Four wins down, 12 to go. If you’re into math, that’s 25% of the way home to being crowned the H.T.I.C. of the NBA. For some, the first four wins were essentially a cake walk. For others, scratching, clawing and the sheer grace of the ghost of James Naismith are the reason they’ve advanced to the round of eight.
Regardless, you’re here. And that’s all that really matters.
Since Mike played his last game as a Chicago Bull in June of 1998, David Stern’s league and the power that came with it have rested in the west. It is a conference of big men, agile guards and competition trumping that of their eastern counterparts. The 2004 Detroit Pistons, 2006 Miami Heat and 2008 Boston Celtics were the only exceptions to the rule. Other than that, the Lakers and Spurs have presented themselves was kings of the court winning eight combined titles since 1999. Even with the league’s MVP resting in the Eastern Conference, the Western Conference could very well continue their dominance with the emergence of the already coined “team of the future,” the Oklahoma City Thunder.
We’re getting ahead of ourselves though. There is a series set to kickoff in Hollywood.
Los Angeles Lakers Vs. Utah Jazz
Playing without several of their top players, the Jazz are running off heart – and behind the league’s best point guard in Deron Williams. If Jerry Sloan’s crew can keep their head above water until Game 3 (i.e. at least take one in L.A.), the return of Andrei Kirilenko could be big. The Jazz can find solace in knowing they can potentially dictate the tempo of the series with Williams having the supreme advantage over the Lakers point guards. And Boozer is coming off a stellar first round series, including a 22/20 performance in the Game 6 clincher versus Denver. All that’s standing in their way is that 14 game losing streak at the Staples Center.
But the Lakers are the Lakers and beating them four times in a seven game series isn’t exactly the easiest task to accomplish. Especially when you consider the Lakers have won 77% of their games since acquiring the Pau Gasol a few seasons ago. The Spaniard and Odom are the size that the Jazz do not have and Phil Jackson probably will look to expose this from the opening tip. Even more so than consistent help off the bench, Ron Artest has to be more of an offensive threat as completely disappeared at times in their opening round series. And like him or not, Kobe Bryant is still one of the best players on the planet and arguably the best closer in the game.
Patrick M. — Utah in 6