The drama and the excitement of the NBA playoffs is finally here! All eyes will be on the four match-ups as the NBA’s second season tips off today, but as always there are some overarching storylines that sports fans will be keeping tabs on as well. Here are two that we’ll certainly be paying close attention to as the 2013 NBA postseason unfolds.
1. Kobe-less Lakers: How far will they go?
As usual, the Los Angeles Lakers dominated headlines during the regular season, but this year most of those headlines were not positive. The Lakers endured a regular season full of injuries and failed to live up to preseason expectations, yet still managed to make the playoffs by finishing their 82-game slate with inspired determination. They even fulfilled Kobe Bryant’s guarantee that they would make the postseason, and they did it without Bryant for the final two games.
Now that they are in the postseason, they’ll have to continue to play without their best player and leader, who will miss the remainder of the season with a torn Achilles. So naturally, the question is: How far can we expect the Lakers to go without Bryant?
Fortunately, the Lakers’ strong finish catapulted them into the seventh seed, which sets up a first round match-up with the Spurs instead of the Thunder. The Spurs will certainly have an advantage against a Kobe-less Lakers, but the match-up presents far fewer problems for the aging and ailing Lakers, since they won’t be against the relentless run-and-gun offense of the Thunder.
Still, we can’t expect the Lakers to get out of the first round this year. It would be an impressive feat if they did and it’s not out of the realm of possibility, but there’s no question that Bryant carried the Lakers during the second half of the season and without him, it’s unlikely the Lakers can upset an experienced team like the Spurs on the road. Either way, there will be plenty of eyes on the Lakers and an increased interest every time they take the floor this postseason.
2. Can Anyone Beat the Heat?
With the Miami Heat coming into the 2013 playoffs as the defending NBA champs and with the best regular season record (66-16), it would be easy to simply hand them the 2013 title and send everyone home. But there’s a reason we play the games and with several strong contenders, anything can happen, right?
The Miami Heat were undeniably impressive during the regular season. They cruised through their schedule with ease, even going on a 27-game winning streak at one point. However, after all of those games, it’s safe to say you could find a couple of chinks in the juggernaut-like Heat’s armor if you looked close enough.
The Heat were also not without injuries. They certainly looked invincible at times, but LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh missed games this year due to minor injuries. Even James recently said that his guys, including himself, were not 100%. Of course, who really is this time of year?
The Thunder certainly gave the Heat a run for their money last year and there are a couple of other teams that could do the same in 2013, but there’s no doubt that the Heat are the overwhelming favorite to win it all again. Needless to say, everyone will be watching as the Heat go for their second straight title and the first sign of struggle will be major news considering how easy it’s been for the South Beach boys so far this year.