The 2012 NBA Playoffs: Should We Just Hand It to Miami?

LeBron James might be all-smiles way by the time June comes around,
and the rest of the world will be in tears.
(image Mark Humphrey/AP)

They blew out a loaded Knicks team in Game 1.

Either an upstart Indiana Pacers team or a Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic team awaits them in the second round.

Boston is in danger after losing Game 1 to the Hawks and after Rajon Rondo’s antics netted him a suspension.

And Derrick Rose is out.

Good thing they’re just 5-5 against Western Playoff teams this season, right?


Now that the biggest thorn in their path to the Eastern Conference crown (Rose) is no longer going to play, who can stop the Heat from trampling on everyone in their path?

And once they get enough momentum entering their second straight NBA Finals, who’s to say anyone from the West, given how exhausting and grueling the Western side of things will be, still has enough to upend the big bad trio of James, Wade, and Bosh?

This early, on Labod Day here in Manila, with about a month and a half more before a champion is crowned, things don’t look good already.

And, of course, Miami, LeBron especially, has a chip on its shoulder.

And he’s probably gonna be MVP, too.

Sucks, right?

Says James, “I'm a different player this year, a different person this year. I waited for this moment to get back to the postseason. I prepared myself all season as well as the offseason to get back to this point. I'm excited about it. I've gotten away from the 'hate' stuff. I played with that last year and it wasn't me."

There is a lot less “hate” this season. Last year a lot of people weren’t really rooting for specific teams. They were rooting for “just not Miami.”

That kind of sentiment may have lessened now, and it helps the Heat even more.

But, again, is this year’s title as good as Miami’s already?

They have the inside track, sure, but I’m hoping a host of other teams can still topple them.

The ones I really like are OKC, the Lakers, the Spurs, and, yes, even the Bulls.

Despite escaping Dallas by the thinnest of margins, I think Oklahoma City can give Miami a hell of a time on the court. KD is a great match-up for LBJ. Ditto for Westbrook on Wade. And Ibaka versus Bosh is gonna be good, too. The X-Factor is James Harden. He’s my 6th Man of the Year, and if the Thunder do make it out of the West, he’ll be invaluable in their quest for a title.

Kobe and Co. against the Heat should be an awesome match-up as well, not to mention it’ll look great for marketing. If the Lakers do make it that far, the SF position will be key simply because Kobe cannot match-up with BOTH Wade and James. In a 7-game series, Devin Ebanks, Matt Barnes, and Metta World Punch (Peace) will each have to have at least one great game to counter Miami’s production on the wings. LA’s advantage, of course, will be their twin towers. On a bad day the tandem of Gasol and Bynum is still better than the Bosh-Anthony or Bosh-Haslem duo on a good day.

The Spurs look pretty awesome, too. They should dump the Jazz in the first round, and, if they do manage to continue their age-defying run, then their grit, championship experience, and bordering-on-boredom efficiency should make it tough for Miami. Manu Ginobili, Boris Diaw, and Stephen Jackson have quietly made their presence felt, Tony Parker’s name is being whispered in MVP discussions, and I’m convinced Marty McFly took a trip back in time and brought back a younger Tim Duncan.

Of course all those three teams won’t even have to play against Miami if the Bulls continue to be as resilient and defiant as they’ve been throughout the regular season. I believe this to be true: the Bulls are still the top team in the East – provided everything clicks, provided they don’t hang their heads and wallow in Rose’s loss. This will really test Tom Thibodeau’s acumen, Luol Deng’s leadership, Carlos Boozer’s resolve, and Rip Hamilton’s experience. The Bulls can still make this postseason have a happy ending for everyone not in South Beach.

So should the Larry O’Brien trophy be prepped for a Miami celebration?

Hell no.

But, just saying, we should be prepared for the worst.

*As of this writing, the Miami Heat just beat the New York Knicks for a 2-0 lead in their first round series.

April 29, 2012 Game Recaps:
SAS over UTA, 106-91
Tony Parker netted 28 points and dished out eight assists, leading the San Antonio Spurs to a resounding 106-91 win over Utah in the opener of their Western Conference quarterfinal series. Tim Duncan tallied 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs, who have won 11 games in a row since an April 11 defeat to the Lakers. Unlike last year, the top-seeded Spurs are off to a good start in the playoffs. In 2011, they lost their opener at home to Memphis and were ousted in six games despite having the No. 1 seed. Paul Millsap had 20 points and nine rebounds for the Jazz. Game 2 of the best- of-seven series is Wednesday, again at AT&T Center.

Tim Duncan and the Spurs are tightly focused on
the biggest prize in basketball.
(image Eric Gay/AP)

LAL over DEN, 103-88
Andrew Bynum matched Hakeem Olajuwon and Mark Eaton for the most blocks in an NBA Playoff game and posted the first Lakers triple-double in 21 years as Los Angeles thumped the Denver Nuggets, 103-88, in the opener of their Western Conference quarterfinal series. Bynum netted 10 points to go with 13 rebounds and 10 blocks, becoming the first Laker to register a postseason triple-double since Magic Johnson accomplished the feat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls. Kobe Bryant scored 23 of his 31 points in the second half on 11-of-24 shooting, while Mike Brown made his Lakers playoff coaching debut. Devin Ebanks filled in admirably for the suspended Metta World Peace, scoring 12 points to go with five boards. World Peace will miss the first six games of the series for a violent elbow to the head of Thunder top reserve James Harden last Sunday. Danilo Gallinari poured in 19 points to lead the Nuggets, who won six of their last seven games to close the regular season. Denver's leading scorer, Ty Lawson, was limited to just seven points. Game 2 of the best-of-seven series will take place on Tuesday at Staples Center.

Kobe Bryant and the Lakers frolicked past the Nuggets
in Game 1 of their first round series.
(image Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

ATL over BOS, 83-74
Josh Smith posted 22 points and 18 rebounds, and the Atlanta Hawks hung on to defeat the Boston Celtics, 83-74, in the opener of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. Smith became the first Hawk to register 22-plus points and 17-plus rebounds in a playoff game since Moses Malone had 24 points and 17 rebounds in Game 4 of a first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks in 1989. Jeff Teague added 15 points and six rebounds, while Kirk Hinrich nailed four three-pointers en route to 12 points for Atlanta, which fell to Boston in seven games the last time these two combatants met in the 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. Rajon Rondo, who was ejected with 41 seconds remaining in the game for bumping an official following a foul call on Brandon Bass, finished with 20 points and 11 assists. Kevin Garnett netted 18 of his 20 points in the second half for Boston, which trailed by as many as 19 points. Paul Pierce had just 12 points on 5-of-19 shooting. The Celtics were 0-for-11 from beyond the arc. Game 2 of this best-of-seven series is slated for Tuesday at Philips Arena.

Rajon Rondo night not have done Doc Rivers and the
Celts any favors by getting himself suspended.
(image David Goldman/AP)

LAC over MEM, 99-98
The Los Angeles Clippers stunned the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, overcoming a 27-point second-half deficit to win, 99-98, in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series. Memphis, which opened postseason play on its home floor for the first time in franchise history, dominated early and often, but Los Angeles closed the game with a 28-3 run and Chris Paul sealed the improbable result, making the tying and then go-ahead free throws with 23.7 seconds left. Rudy Gay missed a short pullup jumper as time expired. Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Wednesday in Memphis.

Chris Paul and the Clippers rallied for a record-tying
comeback in the final frame against Memphis.
(image Andy Lyons/Getty Images) 

*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from Reuters, the Associated Press and the Sports Network.
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