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.
At long last, spring is tomorrow! Of course, we here are having a difficult time believing that every time we look out the windows in our office, but officially it is arriving tomorrow at 11:02 UTC, or 7:02 AM EDT/4:02 AM PDT in the United States.
As with sports, spring is a great time to attend a concert, especially in smaller, amphitheater-like settings. With the back walls open, you can grab a lawn seat and, if it's not an actual seat, spread out a little and enjoy the show.
It is in this environment that a group like the Dave Matthews Band thrives. The band knows exactly how to keep its fans entertained: good grooves, creativity and improvisation, and an intimate atmosphere provided by the amphitheater setting (though they sometimes play arenas, too). These are just a few reasons their annual summer tours tend to be very popular. Anyone who's experienced the major traffic jams whenever they come to Hartford, CT, could tell you that.
As luck would have it, almost every concert on their upcoming summer tour is in an amphitheater; the ones that are not are in theaters or festival grounds, which are usually similarly intimate settings. The tour begins May 17 in Spring, TX, and ends September 8 in Mountain View, CA. DMB also has a couple remaining shows from the winter tour coming up on April 6 in Birmingham, AL, and April 27 in Southaven, MS. Finally, the band will be performing at the New Orleans Jazz Fest on April 28.
Over the past week, we have been counting down the days until spring will finally be here. As a sports enthusiast, spring is an amazing time of the year. During the 93 days of spring, the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments take place, the NBA and NHL playoffs will start and almost end, and the NFL will have its annual draft at Radio City Music Hall. But the top thing I am looking forward to this season, is the start of the 2013 Major League Baseball season on March 31.
Is there any sport more connected to spring then baseball? When Spring Training officially began in late February, everyone began to see the light at the end of the dark, cold, winter tunnel, and began eagerly awaiting the start of the baseball season. There is nothing quite like sitting at ballpark when the weather is warm enough that you can wear just a T-Shirt and shorts, but cool enough that you won't break a sweat sitting in the sun. Perfection.
As a Red Sox fan myself, there is not really the same excitement as in years past, but that doesn't matter. I love baseball. And if you are a die-hard fan like me, you always stick behind your team, for better or worse. Despite the less-than-stellar outlook for the Red Sox this year, I can't wait for all the baseball debates I will have this year. The most heated sports arguments always seem to be between baseball rivals. There is not a Yankees fan out there that I don't love arguing with (except my wife; we have agreed not to talk about it, specifically anything Derek Jeter related).
When the season starts, I can always count on tuning into a game every night for the next six months. There is nothing quite like it. I love all sports, but Major League Baseball has a much more sentimental value in my heart and that is why it's my favorite thing about the spring season.
What sports event or game that are you looking forward most in spring 2013?
So, maybe we forgot to do an events preview last month. Whoops! Now we’re back, though, and looking ahead to spring because – quite frankly – we are sick of this cold, snowy New England weather.
With new weather on its way here, here are a few March events we’re looking forward to:
Taylor Swift: Taylor Swift has been on fire with her latest album, "Red," and its first few singles. The country singer’s latest tour finally kicks off March 13.
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Kenny Chesney: Kenney Chesney’s 2013 tour starts March 12. Chesney will tour with Zac Brown Band, Eli Young Band, Kacey Musgraves, and Eric Church, although the lineup in each city is different.
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Rihanna: Her 2013 Diamonds World Tour with ASAP Rocky begins in Buffalo, NY, on March 8. It’s scheduled to end July 20 in France.
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Other Concerts in March:
- Allman Brothers Band begins their Beacon Theater run on Friday.
- Alicia Keys begins a tour on March 7.
- Eric Clapton begins a tour on March 14.
- Elton John begins a brief tour on March 15.
- Shania Twain’s Las Vegas run begins on March 19.
- Def Leppard begins a tour on March 22.
- The Ultra Music Festival runs from March 15 to 17 and then again March 23 to 25. The two weekends do have different lineups and schedules (albeit with some of the same performers at each one).