March 7, 2011

The NBA Season Nears March Madness as Surprises Amass

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After an exciting day of basketball on Sunday, much of it was overlooked — except for Miami’s inability to seal the win late in a game. With March Madness approaching and baseball preseason starting, the NBA had an amazing day full of close games and statement-making performances. Based on what I saw Sunday, I have a few thoughts that may foreshadow games that are on the horizon this summer.

First off, there was a close late game loss to the Bulls by the Heat — this is not the first time. In the last seconds of the game, the referee sealed the Heat’s fate when he called a nonexistent foul on Mike Miller — giving Luol Deng and the Bulls two fouls shots that they were able to convert into a one point lead. Perhaps it was the referee’s way of challenging the Heat to finally hit a game-winning shot. Up until this point in the game, Mario Chalmers was actually hitting some decent shots — theoretically, a play for the hot hand and Chalmers was not completely out of the question. Either way, Lebron’s drive into four people seemed desperate — especially since he clearly shied away from contact. As of late, he has lost all confidence in his jump shot and I think it’s time Spoelstra draws up an actual play instead of relying on his players’ assumed greatness. Spoelstra botched things up even more by bringing up comment made about crying in the locker room — I’m not sure what reason drove him to mention it. If he had a problem with it, he probably could have kept it between those involved instead of letting the whole world know that some of the players cry when they lose.

The Lakers completely destroyed the Spurs in a blowout, starting in the first quarter. The Spurs came in with a 22 home game win streak; however, it quickly disappeared as the Lakers — now two-time defending champions — came to town, bringing a great enthusiasm with them. The Lakers, especially Ron Artest, finally seem motivated and this one-sided performance should scare every team in the league — they’re back and they’re not ready to hand over the crown just yet.

The trade deadline has completely morphed the Knicks into a different team, and its new form came rolling into Atlanta. The game against the Hawks was back and forth until a certain point in the third quarter when the Knicks decided to play defense. Surprisingly, the spark did not come from its two most famous stars, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, but rather from veteran guard Anthony Parker. He came off the bench to supply two key steals and five points in a rapid burst to increase the Knicks’ lead significantly. Although the Knicks gained Anthony, a legitimate star for many above average players, they also gained underrated players Chauncey Billups and Anthony Parker. These two veteran guards should not be overlooked because they may play a huge role in the playoffs — which may be long since the Knicks look ready to upset the pack.

The Celtics shocked everyone by trading Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson — two of the most beloved Celtics. However, Doc Rivers proved to everyone that the newest additions to the team could be very useful — especially in the game against the Bucks. Contrary to what most people think, Nenad Krstic actually has many skills — coming mostly from his low post moves and outside shooting. Early in the game, it was Krstic keeping the Celtics in the game — not any of the Big Three. Jeff Green was used as a wingman and spelled both Pierce and Garnett at key points in the game. He also ran the floor extremely well and benefited off of feeds from Rondo. These new Celtics look dangerous and will be even more so once Shaq returns from an injury. However, the Bucks showed a lot of fight in this game too — they had to handle their own injury woes as well. Brandon Jennings is looking like he could one day become a top point guard in the league — especially with his apparent gift for passing the ball and scoring.

There were other exciting games on Sunday, including the 76ers victory in overtime against Golden State and the Grizzlies beating the Mavericks behind Randolph’s buzzer beater. The Suns also played into overtime against the Thunder. Overall, it was a great day in basketball and was one of those rare days that shows a glimpse of what is to come. Hopefully, the playoffs will continue to be just as exciting since there is still a lot of basketball to be played.

Original Author: Wankyu Lee