The beast has awakened. Just as we were falling asleep during the first round of the NBA playoffs, it happened. This is what the playoff beast is all about. These are the reasons that some teams never make it, or get close to, but can’t close the deal. This is why champions are regarded in such a bright light. I have had these discussions for many years and I have always had to battle with people on the fact that “luck” plays a key role in determining who will be the best in any given year.
Injuries are nothing new to this story line. This is what has killed the dreams of fan base, organizations and players alike for many years. It’s what stopped the 1989 Los Angeles Lakers from 3-peating when Earvin “Magic” Johnson went down. In contrast, it’s arguably what helped them repeat the year before when Isaiah Thomas injured his ankle in game six. Injuries shut down the Phoenix Suns ’94 and ’95 seasons due to Charles Barkley battling injuries that came to the forefront in the series against the Houston Rockets, thus giving up a 2-0 and 3-1 series lead respectively, just to lose when all was said and done. These are long, arduous journeys, that begin with summer tournaments, training camps, and preseason games before embarking on long 82 game season that that ultimately leads to the playoffs for 16 teams. The body can only take so much before it starts to break down aside from any other unfortunate event that could instantaneously side line you. It struck down the Los Angeles Clippers, erased any hopes the Memphis Grizzlies had, slowed down Stephen Curry, and made the Miami Heat’s journey just little bit more difficult (in the 2016 playoffs).
However, despite those mitigating factors, this is the time when all of your season long issues come to the forefront on national TV. The level of intensity that the playoffs bring puts a tremendous amount of physical and mental pressure on these athletes. This strain creates crevasses in your team bond that allows for problems to creep out and become burdens that blur your team’s vision of winning. The Portland Trailblazers have had a tremendous run, but their issues of inexperience and lack of talent have them down 2-1 against the defending champions, as of this writing. The Atlanta Hawks were overwhelmed by the fact that they do not have that one elite player on their roster of overachieving role players. The Oklahoma City Thunder have the experience and the talent, but they have to compete with more talent and even more experience in the San Antonio Spurs. Nowhere else has lack of experience been more evident than in the play of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen of the Toronto Raptors. Although, surviving the first round and taking a one game lead against the Heat, might be exactly what this scoring duo might need to become battle hardened. You know steel is forged in the flames of the hottest fire.
All of these elements lead to a more intriguing and entertaining playoffs. As each game is played, each one of these story lines will play out and add to the drama. It doesn’t compare to the playoffs of yesteryear but it does have its own twist of drama and compelling aspects. Its gut check time! The heat of the playoff fire can either turn you into steel or burn you off like slag. You will either be battle hardened or vanquished. It can be team unifying or dismantling. There are no parades for second place. The beast does not hand out participation trophies. The beast takes scalps and wears them as distinction of your meek and meager attempts to conquer it. The madness is over and fallout has begun…