NBA Playoff Preview
The Ticker takes an in-depth look at the NBA Playoff picture
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 30, 2012 18:04
Clippers and Lakers fight for Los Angeles supremacy
The Lakers started off the season with huge rumors of them trading for either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard. Many people felt they would go after Chris Paul for the fact that the team will do better with a young point guard leading the team.
Chris Paul ending up going to Los Angeles but not the team many people was expecting. In a controversial move, the NBA commissioner David Stern vetoed the trade that would send Paul to the Lakers. A few days later it was announced that Paul would be going to the red and white side of Los Angeles.
The Clippers made a huge splash by getting both Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul. The Clippers were the third worst team in the Western Conference and with the increasing popularity of Blake Griffin there had to be some kind of incentive to keep their Power Forward once his contract runs out. With the addition of both players many people expected that the Clippers would not only make the playoffs but probably had a chance to win the division (they have never won the division or any sort of championship).
The expectations didn’t get lowered after the Clippers dominated the Lakers in the pre-season. The frequent alley oop passes from Paul to Griffin earned the team the nickname “Lob City.” The Clippers ended up losing the division to the Lakers by one game. The Clippers and Lakers were almost head to head the whole year in terms of who was number one in the division.
The Lakers lost Ron Artest aka Meta World Peace for at least seven games because he elbowed Oklahoma City Thunder’s James Harden in the head during a game. will more than likely play the Mavericks or Jazz. The Lakers are going to have to depend on Matt Barnes to carry the load for World Peace’s absence. With the leadership of Kobe Bryant and the increase game of Andrew Bymun, the Lakers should at least be able to get through the first round without Peace.
The new coach Mike Brown has had his hands full trying to deal with this edition of the Los Angeles Lakers but the pieces seem to be falling into place. Kobe had a rough start to the season but the injury plagued guard averaged more than 28 points this season. Bynum, who has had his maturity questioned, has emerged as a quality player.
This postseason will be incredibly exciting to watch for people from the City of Angels. Coach Brown is trying to follow in Phil Jackson’s footsteps and he clearly doesn’t want to be the Lakers coach who got dethroned by the Clippers. On the other hand, Clippers coach Vinny del Negro would like nothing more than to beat the Lakers. He embodies the inferiority complex people associate with the Clippers franchise.
Del Negro was let go from the Bulls after a mediocre season and the next year his replacement lead the team to the best record in the NBA. If by some miracle Lakers and Clippers meet in the playoff it will be one of the most intense playoff series of all time.
Thunder’s dynamic duo ready to take charge
It has been over 30 years since the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise has won a championship. The combination of young stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have become one of the most formidable duos in the NBA. Durant, a superstar from the day he was drafted, has become one of the NBA’s most well known players, whereas Westbrook, who often plays Robin to Durant’s Batman, has steadily improved over the course of each season, and has now established him as one of the best point guards in the game. While the two average half of the Thunder’s points, they are certainly not without help.
James Harden, who in the midst of his best season, has proven to be a reliable scorer. As he embraces his role of coming off the bench, Harden is almost a lock to win sixth man of the year award. At the core of the defense, Serge Ibaka has also had a breakout year, proving to be one of the best shot-blockers in the league. Teams comprised of young stars usually find it difficult to achieve the same success in the playoffs.
This may not be an issue for the Thunder, who showed remarkable poise in last year’s playoffs, where they lost in the conference finals to the Mavericks. The addition of five-time NBA champion Derek Fisher bolsters the argument that the Thunder seem mentally ready to take the next step to the finals.
But the road to a championship will not be easy for the Thunder. If they manage to advance past the first round, the Los Angeles Lakers would most likely be waiting. This series would be especially interesting considering their last meeting was a double overtime thriller in which Metta World Peace violently elbowed Harden. This caused a concussion for Harden, and a seven game suspension for World Peace.