The two most successful franchises in NBA history have been forced to contest the play-in. Without a doubt, new times. In the case of the Boston Celtics, after being a finalist in the Conference and with a project that awaited its apogee. Given the postponement notice, Danny Ainge has already warned of new airs: « We will look for changes. Obviously, I can’t go into details. But yes, there will be changes. How significant? I don’t know yet. We’ll see. ». Throughout the course, the difficulties have been many, with the indefinite dismissal of Jaylen Brown as end of misfortune, but does not want to look for excuses. There is no time for it, because the NBA does not wait for anyone. The beginning of these playoffs it’s a sample. And own play-in, too. Surely, neither Adam Silver predicted duels of such height in his new previous phase. Not a stratospheric Jayson Tatum, imperial to Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook, nor to the greatest generational pulse, such as LeBron James – Stephen Curry, converted into a fight for survival and not for glory. As icing on the cake, that triple that already rests between the pages of history. For the best league in the world, for one thing or another, everything always ends up going well. And that’s why it has earned the nickname.
The case of the Angelenos is paradigmatic, as they face a historical challenge. So far, impossible: No NBA franchise has made the ring starting from seventh or eighth, and LeBron and Anthony Davis, who arrive like a hungry animal smelling blood, already have a new challenge. With all due respect to the other franchises in your situation, of course, who are opting for the same milestone. If the Lakers are directly pointed out, it is simply because they came to this season as champions and, at the beginning, almost everyone was betting on their continuity on the throne. The stars remained and the new pieces, with their nuances, even seemed to improve what was already there. And they started showing it. Until mid-February, the Angelenos accumulated 21 victories and only 6 defeats. Imposing in the what, but also in the how, with that feeling, hackneyed and of doubtful veracity in sport, that they won when they wanted. LeBron, for his part, until the first of his injuries, was opting for the MVP, the fifth and the one that, in the record, would have placed him at the height of Michael Jordan. Because the injuries came, of course, and they are what explain, as in the case of Boston, the current situation.
Olajuwon, Bob Pettit or Hayes as a compass
Unpredictable, rare, unexpected … even unlikely; but not irreversible. The Lakers, as at the beginning of the course, are still candidates for the ring. And the Lakers, as at the beginning, have all their troops again. In recent memory, few examples of the port to scale are found, raised even higher after the start of the series against the Phoenix Suns; but in the newspaper library, there are very similar examples. One of the most impressive, that of the New York Knicks in 1999, when they reached the Finals, their last, after being eighth in the regular phase. The only precedent in history. In memory of the fans of the Big Apple, who this year again enjoy their team in playoffs after eight years, that sixth game against the Indiana Pacers, the one that certified his feat, will still take place. A heroic Allan Houston, with 32 points and 11 of his last 12 shots made, took the reins without Larry Johnson, who was injured in the same game, nor Patrick Ewing, with a torn Achilles tendon that only allowed him to dispute 38 matches that campaign.
Heroes, but fallen. LeBron and his people, surely, will review other tapes. Those that end with an ending that, mathematically, is as idyllic as it is improbable. Utopian. That they need. In this category, then, you will find the 1995 Rockets. Some who, in addition, also arrived as champions, but who finished sixth in the regular season. His only two rings on the resume, the ones that made their way, after much insistence, in the middle of the momentary retirement of Michael Jordan. An unstoppable Hakeem Olajuwon, in addition, culminated the epic in style, without half measures, enlarging the feat even more: in the Finals, 4-0 in the series against the Magic of Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway. For him, 32.8 points and 11.5 rebounds in the series, accompanied by 21.5 + 9.5 + 6.8 from Clyde Drexler and 17.8 + 10 + 3.8 from Robert Horry. Example to follow.
If you go to the purest mathematics, the challenge also looks great, although more hopeful for Los Angeles fans. With 58.3% of wins in the regular season, the Lakers would be among the champions with the worst balance in history, but surrounded by multiple examples. Among them, of course, are the previous Rockets, at 47-35 (57.3%); but they do not preside over this peculiar classification. The honor goes to the 1978 Washington Bullets, with 44-38 (53.7%) and led by Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld or Bob Dandridge. Behind them, the 1958 St. Louis Hawks (41-31 and 56.9%), still in an eight-team league. In his case, with that bit of luck that every champion needs, even at the cost of the misfortunes of others. In Game 3 of the Finals, against the Boston Celtics, Bill Russell injured his knee, making the way for Bob Pettit’s advance much easier. In between, there are also the Philadelphia Warriors of 1947 or the Baltimore Bullets of 48, with the same balance as the current Lakers. Those of Frank Vogel can cling to all of this: tragedy attracts more tragedy, but history and epic, too.