Of which there were several today. Firstly, the New York Knicks’ exasperating, captivating season came to an end as Miami beat them fairly comfortably at home as they’ve done throughout the series, one game coming down to a late miss from D-Wade aside. I wonder what kind of moron would ever have given the Knicks a shot in this series given their mismatch of talent?

I have to admit I didn’t manage to see much of the Heat-Knicks battle but I did get a good look at the game in the West, where the Grizzlies avoided NY’s fate by grinding their way to a win over the Clippers, who were rattled by injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

A few hours, two bottles of Powerade and a still-incomplete essay (that will be handed in tomorrow, two days overdue and almost certainly failed) later, I have for you your points for Day 12 of what has been a strangely captivating NBA Playoffs for one which hasn’t seen any stunning upsets comparable to last year.

3 votes – LeBron James. Hard to really give out the top honour today given that there were no real outstanding performers in either game. I guess it has to go to LeBron, who put up the kind of game (29 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists, and 13-15 from the free throw line) that would be amazing for most players but is pretty much routine for him these days.

By now, we’re beginning to get a fair idea of what LeBron is as a basketball player (good and bad). I will say one thing though. He’s the first guy, since Jordan, who belongs in the “you can never take your eyes off this guy when he’s on the court.” Offense and defense, with or without the ball. There are some guys in the league who are amazing athletic specimens (e.g. Dwight Howard). Some who are incredibly skilled at one or more aspects of the game (Steve Nash). There are even those who are extremely smart and understand the game inside out (Chris Paul). In the NBA, right now, at this moment, LeBron James is the only guy who combines all three at the highest level every time he plays basketball. No matter who’s on court the odds are he’s faster, more skilled and smarter than everyone else. Which makes his failings even more exasperating – true – but now’s not the time.

2 votes – Marc Gasol. The Grizzlies front court has been a bit disappointing this series, especially considering the Clippers don’t really have any very good big man defenders (Blake Griffin and Reggie Evans are both undersized, DeAndre Jordan is just a shot blocker). Zach Randolph has had niggling injuries all year keeping him from reaching the heights of his playoff performance last year, but Gasol never really got going until his 23/7/4 game today. His ability to control the paint on both ends was the main reason Memphis ended up winning this game.

While watching this game, I got into a text-debate with my mate Al (a Sixers fan, so no real bias) on the best centers in the league. We both agreed it was Dwight first and Bynum second – but when it came to the third slot I argued it should be Bogut, Al said that Marc Gasol was the guy.
“But Bogut’s been one of the best defensive players in the league the last three years when he’s been healthy. And…”
“There you go. He can’t stay healthy.”
“Come on man. He’s had a bunch of freak injuries. Nothing related. You’re not seriously going to tell me you think he’s the Aussie Greg Oden.”
“I ain’t saying anything, just don’t get excited next year. Besides, Gasol offers more on both ends. Plus, he’s won more.”
“Gasol has Zach Randolph to take pressure off him. Bogut had in Milwaukee who, Ilyasova?”
It descended a bit from there but it’s a point to consider. In terms of pure all round centers, this is probably your top 4. But if you were building a team, who would you take first? Possible off-season debate topic depending on how these playoffs go.

1 vote – Zach Randolph. As I mentioned earlier, Z-Bo’s been bugged by injury all playoffs and he hasn’t been the all-conquering inside-out force he was last year. Today, however, he stepped up with a double double – 19/10 to be exact.

If the Grizzlies are going to bring the series back to Memphis for a Game 7, they’re gonna need another solid performance from Randolph especially as Rudy Gay hasn’t been able to find a consistent groove in the series. On paper this is a perfect matchup for Gay given that he has a significant size advantage over Randy Foye/Eric Bledsoe/Mo Williams and Nick Young couldn’t guard my dad. But he’s been struggling to find his spots.

With the injury to Derrick Rose, all the intrigue is in the Western Conference this year. In all likelihood the two LA teams will finish off their series with wins and we’ll have Spurs/Clippers and Lakers/Thunder. Oh boy. I don’t think any of those teams could not possibly make the Finals depending on how things go for them. The East, however…I really don’t see who stops Miami unless the old men of the Cs really wind back the clock.

Sam is out late tomorrow so I’ll be back again to dazzle y’all with my incredible insight and wit. After all, who else would have had the guts to pick the Knicks to beat Miami? (whispers in my ear that I completely blew that call). Oh. Yeah. Anyway. Peace out.

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