One word to describe every team still alive in the 2022 NBA Playoffs
The NBA has come to its final four, the conference finals that will determine who gets the chance to win the next championship — and who loses it.
The Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have all arrived in different ways, bringing varied styles while realistically raising hopes and wishes in the cities they represent. Everyone thinks they have a chance, and as we’ve seen in this unpredictable post-season, everyone has a good reason for that.
Here’s one word to describe and define each of the four competitors as they navigate the final and trickiest of stages.
There should be no debating that no one had a bigger challenge from a defensive standpoint than the Celtics, who had Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo in their way. Together, that’s three combined Kia MVPs and two Finals MVPs while still in their prime. Maybe you find a way to overcome one. But both?
Let it be known that Boston silenced them just enough to win twice. The tenacity, grit, confidence and skill to outlast these two superstars was relentless, and the Celtics had to be it all. But to be fair, the Celtics have been dialing the D since January, when their flat season reversed and they steadily moved up the standings.
Their switching, rotations, length, quick hands and anticipation were all top notch. If this continues and the champagne is drunk, the Celtics will be among the best defensive teams in recent memory.
When coach Erik Spoelstra asks for a substitution, should he shout or maybe use a megaphone? Because the Heat bench extends far and deep. Besides the starting five, Miami brings Kia sixth man of the year Tyler HerroVictor Oladipo, Gabe Vincent, Dewayne Dedmon, Omer Yurtseven, Caleb Martin and oh yeah – Duncan Robinson, their last years long range shooter who lost his place in the line.
With this high-quality cushion, Miami can withstand an injury setback, which the Heat have already experienced with Jimmy Butler and especially Kyle Lowry, who missed six of 11 playoff games with a creaky hamstrings. Even better, Spoelstra can mix and match the spin and adapt it to deal with the opponent in front of him. That flexibility is unmatched by any of the remaining playoff teams, although the Warriors are closing in.
The Heat can, if they choose, use 10 players in any game without sacrificing much in terms of drop-off. This flies in the face of conventional playoff thinking, where rotations get shorter. The Heat do it differently because… well, they can.
Can you win playing today and tomorrow? The Warriors believe that, which is why they built their roster with both in mind, and the results so far have been favorable. Golden State is well positioned to return to the promised land and is packed with enough young people to earn more time at the top.
They had a bit of luck; no one thought former G League player Jordan Poole (19.3 playoff points) would prove so good and also play fearlessly in his first playoffs. Poole made up for the decision to keep the 2020 No. 2 pick and use him on James Wiseman instead of trading him for a veteran; at the moment it looks like a mistake, although it’s too early for a verdict.
Mixing proven champions Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green with Poole, Andrew Wiggins and Jonathan Kuminga (and the injured Gary Payton II), the Warriors took a small gamble. But the young and hungry mix well with the old and hungry, and suddenly a fourth championship in this era is within reach.
No one except their family members and closest friends thought the Mavericks would go this far. Without the burden of expectation or any sense of urgency to immediately cash in, the Mavericks are the loosest team in the Conference Finals, a mood they’ve had and embraced since the very beginning.
It’s all made them relax — not sweat the tough times, don’t care what social media and talk shows say about them — and just have fun. Oh, and they also put their trust in the safe hands of Luka Doncic; it also helps.
Who felt the burden in the Game 7 semi-final, the Suns or the Mavs? It’s an easy answer; you saw who collapsed in the moment of truth. Also, in the first round, who grasped the situation when Doncic was lost for three games? Dallas’ Spencer Dinwiddie and Jalen Brunson certainly didn’t fold; it was Utah, healthy and helpless.
Internally, the Mavericks probably feel they’re playing with house money at this point, but also realize they’re four wins away from earning everyone’s full respect — and maybe some expectations.
* * *
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs, or Turner Broadcasting.
#word #describe #team #alive #NBA #Playoffs