Amazingly, the real season starts now in the NBA
Amazing things happen in regular seasons, even if the best day is the one it ends and the postseason starts.
It only feels as if Cleveland ruled all season. The Cavaliers weren’t even consensus favorites in the Eastern Conference and didn’t pass favored Boston until Dec. 28.
Meanwhile, imagine a Lakers fan, emerging from a seven-week camping trip in the wilds, asking how that 73-win thing came out.
At least the Lakers got closer than the Celtics, who were also going to do it, according to Rasheed Wallace, who must have had a good feeling in camp because that’s how long he had been there.
Actually, with the Celtics collapsing, the Lakers won only seven more games. In the NBA’s Athens and Rome, it was that kind of season.
Now the Cavaliers are favored to romp through the East draw.
Meanwhile, the Lakers, preseason favorites to win it all, aren’t even considered a lock in the first round.
Of course, really amazing things happens in the playoffs.
The postseason is a reality of its own, as Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, who hasn’t been in one yet, just learned, bristling for the first time in his pro career at Lakers Coach Phil Jackson’s garden-variety complaint that he gets too many calls.
This just in:
In the postseason, game plans become something more than guidelines that go up on the white-board, replacing those for the team they just played, to be replaced after the game for one against the next opponent.
Now, your No. 1 option is no longer wide open and No. 2 is harder to get to, too.
The game really changes for players accounting for a disproportionate percentage of their offense — like Durant, or LeBron James, who scores or assists on 46% of the Cavaliers’ 102 points.
Teams that bust it every night lose their advantage in the playoffs when everyone goes all out.
Instead, matchups become more important or all-important. In the spring of 2007, the Dallas Mavericks who had just gone 67-15 with Dirk Nowitzki winning the MVP, were upended in the first round by Golden State, which put a smaller defender, Stephen Jackson, in Dirk’s face and held him to 38% from the floor.
The Cavaliers are like that, following James, whose exuberant leadership style makes him, among other things, the closest thing to Magic Johnson since Magic Johnson.
A year ago they won 66 games, including 35 of their last 39 counting 4-0 sweeps of Detroit and Atlanta in the first two rounds, then were stunned by dark-horse Orlando.
This season the Cavaliers won just 61, only two more than fast-closing Orlando, still the best team nobody knows about.
If going on a roll is preferable, all 16 teams still have a chance to start one.
So, for unfortunates like the Lakers and Bulls, who just dropped into the postseason, literally, it’s not over yet.