Tuesday, April 26, 2016

NBA playoffs and turning worms

Once upon a time not long ago, the LA Clippers had a shot at greatness this year. Could they finally win a championship? Nah, of course not. Forget that. They weren't even going to get to the Conference Finals -- a place they've never been before -- let alone winning two more playoff rounds to capture the title. That was NEVER going to happen.

Yet with the injury to Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors, most thought the Clips had a shot, however slim, of pulling off an upset in the second round against the defending champs. And then calamity struck. In the same Game 4 against the Portland Trail Blazers, "star" point guard Chris Paul broke his hand and "stud" Blake Griffin managed to yank his quad out of shape -- again. Both are lost for the remainder of the playoffs.

Without them, the team Donald Sterling finally built into a kinda sorta contender appears to be in big trouble. Many think they won't even get past the Blazers for a SHOT at the Warriors. With the series tied 2-2 and the RipCity bunch knowing their opponents just lost their two best players -- it wouldn't come as much of a surprise if the Blazers, already youthfully confident, sent the Clips packing for yet another season. It was going to happen anyway, but few thought it would be this soon.

But that's how fast things can happen when it comes to injuries dooming a team. Ya never know.

In the other Western Conference semis, Okla City will cede home court advantage to San Antonio. The Thunder have two super-starrish players in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, and are a dancing, flashy, trash-talking bunch. Meanwhile, the Spurs have been grinding it out all year quietly playing -- well -- Spurs basketball. It would be quite the upset indeed if the Okies found a way to dispatch Coach Pop's Alamolanders. But again, ya never know. Though the Spurs are probably the deepest team in the NBA, a couple bang-bang injuries to key players could change that equation as well.

It's long been the consensus that San Antonio and Golden State would slug it out in the Western Conference finals. After all, they were clearly the best two teams all year long. The edge probably went to GS. But with Steph Curry being out for 2-3 weeks, who knows how effective he'll be if and when he returns? Another worm may have turned.

In the East, it's been almost a given the Cleveland Cavaliers would waltz through the playoffs to reach the NBA Finals. They swept the hapless Detroit Pistons in the opening round, will likely have little trouble with whoever survives the Boston/Atlanta series in the semis, nor face a serious threat by either Miami/Charlotte/Toronto/Indy that emerges from the other bracket to make the Conference Finals.

Pencil them in. Unless catastrophe strikes. Remember, last year the Cavs actually led the Warriors 2-1 in the NBA Finals. And that was without the services of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Sure, the Dubs put the petal to the metal for the next three games to claim the championship.

Can Lebron James finally bring a title to his beloved Cleveland? Maybe. With him, and a healthy supporting cast, the Cavs definitely have a legitimate shot against whoever comes out of the West.

But what if it doesn't work out that way? The NBA Finals are still a month away. Lots of things could happen in the interim. His all-world talents notwithstanding, one Lebron Ramone James has been blessed over his many years in the league by remaining relatively injury free. If HE goes down, for whatever reason, the Cavs get very vulnerable in a hurry. Lebron can carry a team all by himself at times, but the team cannot carry itself without him. Look what happened to the Cavs after he originally left. And the Heat a couple years ago.

Sure, he's in great shape. So were Steph Curry, Chris Paul, and Blake Griffin. Those were all freak injuries as well.

But sometimes worms turn in a decidedly bad way for a player and, hence, his team's chances.

Ya just never know what might happen next......

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