The brisket is finished not smoking. As the second half of the shortened regular season has just begun and because we like to procrastinate here at the Beef, I take a look back at the entirety (well the tasty bits at least) of the first stock of games. This would have been written earlier but I had to let the Linsanity settle in my belly. Phew, OK, now that it is nice and digested, it could have used a little spice actually, let us recall some of the notable moments so far and while we are at it make some projections for the second half, shall we?
Best in the East:
Well, this is Miami’s conference. Hands down. No question. Other such clichés. They begin the second part of the season with a 27-7 record which is tied for the best record in the league. None of this should actually surprise anyone though, well maybe someone in Kazakstan, but no one who follows the sport.
Coming off their Finals loss, King Geedorah and company were heavy favorites to return to the Finals and win it all this season. At this point is seems like a sound bet that they will. Yes, Chicago is just behind them in the standings but something just does not seem right about their chances. I cannot quite place it but they seem to lack the explosive power that Miami has, oh, and LeBron James jumped completely over John Lucas earlier in the year.
Best in the West:
Sigh. It irks me to say this but the Thunder are the best team in the West but I will add a caveat to make myself feel better. They are the best because they have the best record. If you read this blog ever you have probably surmised that I have a number of doubts where the Thunder are concerned, especially with their drive or bailout jumper style of offense. This does not mean that I do not respect the talent that Sam Presti has assembled in Oklahoma City, but as a Texan I can never credit anything in Oklahoma as desirable. Sorry. (Actually, I’m not sorry.)
Scariest team in the East:
In West Philadelphia born and raised…yes, that is right. The Philadelphia 76ers are the scariest team in the East. This is coming from someone who is also an unabashed fan of the Pacers but Indy has been stomped soundly by the Heat a couple of times this season already.
Philly, as the trend seems to be with teams on the rise this year, has the ability to strike from almost anywhere on the floor as they do not rely on a single star to carry the team. Instead, almost every player down the roster is capable of scoring when presented with the opportunity. However, it is on the defensive end of the floor where the Sixers make their mark.They lead the NBA in defensive efficiency and also hold their opponents to the lowest effective field goal shooting percentage in the league. The Fresh Prince would be proud of his home town team.
Now if only Spencer Hawes would get healthy…
Scariest team in the West:
Never discount the old dogs. San Antonio is the scariest damn team in the league possibly. Their Rodeo Road Trip seems to have renewed the team team…again. Who saw that coming? It isn’t like it happens every year like clockwork. Yet, this is not your slightly older sibling’s Spurs. No, this incarnation of the team is all about offense. Toss out the defense.
Oh, and they are scoring buckets on buckets on buckets with Manu Ginobili suffering two separate injuries thus far. Too bad for the Spurs that they are second in the West because their best match up in the first round could be the Thunder. San Antonio completely smoked them last time they faced each other.
LeBron. No brainer.
I am completely in favor of term limits so it has to go to Tony Allen this year. He might not have all the flashy numbers to back up his ability to defend, but he is, in my opinion, the best perimeter defender the league has seen since Metta World Peace was named Ron Artest and playing for the Pacers.
Jeremy Lin. I don’t think I need to explain that one. However, I should make reference to players who were making a strong case, at least to me, for most improved before Linsanity: Ryan Anderson and Ersan Ilyasova.
James Harden. Yawn.