It is playoff time and this usually means a basketball feast of mammoth proportions for about two months of the spring/summer months. Like TNT?s slogan of ?40 games in 40 nights,? this is a time of year when a fan can push aside all of the outer influences that make the NBA what it is today and just focus on the game. Or so we thought?..
Instead of soaking in what has been very competitive series and the birth of superstars, we are consumed with the thought of what is considered a ?dirty foul? and is it worth a possible suspension that might throw the work of a team over 82 games down the drain. So instead of focusing on if Raja Bell deserved his suspension and what exactly Reggie Evans was thinking, here are the top moments of the playoffs as we near the end of the first round.
In case you haven?t had a chance to catch some of this series, LeBron James and Gilbert Arenas are staging a playoff duel that will remind some of Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins years ago. With clutch scoring and a willingness to take over a game, James is quickly making his case as the best player in the world, while Arenas is staking his claim as one of the best scorers in the league.
Game 5 Wednesday night was one that should be on ESPN Classic before the week is out because it was classic schoolyard play where you try to out-do your opponents on every play. It was great theater and should be highlighted more by the NBA.
James finished the game with 45 points and Arenas chimed in with 44. The game was capped off by a great finish in overtime that saw Arenas drive right down the floor against LeBron, before James came back and made two free throws to regain the lead. It still wasn?t over yet as Arenas was able to draw a foul in the final seconds to give the Wizards a lead, before once again, LeBron drives and makes another game-winning bucket to end a pretty special final 30 seconds in overtime.
In Miami, everyone who tuned in saw what courage on a basketball floor really is when Dwyane Wade came back from a horrific fall to almost dominate the game at only 50%. When a player hits the floor as he did, it sends a shiver up your spine watching it, then you see who the competitors are and who just compete. I always knew Wade would come back because he is a gamer, but I never thought he would play that well. He scored 15 of his 28 points after coming back from the locker room, but it was his dominance of the game that was the most impressive.
Down the stretch when he and his Heat teammates extended their lead against Chicago, Wade constantly was able to control the flow of the game and continue to bother the Bulls? guards into tough shots. Toughness is measured by how well you fight back from adversity and not how many free throws you can shoot. Wade always says in his Converse commercials that he falls seven times and gets up eight times. Finally, someone who tells the truth in a shoe ad.
Westward in Dallas, the Mavericks quietly swept the Memphis Grizzles with relative ease and nobody really noticed. People in Dallas have said it all year that this is a different Mavericks team and now, everyone should believe it. Under Don Nelson, this team was always more about style than substance, but that has changed under new coach Avery Johnson.
Johnson has instilled an understood confidence with Dallas, that now is playing pretty good defense and Dirk Nowitzki, who averaged 31.3 points per game throughout the series and is quietly becoming the toughest player to guard in the world. The reason being is that he has the size of a big power forward, the quickness of an athletic small forward, the ball-handing of a big point guard, and the shooting ability of a top-notch shooting guard. He might not be able to defend five positions, but he has the ability to score and distribute from every position. While his rebounding was down this series at only 7.8 per game, he still shows the knack to be able to go down low and be a rebounding force against any team in the league. Don?t look now, but the Mavericks could be playing in June in 2006.
Well, that should keep NBA fans busy for a while until the next suspension Stu Jackson and David Stern hand down, but if it doesn?t, here is one more story for the road.
The Clippers, yes those Los Angeles Clippers, are in the second round and if the Lakers hold on and win, will be hosting the Lakers at the Staple Center. What has this world come to?