I'm in Tim
Let's talk some NBA playoffs!
Let's start by saying: "Can" is not "will." I wouldn't go on the record saying the Heat will lose, but they can lose. Our guy Jeff Zillgitt wrote a pretty good summation of why the Heat are going to win: usat.ly
No doubt they can lose. As Adi says, I don't think they will, but OKC - in particular - still looms as a legit threat to the throne. The Thunder are better on both ends this year than last, have the experience of having been there before, and you know Durant doesn't want to spend the rest of his career playing second fiddle to LeBron. The problem, and I think the reason so many assume the Heat will repeat, is that we haven't seen this version of the Thunder (with Kevin Martin rather than James Harden in the 6th man role) in the playoffs before so the mystery factor comes into play.
Anyone can be beat, but the one thing about the Heat is that they know how to close games. We saw it several times during the winning streak that other teams would have a big lead on them, and they'd turn it up in the fourth quarter. LeBron is on a mission to win another title. It's hard to bet against that.
In the East, Brooklyn could give the Heat some trouble in the second round if only for the fact that Brook Lopez poses a matchup problem. But other than that, maybe the Knicks if Carmelo is on fire could steal a game or two, but I see them getting into the Finals again. The West teams will have to beat up on each other to get there.
The photo with the question is a definite must watch. The Grizz and Clippers are exciting teams with a lot to prove. Both need to move beyond a first-round win. Knicks vs. Celtics is a great old time heated rivalry, and Spurs vs. Lakers because I'm curious to see how much Gasol and Howard can step up against the Duncan and Pop.
For me - and despite the fact that I'll be in San Antonio - it's probably OKC-Houston at the outset. I want that to be a good series, but will be very curious to see if the Rockets have any plans of putting up a fight. They looked terrible in the regular season finale against the Lakers & the mood I picked up on around the team was hardly one of unending confidence in terms of facing the Thunder. Obviously a great storyline with Harden facing his old squad, but maybe too much to ask for it to actually be a good series.
I want a Lakers-Grizzlies series for this reason - Dwight Howard getting asked by reporters the other day whether the "other" Gasol is a worthy Defensive Player of the Year was priceless/hilarious, and it'd be fascinating to see such a matchup of contrasting styles. Dwight stopped short of laughing out loud, but he clearly didn't see the argument that so many (myself included) have made on that front. He kept asking where Marc ranked in rebounds (23rd I think), blocks (12th) etc.
Since impact is greater among elite teams (meaning I'll skip Kobe), I've gotta go with Manu Ginobili (hamstring). The Spurs' super sub played in the regular season finale, but they'll get stopped short of the Finals unless he's somehow able to recapture his old magic. Shot-maker, playmaker, spiritual go-to guy. He is just huge for them - especially when it comes to getting other talents involved (here's looking at you Kawhi Leonard) when Tony Parker tends to go all Chris Paul and dominate the action for long stretches.
Serious question (sorry for assuming your that role, Tim) - aimed mostly at Jeff since he's around the Celtics more than any of us: might those guys play with even more passion than normal because of the awful situation in their fine city? If ever there was a pro team that seemed tailor-made to that type of thinking, I would think it would be them.
Joey Crawford. Ok, no not really - though I honestly do find myself watching him more than the game when he is on the job (especially if it's a Spurs game). I'll go with Russell Westbrook. Durant is the steady MVP candidate, while Russ is the guy who looks like that type of talent on most nights but can have such a ripple effect on the rest of the roster if he's having an off-night. If OKC is going to threaten the Heat, he needs to be great.
Jeff Green is my guy in the East. Shill away, I am. From my story usat.ly on those kind of players, Jon Barry said of Green: ""He's got to be the difference for them. We've seen him be brilliant at times. We tend to forget he came back from heart surgery. There has to be some trepidation. He disappears and doesn't play with aggressiveness. When he has those nights, it will be difficult for Boston to win."
Well, since we're linking away here, how's this for perspective. My piece from my old job with all sorts of credible folks (anonymous credible folks) killing the Green contract - sportsillustrated.cnn.com
If we're talking second-tier stars, I think the guy who stands out is Chris Bosh. He may be the best big man in the NBA. He is the best big man in the East. I don't think people give him enough credit for how skilled and athletic he is. And they definitely short him on credit for his defense and toughness.
Bosh was a superstar in his own right. The Big 3 is not some convention used because it sounds better than The Big 2.
One thing that gets overlooked is pace of play. The West is loaded with these teams that love to run. The Grizzlies are the only West playoff team that plays with that Eastern Conference grind-it-out style.
Everyone loves to say the playoffs don't allow for fast breaks and fast pace. Does that mean we might wind up with Memphis in the Finals?
The current psyche of the most dynamic playoff players - there's no way of knowing a guy's head is at, and the effect he's having on his locker room. You can talk to some players about the playoffs and know pretty quickly that they're happy to be there, while you talk to others and it's obvious that they want - as Metta World Peace called it the other day - that "thang," otherwise known as that ring.
Thanks for your feedback! Team Branch