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Early 2012 NBA Playoff Storylines

5 April 2012 199 views

While the 2011-2012 NBA Playoffs are still a few weeks away, the notable story lines are already shaping up well. The NBA season has been pretty good by all accounts, including that ofNBA Commissioner David Stern who said that the league was doing great this year on a Salt Lake radio show. I don’t believe the regular season will hold a candle to the playoffs however. We’ve already seen a few playoff-type games recently that demonstrate the intensity and type of play I think we’ll see once the playoffs commence.

I am really excited to get this shortened regular season (66 games) out of the way and onto the games that will decide the NBA championship. To help get you prepared for the playoffs, I’ve decided to prepare a few of the top stories I think will play a significant role in the final outcomes.

L.A.-L.A. Land… Who Controls It?

Kobe Bryant Battles Chris Paul & Caron Butler at Staples Center

Depending on playoff seeding, the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers could meet each other in a sort of awkward home-court advantage for both teams. As evidenced in their match-up last night, Kobe Bryant wants the Clippers to ride shotgun in L.A. for the foreseeable future – it’s his town and the Lakers are the king of the Staples Center court. With his  added hate towards the NBA for rejecting the Chris Paul trade and then allowing him to end up with the Clippers, this match-up would have more at stake than advancing in the playoffs – this is for bragging rights and a (potential) changing of the tide in Los Angeles.

I think ultimately, the Clippers won’t be able to handle the Lakers’ size or slow down Kobe’s drive (to win) and the Lakers triumph if these two square off. Next year… all bets are off.

The Shrinking of LeBron

Kobe Bryant & Carmelo Anthony confront LeBron James after he passed up game-winning shot

Make no mistake about it, the Miami Heat are a good team and can win with Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh leading the way while LeBron James puts up his best statistical season. Considering how the offense runs and the likelihood that other teams will be denying access to Wade/Bosh, however, it’s inevitable that James will have to closeout a game for Miami. Whether or not he can do this is the question. After his implosion in last season’s NBA Finals and his All-Star #fail, there’s even more pressure on LeBron TO step up and carry the team. I just don’t see it happening in the biggest games.

The Heat are Finals contenders based on lineup alone… Go ahead and pencil them in, albeit after a couple tough fought series.

Chicago BullsA Rose Without a Thorn

This headline should be “Bulls without a Rose”, but that just doesn’t sound good. Whether or not last season’s MVP Derrick Rose can come back healthy from his groin injury will determine the Chicago Bulls fate. They are a good enough team without him to reach the 2nd round, but will advance no further unless Rose is relentlessly driving (literally) forward. Groin injuries are somewhat persistent so there’s a pretty good chance he could re-aggravate the injury before/during the playoffs. If he does, the Bulls NBA-best record will mean nothing in the end.

Chicago looks like an Eastern Conference Finals team with a healthy Derrick Rose. I think the defensive combination of Wade, James and Mario Chalmers shut him down and prevent the Bulls from reaching the NBA Finals.

Orlando MagicTrouble in Disney World

Much to the dismay of fans in Orlando who thought that Dwight Howard’s opt-in for next season was a blessing, reports came out yesterday indicating that Howard has asked the Magic to remove Stan Van Gundy as Head Coach. Howard and the Magic will easily get into the playoffs, but the continued drama within the locker room that’s been a constant all year is too great a hurdle to overcome. Despite his best intentions, Dwight Howard is actually sabotaging himself, putting an NBA Championship further & further in the distance.

The Magic don’t make it to the Eastern Conference Finals… Too much dysfunction.

Oklahoma City ThunderThe Thunder Rolls

Barring an injury or a complete breakdown of Russell Westbrook in the Western Conference Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder are on a collision course for the NBA Finals.  Likely MVP Kevin Durant and his OKC teammates are hoping lightning strikes and they can capture their 1st title together. This team has nearly all the ingredients necessary to win a championship: defensive stoppers, ability to score, experience (though limited) and depth.

Oklahoma City in the NBA Finals barring a collapse against the L.A. Lakers or San Antonio Spurs.

Got some interesting story lines of your own? Drop a line in the comments below to share w/ the world.

Here are some other projections for the upcoming playoffs:

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