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.
While the NBA's Eastern Conference teams are still battling it out to see who will play in their conference finals, the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder made quick work in their second round series, setting the stage for a Spurs-Thunder Western Conference Finals match-up.
It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that these are the two teams in the west left standing, as they were the two best teams in the regular season and by far the two best in the postseason. The Spurs have yet to lose in these playoffs, sweeping both of their series, and they have now won a combined 18 games in a row behind veterans Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. The Thunder are playing in their second straight Western Conference Finals, losing last year to the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. The team features scoring champion Kevin Durant as well as Sixth Man of the Year Award winner James Harden.
The reigning Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins are still in the thick of defending their championship (or have been eliminated, depending on when you are reading this), but one thing they will not ever be beaten at is making hilarious commercials and advertisements. The star of these ads is perhaps the most underrated mascot is sports, known simply as Bear. Name me another mascot that is funny, intimidating and lovable...YOU CAN'T!
The commercials below came out last season, so yes I am a little late to the party, but these definitely stand the test of time. I have seen them too many times to count and they never cease to make me laugh. As a casual hockey fan, it makes me want to watch more Bruins hockey games. This season the genius Bruins marketing department are back with a 70's style sitcom called "Bear & The Gang" and, once again, they are awesome.
Having said that, nothing beats the commercials from last season. Check them out and you'll find it hard not to be a Bruins fan afterwards:
This was the first one of these ads that I saw and it remains my favorite. That guy really should have known better.
Obey the Restroom Code
From a young age, people learn not to cut in line. Unfortunately for this dude, he forgot. Luckily for us, Bear reminded him.
The 2012 NHL playoffs are finally here, and for a casual fan it is the time that the season actually begins. It's when everything gets ramped up to a new level. The game gets faster, the players hit harder, the goalies make saves that you have to watch again just to believe, rivalries get even more heated and the green men (see right) get a little more awesome.
The puck gets dropped for the 2012 postseason on April 11 and will run straight into mid-June. Before you tune into the playoffs this year, check out some random facts you may not know (and some you might):
Did you know that no team located in Canada has won a Stanley Cup since 1993? Well, if you are a fan of any of the seven teams in Canada you probably did. They have had opportunities though; five times since 1993 a Canadian team has made the finals and lost, including last year when the Boston Bruins beat the Vancouver Canucks. In a sport that was created in the country, you'd think that the NHL teams from the Great White North would have a little more success.