By Tamara Latta
It’s crunch time in the NBA, and all the underdogs are proving their critics wrong. With the Lakers out of the playoffs in the West and Boston out in the East, the championship is wide open. Oklahoma and Memphis were in a wrestling match; surprisingly, their series went seven games. The Memphis Grizzlies, who were a number eight seed in the West, caused a violent unexpected blow to television. They were a silent assassin in the playoffs, sending the number-one seeded Spurs home on an early unforeseen vacation, and almost shipping Kevin Durant and his supporting cast home via Federal Express. But the Thunder was able to deliver the storm, showing maturity and growth in game seven, and advancing to the Western Conference Finals.
Thanks to Oklahoma and the Spurs, the Grizzlies will now get more exposure on television next season. Their performance in the Western Conference nearly gave the NBA Commissioner David Stern a panic attack. Being that Memphis is a small market team, there had to be concerns within the NBA, about the Grizzlies just one game away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals. There is no denying what they brought to the big screen– you have to give credit where credit is due– and the Memphis Grizzlies went from being irrelevant to relevant. Zach Randolph spoke about his team being overlooked during the regular season via email.
“We were making noise in the regular season,” said Randolph. “A lot of people didn’t get a chance to see us on television during the season, so our performance was a surprise to national television.”
Now it’s time for the Thunder to face a team that looks hungry, focused, mad and determined. Dallas made a statement after deteriorating the Lakers in the second round. After being known for choking in the playoffs, Dallas played high-quality basketball, looking like championship material. Oklahoma found out on Tuesday that the Mavericks are the real deal, and the mission they’re on is hazardous. Dirk Nowitski is playing the best basketball I’ve ever seen him play. He’s unstoppable and no player in the NBA can put his game to rest right now. After Nowitski dropped 46 points in game one, Oklahoma will have to go to the drawing board and find ways to slow his game down. Despite Oklahoma being down most of the game, they didn’t give up. They fought, hustled, and delivered, but Durant’s 40 points just weren’t enough to increase the scoreboard. It’s still too early to tell who will be the King of the series, but Dallas’s performance looks more assuring.
Over in the Eastern Conference, you have the Bulls and the Heat competing in a hostile encounter. After Miami eliminated the Celtics in just six games, they became the favor to win the NBA title. But the league’s MVP Derrick Rose has been taking mental notes on all the talks. Rose is arguably the best point guard in the league, but the media has shot his chances down on winning the title. Deng, Boozer and Noah aren’t good enough in the media’s eyes to help lead Rose to a championship. But so far it looks as if his colleagues are putting in overtime to prove their doubters wrong.
What we have seen from the Bulls is team basketball. Gibson, a former USC Trojan, must have gotten the memo that the Bulls were the underdogs. After his athletic performance on Sunday, Gibson may have earned a spot on the roster for one of the all-time dunks in NBA history, after he hand-delivered Wade a dunk that he couldn’t handle.
On Sunday, the Bulls defeated the Heat by 21 points. Miami didn’t come out striking first, and the Bulls were able to find their rhythm early. Boozer and Gibson were also factors for the Bulls. In order for the Heat to get things going, they’ll need a boost from their bench. The Bulls have an advantage because of their size, so Miami will have to finds ways that will compliment their game. This series will be fun to watch as two teams battle to make it to the finals. The Bulls and the Heat had an enormous amount of views, bringing in over 11 million viewers. Who needs the Lakers and the Celtics when you have the Heat and the Bulls breaking records?
By Tamara Latta