Underdogs of the NBA playoffs to root for




The postseason is no fun without a team to root for, so I can hardly blame the Magic fans I know for being indifferent to the playoffs, especially the first round. But then, of course, there was the singular interest in witnessing Dwight Howard's demise leading a Kobe-less Lakers that kept everybody mildly invested, but the Spurs took care of that quickly enough, and now you have the choice of rallying behind someone like the Thunder (a privileged team, in my opinion, who has never known anything close to the losing that you are going through right now, Magic fans, so be careful not to get bitter) who were crazy-disappointing last night against the Rockets. Durant is an obvious choice for NBA hero to anyone looking to get on a bandwagon, especially if you're still holding out on that implanted hatred for LeBron James from past seasons. But here's my two cents. If you're unwilling to join the Heat bandwagon, why not get behind some of these players who are making the first round truly exciting:

Steph Curry

Nobody in their right mind isn't losing their damn minds over Steph Curry right now. Now, some folks will argue that Curry's ridiculous shooting ability is evidence of poor defense on behalf of the Denver Nuggets, their first round rivals, and the higher-ranked season team. But, I mean, just look at his highlights reels (above, go to 0:26 for a clear example of how he leads the team and creates shot opportunities) and the way he creates space out of thin air to shoot game-tying threes and pace-setting perimeter shots, and the only thing that becomes more indefensible than Curry is the logic that his proficiency is some sort of circumstantial enigma.

Golden State Warriors lead the series 3-1. Game 5 against the Nuggets is tonight at 8 p.m. on TNT, if you want to see Curry in action.

Nate Robinson

I always feel bad for shorter players in the NBA because every single commendation comes with some side note regarding their stature. But Nate Robinson has seriously gone through some shit proving his value to the NBA, who at different points have considered relegating him to the D-league, waiving his contract, and generally underutilizing him, and its taken this unusual circumstance with the Bulls, for him to tap into the batshit intensity that forced the Nets into triple overtime over the weekend. Robinson scored 34 points, including this crazy leap from three-point territory that burst my brain when it landed forcibly in the hoop (above, go to 4:18), as well as shooting over Brook Lopez (who is having a great season himself, despite all the doubters early on in the year) every chance he got.

Chicago leads the series 3-2. Game 6 is at 8 p.m. Thursday on TNT, if you wanna see Robinson in action.

Zach Randolph

So if you can't appreciate the grace of Curry or enjoy the good humor of Robinson, you might prefer the grit of Zach Randolph, the Memphis Grizzlies power forward who is largely responsible for the series being tied up between the Grizz and the heavily favored L.A. Clippers (who ya might remember for eliminating the Grizzlies in the first round last year or, I dunno, for being the team of Chris Paul/Blake Griffin fame). Randolph is a scrappy player who gives Griffin a really hard time, though, and is willing to rely on pure strength to secure wins for his team (above, go to 2:00 to watch him outmaneuver Griffin for the offensive rebound and subsequent score).

The series between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Clippers is tied at 2-2. Game 5 is tonight at 10:30 p.m. on TNT, if you wanna watch Randolph in action.

Looking to the future

If you're over and done with this year following the amazingly successful losing strategy of Rob Hennigan's nu-Magic, you're probably eagerly analyzing draft picks or possibly just crossing your fingers for another pleasant-surprise acquisition like Tobias Harris. It might make you feel better to read the Bleacher Report, who calls Hennigan a genius and gives high marks for season players like Moe Harkless, Harris and Nikola Vucevic and nods to Kyle O'Quinn and Andrew Nicholson. It's something to do, I guess, until October comes around again.

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