NBA playoffs: high stakes, high drama

 

 

The 2012 NBA playoffs have slowly progressed after a rushed 66-game schedule following a long, bitter lockout between the hard-line league owners and the distrusting NBA Players Association.

This season as been anything but normal. Unlike the powerful NFL and its labor impasse where no games were lost in 2011, the NBA lost plenty.

When you lose 16 games per team, that’s big. After very short training camps, ready or not the regular season has surely unfolded with dramatic story lines.

It’s been a forgone conclusion that when the playoffs began the favorite Miami Heat would march to an NBA Championship with LeBron James, the now three-time MVP chosen one, completing one of the greatest seasons ever. James in 2012 averaged 27 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 6.2 assists a game while shooting 53 percent!

James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are rebounding from last year’s Finals flame-out to Dallas, which has only raised the stakes higher. Make no mistake about it: Lockout or no lockout, this season is about Miami and James.

They are so talented, the expectation is that they have to win it all. And if they don’t? James is so good at 27 years old, 6-8 and 250 pounds. Every MVP in history that has won it three times or more has won multiple NBA Championships.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar is number-one all-time with six; Bill Russell and Michael Jordan with five; Wilt Chamberlain four; and Magic Johnson, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, and now James all have won three MVP awards.

Winning MVP, being recognized as the best NBA player on the planet, means winning championships. The pressure on James and the Heat is enormous. Can Dallas repeat? Can the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant get ring number six without Phil Jackson? Are the Bulls strong enough to get past Miami?

The Boston Celtics are primed to run for title number 18 with the Big Three and Roshon Rondo. What does Larry Bird have brewing in Indiana with the Pacers? Oklahoma City with three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook — these guys are good.

Was Memphis’ upset of San Antonio in 2010, an eighthseed beating a number one, a fluke? And oh yeah, how about San Antonio with Tim Duncan, at age 36 a four-time NBA Champion with a remarkable streak of 15 straight years in the playoffs?

So far what we’ve learned is that anything that can happen has happened. The New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony gone, the Bulls lose 2011 MVP Derrick Rose to knee injury, and Philadelphia wins, an eighth-seed taking down a one, Utah. Dallas swept 4-0 Atlanta, Denver, Orlando, Memphis, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers! All gone!

The Western Finals will feature the incredible machine that is the Spurs, winners of 18 straight, 10 in regular season and, so far, a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs. And there’s the young, battled, talented Oklahoma City Thunder a Conference Finalist from last year — two teams, Spurs and Thunder, are combined 16-1 in the playoffs on a collision course.

While the East has Boston up 3-2 on determined young Philadelphia, Miami, now without Chris Bosh lost to injury, is tied with determined Indiana 2-2. Yes, the stakes are high and the heat is on. The drama continues to unfold because the NBA playoffs have been off the chain.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2), and you can follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.