Only a handful of teams are left in the National Basketball Association (NBA) playoffs. Let’s look at which teams have the best chance of winning their conference titles and playing for a championship ring.
Eastern Conference: The word in the East is injuries. The Chicago Bulls had the best regular-season record, but their star guard, Derrick Rose, blew out his knee in the first game of the playoffs. The Bulls lost in the opening round to the Philadelphia 76ers. Now the 76ers are playing the Boston Celtics.
But with the Bulls out, the Miami Heat with its Big Three superstars — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — has become the favorite. Well, the Big Three are now the Big Two. Bosh is injured and out indefinitely with a pulled stomach muscle.
I still think Miami will win the Eastern Conference and play in the championship series. Why? LeBron James is almost an entire team by himself. James is averaging about 29 points, six assists and nine rebounds a game during the playoffs.
Another reason is that the Indiana Pacers, the team with the best chance to beat Miami, are banged up. Two of the best Pacers players, forwards Danny Granger (sprained ankle) and David West (sprained knee), are hurt. I don’t think the Pacers, or anyone else in the East, will be able to keep up with LeBron and the Heat.
Western Conference: The series that starts Sunday between the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Western Conference title should be a classic.
The Spurs are playing great. They swept both their series against the Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Clippers, 4-0. The Spurs are winning because they pass the ball and play as a team. More than 60 percent of the baskets the Spurs have scored in their eight playoff games have come off assists. That’s incredible teamwork.
The Thunder is playing great, too. The team swept the Dallas Mavericks in the first round and raced by Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in five games. The Thunder has a dynamic duo: Kevin Durant, a do-everything forward from the Washington area, and guard Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder are young: Durant and Westbrook each are just 23 years old. Last year, Oklahoma City lost to a smart, veteran team, the Dallas Mavericks, in the conference finals. The Spurs are the same kind of opponent. San Antonio’s stars — Tim Duncan, 36 years old; Manu Ginobili, 34; and Tony Parker, 30 — may be a step slower, but they know how to win.
Maybe the kids from Oklahoma City are ready, but I think the Spurs will find a way to beat the Thunder.
But that prediction may change if someone else gets hurt.
Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author 17 sports books for kids that combine sports fiction and sports history. His latest basketball book is called “Real Hoops.”