In one night, the Los Angeles Lakers went from teetering on the brink of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2005, to beating the Houston Rockets, leapfrogging them in the standings and clinching the seventh seed. NBA basketball as its best.
The Western Conference playoff teams are now set and, unlike the Eastern Conference where the Heat are far and away the favorites, the West has more teams that have a legitimate shot at going to the NBA Finals. Here is how I view the eight playoff teams out West:
Contenders: Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs
The Oklahoma City Thunder dominated their way through Western Conference in 2012 before losing to the Miami Heat in the Finals. This year could be more of the same. Kevin Durant is the best player in the NBA not named LeBron and he will not slow down in the postseason. If point guard Russell Westbrook can play up to his ability, the Thunder will be tough to take down again in 2013.
While the Thunder may be favorites, the Spurs also have a claim as contenders. Veteran leaders Tim Duncan and Tony Parker have been great all season, playing "Spurs" basketball that coach Gregg Popovich has built over the years. While San Antonio does not have the superstar players that OKC has, they may be the better team at playing as a collective unit.
Challengers: Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies
All season long, the Denver Nuggets have been one of the most exciting teams to watch in the NBA. The Nuggets are the forgotten team of the Andrew Bynum trade, but that trade landed them Andre Iguodala, who has been great for Denver all season. No team scored more points than the Nuggets and if they can carry their scoring ability into the postseason, they can beat anyone in the league.
It seemed like the NBA regular season just began yesterday, but it's now time to turn the page and look forward to the second season, the 2013 NBA Playoffs. With the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz still battling for the final spot in the Western Conference, today we will preview the LeBron James Conference... *cough*... I mean the Eastern Conference Playoffs.
Contenders: Miami Heat
Like I said in the title of this post, and eluded to in the previous paragraph, the NBA's Eastern Conference has been dominated by LeBron James and the defending champion Miami Heat. The Heat finished atop the standings by a dominating 12 games, finishing 65-16, which included a 27-game winning streak. LeBron James has been by far the best basketball player on the planet and will undoubtedly win his fourth NBA Most Valuable Player Award. It's hard to imagine this Heat team, which many feel is better than last year's championship team, not going back to the NBA Finals to defend their crown.
Challengers: New York Knicks, Boston Celtics
I almost put the Knicks in the contender category due to their recent play, but I don't see how they could possibly beat the Heat. For even a glimmer of a shot, it would take a monster effort from Carmelo Anthony, who will be matched up with LeBron. The X-factor for the Knicks is their three-point shooting; during the regular season, the Knicks took and made more three pointers than any other team in the league. When they catch fire they are tough to beat.
This week we’re impressed with some superhuman basketball skills, moms dancing, and singing goats. Things keep getting weirder.
NBA player Stephen Curry, of the Golden State Warriors, scored a whopping 54 points against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden this week. According to Mercury News, Curry joined "an elite group" of players who have scored 50 or more points at Madison Square Garden. What's even more impressive is that the night before this performance he put up 38 points against the Indiana Pacers. I’m lucky if I can make one basket, and that’s at Chuck E. Cheese, so I’m majorly impressed.
Players in the NBA have some moves. With a little head fake, a crossover, and a side-step, you just got schooled. We see it all the time and we love it when it happens; it gets up excited and off our seats. While in the history of the NBA, there have been many extraordinary athletes, it takes a special type of player to completely embarrass a defender. We've seen them in the past, and we have a few playing now. One thing's for sure: they're always exciting to watch.
Who performed possibly the greatest crossover of all-time? The answer is "The Answer." Allen Iverson, fresh out of Georgetown, crossed the greatest player in NBA history. Michael Jordan, the 6-time champion, looked more like a D-League bench warmer when the kid got done with him. Jordan however, was just one of many that this undersized guard embarrassed in his career.
The NBA season is more than half way over and, in just a few months, the NBA and its teams have made their fair share of headlines (mostly from the Los Angeles Lakers). This weekend however, the league moves away from all those headlines, and showcases its best players during the 2013 All-Star Game weekend in Houston, TX from February 15-17.
There are plenty of great events taking place for fans heading to the festivities in Houston, including NBA Jam Session, where fans can participate in a slew of basketball activities, and the BBVA Rising Stars Game, which features the leagues best first- and second-year players. For me though, there are four events during the ASG weekend that I look forward to the most: the All-Star Celebrity Game, the Slam Dunk Contest, the 3-point Shootout, and the All-Star Game. Here is a look at each of these events:
All-Star Celebrity Game
The All-Star Celebrity game combines celebs from the world of music, movies, and television, with some legends from both men's and women's basketball. The game usually does not display the highest quality basketball, but it is definitely entertaining. I mean, where else are you going to see Justin Beiber crossover Common?
2013 Participants: Nick Cannon, Ne-Yo, Josh Hutcherson, Usain Bolt, etc.