I would have been shocked had the Spurs found a way to win game 7 on the road after they gave away game 6 at the end of the fourth quarter, so last night’s Heat victory wasn’t a surprise.
Lebron James deserves credit for adjusting to the way the Spurs were letting him take outside shots. He stopped hesitating and started hitting jumpers, and last night he was on fire. He was too much for the tired and ragged Spurs.
Can the Miami Heat come back for a terrible performance again? This seems to be their M.O., but now they’re facing another problem. Something seems to be wrong with Lebron James . . . again. Everyone will try their best to figure out the problem, but it certainly has something to do with the way the San Antonio Spurs are defending him and daring him to shoot. Lebron seems lost.
As usual, Brian Windhorst does an excellent job of covering Lebron’s latest disappearing act in this column.
Meanwhile, Eric Spoelstra seemed most disgusted by the Heat’s defensive effort, and Zach Lowe does an excellent job detailing the defensive breakdowns by the Heat in game 3. Mike Miller is a stud when it comes to shooting three-pointers, but adding him to the rotation seems to have exacerbated the team’s problems on defense.
We’ll wait till the series is over to comment on how this might affect Lebron’s legacy. We’ve seen the Heat come back many times, so now the pressure is really high for Lebron, the Big Three and the rest of the Heat in game 4.
The game wasn’t close, but we’ve seen Memphis come back repeatedly after Game 1 losses, so we won’t make too much of this game. The question will be whether a young team like the Grizzlies can rise to the occasion in the conference finals against a veteran team like the Spurs. I Like the Spurs in this series, but game 1 outcomes can be deceiving. The Spurs have to hold the home court in this next game.
As we move into the second half of the NBA season, some unexpected teams are surging to the top of the ranks. Of course, nobody is surprised by the Miami Heat’s position at the top of the Eastern conference, but the wrong team from Los Angeles seems to be at the top, the Clippers. Many expected the Lakers to be the dominate team in the Western Conference, but they are not even in the picture right now. Here’s a quick look at where we stand as of right now:
1. Miami Heat
2. New York Knicks
3. Indiana Pacers
4. Atlanta Hawks
5. Chicago Bulls
6. Brooklyn Nets
7. Milwaukee Bucks
8. Boston Celtics
Biggest Surprises in the East
Probably the biggest surprise is the rivalry matchup sitting in the 2 and 3 seeds currently. Both Indiana and New York were expected to be in the playoff hunt, but not sitting right behind Miami with a legitimate chance to win the East. The Atlanta Hawks can also be thrown into this surprise group, as they are right behind the Pacers and not far behind the east leading Heat.
It’s going to be an exciting run to finish the season and snagging Indiana Pacers tickets for one of the final games, as they renew their historic rivalry with the Knicks, can lead to an exciting and memorable experience. All eight teams have winning records and the top four teams all have a real chance to win the conference.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. Memphis Grizzlies
5. Golden State Warriors
6. Houston Rockets
7. Denver Nuggets
8. Portland Trailblazers
Biggest Surprises in the West
The biggest surprise found in the western conference has to do with the team not in the playoff picture, as of right now. The 15-20 Los Angeles Lakers were picked to possibly win more games than any other NBA team in history, at the beginning of the season, but they currently sit 10 games back from the 8th and final playoff seed. Another huge surprise lurking even further back than the Lakers is the Dallas Mavericks.
Both of these teams have recently experienced quite a bit of success, but neither is even close to the playoff hunt right now. Without a long winning streak in the second half of the season, we may see the Lakers miss the playoffs for only the 6th time in franchise history and the first time since 2004-2005. We will most likely also see the playoffs played without Dallas for the first time since the 1999-2000 seasons.
With the two biggest surprises coming from the west, predicting the NBA finals teams isn’t all that easy. At the beginning of the year, many experts picked Miami and Los Angeles Lakers to make the finals. However, it’s necessary to re-evaluate the picture now and it’s very likely a team, such as the Indiana Pacers or the New York Knicks could build enough momentum to overtake Miami in the playoffs.
The west is all up for grabs and the most likely team to go to the finals is the San Antonio Spurs, simply because they know how to get there. Another team to look out for is the Oklahoma City Thunder, as they are young and capable of making a playoff run.
Whichever teams end up in the playoffs and the finals, this season has created quite a bit of excitement. The top teams in both conferences are only a few games apart from each other and nobody is running away with the conference titles. It will be exciting to watch and fun to see how it all shakes out.