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.
For almost two decades now the San Antonio Spurs have demonstrated exactly what it is like to play as a team. Year after year, the Spurs have proven that it does not matter who is in the game as long as you play as a team. With NBA championships in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007, the Spurs are looking to add a fifth title to the dynasty that started when San Antonio drafted Tim Duncan as the first overall pick from Wake Forest in 1997. Last night the Spurs finished their second straight sweep of an opponent in the 2012 playoffs and added to their win streak of 18 in a row dating back to the regular season. In round 1, San Antonio demolished the Utah Jazz only to be faced up with the young and talented LA Clippers in round 2. Fear of this high-flying acrobatic team that fans call “lob city,” was nonexistent in the minds of the Spurs as they won all 4 games without missing a beat. At this point I do not see anybody being able to beat this powerhouse team, whether it be the winner of the Thunder/Lakers match-up in the Western Conference Finals or whomever they would face in the NBA finals.
Although this team is clearly led by their veterans Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, San Antonio is a team with endless depth and can beat you from a million different angles. Second in the NBA in scoring, fourth in assists and ninth in rebounds, the Spurs hit on all facets of basketball fundamentals. The Spurs finished the regular season tied with Chicago for the best record in the NBA at 50-16. The incredible thing about that is that they played relativity under the radar all year. I guess that America has just come to expect that Tim Duncan will lead his team to success season after season. This season was extra special for San Antonio because their expectations were a lot lower after losing in the first round of the playoffs last year.
With a roster filled with relatively unknowns, San Antonio found ways this season to pinpoint each players strengths and weaknesses so they could put a solid 11-man rotation together. Role players like Gary Neal, Kawhi Leonard, Daniel Green and Tiago Splitter have embraced their opportunities as secondary options to the Spurs all-stars. Aging veterans like Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner have bought into the idea of supporting rather than shinning, knowing that it will help their ultimate goal of winning a championship. Already tasting one championship in 2007, Matt Bonner has become a huge vocal leader off the bench, as well as providing the Spurs with a deadly 3-point shot. When the Spurs play it is always a complete team effort and it all starts with the marvelous coaching of Gregg Popovich.
With the Lakers trailing the Thunder 3-1 in their best-of-seven match-up, it looks like the Spurs will be facing off with yet another young and extremely talented team in Oklahoma City. I can’t bet against the Spurs right now with the way they are playing, but I do feel that OKC poses a tough match-up. If the SAS make the finals it will most likely be against the Eastern Conference favorites, Miami Heat. If this is how it all plays out I will really look forward to seeing the Spurs and Heat duke it out till the very end. Regardless of what else happens for the rest of the playoffs, I think we should all pay our respects to the under-appreciated and over-achieving San Antonio Spurs.