Double Dribbles: Nutty postseason upon us

BY foxsports • April 11, 2011

If you're a fan of the Boston Celtics, you have reason to be concerned.

The Celtics look old, run-down and unable to put anything together at the most important time of the year.

If you're a fan of the New York Knicks, you must be feeling good. Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire seem to be finding their way, moving the ball and making the best of shots. And that's a good thing, because Anthony is going to shoot — a lot.

If you're a fan of the Miami Heat, you probably have no idea what to think. As soon as you get excited that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the gang walloped the Celtics, someone reminds you the Heat lost to struggling Milwaukee earlier that week — at home.

Welcome to the 2011 NBA playoffs, where the lack of a truly dominant team should make things even more interesting, more exciting.

And that's just the Eastern Conference.

If you're a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers, you're feeling a lot like a fan of the Heat. You're wondering why the Lakers aren't ruling the West, as expected, why they didn't treat everyone else as an also-ran.

Remember that? Back before the season, everyone predicted the Lakers would run away with the conference — that the San Antonio Spurs were too old, the Oklahoma City Thunder too young and the Dallas Mavericks the same team led by the same soft star, Dirk Nowitzki.

But if you're a fan of the Spurs or Thunder or Mavs, you have to be asking, “Hey, why not us?”

And why not?

Like the Heat in the East, the Lakers have far from separated themselves from the rest of the West. Neither have the Spurs.

In fact, the team with the most momentum and best individual player entering the playoffs? The Chicago Bulls.

Although the Bulls added Carlos Boozer to a frontcourt that already included Joakim Noah, everyone assumed the Bulls still weren't stacked nearly enough. But everyone must have underestimated the ability of Derrick Rose and coaching of first-year man Tom Thibodeau.

Truth is, the Bulls look a lot like the Celtics of old — tough, defensive-minded, able to score in the blink of an eye, a team in the truest sense.

Of course, the Celtics of today can hardly be forgotten. It's not like they ruled the regular season last year: They lost home games to the likes of Washington, New Jersey and LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers later in the year.

Then the Celtics came within a Game 7 in LA of winning it all.

Meanwhile, the Heat don't look much different than the Cavs of yesteryear. Only the Heat haven't been as consistent (or good) during the regular season as the Cavs were with James.

So much for 72-10, as analyst Jeff Van Gundy predicted for the Heat. (Actually, Van Gundy said the Heat would finish better than that, but no need to embarrass the man.)

Meanwhile, if you're talking about the East, you still can't completely ignore the Orlando Magic.

It's true the Magic still look like Dwight Howard and a bunch of guys shooting jumpers — even after the trades that brought guys such as Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu to town.

But the Magic also look like the same team that surprised its way to the Finals only two seasons ago.

In the West, you still have to start with the Spurs and the Lakers.

No one expected Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to play as well as they did early, when they looked even better than the 2007 title-winning team.

But, for whatever reason, the Spurs have slowed since then. It might be wear and tear; it might be lack of interest in the regular season. The good news for Spurs fans is just when their team seemed in dire need of a victory, it got one.

As for the Lakers, it's hard to gauge which team will show up for the playoffs. Will it be the one that too often plays delicately as it stands and watches Kobe Bryant do it all? Or will it be the Lakers who execute the triangle offense and implement a determined defense?

If it's the latter, then this team can again win it all. If it's the former, then this team can get bounced anywhere, anytime and against anyone.

Basically, there's no reason the Thunder, Mavericks or even the Denver Nuggets can't become this year's version of the 2009 Magic.

Bottom line: Few teams are that good, and even fewer are that bad. This year's postseason promises to be interesting, fun and, yes, up for grabs.

Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO

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