This is it. NBA basketball is finally entering the nationally televised portion of the schedule. With the NFL season ending next weekend, no baseball, and no one caring about the NHL, the NBA should be on your television every weekend for the rest of the season. Such an occasion calls for a preview of the first round of nationally televised games.
Without further ado, lets run down today’s triple header on ABC and ESPN.
Miami Heat at Boston Celtics, 1PM ET – ABC
Miami enters today’s action at 28-12 and first place in the East as they coast towards the playoffs. Boston, meanwhile, is 20-23 and clinging to the eighth seed. But that’s not why we care about this game. No, the story here is that this will be Ray Allen’s first game in Boston since spurning the Celtics last summer and signing with Miami for less money, presumably because Allen was butt hurt over coming off the bench for Celtics guard Avery Bradley. Ironically, Allen is also coming off the bench in Miami, but that’s besides the point. The real point here is that even though Miami will likely dismantle Boston, this game give me another chance to post this video again:
Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers, 3:30PM ET – ABC
In the day’s second matchup of New Guard vs. Old Guard, the West-leading Thunder face the lottery-bound Lakers. LA is coming off of a big win wherein Kobe Bryant actually shared the ball en route to 14 assists with just 14 points, but perennial crybabies Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol got touches and points, and the Lakers got a win, so everyone is happy. With the Lakers finally winning a game with Kobe sharing, today’s matchup will be a good barometer as to whether or not Kobe will share against a good team on a national television. Although the Lakers are extremely dangerous when Kobe is in point guard mode, it remains to be seen if he’s willing to play the part for an extended period of time.
If Kobe does embrace the role, it opens up new questions as to what to do with Steve Nash, who is not nearly as effective off the ball as with the ball. That being said, Nash has finally started to look his age this year and might actually benefit from accepting a lesser role in the offense. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni needs someone on this team that can hang out on the three point line and keep the defense honest. The Lakers have been extremely unsuccessful so far forcing Metta World Peace in to that role (he’s shooting just 36% from downtown this season). Keeping Nash on the perimeter, where he’s shooting 41.3% this season, might be the answer they’re looking for. Again, though, this only works if Kobe accepts the responsibility of playing more of a facilitator, thereby sacrificing his scoring in the process. Be mindful of that today, because if Bryant does accept the role, LA may still have some life in them yet.
Atlanta Hawks at New York Knicks, 6:30PM ET – ESPN
There’s a reason why this one is on cable. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good matchup on paper. The Knicks are in second in the East, the Hawks are in sixth. The Knicks are 26-15, the Hawks are 25-18. The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler, the Hawks have Josh Smith and Al Horford. The Knicks have Steve Novak, the Hawks have Kyle Korver. This is an extremely evenly matched game between two good teams in the East who have no shot at competing for a championship or growing into a contender in the near future.
Sorry, but that’s the reality.
For all the Knicks’ success this year, including a few blowout victories over Miami, they still have yet to show me anything that makes me believe they will continue that success deep into the playoffs. Aside from Jason Kidd, this is the same Knicks team that was killed by Miami in the first round last year even after having great success with the hiring of Mike Woodson.
As for Atlanta, the next time they get past the second round with Josh Smith will be the first time. No one fears Atlanta as a legitimate contender because they aren’t one. They are the 2011 Dallas Mavericks without Dirk Nowitzki. Very good, very streaky, but without a true star to push them over the top. And as much as Josh Smith thinks he’s worth a max contract, he’s not even the best player on the team. That title goes to Al Horford, who doesn’t bellyache and shoot his team out of games.
All of that, plus once Derrick Rose returns, neither of these teams has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting past Chicago, let alone Miami. In short, there’s a reason this one is on cable.
All statistics via ESPN