Organized Sports is a recurring sports column named for a seminal DC avant-hardcore song by the equally stupid and brilliant (to me, “equally stupid and brilliant” pretty much just means “brilliant”) band Void. Take from that what you will.
If we learned anything from the second round of the NBA playoffs this year, it’s that the Western Conference is a lot better than the Eastern Conference. It may not get the same amount of coverage, but that’s to be expected—there was a time this year when the Knicks, barely clinging to eighth place, were the most covered team, because they had an Asian basketball Tebow. But hey, we don’t have to hear about the Knicks anymore! Woo!
Grading the Second Round – The Western Conference
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (5) Los Angeles Clippers
Prediction: Spurs in 6
Actual Result: Spurs in 4
The Clippers just didn’t have what it took to even win a game against the Spurs, who are, to use a cliche, firing on all cylinders. There were points when the Spurs were down ten in games and laughing on the bench, knowing that when it came to the end of the game, they’d have it sewn up. Tony Parker matched up well with Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin could stand to learn from Tim Duncan on how to play smartly as a power forward in the NBA. This season was still a success for the Clips, but the Spurs seem mighty close to unstoppable.
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (3) Los Angeles Lakers
Prediction: Thunder in 7
Actual Result: Thunder in 5
The Thunder put the final nail in the coffin of this iteration of the Laker dynasty. Durant made the big shots, but the true MVPs for the ex-Sonics were James Harden and Russell Westbrook, whose speed and explosiveness was too much for the aged and/or not-very-good other-than-Kobe Lakers.
Western Conference Average Grade: B
Grading the Second Round – The Eastern Conference
(2) Miami Heat vs. (3) Indiana Pacers
Prediction: Heat in 5
Actual Result: Heat in 6
Because the media must overreact to everything regarding Lebron James, the easiest NBA superstar to write thoughtless “think”-pieces about since Allen Iverson ranted about practice, the narrative of this series turned over a half-dozen times in the half-dozen games it took for the Heat to dispatch the Indiana Pacers. Lebron and Wade had a bad game, the Pacers embarrassed them, and then Lebron and Wade had great games and the series was over. Did we learn anything from all of this? Maybe: Chris Bosh is a lot more important than anyone would have wanted to think, and his absence reveals just how poor the team is right after Lebron and Wade when he’s gone, and as a result either team that could possibly come out of the West should be able to beat the Heat.
(4) Boston Celtics vs. (8) Philadelphia 76ers
Prediction: Celtics in 6
Actual Result: Celtics in 7
In a series that was at (most) times unwatchably ugly, the Celtics finally pulled it out at home in the final game through an awkward triple-double by Rajon Rondo that covered up how awful he’d been at times throughout the series, and Kevin Garnett still somehow managing to be great, if only when it really, really counts. The 76ers fought valiantly, but they’re just not very talented; they overachieved and should be proud of how far they got.
Eastern Conference Average Grade: B
Overall Average Grade: B
Western Conference Finals Prediction
(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (2) Oklahoma City Thunder
The way the play has been going on throughout these playoffs, this almost feels like a defacto NBA Final series, as either one of these teams is playing at a higher level than the Eastern equivalents. Both of these teams are playing fantastic, and though the Thunder may have more raw talent and overall energy, this feels pretty much even. In a toss-up, I’ll take the team that’s winning because of good coaching rather than in spite of ineffectual coaching, and take Popovich and the most fun Spurs team he’s coached yet.
Prediction: Spurs in 6
Eastern Conference Finals Prediction
(2) Miami Heat vs. (4) Boston Celtics
If the Heat’s big two minus Bosh play well, there should be no contest in this series, as the Heat play a much more skillful version of the athletic, running style the Celtics had so much trouble with from the 76ers. What we must remember, though, is there were points in the previous round when it seemed like the Pacers might actually beat the Heat, when Miami was so far off its game that a Pacers-76ers conference final seemed like a possibility. Still, Lebron has been in this situation before and thrived; we’re not to the Finals yet, and hopefully a Lebron choking storyline won’t rear its ugly head yet, if at all, throughout the rest of the playoffs, because I’ve had enough of those thinkpieces.
Prediction: Heat in 6
I’m calling it already: Spurs over Heat in the Finals. Check back to see if I have to make another prediction when both of my conference finals predictions are proven wrong.