Tag Archives: Indiana Pacers

How Russell Westbrook’s Injury Changed the Playoffs

Perhaps the pivotal turning point in this years playoffs is the injury of Russell Westbrook. Unlike teammate Kevin Durant‘s Sports Illustrated cover, Russell Westbrook’s injury could not have come at a worse time. In a year in which Russell set career highs in rebounding, assists, points, and games started, it  seems like great things were in store for the electrifying guard. However that idea didn’t come to fruition as Westbrook suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee in game 2 of the playoffs versus the Houston Rockets. Houston’s first year player Patrick Beverly has been criticized for the play in which he aggressively attempted to steal the ball near half-court causing Westbrook to twist his leg in an irregular motion. Westbrook’s injury which involved a collision between the two players is what Beverly called an “unfortunate situation” following the game. View the tape for yourself.

Prior to Westbrook’s injury, the playoffs looked promising in what seemed to be a year that Oklahoma City might contend for another NBA title. Yet since his injury, nothing has been the same. Perhaps opposing western conference teams no longer fear matching up with Oklahoma City as much as they once did. The loss of Westbrook leaves OKC without 23 points, 7 assists 2 steals and 5 rebounds of production; Every night. It might not sound like much, but these are good numbers. All-Star numbers. Numbers that replacement Reggie Jackson and reserve Kevin Martin must live up to in order to keep the Thunder afloat. Can OKC win without Westbrook? Yes they beat the Rockets in game 3 104-101. But I don’t believe they will be able to do it for any longer than the 2nd round.

I think it’s safe to say the road to the Larry O’ Brien trophy just got easier for every team in the West. Teams That Look Good: Clippers, Warriors, Spurs. For the simple fact that the Clippers have perhaps the deepest bench in the west, I like their chances. They posess the resilience to overcome adversity in many aspects of a game. For these reasons I like the Clippers. Golden State. Wow. It would be wrong not to mention that Stephen Curry is among the leagues premier players; Period. He’s single-hadedly carried the Warriors all season and through the first round up until this point. And a well-deserved round of applause for first time Head Coach Mark Jackson; Great Job. As long as these guys are shooting well, they’ll be fine. San Antonio: What more can I say, they made a fool of the Lakers in every single game. Whether it was just the horrifying play of the Lakers or the Spurs dominance, they look extremely dangerous. Teams That Won’t Survive: Thunder, Rockets, Grizzlies, Lakers. OKC won’t survive because believe it or not they actually rely on Russel Westbrook’s explosive play more than you think. Reggie Jackson is good, but he’s not Russell. Kevin Durant will continue to light it up but ultimately he will run out of help and Serge Ibaka might cry. I honestly believe the Houston Rockets are the worst team on the west side of the bracket simply because they count on James Harden too much. And without Jeremy Lin, Harden has no one else to decoy for him. Although Chandler Parsons has mountains of potential and athleticism he has yet to tap into, he continues to play like a role player. And for these reasons, Patrick Beverly and the Rockets won’t be seeing the 2nd round either. Memphis is among the best teams in this years playoffs. So why do I have them exiting before anything good happens for them? They’re playing the Clippers, it’s as simple as that. And although they’ve proven that they can beat L.A., they’re going to have to beat them on the road. That ain’t happening, at least not this year. But I will give credit where credit is due, big ups to the Grizzlies for handling themselves so well this season after shipping away key pieces like Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Marreese Speights. They’ve managed to rebuild and recover rather quickly. Oh, I almost forgot, the Lakers. Congratulations on making the playoffs, I honestly didn’t think you could do it. It’s been a good run (Laughs).

* In the end, I’m still taking the Indiana Pacers vs (Whoever dares to get in their way). That’s right, the Pacers will be NBA Champs. And for all the Heat bandwagoners, I say this. You heard it here first, the Miami Heat will contend for a title only one more time

Looking Into the NBA Playoffs: 4 Teams To Watch For

With less than 25 games left in the regular season the NBA Playoffs are drawing near. Finally the playoff picture is beginning to come into focus. Top teams look to continue their dominance while the bottom-feeders fight for position. And this is why we love the NBA, the end of the regular season and the playoffs. Because any team on any given night can be beat in this league that’s just how it goes. Whether your team is sitting among the top tier of title contenders or playing like a humble rebuilding project, any team can show out in the playoffs. It’s a completely new season. In the playoffs 16 teams come in with a blank records and only one can win. Think sweet sixteen. But other than home court advantage, nothing from the regular season matters except the seven game series ahead. Fortunately this years eastern & western conference match ups look to be exciting. In no particular order, here are four teams to watch for this post season.

One: Los Angeles Clippers

Recently crowned as the best team in L.A., the Clippers are pacing toward the playoffs in style with the western conference 3rd best record (43-19). Led by All-Star MVP Chris Paul, the team looks to be moving forward toward their next feat; winning the western conference quarter finals. After defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in an exciting first round match up 4 games to 3, the Clippers were swept by the ageless wonder San Antonio Spurs four games to none. A year removed from the disappointing showing against the Spurs, the Clippers have made enormous strides toward greatness this season. In fact, they have beaten the Spurs twice out of the teams three meetings in the regular season thus far. The Clippers have also managed to improve their defense as they currently lead the league in steals. Look for L.A.’s best to make waves in this years post season.

Two: New York Knicks

Aside from the 54 point clinic Stephen Curry put on for the Knicks last Wednesday night, the Knicks beat the Warriors 109-105. Carmelo Anthony dropped 35 points while handing out 8 assists, J.R. Smith added 26 points off the bench and Tyson Chandler had 16 points and 28 rebounds. Yes, 28. But no one was talking about any of that. 54 points later and 4 points too short, that night the Knicks hushed Warrior fans while making the statement that they are a good team. “Team” being the key word. New York displays good balance and rhythm with multiple contributors from the starters to the end of the bench. They currently sit third in the eastern conference at (35-21) but many would argue that they look much better than their record. I cannot believe I’m saying this but I believe the Knicks are one of a select group of teams that can contend with the Miami Heat in this years playoffs. If they can get back into the groove they had early in the season I don’t see why they can’t make a deep run in the playoffs in April.

Three: Denver Nuggets

Ever heard of the term “Run & Gun” ? Meet this years Denver Nuggets squad. All they do is get buckets. The Nuggets are among the leaders in field goal percentage, assists, total points and they are one of few teams in the league to feature six different players recording double-digit scoring averages. How is their defense you say? Not so great; but their scoring efficiency has allowed them to win games (38-22). Enough for them to be sitting comfortably at 5th in the standings among league leading western conference teams. Although some may have thought the Nuggets future was over after moving Carmelo Anthony to New York a couple of seasons ago, ironically they are more of a team now than ever before. But much like the Knicks, the Denver poses multiple threats on the fast break as well as from behind the arc. They’re tough to deal with in the open court because their versatility. Presumably coming into the playoffs at no. 5, look for the Nuggets to start turning heads.

Four: Indiana Pacers

Although I said this list had no particular order, I lied; Best for last. The Indiana Pacers ARE my choice to represent the east in this years NBA finals. If that prediction involves beating the Miami Heat in 7 then so be it because if any team has the tools, it’s this one. Led by first time All-Star guard Paul George the Pacers have snuck into second place in the east while passing the New York Knicks on the way. They have won 7 of their last 10 games and hold a solid 10-2 divisional record. If you think about it the Pacers are a lot like the Heat. They are tough, they play solid D, feature a great transition game and they take care of the ball. It’s a great formula for winning, maybe that’s why these two teams are at the top of the east. Last year the Heat beat the Pacers after trailing two games to none. They finished the series winning four straight, closing out the series in 6. If anything, that series gave Indiana confidence and urgency. Caution: Dangerous combination. From last years meltdown against Miami to the emergence of Paul George and the sudden rise to the top of the eastern conference, it is time that the Pacers make their statement as the best team in the east. Stay Tuned.