Many NBA fans would agree that it feels like the season has finally begun. With the first round of the NBA playoffs underway, many strong story lines have emerged that are shocking Vegas. The Western Conference appears to be stronger than anyone may have imagined with San Antonio already under attack for its aging roster. A head coach may be coaching for his job. The future of the league’s top stars may be determined, and every series is keeping fans on the edge of their seats.
In a league where many fans cry out for something new and exciting instead of the same four teams atop each division year-after-year, 2014 NBA Odds are changing daily as many series match ups are closer than they appear. This brings us to our first lesson learned…
1. The Washington Wizards Are For Real!
The Miami Heat has literally been asleep throughout most of the regular season and as usual, they are turning on the pressure heading into the playoffs. While the East has primarily been dominated by Chicago, Miami and Indianapolis, the East may have finally found its true competitor for the defending NBA Champions. The Wizards have been on quite the hot streak as of late and have proven they have the talent to compete with any organization. Led by Bradley Beal’s strong overtime performance, the Wizards completed their second victory against the Chicago Bulls heading back to their home court leading the series 2-0.
Bulls Center Joakim Noah appears to have met his match as Nene shot 8-of-13 in game two after posting 24 points in Game 1. Chicago cannot intimidate a player the likes of Nene, so they are now forced to play a different style of basketball that was not the strength of the team making its way through the regular season. Despite Nene’s performance, the success of this team in Round 1 will be based on the scoring efficiency of its guards. It may still be too early to call, but the Wizards are my prediction to win the series.
2. LaMarcus Aldridge is the new Super Man!
Los Angeles fans are likely not surprised to see that Dwight Howard has been outshined in the NBA playoffs. However, I think many NBA fans were amazed to see the fashion in which it has happened! LaMarcus Aldridge has been a key component, if not THE component, to Portland’s success this season. The Trailblazers shot out of the gate with a string of success and unfortunately, the Rockets are the unlucky victims. Howard and James Harden are not enough for any team to win an NBA championship, let alone be atop the Western Conference. The team lacks in many areas and with a powerful presence in Aldridge, Howard has been more than negated – he has been embarrassed.
Michael Jordan was the last player in the NBA to score 89 points in the first two playoff games for a single team. This was back in 1988. Today, LaMarcus Aldridge has achieved this feat by scoring 46 points in the series opener and 43 points in Game 2. While Howard has never been well-known for his obscenely high scoring efforts, he has been viewed at one time as one of the best defensive players in the NBA. Well, at least he was in Orlando. Whether the Rockets are really this bad or Aldridge is really this good, I think it is safe to say that we have a new Super Man in the NBA and he hails from Portland!
3. The Miami Heat Will Three-Peat!
While the Wizards are for real and the Pacers are fighting to keep Head Coach Frank Vogel in Indianapolis, the East is still positioned to be a walk-in-the-park for the Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade enjoyed most of the season from the bench and is back in time to bring it for the playoffs. LeBron James has already showed signs of his interest in leaving Miami (rumor has it, his wife wants to go back to Cleveland). This could be the last time the Big Three play together, and the veteran prowess of Wade and James will be enough to get through the Eastern Conference.
While the Western Conference is without doubt the strongest conference in the NBA, the teams are already taking a toll on one another with hard fought series across the board. NBA fans will be able to watch some of the best basketball as the Western Conference is deciding its victor. However, my prediction is that whichever team makes its way through the West, that team will be limping its way into the NBA Championship. Expect to see several 6 or 7 game series in the Western Conference. Legs will be lax and the Miami Heat will have a long rest before the finals. The stars are aligned for the Miami Heat to three peat. Prepare for King James to announce this off season that he will be taking his talents to Cleveland where he and Kyrie Irving will create the next NBA dynasty.