This basketball counts and every game you see will be the best basketball you’ve seen all year.
82 games can stretch out a season and even stretch out a style of play. The NBA really forms into shape during this time of year because now everything matters.
There will be defense, there will be passion and the rest times are over. Players will play harder and coaches will coach harder but the theatre will be off the hook.
Best opening series – Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets
Being an Oakland native I grew up with the most apathetic fan base in the NBA. Golden State was the franchise that other players went through on their way to greatness.
They have had short periods of success including 1990 when Run TMC was the high-scoring trio of basketball teammates consisting of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin.
Golden State was coached by Denver’s current head coach George Karl for a short time and most Warrior fans wish George Karl had never left.
Both teams are really fun to watch and will fill up the scoop in high scoring action. These teams will trade punches and I fully expect this series to go six or seven games.
The series could hinge on the fact that in early April, it was announced that small forward Danilo Gallinari sustained an ACL injury and would be gone for the year. He averaged 16 points and 5 rebounds per game before his injury and Denver does not have a replacement for that scoring.
Best storyline – Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets
How’s this for drama?
James Hardin plays against his former team in the first round of the playoffs. Hardin was the Thunder’s 3rd leading scorer in 2011/2012 at almost 17 points per game but could not get paid a max contract with star power on the roster like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
While everyone in Houston is happy with Hardin’s almost 26 points per game for the Rockets he has made everyone better around him.
Oklahoma City has moved on like a steamroller but Hardin was worth a lot more than his 17 points per game last year. He was Mr. Big Shot and Mr. Clutch.
Can he be Mr. Big Shot and Mr. Clutch when it matters most? I’ll be in the arena for at least one of these games. They love each other in the media but nobody will want to win more than each of those guys individually.
Last go around – San Antonio Spurs
Think back to the movie ‘Major League’ when Tom Berringer, Wesley Snipes and Charlie Sheen’s roles are in the restaurant and they toast to “One last good year in the sun”.
That is the San Antonio Spurs right now. They may have the best game day coach in the NBA in Gregg Popovich but their age has shown the last three years late in the season.
Popovich has rested his team, brought in young firepower but the meat of the Spurs will still come from Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
While Duncan has been a rock star of a basketball player in 2012/2013 Ginobili and Parker can’t walk over a crack in the sidewalk without getting hurt.
Sure the Lakers do not have Kobe Bryant but they are gaining momentum and player better down the stretch. The spurs seem to be going in the wrong direction. I’m staying with the Spurs right now but if Parker is limited or doesn’t play, all bets are off and this series could go either way.