Let’s face it: the 2012 NBA playoffs haven’t played out exactly like we thought they might.
The Chicago Bulls and the defending champs, the Dallas Mavericks, were both taken out in the first round. Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis were all taken out by gut-wrenching knee injuries—not to mention that both Dwight Howard and breakout star Jeremy Lin didn’t even play due to existing health issues.
Even so, there are still two that teams haven’t really surprised anybody. The Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder have both made it to the conference finals, and they’ve both done it in a relatively easy fashion.
Before I ease into the promise of LeBron and company facing down Durant and the Thunder in the Finals, I can’t help but wonder if any more expectation-shattering surprises are lurking around the corner. Given all of the surprises I’ve endured up until now, forgive me if I’m a bit unconvinced of the supposed Miami Heat vs. OKC Thunder matchup.
Don’t get me wrong; I would still put my money on the 2012 NBA Finals being the “legendary” matchup of the titans between the Heat and the Thunder. I’m just extremely open to the prospect of the Boston Celtics or the San Antonio Spurs making another run for the championship.
In the last 10 years, the Spurs and the Celtics have made a combined five Finals appearances. They’re built for the playoffs, and exist solely for the purpose making life as difficult as possible for up-and-coming teams like the Heat and Thunder.
The Spurs already beat the Thunder once so far this series. It’s not that farfetched to say that they stand a more than decent chance of rocking Oklahoma City’s world. In fact, I’m beginning to lean toward the idea that they will get past the Thunder and make it to the Finals.
San Antonio has an extremely balanced attack. None of the starting positions are lacking in any way. They also somehow have Manu Ginobili riding the bench. Is it legal to have someone as talented as Ginobili riding the bench?
I don’t think that their 19-game win streak will extend to the Finals, but the Spurs have the ability necessary to make it past Durant and the Thunder.
As of right now in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics are behind in the series by one game. Game 1 was obviously a disappointment for the Celtics, with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen accounting for just 18 points.
The Celtics are the team that will really need to step it up and play as best as they can against the Miami Heat. They have all of the right tools to get the job done; they just have to figure out how to stop the superstars in Miami. The Indiana Pacers had the right idea on how to play defense against the Heat. If you can keep LeBron and Dwyane Wade from running away with the game, you can win.
The question now, is do the Celtics have the firepower to not only keep LeBron and Wade down, but to light them up on the offensive end?
I would think so. While Pierce and Allen may spend their time trying to slow LeBron and Wade down, they still have Kevin Garnett with the ability to shut down the paint.
The Pacers never fully utilized all 7'2" of Roy Hibbert against the smaller Miami Heat big men, but Garnett should be able to make short work of Miami’s Bosh-less frontcourt.
Don’t forget about Mr. triple-double, Rajon Rondo. Statistically speaking, Rondo is the best point guard in the playoffs right now. He doesn’t get as many points as Tony Parker or Russell Westbrook, but with an average of 12.3 assists per game, he gets five more assists per game than Parker, and a whopping eight more assists than Westbrook.
Side note: how does a point guard on a team with Durant only average four assists per game?
I’m not going to make a make a crazy statement and decide that the Celtics and Spurs are going to go to the Finals. What I am saying, though, is that while these playoffs have been rough, they’re not decided yet. Not even close.