|Greatest Tweet ever...by far. I love you Paulie!|
Right now, as I write this, we're two hours before the opening tip-off of the much anticipated Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat second round match up. Given the history of the players involved and given what these two teams stand for, it seems this series was destined to happen.
Just sit back and think about the subplots for a minute! Think about long time Laker Shaquille O'Neal, now a Boston Celtic, returning to Miami to face his former franchise and former teammates Dwayne Wade and Lebron James. Think about the fantastic Paul Pierce-Lebron James rivalry that's bred several incredible match ups. (I will never forget their epic duel in Game 7 of their 2008 meeting when both scored 40+ points. One of the greatest games I've ever seen by far!) Think about Lebron trying to exercise his playoff demons...especially against a Boston team that has thus far confounded him. Think about Miami trying to silence their doubters to earn the championship celebration they held before the season. Think about Jermaine O'Neal returning to Miami to face his former franchise and prove he was a better option than Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Joel Anthony. Think about Jeff Green trying to turn it around to earn my approval. Wait, those last two weren't good subplots? Alright, fine, we'll stick with the other ones.
Of all the subplots, the one getting the most press is the last one. No, not the Jeff Green one; though that would make me incredibly happy. Miami-Boston essentially has been boiled down to "the right way" vs. "the wrong way." I've been very outspoken about what Miami has done and I won't back down from any of those comments. The Miami Heat way is the wrong way. Collecting a few superstars and patching around them is not what basketball is about and I sincerely hope they never achieve success.
Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion on the matter and that's part of what makes this such a fascinating series. The emotion in this series will run deep, from both the players and the fans, and I couldn't be more excited! How often do you see these types of series' in the second round? How often do you get an NBA Finals feel in the second round? How often do you get a "life and death" feel in the second round?
Believe me, I feel all of those things. Even though it matters little in the grand scheme (as is the case with all sports), I'll be treating this series as a literal life and death situation. That's how strongly I feel about my Celtics and that's how strongly I feel against the Miami Heat. It's about more than this one series though, it's about the actual life and death of an era.
This "changing of the guard" has been one of the more underplayed plot lines of the playoffs. For the last decade, the NBA has been dominated by Kobe and the Lakers, Duncan and the Spurs, and Boston's Big Three. Those teams have combined to win ten of the last twelve NBA championships! TEN OF TWELVE! New stars have risen and challenged, but these veteran teams have continually knocked them off their perch. Perhaps that era has already begun fade. Already, San Antonio has been knocked out by the eight seed Memphis Grizzlies and the Lakers have been challenged by the inferior New Orleans Hornets. New teams and new stars have risen and these "Big Three" of teams have looked extremely vulnerable.
As much as I hate to admit it, this is likely Boston's last serious run. The "Real Big Three" are aging quickly and the surrounding pieces simply aren't as good. I said this was "More than a Series" because this very well might represent the passing of the torch from one era of basketball to another, and that's not something we see too often in the NBA. I've been seriously watching the NBA since 1993 and this will be the very first time I've witnessed this. Think about it; Jordan's Bulls never had the torch wrenched from them...he retired on top! Believe me, neither Boston nor Los Angeles wants to give up the torch...it will literally have to be pried from their cold, dying hands. Perhaps they have it in them to hold off the next generation for one last playoff run, or perhaps the Lebron, Wade, Durant, Westbrook, Rose group is ready to take what is rightly theirs. Either way, this is the most fascinating playoffs I've ever witnessed...by far! I can only hope it isn't destiny for Lebron and the Heat to put Boston out to pasture. Please, please, please...for the love of all that is good in basketball, don't let it happen!
Here's a few quick second round predictions
Boston over Miami in 6
I still think Miami's supporting cast is too weak to take the Celtics down. Boston looked good against New York, especially the last two games, and Rondo should have no problem dominating Mike Bibby's headband. I've said all along, he is the key to Boston's success. If he's active, penetrating, and getting Boston out in transition, then we're still a dangerous team. Whatever was bothering him in the regular season (Perkins trade?) he appears over it. The games should be close, but Boston has a proven ability to make plays in the last two minutes while Lebron has a proven ability to get mad and quit. Yep...quite the superstar.
Chicago over Atlanta in 5
First of all, major kudos to Indiana for hanging with Chicago. It seems like most look down on Chicago for that, but I think it had more to do with the Pacers than Chicago not being legit. Anyways, I'm shocked Atlanta beat Orlando and I'll be even more shocked if they make this series interesting in the slightest. They're a bunch of chokers and Chicago should have no problem destroying them. But hey, at least they have Joe Johnson for the next 38 years!
Oklahoma City over Memphis in 4
I'm calling the sweep! Yes, I know, I have a major man-crush on Durant and the Thunder, but I don't see how Memphis can beat them unless Westbrook decides to shoot 30 times every game...which apparently isn't out of the question.
Los Angeles over Dallas in 5
Amazingly, this is the first playoff match up between Dirk and Kobe! Based on that, this should be the most interesting series other than Boston-Miami, but I'm pretty sure it'll end badly for Dallas. I got burned in the first round with my Mavs disrespect, but I'm undeterred! It's not that I hate Dallas, it's just the match up that I hate. As we all well know, the best way to beat LA is to crush them at the PG position. Dallas definitely has that advantage...in 2001...but Jason Kidd is only a shell of his former self. Dirk will get his, as usual, but Dallas can't possibly score enough to make this a series.