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With so much going on this postseason, it can be damn near impossible to keep up with it all. Especially when “keeping up with it” entails watching a Rose-less Chicago team or a Big Baby-led Orlando squad battle Indiana for the rights to lose to Miami in round two. Not exactly must-see action. That’s where we come in. We’ll take the basketball bullet and give you every series in a nutshell. It’s all part of our latest gimmick… Winners and Losers!
- James Harden. He’s getting more love than an oil executive in November. His beard alone is on the ballot for the 2013 All-Star game. Seriously though, Harden used the first round series to propel himself into the conversation of the league’s best young shooting guards – a group he should stay firmly planted in. Is there any other under-25 shooting guard you’d rather have?
“He beat us in individual drives, beat us in pick and rolls. He got up a head of steam and was great,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said of Harden. “We tried everything, five or six different coverages going. We needed to be better but it was more about how good he was.”
- 39-years-young Jason Kidd. He repeatedly found open lanes to the rack, lulling defenders to sleep with his dribble before bursting to the basket. (Well, maybe “bursting” isn’t the most accurate adjective- but you get the point.) And it wasn’t just Derek Fisher getting burned either; Westbrook, Sefolosha and Harden each found themselves watching Kidd’s one-man layup drill at different points of Game 3. It’s one of those things that defies physics- like LeBron’s speed and vertical leap…except the exact opposite.
- Kevin Durant. Obviously. The memorable game-winner at home against the defending champions was yet another notch in the belt for the not-so-young, youngster.
- Tyson Chandler. As if winning DPOY wasn’t enough, Dallas’s resounding defeat against basically the same Thunder team they dismantled a year ago only reinforces the impact Chandler had for the Mavs. Without him, they were repeatedly gored by the penetration of James Harden and the jump-shooting of Durant and Westbrook .
- Heat fans. Just as Mavs fans rejoiced every Miami misstep from 2007 until last year, no other non-Heat result will give Miami residents more vicarious pleasure than watching Dallas get swept.
- Mark Cuban. Letting Tyson Chandler go in the hope of nabbing a potentially broken (both physically and emotionally) Dwight Howard and/or Deron Williams, made even less sense the second Chandler won DPOY. Not that he’ll ever admit it. Such a shame to see a defending champ go out with whimper. Strangely, it’s another thing they share with the Heat (Even though, Wade was badly injured in ‘07, but whatever.)
- Every other team in the West. If you’re the Lakers or Spurs, the last thing you wanted was for OKC to sweep the defending champion and team that knocked them out of it last year. Few things could have provided that kind of confidence boost. Last year the Thunder looked nervous and unsettled. This year, we’re already seeing a lot more swagger.
- Skip Bayless. The whole “Thunder can’t win with a point guard who shoots that much” argument continues to lose steam.
- The Mark Cuban-led “Shawn Marion is a defensive player of the year candidate” campaign looked more hyperbolic by the day. Durant’s numbers for the series: 26.5 ppg on 45-percent shooting. Not exactly a Bruce Bowen-like effect.
- Vince Carter. Few things say “we’re waiting ‘till next year” like signing Vince Carter. Letting Chandler go and then signing Carter was the basketball equivalent of trading in your Porsche for a Hummer, a move that would be slightly more defensible five years ago, but even then, not really.
- Dirk Nowitzki – Goes from being considered a top-five NBA player at the end of last season to simply the best player on an average team that got swept. His legacy is certainly complete with the one title, but any hopes of really cracking the list of all-time greats took a huge hit.
Check back at the conclusion of every round for our winners and losers breakdown.
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