Fourth and Long

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I am not the world’s biggest NBA fan, but even I have to admit the playoffs have become more interesting by the day.

The injury to Derrick Rose was too much for the Chicago Bulls to overcome against the Philadelphia 76ers and for only the fifth time in NBA history a number eight seed advanced against a number one seed in the first round of the playoffs.

Their reward for advancement is a matchup with the Boston Celtics who needed six games to get past the Atlanta Hawks. As I write this the 76ers-Celtics series is tied at one apiece with game three set to play Wednesday night. Boston has now lost home court advantage and if they hope to advance to the next round it will be crucial that they win one of these next two games in Philly.

The other Eastern Conference Semi-Final matchup pits the Miami Heat against the Indiana Pacers. With the injury to Heat star Chris Bosh in Miami’s game one win of the series this matchup has become much more interesting.

The Heat are a team built around two super-stars and one star and the Pacers are a near perfect example of what you get when a whole team of good, but not great players, buys in to a team first concept. With Bosh out the Heat have become a two-headed monster which the Pacers proved much easier to handle in a game two win to even the series.

In game two, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade had 28 and 24 points respectively while no one else on the roster managed more than five points. Much of that can be blamed on the absence of Chris Bosh whose value as a mid-range jump shooter and passer off the screen is highly undervalued.

If the Heat hope to advance to the next round they will need more scoring from the remainder of the team and better coaching from Erik Spoelstra.

In the Western Conference the San Antonio Spurs continue to prove that they are the best team in the NBA and they are doing so in dominating fashion. The Spurs easily dismissed the Utah Jazz in round 1 defeating them by an average of 16 points per game.

I looked forward to seeing how they would handle a much more talented Los Angeles Clippers squad in round two. If game one was any indication it will be business as usual. The Spurs had little trouble in the opening game of the series defeating the Clippers by… you guessed it, 16 points.

San Antonio had four players in double figures and Tim Duncan continues to lead the way racking up 26 points and 10 boards in game one. If the Clippers hope to make it a series they will need much better play from point guard Chris Paul. Given the Spurs defensive prowess, I don’t expect they will make it easy on him.

The last matchup in the playoffs may prove to be the most fun to watch as the Oklahoma City Thunder take on the Los Angeles Lakers. There are a ton of story lines surrounding this series. The reunion of World Peace’s elbow and James Harden’s head, the tradition and experience of the Lakers versus the excitement and youth of the Thunder, Andrew Bynum versus pride and laziness… the list goes on and on.

In game one of the series, Oklahoma City made it clear that they have no intention of bowing down to Laker royalty as they blew out Los Angeles in a 29 point defeat that believe it or not may not have been as close as the score would indicate.

The Lakers often seem like Kobe + 4 and if they have any hope against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Sixth man of the Year James Harden then it is gut check time.

When Bynum chooses to assert himself he is almost unstoppable and if Pau Gasol plays less timid and crashes the boards the Lakers can make this the exciting series it should be.

If they don’t and the Thunder get Kendrick Perkins back then it’s a wrap for the Kobe and the Lakers.


David Friedman is a long-time contributor to Roanoke-Chowan Publications. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at