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article imageMiami Heat looks to repeat as the 2013 NBA Playoffs start

By Daniel Edwards     Apr 21, 2013 in Sports
As the first full season since the lockout comes to an end, the NBA playoffs are back with the Miami Heat looking to repeat and 15 others teams hoping to hoist the trophy.
Coming off last years championship playoff run, the Miami Heat have crafted a spectacular season which has many believing the Heat will simply walk through the Eastern and Western Conference contenders to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy once again. Heat hopefuls have quite a bit of ground to stand on as the Heat finished the season ranked number one with a 66-16 record, made possible largely by a 27 game win streak which rivalled only the 1972 Lakers NBA record 33 game winning streak. If Miami can carry the momentum from the season into the playoffs, the Heat’s presence may overwhelm its first opponent, the eighth seeded Milwaukee Bucks who are making a playoff appearance for the first time in several seasons, and potentially the rest of the contenders. Whether this belief will become fact or fiction, the race to the championship has officially started as the 2013 NBA Playoffs tipped off Saturday afternoon with the number two seed New York Knicks against the seventh seed Boston Celtics.
The majority of teams that qualified for the 2013 Eastern Conference playoff resemble those of 2012, but a lot of changes in the seeding of teams have created a completely new playoff picture. The fourth and fifth seed match up between the Brooklyn Nets and the Chicago Bulls is a stark reality to last year’s playoff picture as the Bulls were number one in the conference and league overall, while the Brooklyn Nets did not even exist as an NBA franchise. Former MVP Derrick Rose suffered a season ending ACL injury which is still plaguing him today, leaving a large vacancy in the Bulls line up in the point guard position. Brooklyn, formerly New Jersey, Nets have shown this season the advantage of moving across the Hudson River to Brooklyn to receive a new arena and fan base. Within one season of relocation, along with a pretty significant roster change, the Nets captured the fourth best record in the conference which gave the Nets its first playoff berth in five seasons.
The Bulls managed without star Derrick Rose throughout the season, but the lack of Rose and the growth in talent of the Nets was evident in Bulls 89-106 loss on Saturday night. The Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks matchup is a series of two teams that desire to prove its worth as the Pacers fight to get recognition in the league as real contenders, while the Hawks desire to shake off the stigma of Atlanta teams rarely making it past the initial round.
The matchup that is viewed as the most exciting, and historically significant, is the Boston Celtics versus the New York Knicks. From the time the Celtics won the 2008 NBA championship, the Celtics have been the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Even with an aged an injured roster, the Celtics took the Miami Heat to game seven in the 2012 conference finals, and were one win away from going to NBA finals for the third time in five seasons. The Celtics should never be counted out, but it appears that the seventh seed Celtics made it into the playoffs as expected, but without the aggressive nature which the league has come to recognize. The former seventh seed Knicks in 2012 have rocketed up to second place and have taken the division title from the Celtics for the first time in five years. The Knicks, led by scoring title holder Carmelo Anthony, have put together the right pieces this season and seem poised to make a run in the playoffs as the majority of the players who assisted in achieving a 54-28 record, coupled with a late season 13 game winning streak, are healthy. Despite all star power forward Amare Stoudemire being out of the roster with right knee issues, the Knicks have been able to make do without his presence. For much of the season.
The Celtics-Knicks rivalry is larger than the playoffs; it is probably larger than basketball itself. The real rivalry is New York City against Boston and it plays out whenever the Yankees face the Red Sox or the Giants meet the Patriots in the Super bowl. Game 1 of the series went to the Knicks as Carmelo Anthony scored 36 points and veteran player Jason Kidd made several crucial steals to seal the 85-78 victory over the Celtics. The Celtics loss reveals the inconsistencies in offence which has been impacted as star point guard Rajon Rondo suffered a season ending ACL injury, removing a vital member from the Celtics threat which has been hovering over the conference since 2007. Without a prolific floor general like Rondo, the Knicks appear to have the advantage in this series.
The Western Conference has been dominated by the Oklahoma City Thunder for two seasons, and the Thunder coming off a disappointing NBA finals appearance last season appear to be set on returning once again. Several unforeseen events, such as the Lakers making the playoffs and defeated the Houston Rockets to take the seventh seed, has led to former Thunder James Harden facing his former team in the first round. Harden, who was traded because OKC could not agree on a contract extension, will most likely aim to prove his worth to his former team. The potential bad blood will make for a gritty series.
The sixth seeded Memphis Grizzlies who were ousted by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2012, are meeting again for a rematch which is the most evenly matched of all the series as both teams finished the season with a record of 56-26. With Grizzlies looking for retribution and the Clippers seeking to become Los Angeles’ number one team after winning the Pacific division, this series will be filled with intensity. The Clippers took Game 1 of this series 91-112.
The sixth and third seed match up is the Golden State Warriors versus the Denver Nuggets. The Warriors have brought basketball excited back to Northern California with a solid season while the Nuggets will seek to go further then the team has gone in the past few postseasons. Game 1 went to the Nuggets 97-95 as Stephen Curry’s three pointer tied the game, but Nuggets point guard Andre Miller scored the game winning tie breaker with seconds to spare . Unfortunately for the Warriors, all star David Lee left the game with a right hip injury.
Similar to the hype around the Knicks-Celtics series, the series in the west to watch is the Los Angeles Lakers against the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers remarkably won all five end of season games to clinch a playoff spot and eliminate the Utah Jazz. The momentum the Lakers have entered the post season with makes the team seemed poised for an upset. The biggest injury this season came at the end with Kobe Bryant tearing his Achilles tendon ending his season. Without Kobe the Lakers task against the number two seed Spurs appears that much more daunting, but the fact that the Lakers are even in this situation is a testament to the team’s endurance.
The 2013 playoff picture is filled with stories of underdogs, former champions, up and coming contenders, roster depleted teams and those who are simply privileged to have an extended season. No matter what events happened in the season or what rank a team attained, any team has the potential to make the right plays at the right time to advance. If Miami looks to repeat it definitely has a long road ahead against teams that are just as passionate, and passion makes for great basketball.
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