NBA Playoffs: Full Of Heart
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Some years it feels like the NBA playoffs drag on for weeks, 16 teams playing in a series of best-of-seven showdowns. Well, you don't hear that complaint this year.
The teams are playing hard and they're playing with a lot of heart. Teams that have slumped through past seasons have been revived, and powerhouse teams have had to dig deep to defend their status, and not all have succeeded.
David Aldridge is with TNT, and he joins me now in the studio to catch up on the action. So glad you're here.
Mr. DAVID ALDRIDGE (TNT sports analyst): Thank you for having me.
BLOCK: So let's look at where we are so far. We're moving on, and some teams have had to already head home and start to rebuild for 2012. Give us a quick roundup of what we've seen so far.
Mr. ALDRIDGE: Well, I think what you've seen is that there's - the parity in -especially in the Western Conference is quite acute. Memphis has outplayed San Antonio, which was the number one seed in the first round. New Orleans, which is a seven seed, has given the Lakers all they can handle through five games so far.
And what's happened is that I think good teams are scattered throughout the NBA now, and the high-profile teams like the Lakers and Miami are really having tough times in these first rounds.
NORRIS: I want to tick through a few of the matchups in round one. Let's begin with the Bulls and the Pacers.
Mr. ALDRIDGE: Well, Chicago had a great season. They were the top team in the Eastern Conference. And Indiana gave them a great series, but Chicago's just a little better.
They're a little more experienced. They have a great player in Derek Rose. They're just a little better right now than Indiana is.
NORRIS: Oklahoma Thunder versus the Denver Nuggets, another standout player who really carried that team, the Thunder.
Mr. ALDRIDGE: Kevin Durant was terrific. He really elevated his game. He scored 16 points in the fourth quarter of game five to kind of clinch it for Oklahoma City. They are a very difficult team to beat right now.
NORRIS: The Celtics took the Knicks four-0. Now, did that say something about the Knicks and the problems that they had with all those injuries, or did the Celtics just power over the Knicks?
Mr. ALDRIDGE: It was both. Boston was a better team. But the Knicks were much easier to defend. Chauncey Billups was hurt most of the series, and Amare Stoudemire got hurt in game two and really wasn't the same.
NORRIS: The Lakers are leading the Hornets right now, but they've had to work really hard.
Mr. ALDRIDGE: They have because Chris Paul has been terrific. He's very hard to guard, one of the top two or three point guards in the league. They've gotten some good performances from a lot of other players. And the Lakers again, they have this habit of having to be forced to play their best because they kind of sleepwalk through a couple of games, but now they're kind of engaged.
NORRIS: Now, apologies to all the fans out there because we're not going to get to all the matchups. But before I let you go, I have to ask you about the Miami Heat. They killed off the 76ers. It wasn't easy, though. They had to work really hard.
Considering all the ink spilled and the time spent, when the Earth shifted and LeBron James left Ohio and headed to Florida and joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and wearing the red and black - has that team delivered? And is anything short of a full championships a disappointment considering all the smack they talked at the beginning of the season?
Mr. ALDRIDGE: No. I mean, they must win a championship. You are exactly right. For all of the smack talk this season, for all of them saying we're going to win multiple championships...
NORRIS: With music behind them while they were saying it.
Mr. ALDRIDGE: Right. People are saying: Well, if they get to the conference finals, it's great. No, they are the ones that say we're going to win multiple championships. So anything short of winning a championships is a disappointment.
So this series coming up with Boston is what everybody in the NBA has wanted all year. Boston is a great defensive team. Miami is a great defensive team. Boston's got hall-of-famers throughout their roster. They've won the championship in 2009 and had a great chance to win it last year, lost in game seven to the Lakers.
Miami really has kind of said we're better than them. And so now we're going to see, over seven games, which is what it's all about.
NORRIS: One columnist said this'll be the most anticipated, most intriguing conference semifinal in NBA history. He said that this is a blood-war series. That's quite a statement. Is he right? Do you agree?
Mr. ALDRIDGE: Yeah, he's right. Yes, he's right because there is genuine dislike between Boston and Miami, and that comes out, and it's wonderful. It's people who really don't like each other very much playing against each other. And so you get the absolute best of both teams. It's going to be a wonderful series.
NORRIS: Are the ratings up? Are people paying more attention?
Mr. ALDRIDGE: The ratings are up. There's great interest. And part of it was generated, in all honesty, by LeBron James' decision. I think a lot of casual fans are watching the playoffs because they're really intrigued by how this is going to turn out.
NORRIS: Look forward to round two. Come back and talk to us again.
Mr. ALDRIDGE: Absolutely.
NORRIS: That's David Aldridge. He's with TNT.
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