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Finally...the Finals are here. TNT isn't lying when they claim "40 games in 40 nights". The culmination of one of the more exciting NBA playoffs in recent memory starts this Thursday as the Finals tip-off at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Starting with the epic Celtics/Bulls first round slugfest, to the multiple seven game series' between the Lakers/Rockets and the Celtics/Magic in the second round, to a competitive Conference Finals, both of which went 6 games, but only one of which was expected. Yes, Kings James and his overly confident Cavs were knocked out decisively, despite Lebron shattering multiple free throw records for a playoff series.
To the horror of many(including David Stern, ABC, Nike, Vitamin Water, etc), the Finals will not include the much hyped matchup of Kobe/Lebron. For a while it looked like the NBA was doing it's best, with Lebron's Wade-like treatment througout the series, but really, they were just delaying the inevitable. The Cavs were just outmatched, outplayed, and in the end, outclassed by Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. After a game 6 blowout(coincedently the only game in the series in which the refs were NOT a factor), Lebron walked off the court, put on his street clothes, and walked out of Orlando without so much as a nod. His teammates were left to answer questions in the aftermath, while "King" James did what he always does in defeat...walks off like a little child. If hockey players can shake hands at the end of a long, physical series, why can't the King? If a UFC fighter can hug and lift the hand of guy who just knocked his teeth out, why can't the King? He claims he's a winner, and winners don't accept losing, but what exactly was he proving at the end of that game? That he can accept congratulations, but can't give them? This is not the act of a winner to me, or the face of today's NBA. I thought it was disrespect to Orlando and to the game which has given him so much. This might seem hypocritical, coming from a Piston's fan, but I didn't agree with the Isiah Thomas led walk-off at the end of the '91 Pistons/Bulls series either. My favorite player, Joe Dumars, was the only one to shake hands with the Bulls that day. Joe would later say, "M.J. had stopped, shook my hand and hugged me three straight years that we had beaten them in the playoffs. There was no way I was walking off the court without shaking the Bulls’ hands.”
On the other side, the Lakers did what was expected...they reached the Finals for the second straight season, defeating the Nuggets in 6. Denver came into the series playing better than anyone in the playoffs and were the popular pick of many to upset the Lakers. But unfortunately, Chauncey proved again why Joe Dumars traded him, once again turning in a subpar performance in the Conference Finals, which makes three years in a row for "Mr. Big Shot". Don't get me wrong, I love Chauncey and what he was able to do for my Pistons, but it was obvious to Piston fans that he could not take the Pistons any further than the Conference Finals, and unfortunatley that just isn't good enough in Detroit. With Orlando getting better, Cleveland improving with the acquisition of Mo Williams, and the defending champion Boston Celtics coming back just as strong before the eventual KG injury, Joe decided to start thinking of the future. The Nuggets still had a great season, and barring any injuries next year, should be right back in the WCF.