May 19, 2013
With the Indiana Pacers’ elimination of the New York Knicks out of the Eastern Conference semifinals taking place on Saturday night, the NBA’s version of the “Final Four” is set. The Pacers get ready to take on the defending champion Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 1 Wednesday night in Miami. The Western Conference Finals, which will feature the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs, will kick off Sunday afternoon with their Game 1 in San Antonio. These four teams are in the spot they’re in because of two main things: consistency and health. Through all of the struggles and rigors of the regular season and playoffs, these teams have been able to stay true to their identities and avoid crucial injuries to key personnel. Two teams, the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder, were legitimate threats to compete for the NBA title before key injuries hampered their chances. With that said, there should be nothing taken away from the teams that are still standing. The games still have to be played, and all the credit goes to the teams who took care of their business. Looking at the east side of things, I don’t think there’s any doubt these are the two best teams in the conference. It seems everyone had their sights set on a match-up between the Heat and Knicks, as a rivalry that goes back to the mid-90s would have been reignited, along with have the markets of Miami and New York going against each other. While that might have looked sexy on paper, I don’t think it would have been much of a series because the Knicks clearly aren’t mentally tough enough to beat the Heat. I believe Miami would have beaten the Knicks in five games if they were to meet. The Pacers are better than the Knicks and proved it on the court by beating them in six. I also believe the Pacers are a better match-up for the Heat because of the strengths they possess. They can score on the inside with center Roy Hibbert and power forward David West, and they can hammer you in offensive rebounding. If you’re going to topple Miami, you have to be able to do those things. I don’t know if the Pacers can beat the champs, but I definitely give them a better chance than the Knicks would have had. Out west, the Grizzlies and Spurs are almost mirror images of each other and this series has six or seven games written all over it. People will tell you if the Thunder didn’t lose point guard Russell Westbrook, the Grizzles probably wouldn’t be in this position. Because of the way Memphis plays, they would have still been a tough out for even a healthy OKC team. Let’s not forget the Grizzlies had the league’s best defense, giving up only 89.3 points per game, and the inside combo of power forward Zach Randolph and center Marc Gasol has been on fire in the playoffs. It would have been nice to see what would happen if the Thunder was healthy, but let’s not take anything away from the Grizzlies. Meanwhile, the Spurs just do what they do. Just when you think they’re done, here they are with another chance to be back in the NBA Finals. Most analysts thought the Golden State Warriors were primed and ready to take the Spurs out in the last round, but San Antonio made the adjustments to stop sharpshooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and slay the Warriors in six games. All and all, the best four teams are left standing, and that’s the way it should be. Forget about all of the stuff with big and small markets. If you have good management, you can produce great teams. These teams are clear examples of that. Expect these two conference finals to be classics.
By Charles Taylor