In a year full of injuries to high-profile players such as 5-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant, 2008 Finals MVP runner up Rajon Rondo, 2011 league MVP Derrick Rose and 2012 Olympian Russell Westbrook, the NBA Finals seem to be up for grabs.
The Los Angeles Lakers lost all hope for a possible deep run the postseason once the head of their giant franchise fell; almost immediately after the rest of the body followed. Playing against the veteran San Antonio Spurs in the first round was just too much for a team without their leader Kobe Bryant going toe-to-toe with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Co.
The Boston Marathon tragedy shocked the city and gave the Boston Celtic’s an extra incentive to play well. Unfortunately, without their key playmaker-Rajon Rondo-the Men in Green couldn’t get pass the hot-shooting of Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.
The Chicago Bulls, missing the dynamic Derrick Rose, the heart and soul of that team, played with guys who barely see the hardwood against the Miami Heat. The Bulls showed enormous heart and gave it their all with a patchwork lineup against the defending NBA champions.
Too bad it wasn’t enough.
While Kevin Durant was forced to play without running mate Russell Westbrook, which ended his team’s season prematurely against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Nevertheless, there are four teams remaining in the NBA Finals sweepstakes that are not going to shy away from destiny, making it a point to put their own future in their own hands. According to some analysts, getting to the Western Conference Finals was out of reach for the Spurs because of their age.
The Grizzlies, statistically, had no chance of making it because they’ve never been part of the NBA’s version of the Final Four. The Indiana Pacers has a young and up and coming team, but was predicted to be another year or two away.
The Heat had to climb the mountain once more to back up talks of domination for the next seven to eight years. Two things that all four teams have in common is first, having the good fortune to avoid serious injuries.
Secondly, all four teams are physical and extremely mentally tough. However, one team out of the group seems to have the edge, possessing the total package that every other team has collectively.
The Heat has youth, the experience and multiple superstars. Miami also has the fortune of having two of the best closers in the NBA in LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. The Spurs lack young legs. The Grizzlies lack the experience. The Pacers lack a true superstar which could be a problem for Indiana moving forward.
But don’t tell any of these teams what they don’t have because that will probably just fuel them to play harder even more. The road to the NBA Finals is a long journey. For some teams, the trip ended because of injuries or simply being outplayed by their opponent.
For the teams that are remaining in the NBA tournament, the journey is yet to be fulfilled. Gauging the two overtime games played already between the four teams, each of the conference finals matchups looks as if they’re going to be very entertaining to watch.
Going back home, down 0-2 to the Spurs, the Grizzlies must come together if they want to make Conference Finals history. Things are just getting started for the Heat and the Pacers. This series may go six or seven games.
In my own prediction, I’m two out of four in picking the teams who made it to their respective conference finals. No one really knows who will win the title. The power is in the hands of those who play the game and the victor is yet to be seen.
Dennis Freeman is a college student and a photojournalist. His porfolio includes shooting photos for Sacramento City College, covering the Sacramento Lions of the United Football League and the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. Dennis is a native of the Bay Area and resides currently in Sacramento where he does freelance photography. He is recently engaged and a proud father of his young son Elijah.