Way back before I joined the FanSided network, I was pushing for a Spurs-Magic Finals.
My thought was that the addition of Robert Jefferson and Dejaun Blair would lead to the Spurs having the exact type of players necessary to compete in a grind-it-out run to the NBA Finals, where they would meet a Magic team whose depth would allow them to cruise through the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Well, it still might happen but I’m more hopeful than I am confident after watching the Suns continue the success they had in the first round in a win over the Spurs in game one of the Western Conference Semis.
The Suns have shown that their style of play isn’t as much reckless as it is aggressive and that this year’s version of the team is much more skilled than past incarnations that may have been more talented but ultimately weren’t able to play true team basketball, the brand that is needed in the playoffs.
I’m not ready to count the Spurs out at all, but they showed an indifference to challenging Nash’s repeated trips tot he lane in Game 1 and by the time they made the adjustment, Nash exploited the increased attention he was getting and his teammates benefited greatly. Popovich is too good a coach and the roster is too experienced to say that one loss will equal a series defeat, but they need to find a way to challenge Nash without tiring out their guards and they must find an offensive presence that was missing in the first game.
In the other Western Conference Semi, the Lakers are showing themselves to be the complete team Laker fans had hoped for. Kobe can score at will against the Jazz and seemed last night to be more interested in seeing what the other guys in yellow could do and not in his usual, petulant, “if I’m not the best player in the world, try to win without me scoring” way. This series is finished.
The Magic still look like the Beast of the East and I can’t see the Cavs or Celtics having an answer for everything the Magic has proved themselves able to do so far – play great defense, get offensive rebounds, and have many, many options for offense. All of that combined with Jameer Nelson and I’m nearly ready to call the Eastern Conference settled in favor of the Orlando Magic.
Both the Cavs and Celtics are too flawed to challenge the Magic in a best-of-seven series: the Cavs have yet to find a consistent second banana to LeBron James (more important now that his elbow is obviously effecting him physically, psychologically or both), and the Celtics don’t have the bodies to compete down low with Howard. I would love to see Rajon Rando go head-to-head with Nelson with the conference championship on the line, however.
I’ve been wrong in this space before and I’ll be wrong in this space again, but I’m still forecasting a Spurs vs. Magic NBA Finals.