Last Straws

I’ve been meaning to write about SA’s demise or triumph against NO by now but who would have known? I guess the fact that there still are two final straws to be drawn in the NBA magnifies the level of competition out there right now. While the last slot for the east will be determined a few hours from now, the game out west will have to wait for a day.

All I can say right now is that should SA end its quest for a repeat, (and thereby hold on to its even-numbered year jinx,) I would concede NO to be worthy of dropping them off from the running. While the games of that series have all ended in blowouts, it’s pretty much of a surprise that the young athletes have made it that far in such a fashion.

It’s in the playoffs where SA bucks in to win-it-all throughout the years. Before the second round started, it was such a sound assumption to write off NO as another would-be victim of the tested veterans but things have changed so much in the course of 6 games. Despite owning the playoffs, it’s the defending champs who were in the win-or-lose situation prior to game 6.

So much as I’m looking forward to have everything rely on just one last game, I’m praying for at least a close game befitting the manner of exit for the matchup’s loser.

Advertisements

Who’s Got the Ticket for the Last Trip?

As I’m writing this, game 1 of the Detroit-Orlando NBA seminals pairing have already been played and I’m still looking forward to the SA-NO matchup. The other western semifinal matchup between LA and Utah is already scheduled for tomorrow following Houston’s ouster yesterday.

Strangely it’s the Celtics who are still stuck in the first round. That is, they still have to grind out with the underdogs from Atlanta in a do-or-die matchup that has the top dog from the regular season facing the reality of elimination.

What is it with top teams from the regular season and eighth seeds that the latter seems to give the former the scare these days? Sure we’ve seen the Warriors do the feat last year at the expense of the Warriors and it still remains to be seen whether the same can be done for the serious title contenders from Boston this year. I guess that goes to show the level of competition out there on the league. The only thing surprising being that it appeared on the generally perceived weaker east when the regular season had 9 western teams racing for 8 slots for the playoff.

So just when everyone thought that it would be a piece of cake for Boston to find a place in the semifinals, the Hawks just turned the showdown into a winner-takes-all affair. While the home-team has gone to win each game of that series, recent history doesn’t leave the underdog without an ace either. That and the fact that Atlanta doesn’t have anything left to lose at all isn’t exactly something quantifiable from the stat sheets.

After all wasn’t it the Spurs who defied the odds of age and a wobbly regular season finish to turn the anticipated blockbuster against Phoenix into a mostly one-sided series?

When Everything’s Said and Done

Yesterday’s NBA result had the Spurs earning the right to move into the semifinals of the western conference. I have been wanting to write about what seemed to be imminent when the team held the lead at 3-0. I know better though as stranger things have happened in that league. Who would have forgotten last year’s first round upset which had the Mavs booted courtesy of the Warriors?

How much more for a year when the overly competitive western conference had to drop off that same Warriors team despite having close to 50 wins? The playoffs haven’t been exactly bland either with the top two teams in the league during the regular season surprisingly still slugging it out in a supposedly easy series. Not only does that makes this year’s playoffs exciting to say the least, these also goes to show how much the level of competition throws the odds against fearless predictions of even the most seasoned sports analysts.

While I have already written my piece on how mainstream sports media tended to overhype the MVP race, I won’t loathe any of them who picked the Spurs to go home early this year. I have been rooting for the Spurs since the start of the millennium and have seen how much more difficult it was for them to go all the way this year than before. Sure they have experience but their struggles towards the latter half of the regular season in a very competitive 9-horse-race conference seemed to suggest that age caught up with them. I’m not even including their even-year jinx here. 😀

Suffice it to say that there were serious obstacles in the Spur’s bid to repeat this year. I’ve seen it myself and I’ll give it to the experts who had to consider them pragmatically when weighing the odds.

How they managed to reduce the anticipated first-round blockbuster where they were popularly perceived to be the underdogs, I won’t delve in here. Even though I would have placed my money on them this year anyway, I’ve never had more doubts in them this year than I had in the previous ones. Who would have thought nearly two weeks later then, that they’re moving on to the semis, let alone advance in that fashion?

All I’m sure right now is that I’m not in that lot, at least among those who saw the latter.

Basketball and a Busy Day

By now any NBA fan should have known the outcome of the classic game between the Spurs and the Suns. Sure the Spurs won but only after a 2 OT’s featuring a game-tying 3 by Finley to force the first extension and another 3 in the first OT by Duncan. (Yup, no typo’s there alright.) The second OT had Nash and Ginobili taking over for both teams and when the smoke cleared, the Spurs came out with the W.

Now I won’t go out here to try and analyze anything about the game. When the match was forged on the last day of the regular season, basketball fans knew the match-up would be something to watch out for. Judging from how the first game was hard-fought, you get that feeling that the next games were only going to get better. And hard-fought there could easily qualify as an understatement when you see how much emotions and pride were on the line with the way neither choosing to roll over and wait for the next game for a win.

Far more importantly, at least from a fan of the sport who have had to spend more time at work these days, the playoffs comes as a very important source of relief from the stress and craziness my line of work throws at me. Anything for a quality game and a lot of things for a classic game.

It also takes away the attention from the boring MVP debates. Frankly, I don’t even care who wins it because as far as I’m concerned the only thing that matters is which team wins the championship. (I believe that’s more so for the players.) Excellent individual pieces might be there but without the ring, individual awards would seem like consolation prices. Blame it on media hype and the explosion of the internet to bring the cacophony of the sport around the world in real time.

If even the most trivial things get to be published in websites in record time compared to how it reached fans before, then expect sports writers pitch in views regarding the MVP award. It would seem a good topic for a good season that featured several candidates who excel in the sport given their respective situations. It gets boring however when it seemed like it was the only topic worth talking about for what felt like months.

Imagine my surprise then, when Neal Pollack decided to put everything I exactly feel about how sick I was with all the hype that was the MVP race. If you’re anything like me in this respect though, the 2-page read is a lot more than your while.

To cap off this entry anyway, here’s an interestingly sensible and worthwhile entry from basketball great, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as he talks about the subtle messages cartoons these days convey to children. As a father of a little girl myself, I have a pretty good understanding of where he’s coming at.

It’s Time for the NBA Finals

It’s settled then, the Cleveland Cavaliers will face off with the San Antonio Spurs for the NBA Finals. Winner of the ensuing best of 7 claims the championship and becomes the King of the Hill that is the 2006-07 NBA Season.  I must admit that I was pretty much surprised with the entry of the Cavs considering that their opponents, the Detroit Pistons, were heavily favored to advance. And that lot happens to include me, (as etched somewhere in my previous blog entry.)

What can I say, Lebron James found the help he needed to help his team advance. Good for him, tough luck for the Pistons. Now I’d like to hear from those analyst wannabes who wrote negatively about the kid from not being able to hit clutch shots to not being the great leader MJ was supposed to be, (hell even the comparison makes me cringe about the lack of objectivity in today’s self-proclaimed gurus.)

Moving forward, I’ve vouched for the Spurs in recent years and I have no intention of changing sides this time. Moreover, the entry of the Cavs in the Finals should give the Spurs the advantage. I’d like to see how James plays the series though because I’ve heard him once that he plays hard against the Western heavyweights given the fact that Eastern teams are generally perceived to be weaker compared to those from the other conference.

Should prove to be something to look forward to.

Out East, Out West

So it all boils down to 4 clubs. Consider them the suits in a deck of cards but in the end there will remain only one team in a playoffs characterized by a list of adjectives without “predictable” in it.

Out West

It’s the San Antonio Spurs and the Utah Jazz remaining with the Spurs enjoying homecourt from this point onwards.

Of all the series in that conference, it’s the 1-4-5-8 bracket of the playoffs format which would have put oddsmakers out of business. Conventional forecasting points out that it should have been the Mavericks and not the Jazz which should have been squaring off with the Spurs. The Golden State Warriors had something to say about that though as they plowed through the first round but didn’t have enough to overcome the Jazz in the second round.

As for the 2-3-6-7 bracket, nothing’s really surprising there: the Spurs are still standing. What’s really bothersome however is that they had to win one game of the series against the Suns with the help of a controversial suspension of Stoudemire and Diaw. Nothing to take away from the Spurs however but their advance would have been more convincing if it were not for that crucial suspension.

It should be a physical clash between the two with San Antonio eking out the win in 6 games.

Out East

It’s the Detroit Pistons against the Cleveland Cavaliers which will determine the Eastern Conference champions. This conference has turned out to be predictable with the top seeded teams meeting as expected. The only thing worth mentioning is that there will be a new Eastern Conference champion, (and consequently NBA champion as well,) with Miami’s uncharacteristic exit. I expect Detroit to eke this one out in seven games because it still remains to be seen if James will get notable help from his teammates.

Finals Peek

It should be NBA Finals 2005 part II, this time however, Detroit should have the advantage. While the Spurs’ core remained pretty much intact, Detroit had one notable change in the 5 spot: from Wallace to Webber, from defense to offense. The physical condition of the Spurs coming off a strong conference remains to be seen however.

Should prove to be something to watch out for because as much as I’ve been rooting for the Spurs ever since, my pragmatic outlook and sensibilities put the match-up at a dead 50.00-50.00.

Three Ball – II

This time a literal one. That three ball made by Horry with less than a minute to go to take the fight away from the Nuggets and more importantly a 3-1 lead for the Spurs as they take the series back at home where they can finish it all there.

I guess this time it’s safe to say the Nuggets are toast. Never mind the clutch baskets the guy’s accustomed to make in his NBA career, not even in the last game where Horry made important three’s and another clutch jumper late in the fourth quarter. But they just let Big Shot Rob throw the three again when they were just down by one! Just when you thought they learned their lesson from the previous game.

The result: the Spurs lead ballooned to 4 and the Nuggets never recovered from there. Anyway, I love the Jeff’s pun on the Horry and Parker pic here.

Horry to Parker: So, what do you say, Tony, you drive, kick it to me in the corner and we get out of here?

LOL