Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Tommy Parrill (@DearTommy)
If any of you are like me, you don't start really paying attention to the NBA until the playoffs start, or even after the first round is over. I know as I am talking to you die-hard NBA fans, you are calling for my head, but let's be serious. The NBA is scripted in a way that certain teams make the playoffs and others don't because of the media spotlight that they do or don't get. Call me crazy, but the Lakers should've never made a run like they did at the end of the season, but I digress. The point of this blog is to get all of you ready for the exciting part of the NBA, the playoffs. The second round will officially start today, and personally, my attention has reached a new high. Now before you get the wrong idea, I want to explain that I do enjoy watching the NBA during the regular season to an extent, but the playoffs is when it gets taken seriously by both the players and the fans.
When the Chicago Bulls defeated the New Jersey Nets last night to win Game 7 of the series, the first round officially ended. As we look at the second round of the playoffs, each series brings something special to the 2013 NBA Playoffs. The series that started earlier today is the one between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Oklahoma City Thunder. If you would’ve asked me whom I favored at the beginning of the playoffs, without a question I would’ve voted for the Thunder, but with the season ending injury of Russell Westbrook in the Houston series, their chances have diminished greatly. I still love Kevin Durant and believe that he is the second best player in the world, but there is something to be said about having one of the best point guards in the game on your side to make things a little easier. Westbrook was such an important piece of OKC’s game and without him; Scott Brooks’ lineup just isn’t the same. On the other hand, Memphis is on top of their game. In one word, the Memphis Grizzlies are just tough. With the bruisers down low in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, the consistent play of Mike Conley, and the emergence of Tayshaun Prince back from the dead, the Grizzlies are playing with confidence. The problem for Oklahoma City is that at this point in the season, it is confidence and defense that conquers all. I’ll take Memphis in seven.
Staying with the West, tomorrow night will kick off the series between the Golden State Warriors (or should I say the Stephen Curry’s) and the San Antonio Spurs. For the last few years, I have been wondering how the Spurs continue to do it. Their team is almost old enough to apply for Social Security and they continue to stomp on the young bucks of the league. I love Tim Duncan, but between Duncan, Parker and Ginobili, their age may start to catch up with them, especially against Golden State. The Warriors are so young, but seem to not be intimidated by anything. David Lee is still coming back from his injury, but with Landry and Bogut helping out down low, and the magical front court of Jarrett Jack and Stephen Curry (who is starting to show that he is a premier player in the league), the Warriors look to continue the hot streak that they have been on. In the playoffs, you usually take experience, but not this time. I feel that the Spurs have met their match with a young and explosive team that doesn’t realize whom they are up against. I’ll take Golden State in seven.
We find ourselves now in the Eastern Conference, as the Indiana Pacers traveled to Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Knicks earlier this afternoon. I understand that Carmelo Anthony is an amazing scorer and J.R. Smith is the Sixth Man of the Year in the NBA, but for some reason, I don’t like the Knicks. Something about the vibe and cockiness that Carmelo gives off just rubs me the wrong way. I don’t like the attitude of the team, and for a group of guys that haven’t proven anything except a little win streak during the regular season, I’m already getting tired of the Big Apple. As for the Indiana Pacers, I love this team, but without Danny Granger and only getting double-digit production out of four of their players, that raises concern. All negativity aside, what people are looking forward to is the matchup between Carmelo and Paul George. Melo is already a solidified star in the league and George is of the rising form. As much as I hate to say it, this series comes down to bench players, and New York has more production from that side than Indiana. I think the series goes seven games, but I give the nod to the Knicks.
Last but not least, the Chicago Bulls will take their crack at the best team in the land tomorrow night, the Miami Heat. I love the hustle and resilience that we are seeing out of the Bulls without Derrick Rose (who shouldn’t come back during the playoffs, don’t be stupid Derrick), but I don’t believe that Nate Robinson and Luol Deng will be enough in the backcourt. I also believe that Miami’s Bird Man will be enough to rattle Carlos Boozer and take him out of the series. I am pulling for Chicago in the worst way, but when reality sets in, Miami is just too good. LeBron is the best and Miami is playing like a real team, which is a nightmare for the rest of the league. There is a point when you must think with your head over your heart, and in doing that, I take the Heat in five.