Wheew, something to watch mid-week! Today in the NBA we have a matchup between the top team in each conference (record-wise) and I have to say I’m stoked for it. The Suns and Wizards are getting ready to tip-off shortly from the Verizon Center in D.C. At 24-16 the Wizards lead the Eastern Conference, while the Suns lead the Western Conference with a 32-8 record lead the Western Conference. The Wizards are 17-3 at home while the Suns are 13-5 on the road, pretty comparable splits. Last time the teams met was in late December and it took 54 points from Gilbert Arenas for the Wizards to win it. Even though the Wizards did it before (and on the road for that matter) it is going to take 60 points from Arenas to beat Phoenix this time. Considering each team has the best record in its respective conference at the near midpoint of the season, it would be fair to assume that this is a potential preview of the NBA finals.
However, I doubt we will be seeing this matchup in a few months for a best of 7. Despite having the top 2 candidates for MVP in the game (Gilbert Arenas of the Wizards being the leading MVP candidate, and Steve Nash being the 2nd candidate), I don’t think the Wizards will be able to reach the finals. Washington has a few inherent problems. Let’s start with their frontcourt. They are a poor rebounding team – and the combination of Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood doesn’t exactly strike fear in the heart’s of opponents.
Secondly, although he is my clear-cut MVP favorite, Gilbert Arenas needs to prove that he is larger and more clutch than some of his Eastern Conference counterparts, specifically LeBron James. Last year’s 6 game elimination at the hands of the Cavs in the 2nd round of the playoffs came down to several last-second shots that Arenas missed.
Conversely, LeBron was able to drive the baseline and make the last second basket, not to mention psyche Arenas out at the free-throw line. Even though Gilbert has proved to be clutch down the stretch in the regular season thus far, most of his game-winners have been tie-breaking baskets. The difference between hitting a game-winning 3 with your team down by 2 and your team tied is the difference between bluffing Johnny Chan out of a hand and your next door neighbor (unless Chan’s your neighbor).
As for the Suns, count me in. I’m a believer and I’m buying the Suns in the finals. Yes I’m aware it’s going to be a tough road, but I think they have all the pieces in place. They have the speed, the outside shooting, the rebounding, and the depth to out-run you all night long. It’s not like last year for Phoenix when they had all these questions about Amare – now he’s fully in sync with their offense and they’ve proven themselves to be an offensive machine. Don’t tell Mark Cuban I said this, but Phoenix with a home-court advantage will take out the Mavs.