NBA playoffs heating up

Parker Fox, Staff Writer

The NBA Playoffs really are “heating up” with the Heat eliminating the defending conference champion Celtics and the defending champion Lakers already eliminated.

When the 2010 NBA season tipped off, most fans would have bet their house that the Lakers or Spurs would be the team coming out of the Western Conference.  But after some shocking upsets both teams have found themselves watching the rest of the playoffs from the comfort of their own homes.

In the first round, the number one seed Spurs (61-21) lost to the eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies (46-36).  The emergence of Zach Randolph, who has averaged 22 points per game in the playoffs, was key for the Grizzlies.  Randolph had to battle against the likes of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili to make NBA history- the second eight seed to beat a one seed in a best of seven series (Golden State over Dallas, 2007).

“Parity is alive and well in the NBA,” says junior Shane Smith.  “For a small market team like Memphis to be able to take out a one seed is pretty incredible.  It’s making the NBA more interesting to know that it isn’t always going to be the Lakers or Spurs or Mavericks in the Finals.”

In reference to the Mavericks, they have actually been playing Cinderella this playoff season.  The Mavs took out the two time defending champion Lakers in grand fashion, sweeping all four games.  In game four, Lakers stars Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom were ejected on flagrant fouls.  11 time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson could only shake his head after watching his team quit in what is likely to be his last season.  In what will probably be his last press conference, Jackson said, “I knew it was a big challenge for this team to three-peat. We’ve gone to the Finals, and to go back twice and win it after losing in ’08 puts a lot of strain on the basketball club from all angles. Personalities, spiritually, physically, emotionally. Getting charged up for game after game and assault after assault when you go in and play a team. So it was a challenge bigger than we could beat this year.”

“I couldn’t believe when the Lakers got swept,” says junior Carson Breeding.  “I was hoping they would win it all again.”

In the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat have done what LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all knew that they could not accomplish alone- beat the Boston Celtics.  As James noted while talking to the press at a practice, the Celtics were the “blueprint” for other super teams in the NBA.  They were the first to take three big time players from different teams and combine them all in the off-season.  And since James decided to take his talents to South Beach, sports fans everywhere but Miami have become fans of the Heats’ opponent.  In spite of losing many of his fans, LeBron led the Heat to a 4-1 series win on Wednesday night in front of the Miami crowd.  He averaged 28 point per game for the series.  Wade added an average of 30.2 and Bosh 12.8.

Ready to match up with the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals are the Chicago Bulls, who defeated the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday night en route to a 4-2 series victory.  MVP Derrick Rose will need to be the best player on the court if the number one seed Bulls can knock off the Heat.  Rose has carried his team on his back all season, averaging 25 PPG.  Rose has been prone to injuries this playoff season, spraining his ankle twice, and his health will be of great concern for the Bulls.

The match up is especially intriguing because of all the free agency hype over the off-season.  Wade and James were both strongly considering taking their talents to… Oak Street Beach and Bulls forward Carlos Boozer was a likely candidate to wind up in Miami.

The Western Conference Finals will be the Mavericks vs. the winner of the Oklahoma City vs. Memphis series.  The Heat-Bulls series will commence on Monday and the Western Conference Finals are TBD until the Thunder- Grizzlies series ends.  Hopefully for NBA fans, the rest of the playoffs will be as exciting and unpredictable as what we have experienced thus far.