Words by Phlip
So yeah, I waited until a couple games into the playoffs before commenting, and I am glad I did. Note that my history shows that I have no qualms eating crow when my predictions are off-base.
As expected, the Knickerbockers are a disjointed mess, so bad so that Amar’e Stoudemire injured himself in order to prevent being implied in Carmelo Anthony calling his own isolations and shooting them out of the playoffs. Jeremy Lin attempted to quell it with rumors that he would be trying to work out and get back in to help the team, but not even that and the media’s sympathy for Tyson Chandler in giving him the Defensive Player of the Year award could draw attention from the Knicks’ immediate implosion at the onset of the playoffs.
Chicago Bulls fans shouldn’t panic YET, but the panic is inevitable…
Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls can still take Philly, but it is highly doubtable that they can take a full series from anyone they will meet beyond them. Like that, with one undefended and untouched incident at a time when Rose should not have even been in the game, the balance of power has shifted back to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.
Other teams are still there, but Atlanta and Boston are apparently prepared to go to war (for which I am sure Kevin Garnett has some overplayed metaphors prepared), which will only serve to weaken one another for the next series. If it feels like I have neglected Orlando and Indy in this equation, it is because no one takes Orlando seriously with Dwight Howard out and no one took Indy seriously to begin with yet. Chicago can get through any of those 4 teams, and Miami was going through anyone else in the East like butter, but their clash at the top of the Eastern Conference in the finals would be less than epic, with Chicago MAYBE taking one game of the set.
If you thought the East was less-than-competitive, I invite you for a perusal of the West…
The defending champions, the Dallas Mavericks – THE DEFENDING CHAMPIONS – will be lucky to take one game from the Thunder.
San Antonio will not let the ghosts of being the second 1-seed to lose to a #8 in a 7-game series allow them to become complacent and the poor Utah Jazz will continue to be their victim as a result. The Clippers and Memphis, despite the epic comeback/meltdown in game one, will be the “young gunners” entertaining series, but the winner is done in the second round.
And that leaves me with an observation I made this morning. After game 2 of the Lakers/Nuggets series, Andrew Bynum had just turned over a 27-point/9-rebound/2-block game, pretty impressive line when you consider that it was a win, no? Well, he was not happy with it, he felt he could have had a “more perfect” game. If you are a Lakers’ fan, this is what you WANT to hear from this dude at this time of the year. Noteworthy is that Kobe poured in 39 points of his own and that Pau Gasol, seemingly a product of his personality, is FINE with leading the team in assists while letting Drew Bynum become the clear #2 on this team. Why this all matters is that it suggests that Andrew Bynum – if this talk is earnest – finally “gets” it and is applying himself to it, and that the team’s outcomes are following accordingly. Kobe praised coach Mike Brown (something I have not seen him do all season) for preparing them against the Nuggets. As ever, when the offense is played inside-out, or that “inside-in” that you can only have when you have two 7-footers with great footwork/hands and at least one (Gasol) is an adept passer.
Let me stop, my Purple and Gold allegiance is showing…
All that said, though, the Lakers are a dark horse in the West and could take any team in front of them if they play like they’re playing right now. Bully basketball, grinding the pace (but still scoring 100) and effective defense (even against the pick-and-roll, which no team in the league defends consistently) decided to show up at the right time.
… but I STILL don’t trust Mike Brown when tasked with making coaching adjustments opposite his former mentor, Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich. I watched the 2007 NBA finals.
In all honesty, I expected the first round of the playoffs to be an ugly dance of teams beat to mush with a compacted regular season schedule, and the couple of blowed-out knees and knickknack injuries suggests this to be at play, but in all we have gotten some entertaining basketball nonetheless. As long as no more injuries mar the landscape, the later rounds should feature even more competitive basketball from more closely-matched teams.
And as ever, I will be here next week to discuss it.