by Ryan Meehan
Wednesday night was a great time for me to sit back and go over some things that have crossed my mind during the recent first round of the NBA Playoffs. So here is an abbreviated version of some observations that I have had regarding what’s transpired so far:
1. Oklahoma City looks like a lost puppy without Russell Westbrook
In the NBA you’re going to have injuries, and some are going to be more impactful than others. To be perfectly honest with you, I thought that the Thunder were going to be in decent shape without Westbrook. I knew it would take a chunk out of their cake, but I still thought they would sweep the Rockets. I don’t usually subscribe to everything Barkley says after 11pm because he tends to drink a lot on the air, but he had a really good point the when he said that the Thunder are completely out of sorts right now. The injury to Russell Westbrook is causing everyone’s role on that team to change, and the players look as if they aren’t sure what their responsibilities are now that he’s gone. Additionally, it’s putting a ton of pressure on Kevin Durant and over the past two games it’s really showed. Maybe now I don’t feel so bad about picking the Spurs to win the Western Conference, because at the rate Oklahoma City is going they aren’t going to get out of the next round.
2. The Bucks shouldn’t have been allowed to compete in this tourney
Usually we save the comment section for anybody that has comments about the piece in question. That said, I strongly urge you to not use the comment box to argue with my point that a team with a sub .500 record at the expense of six games should not even be in what is essentially a four game series against a team that could break them in half. If you’re 38-44 and there is another team in the Western Conference that has a better record (for lack of a better argument let’s just call those teams the Utah Jazz and the Dallas Mavericks) then that team gets to face the one seed. It would make for a much more interesting series and since the NBA’s goal is to make money and giving the one seed a bye is pretty much not a very capitalist option, maybe we’d start to see a little hustle out of teams that believe they should be there to begin with.
3. Just because you thought we were done talking about the Lakers, we aren’t
Truth is, any conversation that sounds like the Lakers aren’t going to be involved in the could include the Lakers at any given moment. And now of course, the Lakers have become a subplot in the whole story of Phil Jackson going to the Raptors to work in the front office which I don’t think is going to happen. In my opinion this does a great disservice to the rest of the league because there some awesome basketball going on at the moment, and none of it has to do with the Lakers, who by the way did not win a single playoff game. If they knew what was best for them in the future, they would get rid of both Dwight Howard AND Mike D’Antoni and start to figure out what the hell their future is going to look like without Kobe because that moment isn’t too far off in the distance anyway. What frustrates me about this is even though I realize the Lakers are going to make headlines with their 3 to 5 year plan no matter what, the current playoff race is about the present, not the future.
4. Memphis winning game 5 headed home was the biggest victory so far this playoff stretch
Time for Meehan to eat crow, because I wasn’t buying this on the preview last week. That crow will be served without butter and the waiter is one Dubsism, Dubs had this pegged and said that the Grizzlies could actually make it to the Western Conference finals as a reasonable goal. I thought he was off of his rocker, and said that if they’re relying on Marc Gasol to dish the ball around too much as he did in game one they were doomed. But ever since that game, they’ve looked great (even in the loss) and I’m starting to realize that maybe I haven’t seen enough Grizzlies games this year to make an accurate assessment of Marc Gasol and/or his passing skills. I blame my own faulty research. Also, if you had to take one guy with you to build a society with, would it be Blake Griffin or Zach Randolph based on their recent work in the paint? That’s what I thought….
5. Both Boston and Houston surprised everybody by making both of those series interesting and should be commended for doing so
Seeing as how I am a realist, I should start by saying that I still don’t believe that either of these teams will win their respective series. i also usually don’t give credit to teams that are noticeably weaker overall, but you have to hand it to both Boston and Houston for making these series interesting. They could have both easily packed it in for game four, and not only did neither team do that, they also both won Wednesday night. Houston went into OKC last night and dominated for a majority of the game and never let up. Boston on the other hand went down 11-0 to open up the game and then still finished the job on the road. And then when it was all said and done, there was plenty of the pushing and shoving that has made this rivalry so great this year. And speaking of pushing and shoving…
6. The Golden State/Denver series getting chippy is great for basketball
I love this – in a series that we thought was going to be a run and gun series all the way to the final buzzer, instead it’s become this scruffy defensive slugfest where the word “dirty” is getting tossed around. This is the way that I look at it – A little baseball mentality could be very healthy for the NBA right now as the Lakers aren’t in the playoffs anymore and Russell Westbrook isn’t going to be back this season. Mark Jackson saying he’s seeing shades of Charles Oakley in the Nuggets, saying that people are out to get Stephen Curry…How could you not love this? It’s a perfect contrast to all of the people saying that the NBA playoffs are too long and that we’re going to see exactly what we expect every time.
There’s some great basketball going on in the next month, and you may have noticed that I got through this entire column without mentioning the Brooklyn/Chicago series which I am currently enjoying the shit out of. Next round will be even better. See you then…