Is it really real
Wanted to revisit something I tried to say a few weeks ago: that we know the surprise teams by the end of the first half, and all that's left for the second half is to see if under-achieving teams can live up to what we'd expected of them. The exceptions come only when you make a major trade; hence the new look Celts, Kings, and Sixers.
The enigma for me is the Nuggets. Like the Rockets, Wolves and Pistons, their first-half woes just didn't make sense, especially not from a team that added an All-Star PF in the off-season. But the way they're rolling over teams since Karl came to town is almost as much of a shock; it's easy to see them as a solid playoff team, but they've got too many backcourt issues to, on paper, take the world by storm on a regular basis. Yet since adjusting to life with George, they've only lost twice in seventeen games—both of those to the increasingly otherworldly Suns. I fully believe in the value of a coach like Karl, but the Nuggets are still a roster with holes and obvious weaknesses. I think what we're seeing is the very best that a very good team can play, something you can't count on for a seven-game series against a quality opponent. You can't rightfully call them a contendor, any more than you could've called them terrible at the beginning of the season (not sure if this same thing holds for Melo).
The Pacers get hotter the more talent they lose. No Artest, no O'Neal, no Tinsley. . . time for a playoff push! There's no way Indiana gets past the first round; their current roll only makes me that much more convinced that the end of the regular season means nothing, at least not in terms of postseason performance. Adding a healthy O'Neal to this picture should make them dangerous in the first round, but this is such a cirumstantial fluke that I think putting him in the mix would dissolve the delusional chemistry they've got going. If memory serves, they also messed with people's heads right after the brawl, which made about as little sense and was similarly short-lived. Spirit and emotion are great and all, but they can only defy reality for so long.
And about the Wolves again. . . I'm not surprised when they're mediocre, and history gives me no reason to believe they can't be exceptional. It all comes down to an injured KG, since he's as important to that offense as Duncan is the Spurs'. The other guys will only help him or hurt him as much as he allows or enables them to.
I like to think this is more intelligible than it was the first time I tried to figure it out. But that doesn't necessarily mean it will have been worth posting.