What with the lockout pushing things back a bit, the NBA playoffs are a full round behind the NHL this year, as their conference finals get underway this evening. I’d say I’ve been watching about as much basketball as hockey this postseason (which is to say a couple periods/quarters here and there without following either religiously), but whereas I’m not overly interested in an LA-NJ final, these last two rounds of the NBA playoffs should be pretty exciting.
In the West, we’ve got the two top teams who’ve advanced with ease, San Antonio and Oklahoma City only losing one game between them over the first two rounds. Safe to say they’ll both be adding a couple more to the loss column in this one. Unlike the Stanley Cup final, I expect this series to be a high-scoring affair, since the two teams finished second and third in points per game this season, both averaging over 103. The young, run-and-gun Thunder led by the likes of Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant suit up three of the top 20 scorers in the league, while the Spurs offer up a more balanced attack with veterans Tony Parker and Tim Duncan leading the way. This may be the Thunder’s first conference final, but it won’t be their last, if they can keep this team intact. That said, I say experience rules the day, with the most consistently strong team of the past 10-15 years teaching their younger opponents a thing or two. Spurs 4, Thunder 3.
The Eastern Final showcases another case of youth versus experience as the Miami Heat do battle with the Boston Celtics. Boston, led by the veteran Big Three of Pierce, Garnett and Allen have little time to rest their creaky knees and ankles before they meet Miami’s Next Big Three–James, Wade and (provided that he’s healthy) Bosh. Miami met little resistance in getting past the Knicks and Pacers, while Boston was pushed to the brink by the scrappy Sixers in a series that just ended last night. The short layoff certainly doesn’t do the Celtics any favours–nor does their star players being tested every possession on the defensive end. They might dig out a game or two, but I don’t think Boston can beat the Heat over a seven-game series. Heat 4, Celtics 1.
Now, is this the year Lebron finally gets his ring? That depends; is this the year he finally shows up in the fourth quarter? Though he’s one of the best basketball players of the 21st century, James has become known for not exactly stepping up when the game’s on the line, which goes a long way to explaining why his teams have never gone all the way. Considering his two missed free throws cost the Heat Game 2 against Indiana, I’m not convinced this is the year he breaks on through to the other side. Spurs in 6–and should the Thunder win the West, this result doesn’t change.