by Jake Appleman
If you pay attention to the NBA, you’ve probably noticed that the Cavs and Nets have reeled off a combined 20 games in a row. Now, if you’re a Linkstigator, you may already know that I’m one Nenad Kristic 15 footer from spontaneously combusting with excitement; one more clutch Flip Murray 3 from elementary backstroking in a pool of my own adrenaline. Thing is, my excitement that these two teams are peaking at exactly the right time has really nothing to do with the regular season.
My friends, I might be stating the obvious — sorry, dad I’m probably shopping at the department of redundancy department on this one — but there really needs to be more recognition that the Eastern conference may very well be a 4 horse race. While it can’t be completely guaranteed — Vince Carter needs step his game up another notch and the Cavs are a foreign to the postseason — somebody who isn’t filling in boxes for power rankings needs to acknowledge how far both of these teams have come.
If the Nets keep playing defense this way, why should it be a foregone conclusion that they can’t make the Eastern Conference finals? Who knows how Shaq will hold up? Pat Riley trusting Antoine Walker in the playoffs? Not happening. Especially if Kristic keeps improving, Vince holds his end up of the playoff bargain, and RJ makes this 8-11 from the floor thing his new reality, the Nets will put up one helluva fight. I can see J-Kidd channeling his inner Ponce De Leon in Florida, winning playoff games on the road in Miami. Can you? Moving to the middle of America, what’s most impressive about the Cavs recent streak hasn’t been that they’ve clinched their first playoff birth since before I hit puberty. (Yeah…I was literally eight inches shorter back then, and Shawn Kemp was big Kempin’; about 8 inches wider in the waist and 8 kids deeper in the nursery.) The refreshing thing about their run to a 4 seed that’s pretty much a done deal is that they’ve been completely business-like about the whole ordeal. (And believe me, the Cavs making the playoffs already has Ohio buzzing. And it WAS an ordeal to get here.) LeBron’s maturity is …okay just look at the beard. The kid — yeah, he’s still a year and a half younger than me — is unstoppable…damn redundancy again. If they get by round one, just think of what a confident Bron will do with all of Cleveland rocking behind him. Oh yeah, and Larry Hughes is reportedly coming back today. I’m not saying that Detroit will be dethroned, but I do believe we will witness see a second round of playoff basketball that could redefine the word epic. Get hyped.