. It’s the kind of performance that you’d expect from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Maybe Durant accepting the MVP trophy in front of the Thunder crowd helped fuel the fire for his team. That, or the fact that they were facing a deadly 0-2 deficit. But i’m sure the Thunder were glad to use Durant’s individual success result in a big win for the team. Westbrook put up the triple-double (31 pts, 10, reb, 10 ast) and Durant nearly had one of this own (32 pts, 12 reb, 9 ast) to lead the way. Not only did they perform well, but they got some good help from their support staff. Players like Ibaka and Perkins were key if the 3rd quarter for the Thunder. It was the quarter that OKC took complete control of the game and put the Clippers away for good. LA didn’t do a good job defending the Thunder like they did in the first game. Where did the paint presence go? Where was Blake Griffin last night? Griffin had 15 points, but needed 13 shots to get them and never really got comfortable. Credit the Thunder defense for making it a hassle. Now the series shifts out to the west coast and i’m having a hard time figuring out who’s going to take it. My initial pick was the Clippers and while i’m still confident about taking them, I have a strong feeling that this series is going the distance.
We can all hope that tonight’s games result is some series being evened up but in all likelihood, it’s not going to happen. The Heat and Spurs looked so dominant in their first games that i’m just hoping the games are competitive so that we can see some drama in the 4th quarter and maybe beyond. Is Brooklyn or Portland more likely to steal a game on the road? I’d have to say Portland because I can see Aldridge and Lillard both having big games. If neither of these teams win tonight, the Heat and Spurs all but have their tickets punched to the conference finals.
Shout out to Spalding
At the beginning of the season, the Pacers looked to have a specific goal in mind: have the best record in the eastern conference so that when it comes time to play Miami in the playoffs, home court belongs to Indiana. I like the plan from the start. Try to have as much advantage over the Heat as possible when the inevitable rematch happened. As the season went on, things seemed to favor Indiana. Miami was facing some injury problems and fatigue seems to have brought their championship-level defense down a notch. But after a stellar first half the season, Indiana seems to have hit a rut that has no ending in sight. The Pacers appeared to have slowed down a bit just after the all-star break but the initial diagnosis was just a small slump. Then March came around and after turning things around (post 4 game losing streak), Indiana has lost 6 of their last 8 and have relinquished the top spot in the conference. Has Indiana essentially given the conference to Miami? Remember, the Heat haven’t been playing their best basketball as of late but still manage to have a better record than the Pacers heading into the homestretch. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s analyze the Indiana problem a bit. They were blown out by the scorching-hot Spurs last game but the two previous losses came against the Cavs and Wizards, two teams that they could very well see in the postseason. Where has the offense been for Indiana? I know defense is their staple but failing to break the 80-point barrier in three straight games is something college level teams struggle with, not an NBA team. Chemistry is clearly an issue as my multiple sources (still, just Twitter) have confirmed that the problem is most likely internally. And when a team is imploding from the inside out, it always hits rock bottom before they see any real daylight. Maybe this is rock bottom for Indiana. A home game against a bad Pistons team should be just what the Pacers need. Only four games until a big showdown in Miami that looks like it will decide the top seed in the conference.
Crucial action last night in the NBA. Unfortunately for Mavericks fans, like myself, around the country, it was not a good night of basketball. The Warriors were in Dallas to square off against the Mavericks in a massive game that had lots of implications in the lower half of the western conference playoff picture. Only a game and a half separated these two teams and within that margin, four different spots in the conference were affected. Stephen Curry’s go-ahead shot with .1 seconds left was heartbreaking for Dallas, but exhilarating for Golden State fans, as their team inches towards securing a playoff spot. I’m not going to sit here and complain about Jermaine O’neal and his obvious goal-tend just before that play. The referees were a bit spotty throughout the game and it was only a matter of time before a crucial call didn’t go in favor of the Mavericks. It’s just a shame that such a good game was influenced by such a crucial call. Honestly, it’s just a shame that one of the top 9 teams in the western conference is going to be out the playoffs. One team that won’t be missing out will be Brooklyn, clinching a playoff spot last night after an impressive win over the Rockets. It was nice present for their home fans after the franchise suffered such an abysmal start. Could Brooklyn make some real noise in an eastern conference where no team looks entirely impressive? I’m a bit skeptical but a big win over their crosstown rival Knicks would sway me a bit. Out in the west, the Blazers had a nice win over the Lakers. Portland seems to have turned their late-season slump around as of late. Winners of four straight, led by Aldrige and Lillard, as they head down the homestretch. If those two have it going on full cylinders as the season ends, i’d be careful if I were on the other side of it. Don’t forget how crucial their home court can be in the playoffs.
There are thirteen total games tonight so expect some fireworks.
News hit a couple of days ago that Derrick Rose would once again need knee surgery and once again would miss the entire season. It’s a tragic story that can’t help but make basketball fans feel bad for Rose, the Bulls and their fanbase. Even the biggest Rose critic can admit that the NBA is better with him in the league. It’s still questionable how Rose, out for basically two years straight, will be able to perform once he’s completely healed again. Will he ever get back to his MVP level? Will he even get to 80% of that form? It’s a gloomy situation in Chicago but despite missing their franchise player, their season and the rest of league must move on. The show must go on, as they say. But what kind of show will we be watching? The western conference is as good as ever but aside from the Heat and Pacers, is any other franchise in the east worth watching on a regular basis? Every team is going to one of “those nights” where they play well enough to upset a superior opponent, that’s just the way the league is. Aside from those nights is where the problem arises. Can fans rely on quality basketball on a regular basis knowing that the eastern conference has very much turned into a two-team race? It’s almost astounding how much better the Pacers and Heat (1 and 2 in the conference) are than the rest of the conference. If the playoffs were to start right now, I don’t see any team giving Indiana or Miami more than a five game series. A lot of the problem lies with the New York teams. The Knicks are usually towards the top of the conference and the new-look Nets were supposed to contend for the top spot in the conference. Right now the Knicks and Nets are a combined 7-20. Astonishing. Could they turn things around? Well they’re going to have to get 100% healthy before their fans can get excited.
On the other side of the country, things are more competitive. The Spurs are doing their usual thing of playing fundamental basketball while taking care of business. Portland, surprisingly enough, is still staying among the best in the west. The Thunder, Clippers and Rockets are fighting to keep up with the elites and then there’s the dogfight for the rest of the spots in the west. But the biggest news around the conference this week was Kobe signing another contract extension to essentially stay with the Lakers for the remainder or his career. The Lakers didn’t officially announce the exact details of the deal but plenty of sources have suggested that it’s an extra two years for $48.5 million. Those details bring up some inevitable questions. If all Kobe really does care about is more championships, why sign for that much money? Yes, we all know that Kobe means much more to the Lakers than what he earns, but does that leave room for anyone else? Most superstars that are hitting tail-end of their careers tend to take less money, knowing that it’s best possible way that they will continue to be on a championship level team. Can Kobe lead another team to a title? Well, i’m not so sure anymore. I’m skeptical because of his age and because of the severity of the injury that’s he is coming back from. That’s taking into consideration that Kobe is a machine and the hardest working player in the league. It wouldn’t surprise me if he reached the same level he left off at but I also wouldn’t be shocked if Kobe only reaches about 75-80% of what he used to be. And if it’s the latter, how room does Kobe’s contract leave for another big free agent to come join him?
Key games this weekend: (tonight) Lakers at Nets; Heat at Cavs; Nuggets at Wolves; Spurs at Thunder; Warriors at Mavs (Friday) Nets at Rockets; Warriors at Thunder; Wizards at Pacers (Saturday) Bulls at Cavs; Wolves at Mavs; Rockets at Spurs.
A lot of the country’s basketball fans weren’t focused on the NBA last night. In fact, most of the attention was put on the game at the collegiate level. There were some marquee match ups featuring what figures to be three of the next superstars in the NBA. I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch much of Duke, Kansas or Kentucky mostly because i’d rather watch my Mavericks. I don’t have much interest in basketball at the college level unless it involves joining a pool for brackets come March. Chances are that Wiggins, Parker and Randle will all be great players at the NBA level but until I actually see it, let’s pump the breaks and worry about what’s actually going on at the NBA level. Who’s dominating the league so far in this early season? So far this season, the Pacers have looked like the most dominant team in the league on a nightly basis. The defense and coaching is going to be there without a doubt. That’s one of the staples of Indiana’s game. But let’s add Paul George, second in a lot of early MVP races, who is continuing to play at the level everyone expects him to after his performance in last season’s playoffs. Let’s also look at the bench, much improved during the offseason and it shows on a nightly basis. Their offense still looks a bit stale sometimes but it’s not a glaring problem, just their style of basketball. What’s also interesting is that Danny Granger is set to return to his first game sooner than later. How will that affect a Pacers team that’s off to a franchise best 8-0 and the only undefeated team left in the league? I can’t imagine the train stopping anytime soon. Their schedule gets a little more challenging in the next few weeks but I could see them winning out the rest of the month barring an upset. The real challenge for this great Pacers team comes in December when their month starts with a five road games in 8 days against some of the top teams in the western conference, followed by the Heat at home. Until then let’s just enjoy what they’ve currently doing because despite getting almost no attention, the Pacers are the best team this season so far.
Speaking of no attention, the Spurs just seem to do what they do every single year. Play good basketball and win games. Right now they’re 7-1 and atop the western conference and I don’t know anyone who would bet some serious money on San Antonio giving up that position. Who would take their position if they slip for a few games? Well the obvious answer is OKC, especially now that Russell Westbrook is back and continues to look healthier as the games go by. To no one’s surprise, Durant leads the league in scoring (30.2/gm) but it’s going to rest of the supporting cast that I feel will ultimately make a difference. How the rest of the west shakes out is going to be fascinating to watch. From the Suns (how are they still there?) on down to the Lakers, all of those teams will be fighting for 3 through 8. Out east it continues to look like only the Heat will keep up with the Pacers, at least until Rose and the Bulls get themselves together and are 100% healthy. Most impressive players this season? These are aside from the obvious ones like LeBron or Durant. I’d have to go with either Kevin Love and Anthony Davis. Love finally looks healthy again, second in scoring behind Durant and leading the league in rebounding. And with Anthony Davis, well I think we’re all being reminded why he was the consensus #1 overall pick just a couple years ago.
Only one week into the NBA season and fans have much to discuss because there are been lots of surprises. First let’s get past some of the not-so-surprising things about this season: the Celtics and Jazz are going to the battling it out for worst record in the league. AKA the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. Now there are other bad teams who have started off hot and will eventually crash down to earth but Boston and Utah seem to be adamant on leading the race. I’ve seen some early Wiggins highlights and from the looks of it, he’s everything that you would want in a #1 overall pick. Good luck to both the Celtics, Jazz and other teams in their tanking endeavors. While it’s very early on, something else that doesn’t surprise me is that the Pacers and Heat look like they’re going to meet again in the eastern conference finals. Indiana is the only undefeated team left (4-0) and while Miami has looked shaky for stretches, everyone knows the Heat are looking to make the playoffs and then turn it up a notch. Plus, they have the best player on the planet. Out west the conference looks pretty stacked like it always does, all of the top 8 only have one loss with Houston leading the way at 4 wins. The Clippers, Spurs, Warriors, Mavericks and Thunder belong up there. The Timberwolves have looked well but with them, it’s always a matter of how healthy they can stay. The Kevin Love-Ricky Rubio is so fun to watch but in the back of mind i’m just thinking “please don’t get injuried.” But wait, what in the world are the Suns doing there among the one-loss teams in the west? Well that’s our first surprise of the season.
Before the season began most people put the Suns down there in the “Riggin’ for Wiggins” group but they’ve gotten off to a surprisingly hot start. They’ve been fortunate because of who their opponents have been to start the season but tonight’s game against the Spurs should bring them back down to earth, if only for one night. Phoenix has a cupcake schedule for the rest of the month but December will be much tougher for this young team that has a lot to prove. Speaking of a lot to prove, how about the Sixers? Sure, Philadelphia’s been surprisingly good to start the season but here’s something that’s not a fluke: Michael Carter-Williams. There’s a young man that is going to have a bright future so let’s all just sit back and enjoy what he’s done so far and what he’s going to do. Switching gears to Chicago because there’s lots of debate to whether or not the Bulls’ (specifically Derrick Rose) slow start is just rust for an injury-plagued team or if there’s some real concern. If I were among the Bulls fanbase I wouldn’t start panicking anytime soon. Chicago is going to win a lot of games this season but when your team is as injured as the Bulls were last season, it’s going to take some real time to get back to their elite level. If we’re still having this discussion a month from now, then i’d start to worry. Also causing worry are Moe’s Knicks. Or is Moe more of a Heat fan still? Anyways, the Knicks are dealing with issues on the offensive side of the ball. Melo is going to be the main weapon but he’s not getting much help. Add Tyson Chandler’s injury last night and this might go south pretty quick for the Knicks.
Games to watch this weekend: (Wed) Bulls at Pacers; Warriors at Wolves; Mavs at Thunder (Thu) Clippers at Heat; Lakers at Rockets (Fri) Cavs at Sixers; Nets at Pistons; Mavs at Wolves; Warriors at Spurs; (Sat) Pacers at Nets; Clippers at Rockets; Warriors at Grizzlies.
It feels really good to have the NBA regular season back. A midst the NFL season reaching it’s regular season peak, it was quite refreshing to see some basketball back on the screen. Of course it’s great to have the “Inside the NBA” crew back for another season of the greatest pre/post game show in all of American sports. Even though he didn’t have a good game (thanks to Miami’s defense), it’s really good to have Derrick Rose back in a Bulls uniform. Miami’s swarm defense spoiled his comeback, limiting Rose to just 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting. The Heat went on to rout the Bulls and after the first half, it looked like Miami wasn’t going to take it easy on the Bulls at all. The Big 3 did their part but it was the combination of their bench (Cole, Allen, Battier) that was the clear difference.
Something else that was clear after last night’s games? The Orlando Magic are only one game into the season and they’re already tanking. I understand that this upcoming draft is supposed to be among the all-time greats but c’mon Orlando, at least have a respectable season. The Pacers took advantage of the situation and to no one’s surprise, they went on to win the game in a comfortable fashion. The Magic and Pacers are teams that will end up on opposite sides of the conference. Speaking of teams that are supposed to finish quite opposite, how about the Lakers surprising the Clippers last night? This is a Clippers teams that’s supposed to finish among the top seeds in the west and this gutted Lakers team isn’t supposed to amount to anything this season. At least until Kobe returns and is at 100%. But don’t tell the other Lakers players that. Enter Xavier Henry (career-high 22 pts) and the rest of the Lakers bench. They simply out-hustled the Clippers, extending their lead in the 4th quarter when it mattered most. Props to the Lakers showing some heart and not rolling over just because of some silly pre-season rankings.
Now it’s only one game so let’s not consider a Heat-Lakers Finals a complete lock just yet. The regular season is a marathon, not a sprint but it’s the type of marathon that you watch all along the way. Every team has hopes that this is their year, despite going against overwhelming odds. Well unless you’re the Magic, 76ers or Suns. Then you’re just looking to get a top 5 pick in the draft. There are in fact 14 games tonight so chances are your team is playing. I’ll be doing a weekly post about the NBA every Wednesday unless something crazy happens. Good to have NBA basketball back. And of course, on my part, go Mavs.