March Madness has ended, with Duke University taking home the NCAA championship for just the fourth time in its long history. To many though, the madness started on April 17, when the 2010 NBA Playoffs began with a bang.
This year, the West is crazier than ever, with tossup series and upsets inevitable as eight 50 plus win teams enter the Playoffs. The East is also stacked with perennial powerhouses like Cleveland, Orlando, Boston and Atlanta. As it stands now, all the signs point towards a frenetic, energized and adrenaline-filled finals down to the buzzer.
Ron Artest was virtually exchanged for Trevor Ariza in the offseason, and at times has looked out of place in Hollywood, struggling to fully mesh with the Laker's renowned triangle offense. Although many claim the swap was unnecessary, Artest has brought a much-needed toughness to the Lakers' perimeter defense, a trait they had previously been lacking. He's earned that six million dollar contract he signed by playing some stellar defense against the NBA's leading scorer, Kevin Durant, in the first round.
Other off-season moves included Vince Carter to the Orlando Magic and Richard Jefferson to the San Antonio Spurs. Carter was brought to Orlando in hopes of alleviating some of the pressure on All Star center Dwight Howard, while San Antonio brought in forward Jefferson to complement the Spurs' Big 3. Carter has had several flashes of brilliance with the Magic, whereas Jefferson has suffered from inconsistent play all season.
The drama is always highlighted in the playoffs, and each action is carefully examined by the millions of fans watching.
Game one between Miami and Boston had all the excitement fans were craving. During the waning minutes of the contest, a tussle broke out between members from both the Heat and Celtics, resulting in Miami forward Quentin Richardson being struck by Kevin Garnett's elbow. Because of that blow, Garnett was suspended by the NBA for game two against the Heat.
The San Antonio vs. Dallas Mavericks series also involved some back-and-forth chirping, highlighted when Mavericks owner Mark Cuban came out and publicly stated that he "hated the Spurs," according to Yahoo Sports. So far Cuban's comments have done little more than motivate the already inspired Spurs, as San Antonio took a commanding 3-1 on Sunday night.
The drama spills into the games as well. Although the Milwaukee Bucks lost their first two playoff games to the Atlanta Hawks, rookie point guard Brandon Jennings has rallied the troops with two straight home victories over Atlanta while averaging an impressive 19.8 points and 4 assists.
Game 2 of the Lakers and Thunder series recorded a memorable duel between the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and the Thunder's Kevin Durant in the fourth quarter, as Kobe scored 39 and Durant pumped in 32. This was followed with 29 points and 19 rebounds by Kevin Durant in Game 3 for the Thunder's first playoff win. The Thunder continued their momentum into Game 4 as they thrashed the Lakers from buzzer to buzzer, decisively defeating the defending champs 110-89.
Not to be outdone, Cleveland's Lebron James put on his own Jordanesque performance against the Bulls, as "The King" scored 40 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and dished out 8 assists to push the Cavs up 2-0 in the series. However, Chicago would come back in Game 3 behind Derrick Rose's 31 points to cut the series deficit 2-1. As if on queue, Lebron and the Cavs wasted little time in Game 4, as they dominated the Bulls 121-98 to push the series lead with 3-1.
With the playoffs already off to a nice start, fans can expect the series to reach an even higher level of excitement as they get to the conference's semi-finals round. As talent in each round improves, the playoff games show why March Madness is just an appetizer of what it means to play basketball.
In every round, it will come down to two teams. Both will be ready; both will attempt to seize the opportunity, but the 2008 NBA playoff commercials said it perfectly; in terms of a victor, there can only be one.