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.
The matchups for the conference finals are set. Let’s take a look back at the second round and a look forward at the four teams playing for the NBA Finals.
Grading the Second Round – The Western Conference
(1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies
Prediction: Grizzlies in 6
Actual Result: Grizzlies in 5
When Russell Westbrook was injured in the second game of the opening round, it pretty much ended OKC’s chances at defending their Western Conference title from last year, unless Kevin Durant could perform a miracle. He was not able to, shooting poorly in an increased role, obviously fatigued, and unable to hit a game-tying shot in the closeout game, after missing important free throws in the last couple. You can tell Durant’s tired when he’s not making his foul shots. None of this is to take away from the Grizzlies’ dominant, old-school performance. They play tough on the inside, Tony Allen is the best perimeter defender in the Association, and Mike Conley is coming into his own as a top-tier point guard.
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Golden State Warriors
Prediction: Spurs in 7
Actual Result: Spurs in 6
The Warriors completely outplayed the Spurs in the first two games of the series in San Antonio, but the wily veterans got it done and took the first game right at the end. Eventually, the slow and steady play of the Spurs and their ability to play solid defense and do everything right wore down the Warriors, who were too dependent on jumpshots to keep on winning once Steph Curry and Klay Thompson went cold. Still, the Warriors are a fun young team and it’ll be great to see if they can improve on this performance next year.
Western Conference Average Grade: A-
Grading the Second Round – The Eastern Conference
(1) Miami Heat vs. (5) Chicago Bulls
Prediction: Heat in 5
Actual Result: Heat in 5
I got this one right on the nose, but if I’d have had to have picked which game the Bulls would win, I would have said it would have been the third game, their first home game. Instead, they upset the Heat in the first game on Miami’s floor, and caused brief thoughts that maybe the Bulls could keep the magic going and fully shock the world by taking the series. Those thoughts went right away with a blowout by the Heat in the second game, and another in the fourth, and then a comeback win in the closeout game to seal it. The Bulls fought hard, but they were overmatched, even as Dwyane Wade looked out of place on the floor due to nagging injuries. Could his lackluster play hurt the Heat moving forward?
(2) New York Knicks vs. (3) Indiana Pacers
Prediction: Knicks in 7
Actual Result: Pacers in 6
The Knicks at times looked awful, so bad that it’s surprising they managed to win two games. The team that looked really good at the end of the regular season did not look like that same team. This will of course bring up the debate of “whether or not you can WIN with Carmelo Anthony” and I for one am sick of it. He’s a great player, and yeah he’s a little selfish, but JR Smith was just as much, if not more, to blame for the poor showing this round, Tyson Chandler looked old and out of sorts, and no one for the Knicks played well. Also, Carmelo Anthony was one of the two best players (along with Dwyane Wade) on the 2008 Redeem Team, and he singlehandedly won a college title. You know who very much did not do that? Kevin Durant and especially Derrick Rose. So let’s keep the Carmelo criticism to ourselves, huh?
Eastern Conference Average Grade: C+
Overall Average Grade: B
Western Conference Finals Prediction
(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (5) Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies upset the Spurs two years ago when the Spurs had the best record in the West and the Grizzlies were the eight seed, and in that time the Grizzlies have only gotten better while the Spurs are just about the same: maddeningly consistent and always near the top of the West. The Spurs are healthier this year and Tim Duncan seems revitalized, but the improvements made by the Grizzlies, including the emergence this playoff year of point guard Mike Conley, will make up that difference. This team is so Memphis and they don’t bluff.
Prediction: Grizzlies in 6
Eastern Conference Finals Prediction
(1) Miami Heat vs. (3) Indiana Pacers
Yes, the Pacers gave the Heat some trouble last year. Yes, they are the team that matches up best against the Heat. No, they will not win this series, and no, it won’t even be close.
Prediction: Heat in 5
The games start today, so in the immortal words of US President Guy “Whitey” Corngood, “Get ready.”