New teams provide excitement for playoffs

    What do Reggie Miller, Larry Bird, Dominique Wilkins and Derek Fisher have in common? All four created their images of playoff lore not in the NBA Finals, nor even the conference finals, but in their respective conference semifinals.

    The NBA playoffs, in their long, drawn-out and ever increasing format — both in terms of media hype and time I spend watching them instead of doing that essay for my writing class — have provided numerous memories along the way. However, it seems that whenever somebody wants to think up an NBA-playoff memory, they go to those that happened on the large stages, like Michael Jordan’s “Shot, Part 2” against the Jazz in the ’98 Finals or Magic Johnson’s baby-hook over Boston in the ’87 Finals. Even when moments like the Fisher Point-Four Fling, or the original “Shot” that Jordan sunk over Cleveland Cavaliers guard Craig Ehlo in the 1989 playoffs are reminisced about, they seem to be hyped more than necessary. Jordan’s shot over Ehlo didn’t win the Bulls a title; it didn’t even send them to the NBA or Conference Finals. It was the decisive shot in a first-round match up, even though it would go on to be symbolic of things so much bigger than a best-of-five series.

    What tends to bring excitement to the conference semifinals is the fact that the teams that are meeting, like Miller’s Pacers and the Knicks, have some familiarity with one another. Teams that have met and battled know one another well. So, how about this year? Well, this year in the conference semifinals we’ve got … the Washington Wizards?! No, the Conference Semifinals this year don’t offer the same background — the same epic set-up — of years past. Sure, we have a defending champion meeting with a bitter foe, but that foe has seemingly already been depleted, and not by the direct hand of the champion. And we have a man, or maybe a monster, on a path of revenge.

    Unfortunately, the path is on the opposite side of the country from where the last path ended. In the wake of bitter rivalries, we are left with three teams who were not even part of the playoffs last year and thus unable to conjure up legendary images of any past playoff battles.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still watch and be glued to every minute of action, be it fast-paced, defensive struggle or fundamentals at play. There’s a lot to entice me, and so I offer my Super Duper Semifinal Predictions:

    So, sure, none of these series may go seven games. A lot of the games may not even be close enough in the second half to keep things interesting. And yes, we’ll probably be subjected to lots of Al Michaels clumsily filling time. Still, in the end, there is basketball to be played, and after this round is all said and done, there still remains another month of memories to be made. I love this game.

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