The NBA playoffs

The regular season has come and gone and now we find ourselves in the midst of the NBA playoffs.

Several former Big 12 players are in the heat of battle, many of whom will have a chance to make an impact for their teams.

Starting in the West, a few notable former Big 12 athletes just lead their team to victory in three tight fought, seven games series.

LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trailblazers has been locked in as of late, dominating the Houston Rockets in the first two games of the series and forcing Houston to focus on him down the stretch.

While Damien Lillard sealed the deal, Aldridge, a former Longhorn, played an important role in pushing his team into the second round of this year’s playoffs.

Next is likely MVP Kevin Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder, the number two seed in the West, were supposed to run away from the Memphis Grizzlies in this best of seven series, but nothing in the Western Conference is ever that easy.

Durant struggled to live up to the expectations he set for himself throughout the series, facing heavy criticism from media and fans alike. Nonetheless, the former Longhorn was able lead his team to victory in game seven and advance to the second round.

The last major player in the West is Blake Griffin with the Los Angeles Clippers. The former Oklahoma star has had to deal with major off-court issues in the past week due to the recent remarks from Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Despite all the turmoil surrounding the team, the Clippers were able to squeak past the Warriors in game seven and move on to face the Thunder in the second round.

In the East, we have the Brooklyn Nets’ Paul Pierce. He too was able to lead his team to victory in seven games.

Pierce, a former Jayhawk, brings veteran playoff experience to the Nets along with longtime teammate Kevin Garnett, both have been on the championship stage together several times before.

Last is Mario Chalmers of the Miami Heat. The former Kansas point guard has helped the Heat to two championships in the last two years.

Miami has looked good so far this post season, winning four straight against the Bobcats in order to advance to the second round.

Chalmers and Miami will take on Brooklyn in the second round. 

Andre Miller and Chris Paul shine early in NBA playoffs

The NBA playoffs opened up on Saturday afternoon, and they got off to a decently anti-climactic start. Derrick Rose still hasn’t returned, Kobe Bryant is still hurt, and Jeff Van Gundy still seems uncontrollably bitter. The Chicago Bulls were the first road team to win a game, and that event didn’t happen until Monday night.  

It’s no secret the NBA often plays host to very lopsided playoff matches, and often times the first round doesn’t provide the sparks most fans want to see. That Golden State Warriors-Dallas Mavericks series seems like long ago at this point, but the opening weekend of the 2013 NBA Playoffs had its share of exciting moments.  
The Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets are matched up in what might be one of the most exciting series of the entire playoffs, and they didn’t disappoint in their first game in Denver. With seconds remaining Stephen Curry hit a corner three to tie the game at 95, and the recurring play Andre Miller took the ball strong to the basket for a go ahead lay-up with one second remaining to seal a Denver win.  
In similar fashion, Chris Paul dribbled out the winding seconds of the Clippers and Grizzlies game Monday night before attacking the paint for an off-balanced, banked shot at the buzzer to win the game. It might not be as good as Van Persie’s hat trick, but the NBA playoffs have given us some moments to be content with thus far.  
The saying in the league is that the series hasn’t started until the home team has lost. I guess if that’s sill the idea, then only one of our series has actually started. But this is usually what is to be expected with NBA Playoff Basketball, at least since the early 2000’s. The first round of the playoffs often isn’t the most exciting portion of the playoffs, but for an opening weekend there was not too much to be disappointed about. 
It was predictable that mostly home teams would win. It was rather predictable that Derrick Rose wouldn’t suit up. But what wasn’t predictable is that Chris Paul and Andre Miller would come up clutch for their teams when it mattered most. I wouldn’t have predicted it would take the Clippers four quarters to dunk the basketball in game one of their series, and the continuing emergence of Carmelo Anthony might lean a little more towards the predictable side, but it’s still satisfying to see.  
I’ve slowly realized this isn’t the same NBA I grew up watching. Dirk, Kobe, Vince Carter, and the cast of characters who owned the 2000’s are slowly being filtered out completely. It’s a strange thing to see as a fan that fell in love with the sport in that era, but the opening round of the playoffs was a friendly reminder that the league is in a great place.