Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Road Less Traveled

Going into the playoffs, everyone was more than sure that a collision course was set between LA and Cleveland, and to be honest we didn't really like the inevitability of it all. We forgot one thing however, this is the NBA. Isn't amazing supposed to happen? Isn't Houston supposed to push LA to seven games, even without their two stars? Isn't Lebron supposed to make it through the first round without even sweating out a less than double digit victory... I guess not. After two rounds, everyone, me included, is ready to coronate King James and label LA the third round underdogs to Denver... but as Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend.”

If there is one thing that I learned about the NBA, it's that the playoffs are a grind and almost entirely dependent on match ups. Kobe and company had a terrible match up against a team that had a great defense to throw at them. As long as your team advances to the next round without injury, your season basically starts fresh. Yes, rest is important and getting better from nagging injuries is also. But so is being sharp and ready to play. We could argue for days the merits of not playing a couple of games the first two rounds and staying fresh and I'm sure that history would back us up. However, if you look just a year ago, Boston would give us a good argument for the contrary.

Everyone was doubting them in the earlier rounds because they were taken to seven games by the Hawks and Cavs. This may have seemed like a hindrance to Celtic title hopes but this gave the Celtic's big three much needed playoff reps together under pressure. It was almost like Doc Rivers, KG, Pierce, and company needed that shot in the arm to get them playing game seven basketball from then on.

After their series with the Rockets, now Kobe and this iteration of the Lakers know what it's like to experience a game seven and win. I know Houston was a wounded dog and I was overly critical of the Lakers for lacking the killer instinct to kick a dog when it's down. Hopefully, now they realize that they must play that way for all seven games against the Nuggets to have a chance.

More than anything this playoffs can serve as a case study to solve the argument of what is the best way to go through a playoff run? On the one hand is the Western Conference number one seeded Lakers who got almost as much as they could chew from Utah and Houston in their first two rounds. On the other hand is the heavily favored Cavs who have yet to play a close or meaningful game. It's a common theme among analyst that a team needs a loss or a bump in the road to make them ready for tough games down the stretch. The question then is do you want challenges and bumps in the road to keep you sharp and hungry like the Lakers? or do you want smooth sailing like the Cavs? This playoffs can go far to answer this question.

I have already said that I think LA loses to Denver but what if they don't. What if we do have the Kobe vs. Lebron, LA vs. Cleveland match up that everyone so desired? Then all these questions can be answered and we'll have a little bit better of an understanding of the NBA...

Or at least Vitamin Water will finally be able to answer the great debate between Kobe and Lebron.

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