With a game left to determine the remaining slot in the NBA’s “Final Four”, I will dive into the match up that is already set and ready to go. But first, let me quickly mention a couple of teams that were eliminated in the 2nd round of the playoffs. The Los Angeles Clippers and the Indiana Pacers are two teams that are young team with key players that made them the dark horses of their respective conference during the playoffs. The Clippers have a rising superstar in Blake Griffin, a phenominal point guard in Chris Paul, and a great supporting cast that can help lead their team to become as relevant as the Lakers in which they share the Staples Center Arena. As for the Indiana Pacers, their young roster containing Roy Hibbert, George Hill, and Danny Grainger that finally had a chance to showcase their great team chemistry to a nation that didn’t get much of an opportunity to watch them play during the shortened season. To be competitive throughout the season in the same division as the Chicago Bulls and take the Miami Heat to 6 games (and having a brief 2-1 series lead on them) is a mission accomplished for them. As long as these two teams keep their core roster intact while making additions through the NBA draft or free agent signings, I really think they will be ready to take the next step in reaching elite status in the NBA.
1) San Antonio Spurs vs. 2) Oklahoma City Thunder- What more can you ask for? The two best teams in the Western Conference will face off for the right to advance to the NBA Finals. Both teams are playing great both on offense and defense in addition to the great coaching by Greg Popovich and Scott Brooks.
What makes this series interesting are the many storylines and opinions I have heard for the past week leading up to Sunday’s game 1. The one I’ll mention right now came from the Tucson’s afternoon sports talk show “Happy hour with Jody Oehler”, in which he had this theory that Kevin Durant is the ‘Anti-LeBron James’. He went on to explain that LeBron was handed his reputation and expectations as a kid in high school (at the age of 17). Nicknamed “King James” and “The Chosen One”, LeBron was dubbed to be the greatest player of our time (being chosen 1st overall in the 2003 NBA draft, winning 3 MVPs, so far in his career). Meanwhile Kevin Durant went to the University of Texas for one year (they got knocked out in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament). Durant was chosen 2nd overall in the NBA Draft to a team that got moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City in a year, and in the process of all this occuring, Durant earned his reputation by being a great player who adapted to his situations all while making the pairing of guard Russel Westbrook work in their favor to become a great threat in the Western Conference.
So with this in mind, Durant and West brook, along with the starters, will give it 110% just like the starting 5 of the Spurs. The big X-factor in this series will be the bench for both teams. Both bench rosters are deep and have been crucial for both squads to have a combined playoff record of 16-1 so far, but the one stat that gets me is this. 4 of the Oklahoma’s 8 wins have been 4th quarter comeback victories. If San Antonio has a comfortable lead, will they let the Thunder creep back into it to make it competitive or just keep their foot on the pedal? And if the Thunder’s bench can score as much as the Spurs’ bench (or even outscore them), the games will be really close and interesting. I will say that there won’t be a sweep of any kind from this series (in fact, this has every reason to go 6-7 games). In the “Old West” vs. “New West” matchup, I’m going to give the edge to the more experienced team that has been running a 10 man rotation based on the players who have contributed in everyway and will help them earn the wins to advance on. These games will be earned thanks to the amazing effort by the Thunder, but I think the Spurs will win in 6 games.
Spurs in 6.
2) Miami Heat vs.4) Boston Celtics- Another matchup between exerienced veterans and younger rising stars, the Miami Heat have more experience then one would think but not as much as the Boston Celtics. The Heat, who have the NBA Finals MVP in Dwayne Wade, has been in the league for close to 9 years (as much as the league’s current regular season MVP LeBron James). They will be a man short in their ‘Big 3’ due to Chris Bosh’s injury, which should be an advantage for the Celtics. Despite the Celtics winning 3 of the 4 regular season games, the Heat look like a different team, especially after being down 2 games to 1 in their previous playoff series with the Indiana Pacers. And with Boston getting by the 76ers in a tough 7 game series that went the full 7 games, it makes me wonder if the ‘Big 3’ in the Celtics have any gas left in the tank to beat Miami 4 more times. the match up of Mario Chalmers guarding Rajon Rondo will be interesting to watch and will dictate how the games will go, but I’m also looking to see how each team’s bench will respond. Both the Heat and Celtics know that their big stars can’t do it alone, but the big question is which role players will step up and make key offensive plays as well as defensive stops when the team needs it. The problem is that both team’s bench players have been inconsistent (for the most part) in the playoffs so far. I see another low scoring defensive series occurring where experience may not have the young legs and stamina but have heart, determination and a chip on their shoulder, which they will use to motivate them because of their opportunity to pull an upset in this Eastern Conference Finals.
Celtics in 6