My favorite time of year is among us as the NBA Playoffs kick off tomorrow afternoon. This has been quite a crazy season for the NBA with new teams, (Rockets, Nuggets, Warriors, Nets) emerging as contenders and some of our perennial postseason mainstays, (Mavericks, 76ers, Jazz) find themselves watching from home with the rest of us. Regardless of who takes the hardwood, (insert joke here), we are sure to get some great competition and I am sure there will be an upset or two that will have critics and gamblers both up in arms. Here is a breakdown of how the Sports Debaters feel the first round will go down.
I won’t waste too much time on this one. The Heat have the best team in the NBA and the best player in world to go with it. Lebron James has a huge point to make and that is to let his critics, which there shouldn’t be many of anymore, know that last year was not a fluke. If you want to be better than Jordan you are going to have to get 5 more of those nice shinny things for your fingers that they give you with that beautiful gold trophy. The Bucks don’t stand a shot in hell and if Milwaukee’s sub-.500 record is any indication of how this series will go then the Heat will have plenty of time to prepare for their second round matchup. We are predicting the easy sweep for Miami in this one.
Series: Heat 4-0
What has already been a storied rivalry is about to get more intense then ever. Between the horrific Boston Bombings on top of the altercation between Melo and Garnett in the beginning of the year, this series has a shit load of emotional baggage entering the first round. Boston and New York have historic rivalries in pretty much every sport and competition, so when these two cities meet in a postseason it is nothing short of bananas. This Knicks won the regular season series against Boston 3-1 and they look to carry their current hot streak into the playoffs. With Rondo out with his torn ACL and Melo playing better then he ever has, I expect the Knicks to be able to win their first playoff series in over a decade.
Series: Knicks 4-1
The Indiana Pacers started this season on fire. They seemed to be able to shut down any offense with their stingy defense and it really seemed as if they could solidify themselves as the second best team in the East. Fast forward to today and the Pacers ended the season very sloppy and they have a lot of negative momentum entering the postseason. Having said that, the only team in the Eastern Conference Playoffs that has looked worse than the Pacers in the final month would have to be their first round opponent, the Atlanta Hawks. They will definitely deny it, but the Hawks tanked the end of the season just so they wouldn’t have to face the Heat in the second round. Don’t you worry Hawks fans because you will not have a second round to stress about.
Series: Pacers 4-2
The Brooklyn Nets entered this season with extremely high expectations due to their owner guaranteeing a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in their first year in Brooklyn. They did have a fairly impressive regular season and have the honor of hosting the nitty gritty Rose-less Bulls in the first round. This will be a tough battle for both sides and the entire series will come down to 3 points; 1) Will Deron Williams keep up this amazing stretch that he is currently on? 2) Will Brook Lopez be able to prove that he is the best offensive center in the East? and 3) Will Nate Robinson be able to shoot 60%+ from the floor while running a fluid offense? Luckily for the Nets, I think the answers to those 3 questions are Yes, Yes and No! Expect this series to be close but I feel that the Nets will have the honor of losing to the Heat in round numero dos.
Series: Nets 4-3
All season long there have been endless debates on whether the Harden deal was good or bad for the Thunder. One thing is for sure, it was definitely good for Houston. The Rockets boasted one of the most efficient offenses in the NBA and it was 100% due to the fact that James Harden separated himself as one of the leagues elite players. Sure Lin, Parsons and Asik all played important roles, but Harden put the Rockets on his back and helped them just sneak into that eighth spot in the West. Harden is going to try and prove the Thunder organization wrong as he will try and upset them in the first round, but the dominant scoring duo of Durant and Westbrook will prove far to lethal for the Rockets to handle. I do feel that Houston will be able to squeak one victory out of this series tho.
Series: Thunder 4-1
If Sunday’s matchup between these two teams is any indication of how this series will go, we are in store for an instant classic. Without Kobe, the Lakers seem to be playing with a new sense of physicality and a whole new game plan. The inside-out game that the Lakers have gone to these past 2 games is really proving to be effective. Both Dwight and Pau have each lead their own respective teams in the playoffs and they seemed poised to give the Spurs a run for their money this year. Some people are calling me crazy with this prediction but i feel that this series will be going into 7 games and while I do feel that the Spurs will pull it out with their home court advantage, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go the other way.
Series: Spurs 4-3
The Denver Nuggets have been the silent killers this year as they have quietly inched their way into the tough fought for third seed in the West. Denver’s best trait throughout this season was their home court dominance (38-3). Even with Danilo Gallinari going down for the season with a torn ACL, the Nuggets still have a ridiculously solid rotation top to bottom. The matchup I will be watching in this series is the battle between Curry and Lawson. These two young dynamic point guards is going to be the deciding factor in the series. While Curry has one of the smoothest strokes in the game, Lawson has developed into one of the best all-around PG’s there is. The Warriors have had a great season and their head coach, Mark Jackson, may very well take home Coach of the Year honors, but the Nuggets are too deep and too good at home.
Series: Nuggets 4-2
In this repeat matchup from last years first round between the 4 and 5 seeds in the West, we are sure to get our money’s worth. The Memphis Grizzlies are trying to seek revenge for their game 7 loss at home last year to the Clippers. Now that the Grizzlies got rid of their top scorer and go to guy at the end of games, who are they going to turn to at the end of a close game? I’ll tell you who; no one! I think that the Grizzlies over performed all season long and now that the playoffs are here, I feel that the Clippers will show why this is their best team in franchise history. I expect Griffin and Jordan to dominate Marc Gasol and Randolph all series long. Chris Paul is going to have a field day with Mike Conley Jr as well. Don’t expect to see this series go to 7.
Series: Clippers 4-2
Even though “flopping” has become an NBA enigma over the past two years, it really has been around since the days of Celtics great, Frank Ramsey, and his famous flailing arms he used time and again. While Ramsey might have been the first recognized “flopper” that the NBA had to offer, the true art of flopping wasn’t mastered until a scrawny big eared sharp shooter out of UCLA entered the league. Growing up a die-hard Knicks fan, I had to suffer through many beatings by Reggie Miller. While Miller will go down as one of the NBA’s greatest shooters of all-time, he will also be remembered as the best “flopper” ever. Reggie made it an art form. He was so good at deceiving the referees that it seemed towards the waning years of his career that he depended more on the foul line then on his natural-born talents of shooting. Now, flopping has gotten way out of control in the NBA and it has taken from the integrity of the game. NBA Commissioner, David Stern, and his crew have helped develop a rule that will fine guilty flopper’s and could even lead to a suspension.
My favorite NBA personality, and former NBA head coach, Jeff Van Gundy, has been at the forefront of battling flopping and making it a penalized offense. While Jeff has made exaggerated remarks claiming that he wanted players to be fined millions of dollars for these cowardly plays, really all he was trying to do was bring order back to the game. Flopping has gotten so out of control, that is became distracting topics of debate on popular shows like Sportscenter, Mike and Mike, First Take and many other sports media platforms. To me, it’s an extremely embarrassing thing when a player dives on the floor in attempt to deceive the referee and get a foul call, rather than manning up and just playing the game the way it was meant to be played. Now, these dastardly acts will cost their makers a lot of money or even have them suspended for a period of time.
While it’s nearly impossible to see every flop live, the NBA will put together a committee that will review accused flops days after the game and then announce whether or not a player has been hit with one of these fines. Here is how the fines and possible suspension will go.
- Violation 1: Warning
- Violation 2: $5,000 fine
- Violation 3: $10,000 fine
- Violation 4: $15,000 fine
- Violation 5: $30,000 fine
- Violation 6 and above: According to the NBA, “He will be subject to discipline that is reasonable under the circumstances, including an increased fine and/or suspension.”
I don’t agree with the first violation being a warning, because every player in the league knows when they are flopping, so that in itself should be enough warning. I do like the fact that the NBA said they were going to do something about these outlandish flops and now they have. While a lot of people have different definitions of what a flop actually is, the NBA released their statement today defining it:
“Flopping will be defined as any physical act that appears to have been intended to cause the referees to call a foul on another player. The primary factor in determining whether a player committed a flop is whether his physical reaction to contact with another player is inconsistent with what would reasonably be expected given the force or direction of the contact.”
If this rule was intact in the 90’s, when Reggie was in his prime, I believe that Miller would be nearly bankrupt today. That being said, I am very happy that the NBA has made moves to fix this epidemic and I have hope that there will be no more flopping soon enough. We can celebrate this minor victory for the league once the season starts, but for now, enjoy this hilarious video of some of the greatest flops and flopper’s that the NBA has ever seen.
In 2008, the Boston Celtics put together an incredible team with 3 future Hall of Famers to win the Championship. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen played their hearts out while they all tried to win their first ring. When Garnett and Allen signed with the Celtics in the off-season there were a lot of expectations placed on their team to win it all, which is never a good thing…ask Miami. What people didn’t talk about was this young and athletic point guard from Kentucky that was helping lead the Celtics to their first title since Larry Bird brought their last one home in 1986. (If it wasn’t for Bill Buckner, 1986 would have been a perfect year for the city of Boston.)
The biggest stigma placed on Boston in that 2008 season was their supposed lack of a point guard. Little did everyone know that they were sitting on a goldmine. Rajon Rondo quickly quieted all the skeptics with his fearless driving to the hole and smooth, precision passing. Fast-forward over 4 years later and now the stigma has been placed on “The Old Big 3,” while Rondo is now considered the team’s sole savior. In 2008, if Allen, Pierce and Garnett shot a pathetic 16 of 42 from the field and combined for a dismal 44 points, I can guarantee that they would not have won a playoff game. Well, that is exactly what happened last night in Boston’s 85-75 game 7 win against the offensively challenged Philadelphia 76ers. There was one reason and one reason alone that Boston won last night’s series clinching game, and his name is Rajon Rondo. Rondo posted a triple-double for his third time in this seasons playoffs and his eighth ever in the post-season. These playoff triple-doubles put Rondo in an incredibly elite class of players, tied with Oscar Robertson and trailing only players that you might have heard of like Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, Larry Bird and Wilt Chamberlain for most ever.
As the 21st pick of the NBA draft in 2006 by the Phoenix Suns, there were not many expectations that came with Rajon Rondo into the league. Phoenix actually shipped him to Boston for a protected future top 10 pick. Turns out that wasn’t the best move. Rondo has quickly established himself as a premier PG and is arguably the best passer in the game. His next match-up against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals is going to be a HUGE stage for him to prove his prowess.
Although I hate all things Boston, especially the Celtics, I think I hate “Team Flop-a-Lot,” a.k.a Miami Heat, much more. I would like to see the veterans on Boston pull out a win in this series, but my professional opinion is that Miami will win this series in 6. You can read about why in my Eastern Conference Finals preview article tomorrow.
From the opening tip , Philadelphia looked as if they were going to be making a trip back to Boston for game 7 no matter what. The Sixers played with a tenacity that has been inconsistent throughout this second round series against the favored Boston Celtics. Lead by Jrue Holiday’s career best playoff performance, where he had 20 points, 6 assists and 2 steals, Philly showed just how good they can be by winning 82-75 Wednesday night. A lot of analysts predicted that this series could push to 7 games, and now that it is here it will be tough to pick the winner.
Arguably the greatest Philadelphia 76er to ever play, Allen Iverson, presented the game ball in front of over 20,000 screaming and cheerful Philly fans. He raised his hand to his ear to get the crowd pumping, and it seemed as if AI provided an extra jolt of electricity through the stadium that Philly needed to win this game. No one has won consecutive games in this series, which does not bode well for Philadelphia, but that was not what they were thinking about.
“Game 7,” coach Doug Collins said. “That’s all we wanted was to win tonight and give ourselves a chance to go into Boston and see what happens on Saturday.”
Solid bench play from Lou Williams and an overall great defensive performance by the whole team, made coach Collins wish for a game 7 come true. Even though Philly won the game, a lot of people are saying that Boston gave them the game. I don’t think a veteran team like Boston is dumb enough to not bring their “A” game every night in the playoffs, but their team shooting of 33% from the floor as well as committing 17 turnovers doesn’t help my argument.
These two teams have matched up very well throughout this series and I know I am looking forward to game 7. I can’t see Boston letting game 7 slip away considering this is most likely the last time a lot of the veterans on their team will be making it this far in the playoffs with their careers winding down. Take a look at the highlights from last nights game:
With a 101-85 victory over the 76ers last night, the Celtics showed everyone that they mean business. Leading the series 3-2 they might just make a point in game 6.
They might not be the teams you support and they might not be the teams you want to watch, but there is no denying how exciting the two NBA playoff games were last night. Basketball fundamentals are what won the games last night with foul shots and defense playing major roles. First, there were the Boston Celtics proving that age does matter against the much younger and faster 76ers. That was followed with Kobe being Kobe and completely taking over the fourth quarter of an intense and important game against the Thunder. Both home teams ended up winning close games in the waning minutes with support from their emotional fans.
In the opening minutes of the game, the Celtics came out firing on all cylinders while Philadelphia struggled to hit a shot. Rajon Rondo was getting his teammates the ball with the same efficiency he did in the regular season that led to him leading the NBA in APG. It didn’t look like Philly stood a chance when the game reached halftime and they were trailing 46-31. Well, whatever coach Collins said to his team at halftime seemed to work. Boston quickly extended their lead to 18 and looked like they were going to pull away with a 3-1 series advantage when something seemed to click in the minds of all the Philadelphia players. Shots started to fall and Philly quickly shrank the deficit and tied the game late in the fourth quarter. That’s when they turned to their most inconsistent offensive player, but team captain, Andre Iguodala. With less then 90 seconds left and the game tied at 83, Iguodala pulled back and drained a jumper over Ray Allen. After a defensive stop, Lou Williams drove down the court and found a wide open Iguodala at the 3-point line and…swish!
“That’s not the first time he found me in that same exact spot,” Iguodala said. “Just not as big a platform as it was tonight. But it worked out for us.”
It worked out and more. The comeback victory was the biggest blown lead in the Boston Celtics playoff history. Now the series is tied 2-2 going back to Boston and it seems like the momentum is on the side of the 8th seeded 76ers.
If there was still a question as to who is the most clutch player in the game is it was answered last night. Kobe Bryant proved why he will be a first ballot hall of fame inductee and why he will go down as one of the greatest players of all time. The Lakers shot a collective 41 of 42 from the foul line, which is the second best free throw shooting performance with at least 30 attempts in playoff history, behind the Mavericks shooting 49 of 50 back in 2003 against the Spurs. Two nights prior, the Lakers blew a 7 point lead in the final 2 minutes in Oklahoma to fall behind the Thunder 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. In this game, the Lakers trailed by 5 with 3 minutes left and depended on clutch play from Kobe to finish out the game with a win. Bryant finished the game 18-18 from the line and 36 points total while leading his team to a 99-96 victory. The two teams meet again tonight in the Lakers first back-to-back playoff games since the last strike-shortened season back in 1999-00.Lets hope that every playoff game from here on out are just as exciting as these two were.