Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Playoff Excitement 2011
This is always a great time of year for sports fans. The Stanley Cup semi-finals are under way, as are the playoffs in the National Basketball Association.
The NBA began the season with a bucketful of hype surrounding the Miami Heat. The team convinced last year’s MVP, LeBron James, to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers to join his new teammates in Florida. Chris Bosh left the Toronto Raptors as well to play in Miami. They joined Dwyane Wade, certainly one of the most exciting players in the game today.
A significant amount of animosity was generated by the activity in Miami. Most Cleveland fans felt that LeBron had abandoned them. Toronto fans did not feel quite as strongly about losing Bosh. He had not exactly won the hearts of all the fans. He was the big fish in the small pond in Toronto. In Miami, it is a different story. Some basketball pundits south of the border have begun calling Bosh “Ringo”. This is in reference to the drummer from the Beatles. He just happened to be there when they became famous.
Bosh did not play the Ringo role in the first game of their series against the Chicago Bulls. He led the team in scoring, and pulled down a few rebounds. The rest of the Heat seemed confused on the court, and definitely did not play their game. The Bulls took full advantage, and completely outplayed the Heat, especially around the basket. The Bulls have home court advantage in this series, which may be the one key factor. In NBA history, the home team wins eighty per cent of the time.
Coach Tom Thibodeau may have the horses to stop the Heat. He is a defensive specialist, and he utilised his bench to perfection in the first game. Mind you, he also has Derrick Rose, this year’s MVP. Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah also had exceptional games for the Bulls.
One click on the “Return” button on the remote led me back to the Canucks game in Vancouver. They have earned the right to play the San Jose Sharks, by virtue of their wins over the Chicago Black Hawks and the pesky Nashville Predators. The Sharks outlasted the Detroit Red Wings in their most recent marathon series. Joe Thorton led the Sharks in the opening game, but Roberto Luongo was almost unbeatable in the Canucks net.
There are two other NHL teams remaining in the hunt for the Cup: the Boston Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning. This has been a turbulent year for the Lightning; however, they hired Steve Yzerman as their General Manager, and at this point in time, it appears that he has done all the right things. One of the first things he did was hire Guy Boucher as his head coach, and it appears as if they have great chemistry.
They are getting scoring from their stars: Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. But they are also getting wonderful results from lesser stars: Teddy Purcell, Steve Downie, and Sean Bergenheim, who leads all post season snipers with eight goals. It is only a matter of time before Steve Stamkos also finds the net.
The Bruins lost the first game against the Lightning, on home ice. They did attempt to intimidate the boys from the Gulf Coast, to no avail. I suspect that Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara will curb their enthusiasm slightly in the rest of this series, avoiding costly penalties. Tim Thomas will need to be sharp between the pipes for the Bruins.
The Oklahoma City Thunder earned the right to play the Dallas Mavericks in the other NBA semi-final. I am certain that the winner of that series will have a tough time against the Bulls in the final.
No matter. Just a fine time to enjoy the playoffs!
May 15, 2011