Five reasons to watch the NBA playoffs
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
For the first time in 13 years, the NBA playoffs have me giddy. And that’s not entirely because my Golden State Warriors cracked the field of 16.
The level of play in the NBA has plummeted precipitously over the years, and, ostensibly, so has interest in the pro game. The me-first culture of the game has turned many a fan off, and understandably so.
But this year just has a different feel to it. Without further ado, here are my top five reasons why this year’s playoffs should pique your interest:
1. Melo and A.I. go fishing for a title
Make no mistake. This is as talented a Nuggets team as we’ve seen.
You have one of the game’s best guards in recent history in Allen Iverson. One of the league’s top scorers in Carmelo Anthony. And then you have an unselfish point guard left to blossom with the departure of Andre Miller and Earl Boykins in Steve Blake, a shot-blocking and rebounding phenom of a power forward in the form of Marcus Camby, and a center, Nene, that finally seems to be realizing his potential. Oh, and don’t forget Russian sharpshooter Linas Kleiza.
Will all that spell an upset of San Antonio in the first round? After knocking off the Spurs in Game 1 behind a combined 61 points from A.I. and Melo, we learned it’s entirely possible. As long as the Nuggets can purge from their memory their horrendous playoff showings of the past two seasons.
But, this time around, Denver’s talent pool is far deeper.
2. Nellie vs. Cuban
” As compelling a storyline as you’ll find in these NBA Playoffs, it’s Don Nelson and the Warriors against Mark Cuban and the Mavericks in a first-round battle.
Anyone who watched Mark Cuban writhing in fury and embarrassment toward the end of the Warriors’ Game 1 win can appreciate how much pride is on the table in this one.
And then there were Nellie’s deferential and borderline-sarcastic comments afterwards, calling the Warriors’ dominance of the Mavs this year a fluke.
Does he really believe this? Or is he just attempting to ignite that proverbial fire under his players’ bellies, like he did when he waved the white flag on Golden State’s playoff hopes more than a month back?
Regardless, this is a series to watch.
Nellie ” who took Dallas from doormat to contender as its coach ” and Cuban hate each other’s guts after an acrimonious parting of ways two years ago. Nellie going toe to toe with his protege, Avery Johnson, also throws a little spice in the pot.
3. The Coast factor
” With their playoff fates locked in, a number of NBA powers sat their stars during what, to them, was a meaningless stretch run. I’ve never been a fan of this practice. I understand avoiding injury, but the last thing you want is to accumulate rust heading into the postseason.
But an intriguing byproduct does result: The playoff bracket is left ripe to sprout upsets. And who doesn’t love a Cinderella story?
Look out West, where the Nuggets and Warriors were arguably the hottest teams down the stretch. Both Golden State and Denver won nine of their last 10 games to hammer down their playoff spots.
Why couldn’t these teams parlay that momentum into a playoff success? It’s probably wishful thinking to start dreaming title ” less so for the Nuggets ” but they could, at the very least, make the field out West more interesting with first-round upsets.
4. Lebron’s mission
Young stars aplenty grace this year’s playoff landscape. Wade got his crown last year, but the rest ” Lebron James among them ” have yet to turn the title trick.
Lebron played inspired ball for a stretch after a lackadaisical ” though still powerful ” start, switching his game into a higher gear as the year wore on. With a weak East and talented supporting cast, why can’t the Cavs emerge as a power player in the Eastern Conference picture?
The Ben Wallace-less Pistons and Heat are as vulnerable as ever. Wade went superhuman and carried the Heat to a title last season. Can Lebron do the same with the Clevleland, one of just two 50-win teams in the East?
5. To root against Kobe
Baseball has the Yankees. Football had the Cowboys. As sports fans, we love to hate, so why not root against Kobe and the Lakers?
The man who drove Shaq and Phil Jackson out of town has put up monstrous numbers down the stretch. And to what end? Los Angeles backed into the playoffs, losing 21 of its final 33 games and riding the coattails of a strong start to postseason paydirt. Here’s to hoping the Lakers uncovered a puddle of quicksand.
Most disenchanted former NBA fans cite selfish play as the crux of their disdain for the league. The Suns’ high-octane, balanced offense centered around assist-king Steve Nash starkly contrasts the Kobe-first attack the Lakers employ, making for a compelling good vs. evil showdown in the teams’ first-round clash.
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