Think back to a time when you walked into a classroom that you’ve never been to for the first time in a semester. You’re probably one of the first to arrive due to the fear of being late on the first day. You feel your way around with your eyes and try and find what looks like the best seat. As the minutes tick by you think to yourself “damn I should have waited to leave my dorm, I won’t make that mistake again”. With just a couple minutes left to go before the class starts a group of guys walk in who are loudly talking about the party that they were at last night; even though it was a Wednesday. They’re the experienced college guys who know just how to time everything out perfectly, they can squeeze in one more game of NBA Jam before leaving their apartment to go to class.
Experience is the key to most things in life, except this season in the NBA playoffs.
With eight out of thirty teams still vying for championship glory, there is an oddly similar paradigm in each of the four series, age vs. experience. Sure the Sixers, Pacers, Thunder, and Clippers all have players who can be considered veterans, even playoff veterans, but each of them are viewed as young teams who don’t have the experience to win a championship; yes Oklahoma City has to be put into this group I’ll explain later on.
This season there are two big advantages to having a young squad in the playoff tournament:
1.) Fresh legs
Did the Lakers ever stand a chance in game 1 against the Thunder? They had just come off an unexpectedly grueling series against an upstart Nuggets team that was impossible to not root for. The second half of game 7 was more compelling than the return of Will Ferrell to SNL.
The Lakers just barely survived with enough time to pack their bags and get to Oklahoma in time to receive a first class ass whoopin’ by a young Thunder team that had nine days to scout and watch the Lakers while relaxing in Nazi Mohammad’s kitchen (scroll down to the last paragraph).
(Major hard transition ahead!) Even though the Sixers played one more game in the first round compared to the Celtics, they have been able to keep up their blistering up tempo pace in the second round. Give credit to the Celtics veterans, they were able to hang with the Sonic The Hedgehog like speed of Philadelphia in game 1, but how much does Paul Pierce have left this year with a sprained MCL? How much sprint does Kevin Garnett have in those 35 year old legs? All burning questions that currently have us left on a cliffhanger that even Alan Ball is jealous of (Ball is the main writer on HBO’s True Blood).
Puzzling to see that word along with advantage being attached to it, eh? Well the two inexperienced teams in the Eastern Conference simply don’t know any better, that’s the beauty in all of this.
The Pacers are going to benefit from the indefinite absence of Chris Bosh, but even with Bosh on the floor for some of game 1 they made life hell for the Heat in the first two quarters before eventually surrendering 40 points to Wade & James combined in the second half. No worries though, Indiana came back in game two, missed 15-of-17 shots in a first half stretch before clawing their way back into the series with an 11-0 run in the third quarter. The upstart Pacers controlled the tempo of the game and forced Miami to play a half court game, which gave Marv Albert a chance to rip Steve Kerr for his awful use of the telestrator (it was a hilarious mishap, but karma would get Marv later on as his voice cracked in the fourth quarter).
Miami slowly fell apart because their offense was limited to an all iso ball half court game in the second half. Without Bosh in there to shovel some of the load, the MVP was forced to play almost the entire second half without a breather. The physicality of Indiana ultimately ended up taking its toll on Lebron, will this happen in game 3? Game 4? Will Wade play more minutes as the games progress? More cliffhangers!
The only series in this round that doesn’t seem to have any sort of cliffhangers is the potential elbow party between Los Angeles and Oklahoma City. It appears that the experience of Kobe, Pau, and Ron Artest won’t nearly be enough to battle the tenacity of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Westbrook’s wardrobe. I’m just waiting for Bynum to say something along the lines of, “I only play serious in the second half of an elimination game, until then I’m going to sit back with Westbrook’s fake glasses on and watch Durant pull up in front of me for another green light jumper”.
On Facebook I predicted that the Zombie Sonics would eliminate the Human Lakers in five games, to which my friend Stephen (a Lakers fan) said “Idk if we can be friends anymore, at least say 7”. This was my response (I thought it was too good not to include in the column and I had to mention one of my new favorite players Kenneth Faried):
“The only way it goes more than 5 is if Gasol and Bynum can play like they did in game 7, but this time they won’t have a matchup along these lines: an undersized PF (Faried), a goofy seven footer who almost held up the Carmelo to NY deal (Mozgov), a big man who builds his house around the three point line (Harrington), and a player who has enough embarassing plays this season to fill up his own not top ten (McGee). If Perkins, Ibaka, and Collison play decent defense the series won’t make it past a fifth game”. If the Lakers don’t win game 3 at home, Kobe will enter another offseason after being swept in the second round and this time he can’t blame his body for breaking down.
There is one player that’s left in the playoffs who can’t afford for his body to take a turn for the worst like Kobe’s did last May; his name is CP3, yes he’s a robot. He is a machine that has only one thought, we’re winning the championship. It’s impossible for the I’m just glad we made it past the first round because we’re the Clippers thought to cross his mind. He’s the perfect person to lead a group of players that has a bigger cloud of inexperience than George Clooney’s smug cloud.
Paul’s immeasurable confidence has already paid dividends, but the Clippers are playing the toughest out of the four experienced teams that remain in the playoffs. CP3 has the ability to steal one maybe two games against the Spurs; after last year’s performance in a Hornets uniform against the Lakers in the first round, I’ll never question the fact that he has the ability to win playoff games, but there’s no way that Gregg Popovich is going to let Vinny Del Negro win two games against him. That’s more of a sure thing than The Dark Knight Rises (there’s a 2% chance it can suck right? Because there is a 1% chance the Clippers win two games in this series).
I’d like to say that the media gave the Sixers a 1% chance to hang with the Celtics just so I could have a smooth transition between paragraphs, but to my surprise many pundits picked the Sixers to hang around with the Celtics for at least six games. If you asked them if they thought Philadelphia would go into Boston, a place where the Philadelphia franchise hasn’t won a playoff game in 30 years and win a knockdown drag out slugfest with a future hall of fame experienced Celtic team, they would have said no before the sentence left your tongue and you couldn’t blame them. What has this Sixers team done this season to make you believe that they can hang around with a team as experienced as the Celtics?
Sure they won 2 out of 3 matchups against Boston in the regular season, but it’s the regular season. That’s like winning two small prizes at the boardwalk; the girl that you’re trying to impress doesn’t want two stupid little dragons, she wants the giant teddy bear that’s so big she can’t even carry it (the only reason to ever buy one of them is to save a relationship that is crumbling, so really there is no reason to ever buy one of them, you taking notes Orlando?)
Game 1 was a golden ticket of a chance for Philadelphia to jump out and steal home court. I texted my friend Jeff (a fellow Sixers fan) right after the loss to complain about the blown opportunity; he responded with “it is what it is, they’re playing with house money”. He was partially right because the ACL/MCL injury to Derrick Rose and the ankle injury to Joakim Noah is the only reason why the Wells Fargo Center was allowed to celebrate a first round victory.
Yet I couldn’t help but shake the feeling of being pissed off for two reasons; one: Philadelphia is getting a chance to end the era of the big three in Boston. Two: Even if Doug Collins is playing with house money you can’t blow a ten point fourth quarter lead. We’ve already seen the effects that a lockout shortened season has had on these fluky playoffs; which just might be the right equation for a team like the Sixers to make a run that would blow Charles Barkley’s mind (Shaq should have made a bet that Barkley would have to eat some absurd fattening thing like a deep fried Oreo pie if the Sixers moved onto the conference finals).
The inexperience of the Sixers versus the experience of the Celtics along with the historic rivalry of the two franchises makes it the most intriguing matchup of the second round. By the end of the series there might be enough I can’t believe Jrue Holiday/Evan Turner/Spencer Hawes/Lavoy Allen(!?!?) just did that plays that you have to count them with your toes. By my count two of those plays took place in the last two minutes of game 2 (Jrue Holiday answering a Ray Allen 3 with a 3 of his own and Turner’s spin-o-rama layup that gave Philly the lead for good).
Think about this scenario (that’s completely possible); Philly grinds out a seven game series over Boston and Indiana forces Miami into a half court series like they did in game 2, we suddenly would be looking at a highly entertaining (but sure to bring in awful ratings) Eastern Conference Finals matchup between two teams in Philadelphia and Indiana that follow the motto: we don’t know any better.
There are three teams in the Western Conference that would probably put icy hot on their man region for an entire day in exchange for that scenario (yes I have to include the Lakers because for all anyone knows they could turn around faster than the girl in The Other Side of Darkness; if you know what show I’m referring to in that reference please put a drink on my tab the next time I’m in your area). It’s very hard to me to think that LA is going to make it past OKC, the only way for the Thunder not to win this series is if they beat themselves. These are some of the numbers from game 1 that probably won’t be repeated by Oklahoma City in this series: Russell Westrbook (10/15 FG, 27/7/9), Westbrook, Durant, and Sefoloshia all with a +27 (the plus/minus is a stupid stat, but that’s too high of a number to ignore), four turnovers in the entire game. Seriously four turnovers? They would have thrashed any championship team over the last decade with that type of performance.
The Thunder aren’t afraid of any team that is left in the tournament even though they fall under the inexperienced category. They have two of the top 15 players in the league, the sixth man of the year, the best shot blocker in the league, and the tough guy with an attitude that you need in the postseason.
Read that again.
Add confidence to that equation and you have the recipe for a champion, but titles aren’t won on paper; if they were the Heat would have already won two of the not five that they promised the Miami area. Youth and experience is supposed to be combination that leads a team to the championship, but look around at the teams that are left and the only one that has a real chance to win the title following those guidelines is the team that resides in San Antonio (I know it goes against the title).
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