Top 5 Biggest Storylines Heading into the NBA Playoffs
The NBA playoffs are looming, and there are more than enough storylines to pay attention to as we get ready for postseason action.
Will the Kobe-less Lakers find a way to at least compete with the Oklahoma City Thunder?
Will the tragedy that happened during the Boston Marathon have some effect on security and safety during the playoffs?
It’s these and many more storylines that have this NBA postseason set up to be one to remember.
Here are the storylines to watch heading into the 2013 NBA playoffs.
5. Will Derrick Rose Play?
Last year in the first game in the 2012 NBA playoffs, Derrick Rose led his top-seeded Bulls against the Philadelphia 76ers.
To Chicago fans, this game can live in infamy, because as the game was winding down, Rose drove to the basket and went up for a layup. When he landed, his knee gave out and Rose's ACL was torn.
After being sidelined one full year, what better way to come back from an ACL tear then where it all happened: the first game of the playoffs at home?
The 2011-12 MVP has been cleared for full-court scrimmages and has been practicing during Bulls warm-ups before games for a few weeks now. He's been teasing his hometown fans, who have been waiting for their hero to return for a miraculous playoff run.
It's time for Derrick Rose to give the people what they want, and they want their first championship since Jordan in 1998.
4. Will There Be Any Security Changes After the Boston Marathon Tragedy?
The answer is yes.
After the horrific chain of events that took place at the Boston Marathon on Monday, sporting events across the nation immediately increased their security before games were played the next day. After games were cancelled in the Boston area, the city has increased security for upcoming games.
Cities around the world, like New York; Washington, D.C.; and even London, all have heightened their security around the area for the immediate future.
What's going to be interesting is how the fans will handle the increased security. With the added police dogs and tougher enforcement being placed before entering the arena, will fans feel safer, or will they be worried that another attack will happen?
With that being said, who makes the trip out to the first couple playoff games this Saturday? Will families be slightly more hesitant to go out in public because of the worry of a bomber?
I think instead fans will unite like we did post 9/11, but the image of Boston on Monday will forever be ingrained into our mind. That moment will never be forgotten, and some fans will be afraid to leave their houses for a while.
3. Will the Injury Bug Be the Downfall of the Denver Nuggets?
In March, the Denver Nuggets looked like a team that could challenge the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top spot in the Western Conference.
During their tremendous 15-game win streak that lasted all of March, the Nuggets were one of the highest scoring teams in the league while dominating in the paint.
They cemented themselves as the best home team in the NBA (37-3 in the Pepsi Center) as well as the third overall seed in the West.
Even though they were without a standout superstar, the Nuggets had a team full of B-listers that played a very organized team game. They ranked top-three in the NBA in points, rebounds and assists per game.
But when leading scorer Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL, things suddenly went from bad to worse.
The loss of Gallinari put added pressure on point guard Ty Lawson. With Gallinari out, the Nuggets lost a player that can stretch the defense, opening up holes for slashers like Lawson and two-guard Andre Iguodala to drive to the hole. It also gave enough space for the big men to work down low.
On top of that, the young and ferocious Kenneth Faried went down with an ankle sprain a couple days ago. The Manimal is arguably the biggest glue guy in the league. His energy seems to rub off on the rest of the team when he’s on the court. It seems like he never stops running, and the way he snags his 9.2 rebounds per game is just so fun to watch.
Even though Faried looks good enough to play when the postseason kicks off on Saturday, his ankle may be less than 100 percent.
If he can’t run the way we’ve seen him all year and he becomes ineffective in their first-round matchup, the Nuggets will continue their habit of underperforming in the playoffs.
2. How Will the Kobe Bryant-Less Lakers Fare in the Postseason?
The popular opinion in the NBA is that after seeing Kobe Bryant tear his Achilles tendon against the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers, whether they made the playoffs or not, had no shot at contending for an NBA title.
But with the Black Mamba now the least of the team’s worries, it might actually be one of the best things that happen to the Lakers going forward in the postseason.
The win against the Houston Rockets could be the best thing for the Lakers going forward. The purple and gold have a better chance at moving past the first round if they faced off against the injury-ridden San Antonio Spurs, especially with their one big advantage: their inside game.
Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard got off to abysmal starts to the 2012-13 NBA season, but lately the Lakers giant duo has become one of the best low-post tandems in the Association.
Without Kobe, the Lakers have to utilize their obvious strengths. Other than Kobe, the rest of the team’s ability to create their own shot off the dribble is very poor. Most of their shooters spot up on along the arc, waiting for Kobe to pass out of the double-team.
The only chance the Lakers have at moving on will be to feed the big men. This gives them a better chance at not turning the ball over. The old legs on the perimeter won't be able to stop the Spurs in transition, nor will they be able to take on San Antonio's young defenders one-on-one.
Even though Tim Duncan is playing great basketball as of late, he won't be enough to stop D12 or Pau on his own. The big men for the Lakers should have their way inside, increasing their chances to pull off a major upset.
Avoiding OKC in the first round was huge because now the Lakers have a great shot to move on to the second round of the NBA playoffs.
1. Will Too Much Rest Prevent Another Championship in Miami?
We’ve seen it happen in the NFL all too often. A team wraps up a playoff spot or home-field advantage, and the coach decides to rest his players for a few weeks. The thought is that the rested athletes will be fresh when they play in the postseason, leading their team to an easy victory.
If you ask the Green Bay Packers or numerous Indianapolis Colts teams, what happens is that rest usually causes rust, not allowing the player to participate in game situations for almost two to four weeks, depending on when the starters are rested and what postseason position the team has.
Now the theory can be tested in the NBA this Saturday.
Most of the Miami Heat’s starters have been resting nagging injuries for the last few weeks. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers have all sat a reasonable amount of time with various ailments.
Now while the reigning NBA champions are able to get reserves Mike Miller, Norris Cole and Chris Anderson some important minutes heading into the playoffs, it has been a while since the full starting lineup has played together as a group.
I think we have all come to realize that LeBron James is the greatest player in the world right now. But if the NFL tradition translates to the NBA, rust takes its toll on even the most talented individual.
LeBron has had one of the most efficient years in NBA history, but that came with playing game after game after game. After a long rest period, will LeBron, along with the additional resting starters, be in sync and play as efficiently as they did before?
I’m not saying to look out for a first-round upset, but the Heat could struggle with the Bucks for a couple games before they finally get going again.