It seems silly to try to avoid talking about it, so I'm just gonna say it. Times like these make it easy to put sports in their proper perspective. Too often we allow ourselves to slip into a place where we "live and die" on the successes and failures of our favorite franchises and freely discuss how much we "hate" Tom Brady or LeBron James. It's mostly tongue in cheek, but at the same time, I know I'm not the only guy who has a sporting event ranked in his "Top 5 Most Enraging Moments of All-Time." For some of us, sports might occupy all five. But after something like the bombing at the Boston Marathon or the explosion in West, Texas, you realize that none of it really matters all that deeply to us and that you hate athletes like you hate mayonnaise. You remember that a hero isn't a quarterback playing on a broken leg. It's a marathon runner at a blood bank two miles from that desecrated finish line. Hopefully, you go back to the games with fresh eyes and remember that this is only entertainment. Invigorating, maddening, wonderful entertainment.
And with that in mind, no matter who you root for or against, the NBA playoffs bring a welcome respite from a very taxing week.
The regular season of the NBA serves more as context than content. We usually know who the good teams are and by the time the season ends, it feels more like you've been waiting all this time for it to start. And let's face it, this all feels like a preamble to Heat\Thunder II, The Rematch.
But there hasn't been a championship round between two 1 seeds in 13 seasons for a reason. While the teams that enter the playoffs are very often predictable, what happens between the first round and the last is anyone's guess.
The path to the Finals is certainly much more difficult for Oklahoma City. James Harden leads a promising Rockets team their way in the first round. Assuming the young Rockets aren't ready yet, next the Thunder would most likely face the dynamic & deep Clippers. CP3 & the Poster Child lead a great blend of youth & experience that could easily give Durant, Westbrook & the rest of Thunder a very tough series. But if OKC can knock off Lob City, it's hard to predict who they'll face next.
Golden State is a fun team to watch, but also a likely first round out. The Lakers are an intriguing story line, but it's hard to tell what, if anything, they've got left at this point. Without Kobe's production & World Peace's defense, it's hard to see them winning two seven-game series. The Spurs are looking every one of their many years. And Denver has a good team, but not a great one. All this adds up to an opponent that, if they make it, the Thunder will most likely be favored against.
Across the aisle in the East, life is easier for the Heat. The Bucks are beaten already and neither the Nets nor the Bulls pose much of a threat. Yes, Chicago ended the 27-game winning streak. And if Rose returns, they'll certainly be able to give James & Co. a tough, grinding series, but it's hard to see them making it to the conference finals.
It's obvious that the biggest threat to Miami's Eastern Conference title are their old rivals, the New York Knicks. But to get there, the Knicks will have to knock off another rival, the Boston Celtics.
And they'll need every bit of it to stop 'Melo. Anthony is playing the best basketball of his career on the best team of his career. The Knicks haven't been this close to a title shot since Clinton was President. But can they handle that pressure? While they've certainly proven that they deserve to be amongst the league's best teams, they're still a franchise without a series win this side of 2000 and a star who's been out of the first round once in his career. All signs point to their talent overwhelming the undermanned Celtics, but don't be surprised if the Knicks make their usual early exit.
That being said, it's most likely that New York will get past Boston and whoever escapes the "Who Cares" series between Indiana and Atlanta. Then the two stars of the 2003 Draft will hopefully put on a show for the history books.