Just over a month ago, I would have told you I despise the Oklahoma City Thunder almost as much as the Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
Of course I’m biased as a Nuggets fan but it every time Denver puts together a team who has the talent to go far in the playoffs they are shut down by either the Thunder or the Lakers. For Denver, it’s been tough living in the Western Conference the last few years. And I must admit I was wrong in thinking Denver had what takes to beat the Lakers in the first round. Losing that Game 7 made me so very, very angry I almost swore off basketball for the rest of the season – just when basketball was getting really good. I just couldn’t stand to lose to Kobe and the slimy Pau Gasol in the playoffs one more time. At least Denver took the series to seven games and gave the entire Lakers organization and its many spoiled fans around the world a pretty good scare.
I don’t like the Thunder because the Thunder is damn good and only getting better. I’m tired of losing to them. But unlike the Lakers, I can respect the play of OKC and when they win, they win because they took it to their opponent (as opposed to the Lakers’ complaining-to-the-ref game plan that works all too often). So when these two teams went head-to-head in the second round of the playoffs, I didn’t expect I would watch much of it – it would be too depressing watching two teams and frankly hate.
Boy, was I wrong.
Once the ass kicking of the Lakers began, I couldn’t tear myself away from it at all. The fast-paced play of the Thunder was way too much for the Lakers to handle. To his credit, Kobe did his best to keep up but a one-man team cannot beat OKC right now. Where was Gasol? Who knows. Andrew Bynum? Did he even play? I can’t remember. All I know is I thoroughly loved watching Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook just beat the pants off the Lakers. My personal favorite game was Game 5 – the last and final game of the series – where the Thunder routed the Lakers 106-90 in front of a rambunctious OKC crowd dressed in deep blue. Getting kicked out of the second round for the second year in a row is the worst two-year stretch for the Lakers since Gasol joined the team in 2008. The OKC win made me feel all warm and cozy inside.
Despite my Denver Nuggets depression, the Thunder was able to get me back interested in the NBA Playoffs and I am excited as hell to see them all play out. First and foremost, I am loving the fact that these small market teams are doing so well. The Thunder versus and San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals? Talk about big market teams making a run at greatness.
With the way the Thunder have been playing lately and the Spurs going into this series 18-0, this is going to be must watch TV. It’s not going to have the glamor and hype of the Staples Center Hollywood crowd but what the series will lack in that, it will make up for in exciting basketball.
If I were to put money on the Western Conference Finals, I believe I would put the money on the Thunder. I think they are just too explosive. But I am not certain on that bet. San Antonio can cash buckets with no problem at all. The Spurs are the only playoff team averaging over 100 points a game. Probably the biggest advantage the Spurs have there is not just one or two or three players scoring all those points, it’s an effort of the entire team. San Antonio is deep. The question for me is if they can keep up the pace with the Thunder. I’d say no, but you know me, I’m wrong on these kinds of projections most of the time. What I do know is it’s going to be an awesome series, possibly better than the NBA Finals will be.
In the Eastern Conference, I hope the 76ers and the Pacers can somehow stay alive. Going into Tuesday, the Pacers and the Heat were tied up at two games a piece. Everyone seemed to write the Pacers off at the beginning of the series but with the abdominal injury of Chris Bosh coming in games 2 and 3, the series is now a toss up. If LeBron James can somehow continue to be Miami’s main point scorer (he had 40 points in Monday’s win) then I’d be happy to see him continue on in the playoffs. At this point, I’d like to see if LeBron can win a championship by himself. If he does, he will put the past behind him and will be the best player in the NBA. If the Heat lose, no big deal. I’ll be cheering for the Pacers.
As for the Philadelphia 76ers I do hope can keep their series alive against the Celtics. Philadelphia is down 3-2 and will have played Game 6 on Wednesday evening. I’ve had enough of the Celtics these last few years and wouldn’t mind seeing them go down. Ultimately, I am looking for a no-name NBA Finals. How about an OKC-Pacers finals? While most would groan because the likes of LeBron or Kobe aren’t on the court, I’d say it would be quite refreshing.
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