The NBA Playoffs start in five days (!!!!!!!!) so each day until then we’ll be taking a look at some of the most important storylines leading up to the best two months of the year.
This is it. One spot remaining. The Memphis Grizzlies vs. the Phoenix Suns. Tonight they play for the playoffs, but also for our hearts.
With Dallas clinching a postseason appearance the other day, only one playoff spot—one out of sixteen—remains as the regular season draws it’s final breaths. After charging out of the gates, taking the whole basketball world by surprise, and winning the hearts of fans everywhere, the Suns now find themselves on the outside looking in. They currently sit one game behind the Grizzlies for that final, glorious playoff position. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, took the opposite route, stumbling through the first few weeks, losing Marc Gasol for an extended period, and then making a furious run that has—at least for the moment—returned them to the promised land that is the NBA Playoffs.
While the “race” for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference was seen as a joke and dismissed by even the most hardcore NBA junkies, the battle for the eighth seed out West is held in reverence. Sure, Grizzlies or Suns are likely to meet a similar demise as the Hawks are in the East, but that final playoff spot in the West is seen as a fantastic achievement rather than something to be laughed at.
As the fight for the final two spots in the West evolved into a three-team battle, lines were drawn as to which two sides we wanted to survive. Of course fans of Dallas, Memphis and Phoenix all wanted their teams to advance, but for neutral observers, the debate has raged about which two would be more entertaining and who, therefore, we wanted to see claim the final berths.
Now Dallas is in. And since no one wanted a postseason without Dirk, everyone is fine with that development. So now it is Memphis vs. Phoenix; two teams, equally deserving, but aesthetically opposite. In a perfect world both could move on, but the world is a cruel place, and so one must go home. And really, this is where the lines have been drawn all along. Everyone loves Dirk, and Monta Ellis Have It All—despite your beliefs on him as a player—is rather entertaining, and so the chasm has come between those who would rather watch Memphis grit ‘n’ grind, and those who prefer Phoenix’s fast paced, unexpectedly brilliant offense.
We all love basketball, but basketball is no different than anything else we all love, and so we all love it in different ways. Tonight, the contrasting styles of Memphis and Phoenix come together to decide not which way is right—because there is no wrong way to love (basketball or anything for that matter)—but which way is more deserving this year. They come together to battle not only for the last playoff spot in the West, but also our hearts.