NBA Playoffs: Beards, Rings and Old Legs

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Justin Fritze breaks down what we have learned so far in the NBA Conference Finals. Who are you Knicks fans pulling for out there? Personally, the wave of tears in Boston has led me to hope Miami beats them but is then promptly disposed of by the Spurs in 5 games. – JC 

THE WEST: EQUAL AND OPPOSITE

Was I, a diehard Thunder fan, nervous about going 0-2 to the Spurs with the potential of going down 0-3 last night? No. I was already resigned. Yes I know it’s sacrilege, but every person watching the two games in San Antonio could do nothing but marvel at the efficiency and ease that the Spurs displayed with their old school offense.

If you’re going to lose, you better lose to the best. You better not get outworked or outhustled, but getting outsmarted by a team with 4 rings in the past 10 years (and quite possibly the second or first (if you factor in the Jordan/Kobe thing) greatest coach in NBA history) is nothing to be scoffed at. Yeah, Dirk got them with an inhuman playoff performance last year, but this year was different. It was the sum of the parts working at 110% efficiency.

It was with that in my mind that I sat, stone sober, in front of my television and watched the Thunder quite literally dismantle that machine, piece by piece, and use their transition offense to beat on the Spurs. Case in point? Kevin Durant skying over Tim Duncan with an alley oop as Duncan decides not to even attempt a block. For that night, for that fanbase, the Thunder decided that they weren’t going to go quietly, and a single question stood out in my mind. Were the Spurs, with 19 straight playoff wins, getting tired?

My hope? Yes. The Thunder are going to use their momentum (and the fact that they are undefeated at home in the 2012 playoffs) to turn game 4 into a track meet. Will it work? Who knows. I’m a fan of the team, so trying to get any sort of unbiased opinion out of me on this series is going to be as useless as getting “elpresidente” to give a level headed assessment of Game 2 of the Boston/Miami series.

Why am I a Thunder fan? I’ve been trying to come up with reasons beside the obvious: the relative anonymity by which the team as a whole carries itself, the young coach, the city still trying to deal with its scars, the 22 year old shooting guard coming off the bench, the 22 year old power forward, the 23 year old point guard, the 23 year old small forward….etc.

The Thunder, simply put, are the Anti-Heat. No Armani GM, no collusion in their “Big 3”, no ring proclamations, no star treatment. Enough gushing. Let’s talk after Saturday night.

THE EAST: THE END OF THE ROAD

I’m here to give great pity, great condolence, and great admiration to the Boston Celtics. Why? Because I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, and most of my family still resides in the New England area. Because my grandpa has hats for every Celtics championship, because there is just something different about coming from New England. People there never get much credit, and most of the industries in Connecticut and Massachusetts have all but dried up. Textile mills, steel mills, paper mills, all but gone. Go read Kerouac, and look at modern day Lowell. It’s a testament to a time gone by.

That’s what I see with the Celtics. Old men exchanging stories about the good old days. Ray Allen trying to play on two bad ankles, Paul Pierce getting absolutely 0 calls, Rajon Rondo trying to carry the load of not just the Celtics team of 2012, but all the ghosts of Celtics past. Those banners carry weight, and Rajon Rondo tried to do everything short of fly around the court to get the Celtics a win. He may be completely insane, but Rajon Rondo has the heart of 10 Lebrons.
Despite the incessant banshee screams of Bill Simmons, the Celtics are not going to win this series. This is the end of the road, and if I can pick a favorite moment of this Celtics squad, it was the crippling of Kobe’s dynasty with a title and a 30 point blowout a few years back. Kevin Garnett, Paul Piece, Ray Allen, thanks for the memories.

As a last thought, imagine if Jeff Green was healthy this year.