With the NBA regular season quickly coming to an end, here are some questions that have been on my mind as the postseason rapidly approaches:
1.) Should the Bulls rest Derrick Rose until the playoffs start?
I believe so. At this point, the most important thing for the Bulls is to have a healthy Rose for their playoff run. After going 14-5 earlier in the season (Dec-Mar) in games in which Rose did not appear, the Bulls have struggled in the month of April without the reigning league MVP in the lineup (5-5). However, even in the games that Rose has appeared in this month, he simply hasn’t looked comfortable on the court. In his three April appearances (2-1), Rose is shooting just 26% from the field (17% below his season average) and has turned the ball over a total of 18 times. Although the Bulls are still trying to fend off the Heat for home court advantage in the playoffs, do they really want to risk the health of Rose in games versus Dallas, Indiana, and Cleveland?
2.) Why is nobody talking about the Pacers?
Maybe it’s just me, but the Pacers continue to be completely overlooked as the playoffs set to get started. Turn on ESPN and you will most certainly see them opening up their NBA coverage with teams like the Heat, Thunder, Bulls, Celtics, Lakers, Knicks, etc. However, it is the Pacers (not any of those teams) that are playing the best basketball heading into the playoffs. The Pacers are 11-1 in the month of April, beating teams like the Thunder and Knicks along the way. The Pacers continue to excel in specific statistical categories during the month of April. In their 11 wins this month, the Pacers are out-rebounding their opponents (46.3-Pacers vs. 43-oppnents), earning more trips to the charity stripe (27 attempts per game-Pacers vs. 24 attempts per game-opponents), and outshooting their opponents from the field (45.7%-Pacers vs. 43.3%-opponents).
3.) With one marquee big man out for the playoffs, is another set to return?
The Orlando Magic received devastating news earlier in the week that center Dwight Howard would miss the rest of the regular season (and more importantly the playoffs) to repair a herniated disk in his back. With the Magic currently holding the number six seed in the Eastern Conference, the likelihood of them advancing against a red hot Pacers team without the services of Howard is highly unlikely. On the flipside, the Atlanta Hawks might be getting back the services of their talented big man Al Horford. Horford, who tore his pectoral muscle back in January, was cleared to take part in contact drills this week. The return of Horford would obviously be an added bonus to a Hawks team that has performed surprisingly well in his absence (30-21).
4.) Is the championship window closing shut on the Lakers and Celtics?
For sure. As great as both teams have looked to finish the regular season, you have to believe that this could be the final championship run for both teams (with their current cast of characters). The Celtics, who have won 12 of their last 16 games, just aren’t built to compete like they have in years past with their aging superstars. Ray Allen (36), Kevin Garnett( 35), and Paul Pierce (34), are all in the final years of their illustrious careers. As for the Lakers, you can certainly argue that the emergence of Andrew Bynum this year could keep them contenders out west for years to come. However, similar to Garnett, Allen, and Pierce, you have to wonder how much longer Kobe Bryant can continue to play at an ultra-high level? Although Bryant’s production really hasn’t decreased this season (aside from his 43% from the field-lowest since the 97-98 season), he has been asked to log heavy minutes once again (38.4 minutes per game). At 33 years old (15th NBA season), it’s hard to imagine Bryant performing much longer at the level we have become accustomed to over the years. This could very well be the Lakers and Celtics last chance to capture an NBA title for some years to come.
5.) Is it time to put up or shut up for King James?
You would certainly think so. Listen, we are all familiar with the impressive statistical regular seasons by Lebron James. This season has been no different, as James has compiled one of his most impressive regular seasons to date (27.1 PPG 7.9 RPG 6.3 APG .531 FG%). To be honest, during his six playoff appearances over the years, James production really hasn’t been much different than his regular season production (slight decrease in his FG% & 3FG%). However, following his disappointing play in last season’s NBA Finals (18 total points in fourth quarter play), James certainly has something to prove this postseason. Similar to last season, it is championship or bust for James and the Heat. Can he silence his critics?
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