Time is ticking and the seeds are getting full for the NBA Playoffs. The Los Angeles Clippers are first in the Pacific Division and with their win on Saturday against the Memphis Grizzlies, they took the season 3-1 and a possibility to get home court advantage in the postseason. Right now the Clips are a half game behind the Denver Nuggets for the 3rd seed in the Western Conference.
On the other hand, the Los Angeles Lakers are still surviving. They are close to clinching the playoffs, battling for the eighth seed in the West. The Utah Jazz must win the next 2 games, but the Lakers only need to win one more to clinch their spot.
From the beginning of the season we had seen the Lakers adapt to each other along with the complications from injuries. This has truly become the “Lake Show.”
Little by little they had lost most of their good players and the latest one is Kobe Bryant, their super star “go to” player. His passion to make it to the playoffs pushed him to play 47-48 minutes a game in the weeks before his injury. Sure enough he ran down his body way too much, rupturing his Achilles’ tendon in Fridays game against the Golden State Warriors. That injury will keep him off the court for the rest of the season. The news was so crucial — and emotional — even Kobe had tears in his eyes.
It’s Probably the biggest news of the NBA season. Bryant decided to get surgery right away so he can get back in time for the beginning of next season.
Now the “Team” has to battle for this final seed without Kobe Bryant and prove that they can take the Lakers to the Playoffs without their star player.
Their first challenge was Sunday (April 14, 2013) against the San Antonio Spurs. Steve Blake had an impressive debut with 23 points, but Dwight Howard wasn’t quiet. He had 26 points and 17 rebounds, carrying the team for the game. The Lakers won without Kobe Bryant, but now they must get ready to face the Houston Rockets on Wednesday (April 17)
In the Eastern Conference the New York Knicks locked up the second seed, their best season since 1994. They did it by beating the Indiana pacers Sunday. This insures the Knicks will have home court advantage for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Chris Copeland came off the bench to score 20 points, a big reason the Knicks won. Copeland’s big game came at the right time too, The Knicks’ star player, Carmello Anthony, took a hard hit to his left shoulder and will sat out the next game in preparation for the playoffs. Maybe this was a telling moment: with out Anthony on the court the Knicks lost to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Pacers gave the Knicks an assist with 26 turnovers that led to 33 points for New York. And Indiana’s shooting from the free throw line was a dismal 61.5 percent. The Pacers have lost for the fourth time in five games with another weak offensive performance. They may be in the playoffs, but it isn’t looking good for them. At the end of the regular season it’s all about momentum and right now it isn’t going Indiana’s way
Still, the big team in the Eastern Conference is the Miami Heat. As long as they stay in the playoffs they will have home court advantage. Their season record is so far above any other team in the league the smart money is on the Heat to repeat.
But as anyone familiar with sports knows, repeating in any professional sport is the hardest trick to pull off. Very few teams have done it. Everyone remembers the Chicago Bulls of the Michael Jordan era, but that was a long time ago.
If any team in the East is going to take the Heat out of the Playoffs it will be the New York Knicks. If they get all their starters playing throughout the playoffs they could do it.
The big showdown in the NBA Playoffs will most likely be the Championship Finals and if my calculations are right, it will be the Heat versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Here’s a fact that leads me to believe either OKC or San Antonio will win it all: the West is a tougher conference than the East. Every Western team in the Playoffs will have a winning record, whether it’s the Lakers or the Jazz taking that last spot. In the East there is one team with a losing record in the playoffs: the Milwaukee Bucks.
In fact the Lakers have a better record than the last three teams in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Go figure. Fifteen and a half games separate the bottom from the top of the Western Conference playoff teams; 27 games in the East. There’s just no parity between the two conferences — the Miami Heat have had an easier time of it than either OKC or San Antonio. If either of those two Western Conference teams makes it to the Finals, and I’m expecting OKC to do it this year, the Miami Heat will see their chances of a repeat shrink.
Still, There’s a reason the Miami Heat is far and away the best team in the East: Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James are firing on all 12 cylinders right now and if that continues (and why would it stop?) they will make short work of the Eastern Conference playoffs. And if Miami gets a week of rest before facing the Western Conference champions, that could seal the deal for the Heat.
And if (no when) the Heat gets to the NBA Finals and they face either OKC or the Spurs, Miami has this going for them: they swept the series with both of the Western Division teams. The Miami Heat is the best team in the league right now.
My Lakers will be in the playoffs — bet on it — but after that it’s really the Thunder’s year, at least in the West. But the fact is the Miami Heat are poised to repeat and we are going to see LeBron James hoist that trophy once again.