Busting the myth on the “wide-open” Western Conference race

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Ready for a hot take? The NBA’s Western Conference is not as wide-open as you think it is.

For months now there has been a notion that any of the teams who qualify for the postseason West of the Mississippi could reach the NBA Finals. For a while, this idea seemed to be falling into place because the defending champions were sitting in seventh and a team with two of the top ten players in the league were fighting just to get inside the exclusive 16-team club that opens in April.

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NBA Eastern Conference Stretch Run Primer

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta Hawks

With a little more than a month left in the NBA’s regular season, it’s time to look ahead to the playoff race and break the contenders away from the pretenders in the Eastern Conference.

In just a few weeks the East transformed from a wide-open race, to a battle between two teams who need to square off in the conference finals.

If you search deep enough, you’ll find some interesting storylines to latch onto during the final 20+ games in the East. The bottom of the conference doesn’t get pretty, so sorry Knicks, Magic and Sixers fans, you should stop reading this column right now.

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Can LeBron climb back into the MVP race?

Cleveland Cavaliers v Los Angeles Clippers

As the NBA rises from a week-long vacation it’s time to get ready for the final two months of the regular season. That’s right, there’s less than 60 days left in the 2014-15 NBA season and even though there is still a good chunk of games left to be played, we’re pretty far into an incredibly fun NBA season and so many storylines have yet to have any sort of resolution. Continue reading

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It’s time to go all in on the Atlanta Hawks

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When the eight-seeded Hawks faced the top-seeded Pacers last season in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the only talking point was the likelihood of an Indiana collapse after their lackluster play from late-January on. In fairness, this was the only conversation worth having about the series. The Hawks came in as an eight seed that finished the season six games under .500, so really what was there to talk about? Atlanta was just once again the classic eight seed in the East who made the playoffs simply because they play in the Eastern Conference.

The Hawks gave the fragile Pacers all they could handle in the opening round as Indiana was forced to win Game 6 on the road and a Game 7 to save face and advance to the second round. Of course all of the attention was squarely focused on the bubble surrounding the Pacers and we all missed the beginning of a story which has now taken over the Eastern Conference.

It was during this series that Mike Budenholzer’s offense began to blossom. Some of this was thanks to a ridiculous three point shooting stretch from then unknown (and still largely unknown) Mike Scott, but the foundation for what was to come this season was being built in front of our eyes and we failed to properly understand what was happening. Continue reading

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Anthony Davis is making his early MVP statement

Orlando Magic v New Orleans Pelicans

One of the most popular narratives heading into the 2014-15 NBA season was the predicted ascension of Anthony Davis into super-stardom. After injuries knocked a few of The Association’s most important superstars out for either an extended period of time (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, however much time Derrick Rose is going to miss this season for numerous reasons) or for the entire season (Paul George), Davis had the opportunity to grab the ball as the next big thing and cruise down the floor with it. Continue reading

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Somehow the Sixers are actually fun to watch

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While it may seem like a ridiculous proposition considering the roster Sam Hinkie and the rest of the front office has decided to trot out onto a professional basketball court this season, the fans inside the Wells Fargo Center were actively involved in attempting to help lift the Philadelphia 76ers to victory over the Orlando Magic.

When the video board operators use their tricks to get the crowd loud and involved, they listened like it was an applause light inside a television studio. When the crowd was starting to lose their interest in a game that had the interest level of zilch from anyone who doesn’t actively follow the Sixers or Magic, free t-shirts were shot out of two gigantic automatic cannons. Because when you’re sending out a crunch time lineup that consists of Tony Wroten, Luc Mbah a Moute, Hollis Thompson, Brandon Davies and Henry Sims (which should have been Nerlens Noel, but he rolled his right ankle in the second quarter and didn’t return), you better be shooting out a countless number of free items into the crowd to thank them for spending their money and time watching a product that has been designed to win the number one overall pick in June. Continue reading

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The other side of Peyton Manning (plus other Week 3 takeaways)

For the second time in three weeks the NFL kicked off with 10 games in the early Sunday afternoon time slot on the East coast. While it’s awesome to have 10 games going if you have the ability to view every game in its entirety (the 1% of NFL viewers) or when a team reaches the red-zone, there is still an overwhelming amount of people who rely on the three games Fox and CBS will give them each week.

Curt Menefee and James Brown’s in-game cutaways are the only time people in a given market will see a team in another area of the country while the game is actually being played. There were parts of the country who only got to watch one game at 1pm, meaning that they missed 90% of the action during the timeslot. Having that many games on at once is overwhelming, even when you have the ability to watch every game in its entirety, in high definition.

Wouldn’t it be better if say six of those games kicked at 1pm, two kicked at 1:30 and then the final two kicked off at 2pm? That way there would still be a big chunk of action that began and ended at the time we’re accustomed to, but then the staggered finish would give the 4:30-5:30 chunk of time much more action. There wouldn’t be a point in the late afternoon where the viewer would have the opportunity to tune out because the one game in their area was a slog.

With the added importance of the 4:25pm Sunday game (the featured game in that timeslot is usually the most watched game of the afternoon), it’s hard to imagine the NFL staggering the start to their Sunday slate of games. The league wants to drive a high percentage of viewers to the select late afternoon games, but it shouldn’t bury the action from 1pm in order to do so.

Now let’s recap some of the action from Week 3 including what is probably going to be an unpopular opinion of Peyton Manning. Continue reading

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