Some will say the National Basketball Association has a long, and overly drawn out early-round schedule. The first round of the NBA playoffs consists of eight series. Out of those eight series, five went to a deciding, winner-take-all, seventh game. Of the five Game 7s played this past weekend, only one road team was able to overcome their lower seeding, and an enthusiastic home crowd… your Brooklyn Nets!
Led by Joe Johnson’s fourth-quarter heroics, some inspired play by veterans like Kevin Garnett & Paul Pierce, and a rookie head coach who’s proving with each victory he IS the right choice for this team, Jason Kidd and the Nets toppled the Atlantic Division Champions. The Toronto Raptors have the kind of talent a franchise can build around in Kyle Lowry & DeMar DeRozan, but we’ll need to wait one more season to see if this group can bring Toronto’s fans playoff success.
To the victor goes the spoils, or in this case, the defending two-time NBA Champions. This matchup would spell doom for most teams in the Eastern Conference, but the Nets took all four contests against LeBron James and the gang from South Beach during the regular season. Will this inspire a tired group, led by aging stars, to take four out of seven games in a postseason series from a Miami Heat team poised to join legends like the Lakers, Bulls and Celtics as they seek to win their third championship in three years? Will Deron Williams show up like he did in Game 6 against Toronto, or supply very little like he did in Game 7, missing crucial free throws in the closing moments which allowed the Raptors a shot at a comeback?
LeBron James won’t win the Most Valuable Player award for this season; that honor will go to Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Like Michael Jordan during his best seasons, it took a herculean effort for Durant (32ppg, 7.4rpg, 5.5apg) to wrestle the award from King James, who turned in another LeBron-esque season tallying 27.1ppg, 6.9rpg, 6.4apg. Even though LeBron says “(Durant) had a big-time MVP season,” and that “…he deserves it,” I’m sure the King has his sights set on a third jewel in his ever-growing crown. With three rings, LeBron James is halfway to Jordan’s six, but in the mind of some, he’s already more than halfway to Jordan’s title of greatest ever. First thing’s first, a series against the Brooklyn Nets.
It’s hard to argue with Miami’s trifecta of James, Chris Bosh and Dwane Wade being one of the most imposing collections of talent the NBA has to offer, but the Nets might be in the unique position of matching up well with the talent-rich Heat. Deron Williams will need to win the PG battle for the Nets to have any shot at winning this series. You’ll see LeBron playing Joe Johnson on one possession, then Paul Pierce the next time down the floor. Williams will need to utilize what speed he has left in those ankles to set up favorable matchups down low for Garnett, Andray Blatche and even Mason Plumlee.
Jason Kidd will need to massage his bench as well, where he may have a depth advantage with players like Marcus Thornton and Andrei Kirilenko finally getting warmed up. Don’t be surprised if players like Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson give the Heat reserves their most trouble. LeBron James doesn’t win the MVP, the Heat don’t win a game against the Brooklyn Nets all season… it all sounds like a ton of motivation for the King and his court to me!
-Joseph Haas, HaasStyleInterpretations.com
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