Friday, April 16, 2010

Thunder not in forecast

We're not suggesting that Kevin Durant back down from Kobe Bryant when the Thunder takes on the Lakers in their first-round NBA Playoff series beginning Sunday. But a quick look at the past performance charts says the boys from LA shouldn't have to worry about bringing their Wellies and yellow slickers to the Staples Center. Besides, it never rains in Southern California anyway, right?

On one of my recent posts, I wrote about how eighth-seeded teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs have about a 25-percent success rate in their opening-round matchups against the top-seeded clubs. In the NBA, the chances of a first-round upset are far less -- only 5.76 percent.

Consider that since the NBA adopted its current postseason format in 1984, the No. 8 seed has beaten the No. 1 seed only three times in 52 series (27 seasons times two series in each playoff year).

It hasn't happened since 2007, when the Baron Davis-led Warriors stunned the Mavericks in six games in the Western Conference first round -- the only time this has occurred in the current best-of-seven opening round format.

The other two first-round upsets were registered by the 1994 Denver Nuggets, led by Dikembe Mutombo, shocking the Seattle SuperSonics 3-2 in a best-of-five series; and the 1999 Knicks, powered by Latrell Sprewell in a 3-2 ousting of the Miami Heat 3-2 in their best-of-five meeting. That Knicks squad remains the only eighth-seeded team to reach the NBA Finals, where they lost to Tim Duncan and the Spurs, the first of San Antonio's four NBA titles.

Home-court advantage in the NBA has traditionally been formidable, mostly because of the proximity of the fans to the court and the extra intensity the postseason brings. And clearly, the numbers are even more sobering, going a long way to quiet the talk of upsets. So while the Thunder and their Eastern Conference brethren, the Chicago Bulls -- who take on the top-seeded Orlando Magic -- will definitely show up this weekend, chances are we won't be seeing them for very long.


Speaking of sobering numbers, the darkness inside Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum and the Izod Center is especially so this year, for this marks the first time that four of the five New York Metropolitan-area professional teams failed to make the playoffs in the NHL or NBA. The Rangers, Islanders, Knicks and Nets will all be watching the postseason on TV; since the Devils came on the scene in 1983, there had never been a playoff year when more than three teams from Gotham did not qualify for the playoffs. Certainly, baseball season began early in the Big Apple. Given the Mets' sputtering start, maybe it isn't too early for New York sports fans to look ahead to the beginning of NFL training camp.


Saw that the TV informercial "voodoo priestess" Miss Cleo -- remember her? -- was recently on ESPN giving her forecast on what team uber free agent LeBron James would sign with next season. She exhorted the host to "throw away" the Knicks and Bulls jerseys she was holding up before exclaiming that King James' next home will be in Washington, with the Wizards.

But being that "Miss Cleo," who spoke with a Jamaican accent, was outed as a native of L.A. and whose employer was shuttered due to, shall we say, less-than-scrupulous business ethics -- you may want to draw your own conclusions.

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