Nearly every NBA Playoffs brings an X factor. There is a moment, a play or a comment that holds the potential to either define or change the direction of circumstances. For some teams that factor can boost your chances or it can lead to your demise. For the Boston Celtics it was age. Their two best players are riding out their final seasons in the league and the Celtics will inevitably have to make moves this off-season. The main theme for the rest of the teams left in this season’s conference semis, however, is injuries.
For the Warriors it’s David Lee. For the Bulls it’s Derrick Rose. For the Thunder it’s Russell Westbrook. Who would have thought that the best team in the playoffs and in the league wouldn’t be plagued by injuries as badly as their counterparts? The Miami Heat, despite dropping game one to Chicago last night, has to like their chances going forward simply for the fact that their best players are playing injury free. While there was much speculation surrounding Dwayne Wade near the end of the regular season, nothing seems to be affecting him now.
Injuries this late in the season gives rise to the unpredictable. It gives way to Nate Robinson and Reggie Jackson without the fear of getting benched because they can’t be. Respectively, they are their teams only options in supplementing at least some of what they lost. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a win-win because sooner or later a team has to have effective star-power to win deep in the playoffs, especially in this day in age.
Take Robinson for example and what he has done in place of Rose for the Bulls. Robinson, 28, has played for four different teams in his eight seasons in the league. I think it would be safe to say that he has been unable to build tenure with a single franchise because his game is simply inconsistent. ESPN’s Ryen Russillo referred to Robinson as a “flawed player.” Maybe he’s right. Robinson has shown us time and time again how to take terrible shots, miss most of them, and in the process not knowing whether to be a one or a two guard despite being the smallest guy on the court.
But none of that matters now. There isn’t a team out there right now that has been plagued by injuries like Chicago is. Not only have they gotten by without their top two scoreres in Rose and Luol Deng, but they have doing it by riding the back of an unproven, illegitimate guard. Don’t get me wrong. They didn’t beat the Nets and they aren’t up 1-0 on the Heat solely because of Robinson, but what it comes down to is the fact that I like the Bulls chances like I like the Pacers chances. Any team that plays great defense in the playoffs and can do enough to get by offensively has an above average chance of advancing.
Here is how I see the playoffs playing out:
Pending a Derrick Rose return, Heat in 6
Pacers play defense, Knicks shoot jump shots and don’t rebound, Pacers in 5
Warriors lost the series after blowing game 1, Spurs in 6
Thunder have enough w/o Westbrook to get by, OKC in 7