So far, the start of the NBA season has been somewhat of a disappointment. Both Cleveland and Boston as well as the Lakers and Clippers all looked like they were still tuning up for the season on opening night. The Rockets waited three quarters before showing up against the Blazers, and many other games fell short of expectations. Earlier tonight, the Bulls handled the Spurs with little resistance. All that came to a head later tonight when the Blazers and Nuggets tipped off. So far, this has easily been the best nationally televised game of the young season. Not only do you have the usual suspects, e.g. Brandon Roy, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, and Lamarcus Aldridge, but also making their presence felt are newcomers Andre Miller and Ty Lawson. This is the first game I’ve seen this season that had a competitive feel to it. At the time of writing, Denver has a 93-91 lead with just over a minute to go in the game.
This got me thinking, are we watching the 2nd and 3rd best teams in the Western Conference? The Spurs look like they don’t care, and instead are waiting until next year for their once-every-four-year run at the title. New Orleans appears to have taken a step back. Phoenix dropped off the radar a while ago, and Houston, with the exception of their slim victory over the lowly Warriors, look like they’ll be lucky to make the playoffs this year. So, who’s left to challenge the Lakers? It’s looking A LOT like it’s going to come down to Denver and Portland. On the Nuggets’ side, Carmelo looks more focused and motivated than anyone in the league thus far. We know what Billups can do, and Nene looks even better this year, and Ty Lawson is already a key piece in the Nuggets’ rotation. On the Blazers’ side, Brandon Roy appears to have elevated his game yet again, and he’s quickly becoming one of the most clutch performers in the league. I can’t wait to see what he does as the game winds down tonight. Martell Webster looks like he’s finally figured it out, and Juwan Howard is surprisingly playing a key role for the Blazers. All things considered, we can’t be surprised if we find ourselves watching these two teams battle it out in a Game 7 in the Western Conference Semis, for the right to play the defending champs, who will probably watching from home, waiting, after sweeping whoever their second round opponent was.