Due to extenuating circumstances, it’s been awhile since my last post. In the past 44 days, what had looked so promising has completely fallen apart. No, I’m not referring to the economy, the weather, or Rick Santorum’s campaign. I only focus on the important issues in life. Like the Eastern Conference Playoff picture.
According to the standings on March 5, we would’ve had these matchups.
1. Chicago Bulls vs. 8. New York Knicks
Melo hadn’t started his recent tear, but, with Jeremy Lin in the lineup, we were preparing for a star-studded affair between the team from the World’s Greatest City and the Knicks.
Now, Lin is out, Amare Stoudemire has yet to return, Luol Deng is temporarily shelved, and Derrick Rose can’t seem to stay healthy. That, and the Knicks appear poised to grab the seven seed, keeping the Charles Smith lowlights on the shelf for at least another year.
2. Miami Heat vs. 7. Boston Celtics
In early March, the Celtics were still slogging through the regular season, but the prospect of the Big Three + Rondo flipping the switch for what could be their last rodeo, and doing so against the new edition of the Big Three, wouldn’t have been short of drama…and future Hall of Famers.
Now, Boston is all but locked in the 4 seed, so this matchup could only happen in the Eastern Conference Finals.
3. Orlando Magic vs. 6. Atlanta Hawks
Hey, NBA TV has to air some games, right? But in all seriousness, seeing Superman battle his Kryptonite (Jason Collins) ain’t bad for what would’ve been the 4th-best opening series.
Now, Dwight is questionable for the playoffs and the Magic have skidded down the standings. Meanwhile, the Hawks remain the Hawks. Predictably and un-excitingly above average.
4. Philadelphia 76ers vs. 5. Indiana Pacers
From Christmas day through early March, the fates of these two surprising young teams devoid of a superstar were tied. It was the Coke or Pepsi argument of the young season – analysts loved picking one dog in this fight, claiming their darling was legit, while the other was a fraud waiting to be exposed. Both were playing well and the chance to see them duke it out and also guarantee one of these green squads would play in the conference semis added a fresh touch to the Eastern Conference landscape. Chicago’s struggles against both also made looking ahead to the second round intriguing(ly terrifying).
Now, Indiana has continued its upward trajectory and has the 3rd seed all but wrapped up, while Philadelphia is proving its doubters wrong by skidding down to the fringe of the playoff picture.
On March 5, we had eight teams with second round talent arranged into four juicy matchups. On April 18, we have one potentially fun matchup – 2. Miami vs. 7. New York – and three stinkers.
Even if the 76ers hold off the Bucks for the 8th seed, they don’t have enough time to right the ship and give Doug Collins a fair shake at revenge against his old employer, Chicago.
If Dwight Howard misses the playoffs as reported, their potential first round matchup with Indy becomes a dud that has no chance of stretching to six games.
And a 4/5 matchup of Boston and Atlanta? Yawn, wake me up when Boston wins.
At this point in mid-April, with the playoffs just a dozen days away, three of the four current series matchups would have almost no shot of going six games. We’d be reliant on New York hanging tough with Miami to provide any sort of first round drama.
Looks like yet another year of watching the Western Conference first round intently, while letting the Eastern heavyweights dismiss of the lesser-thans and walk through the window dressing before we can enjoy the big dogs squaring off.