Thursday, May 21, 2009

NBA Playoffs

The matchup of all matchups would be a Cavaliers vs. Lakers NBA Finals. Nike, a sponsor of both athletes, is marketing the Lebron/Kobe showdown as an inevitable event. They just sponsored a documentary on ESPN called Dream Season: 23 & 24. While a showdown between the two greatest players in the NBA is intriguing, I find it a bit insulting that Nike is giving everyone the impression that this is the unavoidable. 

A Laker victory in the Western Conference Finals does seem imminent (after winning game one, they've won the last 15 7-game series), but Tuesday's victory was hardly a blowout. You wipe away a couple careless mistakes by the Nuggets and Denver is up 1-0. Phil Jackson is 42-0 in playoff series when his team has won game one. That statistic is much more astounding than the Lakers' recent streak of series victories, but the two combined sure put the odds in the Lakers' favor. However, the Nuggets continue to surprise both their fans and critics. They appear much more disciplined and unflappable than The Denver Post gives them credit for. Yes, Woody Paige is already calling the series for the Lakers. But I don't think the Post really thought it was possible for the Nuggets to put away the first two teams 4-1. So, what do they know? The only commentator out there that recognizes Denver's talent is, oddly enough, Charles Barkley, who continually praises the Nuggets on TNT and makes bold predictions, like saying the Nuggets would roll over the Mavericks. 

Fast forward to 1:30 in this video:

What am I saying? I am saying that the Lakers may very well be on their way to a series victory, but I don't think the Nuggets are going to flop over and play dead just because they lost game one.

It is no easy path to the NBA Finals for the Lakers and it is a heck of a lot harder for the Cavaliers to make it there too. All you need to do is watch the Magic's comeback victory and dominance in the fourth quarter to realize that. Lebron is the worthy MVP, but his exhaustion in carrying his team showed even in the third quarter. I suspect that after eight days off, all of the Cavs were a bit rusty, but they face a Herculean-foe (albeit one that whines a lot) in Dwight Howard. They didn't have an answer for him last night, and neither did the shot clock. However, I still think Cleveland takes the Eastern Conference Finals in no more than six games. They aren't in the hole like Denver is and although people remain critical of Cleveland's bench, Lebron can elevate players like no one I've ever seen on the court. (A huge reason I want him to go all the way.) I expect Lebron to elevate the team's strategy for guarding Howard, or just simply elevate his game and trust that others will follow. The latter strategy is the most common and entertaining. 

But a big question remains. If the NBA Finals feature the Orlando Magic and the Denver Nuggets, who will be watching? Will it be televised? What will Nike do?

I apologize for the weird formatting issues in this post. Stupid embed code screws things up sometimes.

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