Thursday, May 14, 2009

KG's Injury- Preserving the Dream

With the Cleveland Cavaliers sweeping their way to the Eastern Conference Finals, questions are being raised as to whether LeBron & Co. can manage to rattle off 12 consecutive wins en route to their inevitable trip to the NBA Finals. Through eight postseason games (4 vs. Detroit, 4 vs. Atlanta), the Cavs have look virtually unbeatable, posting an average margin of victory of just under 17 points, and emerging as not only the class the Eastern Conference (by some margin), but also the clear-cut favorite to capture the NBA title in June.


When the Cavs finally take the floor in the conference finals, they will square off against either the Orlando Magic or the defending-champion Boston Celtics, wh’ll be coming off a grueling 7-gamer. Regardless of the opponent, it’s pretty safe to assume that LeBron will make his second career finals appearance. While the consensus opinion states that the Magic will probably not win a single game, the Celtics, powered by the “heart of a champion”, are expected to win at least one win, and that a healthy Kevin Garnett would give them an actual shot at winning the series.


Wrong!


As totally backward as this may sound, the Celtics should be thankful that Garnett won’t be available should they move on to face Cleveland. The Cavs’ bloodthirsty, “on a mission” form this postseason, combined with Boston’s inconsistent bench play, it’s unlikely that KG would have any impact on the series’ storyline. Even with a healthy KG, it’s hard to imagine the Celtics pushing these Cavs to even a fifth game, let alone winning four out of seven. Like the Magic, the Celtics will take the floor on Sunday night and fight tooth-and-nail for the privilege of running headlong into the Cleveland buzzsaw. Garnett’s absence creates a hypothetical, “heart of champion”, and “defending the title” scenario that simply cannot occur in reality for Boston fans to “reasonably” play out in their minds.


Friday, May 1, 2009

The Hits Just Keep Comin'!

I simultaneously envy and pity fans of the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls. Can there any greater pleasure for a sports fan than this series? On the other hand, however, how does a series like this not shave years off of every fan’s life? More than anything, I’m just happy to be alive for this series.


While powerful performances on the stage or the screen speak to our emotions, their outcome is predetermined; sports, however, are our greatest theater, capable of taking us on the same intense, emotional ride, but with the ultimate outcome a mystery to all. Occasionally, however, a matchup comes about that, even were it to be scripted and marketed like a movie, would still be a blockbuster. The first round series we are witnessing between the Celtics and the Bulls is a perfect example.


Heading into this series, had someone provided a spoiler of what was to come- a seven-game series, five of the first six decided by no more than 3 points, four of those games extra time, one requiring two overtime sessions, another three- I’d wait outside a theater for as long it took to watch that! Throw in the phenomenal clutch play of Ray Allen and Ben Gordon, the explosion of Rajon Rondo and the arrival of Derrick Rose, and we are in the midst of not just one of the all-time great series in NBA playoff history, but we are witnessing the game at is absolute best- this is sports taken to its highest elevation.


Often times, a playoff series that goes the distance winds up becoming a war of attrition- but not this one! Not only has the intensity picked up as this series has progressed, but the level of play has been elevated as well. If it hasn’t been Derrick Rose tying the scoring record for a playoff debut, it’s been Ray Allen nailing clutch jumpers or hitting for 51, or Ben Gordon making seemingly unmakeable shots down the stretch, or Rajon Rondo churning out yet another triple-double. Man, this series has been awesome!


On the heels of yet another classic, this time a triple-overtime Game 6, we look ahead to Saturday’s Game 7, scheduled for 8:00pm (Eastern time) in Boston, and can only hope that these teams have one more epic battle left in them.


Thank you, Celtics. Thank you, Bulls.