The Philadelphia 76ers were expected to get destroyed by the Chicago Bulls even after Derrick Rose's injury. Yet Sixers fans like myself aren't so sure anymore after Philadelphia's 109-92 blowout win in Game 2 on May 1. At the least, it has made the Sixers-Bulls series unpredictable and dramatic for the first time - unlike most other NBA playoff battles.
In fact, this Game 2 upset couldn't have come at a better time for bored NBA fans, who aren't seeing a lot of close battles to start the playoffs. While the NHL postseason has been nail biting from the start, the NBA has just had boring, conventional outcomes and injuries to start its postseason off.
The biggest headlines in the playoffs aren't close games, down-to-the-wire thrillers and tight series, but injuries, blowouts and bad behavior. Rose's torn ACL leaves both him and Dwight Howard out for the postseason, while A'mare Stoudemire took himself out by punching through glass. Rajon Rondo's bumping of an official also took him out for a game - albeit one that the Boston Celtics won on May 1 to even things with the Atlanta Hawks.
As for the games themselves, the favorites have all been holding form and draining out suspense. The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers have breezed through against heavy underdogs so far, while the Oklahoma City Thunder are also up 2-0 despite winning far closer games over the Dallas Mavericks. Meanwhile, although the Los Angeles Clippers stunned the world with their 27-point comeback over the Memphis Grizzlies on April 29, will that result in a classic series or will the Grizzlies fold the rest of the way?
There is little doubt so far that the NBA heavyweights will advance through this round and barely be tested in doing so. That is why it is so relieving that the Sixers have woken up against the Bulls, and that there might actually be suspense and drama that most other series' seem unlikely to have.
It was a given that Chicago would advance past Philadelphia without Rose, yet now it isn't as much of a sure thing. If the Sixers keep putting up a fight, it will be the kind of storyline that can bail out an otherwise conventional opening round. Otherwise all there is to talk about is the New York Knicks' latest playoff collapse, A-list superstars getting injured and the Heat already getting penciled into the NBA Finals.
Of course, if Chicago rallies back and wins easily in Philadelphia, it will be another case of things going back to form in the NBA. Upsets and elite teams being challenged early happens a lot easier in the NHL than the NBA, even though the top seeded San Antonio Spurs were knocked off in round one last postseason. If the Sixers can actually threaten to do this to the Bulls, then it will help bring some real intrigue back to this year's opening round.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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