Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Checking In On The NBA Playoffs

I didn't mean to go almost a month without posting here. Doesn't seem like it was that long, honestly.

When Boston swept the Knicks, I saw Jim Rome saying that no, this didn't mean the Celtics were back, or that they had to be taken seriously as contenders. His argument was that beating a Knicks team that was thin to begin with, then lost Billups after game 1, and had an Amare hobbled with back problems was a team the Celtics should sweep, so no credit for doing so. I agree that the Celtics should sweep a team like that, but I think they do deserve credit for doing so.

After all, no other team in the postseason has managed it so far. The Bulls could have lost any of the first 3 games of their series with Indiana, did lose Game 4, and finally unleashed the dominant performance in Game 5 I'd been expecting from them the entire series. I'm glad the Pacers made it at least a little interesting, but they were a sub-.500 team, playing the squad with the best record in the NBA, and the guy who'll probably be awarded the MVP. If you're going to say the Celtics should drub the Knicks, that should apply equally to Chicago.

Then there's Miami. They finished off the Sixers earlier tonight, but like the Bulls had a chance to end things in 4 and didn't get it done. I can't decide whether it's more surprising in their case than Chicago's or less. The Heat had generally demonstrated just how much better they were than Philly, especially in Game 2 (or in the 2nd quarter of Game 1, when they went from a double-digit deficit to having the lead at the half), but they also seem like more of a work in progress than the Bulls. Still, Miami had generally shown that weak teams were no problem for them this year (it was the good teams that gave them trouble), so the fact they couldn't put the 76ers away in 4 was a bit of a disappointment.

The Spurs are about to be eliminated by the Grizzlies, if it hasn't happened already. The Thunder had the chance to sweep the Nuggets, and they couldn't manage it either. Which isn't so surprising. The Thunder don't have the playoff experience of the Celtics, or even that of the Heat (looking at individual players, not the Heat squad as a whole). Plus, the Nuggets are a lot better than any of the lower East seeds. The Mavericks are locked in a dogfight that surprised no one, while the Lakers are in a series that's a lot tougher that most anyone expected. Of course, the Lakers are a bit like the Heat: When they put their minds to it, they demonstrate pretty easily the gap between them and the Hornets, just as the Heat have at time with the 76ers. The Lakers just don't do it consistently.

Yeah, the Knicks weren't at their best, and their best currently isn't all that great to begin with, but one of the things a good team has to do is beat the teams it's supposed to. It's one of the things the Arizona Cardinals frequently don't do that drives me nuts. They play bad teams, or, in the bad years, teams even lousier than they are, and find ways to lose. Those two good years with Warner they started to reverse that trend. Even if it wasn't always pretty (the Monday night game against the 49ers where Mike Martz of all people called for a fullback dive at the goal line and got stuffed), but they were holding on. So that's where the Celtics were at. The Knicks could have won the first 2 games, but didn't. They made a comeback from 23 down in Game 4, but the Celtics made a run at the end of the game to put them away. That's what good teams do: beat the inferior ones.

Now the question is whether they can handle a good team.