Friday, April 30, 2010

Dragon Slaying

The Lakers, Spurs, Blazers, Nuggets, Jazz, Suns and Mavs have all been staples of the Western Conference playoffs the last decade or so. This lack of diversity in the Playoff gene pool has led to some great playoff games, great meltdowns and a great set up for this year. The late 90's proved to be the same kind of scenario in the Eastern Conference with the Knicks, Bulls, Pacers, and Heat. Coming from those series were a number of great Jordan moments, Reggie's theatrics and heroics versus the Knicks, and the Playoffs best announcer, Jeff Van Gundy, clinging to Alonzo Mourning's leg. It seemed that every year a Heat/Knicks matchup was inevitable, because it was. From 1997-2000, they met every year in the Playoffs and played the maximum number of games each series, with the clinching game of the series being decided in the closing moments of the game. Miami only beat the Knicks in one of those four series, the first one in 1997. After that, the Knicks became Miami's dragon; the naturally sworn enemy and inevitable matchup for the Heat, a matchup they could never overcome.

The Heat went through another stretch, although much shorter and less dramatic, when a matchup with the Detroit Pistons seemed destined every year. This may have had more to do with the Pistons versus Shaquille O'Neal (dating back to their upset of the Shaq/Malone/Kobe Lakers), but it was the Heat's dragon to slay if they wanted to win a championship. This year, the west is full of such destined matchups. Mavs/Spurs. Jazz/Nuggets. Suns/Spurs. Jazz/Lakers (potential). Suns/Lakers (potential). Lakers/Spurs (potential). Jazz/Spurs (potential). Its almost a paper/rock/scissors set up. Spurs own the Suns, Lakers own the Jazz, Spurs own the Lakers, Lakers own the Suns, and for the sake of the analogy lets just say the Jazz own the Suns. Each team seems to have a date with destiny, a passage though fire, or any other cliched hero/dating reference. Somebody is going to have to slay their team's figurative dragon.

Who wins in all this melee? We do. The way the first round has gone, we can almost assume that round two will be turned up to 11. I'm still hoping that Kevin Durant walks on water for the next two games of the Lakers/Thunder series, but if not it doesn't mean that the best basketball is behind us. Rather, its yet to come.

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