There was a point where the eighth-seed Sixers looked like they were making an LA Kings-style run into the finals. A strong three-point game supported by some stellar performances from fan favourite Andre Iguodala took the bottom-feeding Sixers past the almighty Chicago Bulls and into a heated Game 7 against the consistent playoff-performing Celtics.
While the absence of superstar Derek Rose was a severe handicap for the Bulls, it should not undermine the feat of an eight-versus-one takedown (the fifth time in NBA history.)The Sixers looked like a well-oiled machine, with secondary support from Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and the heavily tattooed Lou Williams. Taking the dynastic Boston Celtics to Game 7 brought the overused Cinderella metaphor into the fold, but alas, the shoe did not fit, as the Rondo-led Celtics narrowly came out on top.
The Magic without Dwight Howard equates a medieval castle without its walls; the Pacers were able to walk right in and hit Orlando in their weakest point, the paint. The Pacers adopted the role of the chip-on-your-shoulder schoolyard bully, and immediately saw success. Roy Hibbert and David West played both strong and hard in the paint, drawing fouls as Glen Davis simply couldn’t keep up.
An old-school sweep of the Magic was convincing as Darren Collison and George Hill chipped in and rounded out a great team effort from the Mid-Westerners. Danny Granger was the all-star of the team, leading his colleagues into the second round against the Heat with fantastic performances across the board. Unfortunately, the hopeful Pacers were unable to keep up with the Miami superteam.
The Pacers went on to play one of the toughest and grittiest series we’ve seen in a while against the Heat. Elbows and off-court chirps galore, this series resembled a playground battle that we know and love.
The Heat consistently wore down the Pacers over three quarters, and relied on James and Wade to finish the job as the game came to a close. The Pacers played tough D but couldn’t hold, succumbing to the starpower of Miami after six games. The Big-Three-Turned-Two outmanned the ambitious Pacers.
The new-and-improved Clippers were looking like a potential sleeper team at the onset of the postseason. Chris Paul was being Chris Paul while Blake Griffin was throwing down his standard ground-shaking dunks. They capitalized on the sloppy play of the Grizzlies, who couldn’t handle Paul and his associates. They made a 28-3 run in the fourth quarter of game one that surprised the entire basketball world and sent out a message that the Clippers weren’t going to go down kindly.
Yet it was likely the sloppy play of the Grizzlies that did it, as they mounted a comeback from 3-1 only to fall in the decisive game. The Clippers were embarrassed by the Spurs in the second round, as the Paul-Griffin combo could only ‘Atlas’ the team on their back for so long.
Griffin actually performed under his season average in this series, leaving Clippers fans wondering if he can use his off-season to flesh out his shooting and defensive game. The Clippers simply couldn’t play a four-quarter game against the Spurs and had to answer to it by packing their bags after a rather quick second series.
Michael Jordan was likely feeling a tad bit uneasy as Kobe was on his heels for championship ring number six. As the Lakers bowed out to the dominant OKC Thunder, one has to wonder if the Black Mamba will be able to step out of Jordan’s shadow by the end of his career. Another ring would certainly do the trick, but the Phil Jackson-less Lakers couldn’t muster the second-round energy needed to take down what could very well be the NBA champions.
Kobe shone in a few moments but his supporting cast wasn’t there. Maybe the Lakers could have used another Metta World Peace elbow to the face to rally the troops.
It was tough to include Dallas in this list, but as (formerly) defending NBA champions they deserve some credibility. The first two games were close, and made it look like the Mavs would at least make a series out of it.
But alas, the star studded OKC Thunder prevailed simply due to their team game. The Mavs probably would have taken down a number of other west-coast teams in the first round, but how could they have competed with a team where three different players put up over 72 points. The second best Mavs player was Jason Terry with 55 points in the series. It could have been a very different playoffs had the Mavs been matched up with someone else in the first round.