On occasion March Madness leaves us with a Final Four that features one killer, gigantic, colossal tussle in one National Semifinal and one not-so-hot…almost a third-place game…in the other. One game is a gourmet meal at the fanciest of restaurants and the other - equally as important – feels like leftovers warmed up.
As the NBA’s Second Round of its Second Season is about to begin we have one Eastern Conference Semifinal between the Celtics and the Heat…and one between the Bulls and the Hawks. Guess which one almost all of America will be focused upon?
Over in the Western Conference (assuming Memphis can finally push a stake through the heart of the collective vampire that is San Antonio), we’ll have the Lakers and Mavs in one Semifinal…and the Thunder and the Grizzlies in the other. Again, which one will you be watching?
Thoughts about teams that have tee times: Indiana and Philadelphia played very, very hard and did themselves proud. The New York Knicks…not so much. In Orlando the rebuilding will begin and both Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard will figure out it ain’t working…or management will figure it out for them. Denver could have easily extended their series with a few breaks here and there – George Karl did a great job after the Melo move. Portland seemed like they were always chasing from behind in their series and just didn’t have enough firepower. New Orleans didn’t make Kobe Bryant pay for his uncontested drives down the lane and Chris Paul couldn’t win four games on his own anyway.
Those never-stay-dead Spurs may come up with two more miracles against the younger, hungrier Griz…but clearly they’d have to make changes even with their 61 wins in the regular season. They’ve never looked older in this matchup with Memphis…a 46 win team.
Which brings us back to the premier series in Round 2…56-win Celtics vs. 58-win Heat. Miami was eighth in the league in points scored this season…Boston was first in fewest points allowed. Miami was sixth in fewest points allowed…Boston was twenty-third in the league in points scored this season.
If Miami gets production and performance from the supporting cast to James, Wade and Bosh they will make this a series. That’s the big question. Does the Heat have ANYTHING besides these guys? The Celtics are quite familiar with each other on the big stage and, while not as athletic, are more cerebral and methodical…and deeper…rarely getting flustered. Miami fans have to be concerned the Heat had major issues with a Philadelphia team that won 17 fewer games than they did in the Opening Round…then again, what kind of test did Boston really get against New York in the latter part of that series?
As a nation, we’ll be watching the Eastern showdown for sure…and Kobe vs. Dirk over in the West isn’t too shabby either – each team finished the regular season with 57 wins of their own. However, I’m thinking the other two series…as great as these Playoffs have been to-date…will be flying at the edge of the radar of the casual hoops fans…even though they are of equal importance.