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For the past decade there has been an obvious difference between the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference in the NBA. For the most part this has always played out with the quality of the play on the court, with the West dominating the East. However, this year there is another split emerging between the conferences and it is being played out in the conference semi-finals.
In the East we are seeing the experience and the poise of the Detroit Pistons step forward as they assert their authority over the upstart Orlando Magic. In the first round of the playoffs Detroit was the laziest team in the NBA and allowed the 76’ers to stick around dangerously too long. However in games five and six of that series the Pistons got their act together and made easy work of the young Philly crew. Perhaps that was just the wake up call they needed to get the team jumpstarted for the second round. In game one against the Orlando Magic, it wasn’t a question the Pistons were the best team on the court and they dominated Howard and company. Game two was a bit closer and the Pistons got some help from poor clock management but all in all the best team won game two.
The Pistons know this story and for the past four years, they have made the trek through the Eastern Conference and into the Conference Finals or the NBA Finals. On the other hand, the Magic haven’t had this much success since the Shaq and Penny days. And right now, the Magic just don’t have enough in the tank to handle the intensity and the talent level of the Detroit Pistons. In the Eastern Conference the Pistons continue to set the standard.
In the Western Conference we are seeing a completely different story play out. The defending champion San Antonio Spurs have met their match again (this happens every other year). This time it is the New Orleans Hornets led by Chris Paul. The Hornets have absolutely dominated the Spurs in the first two games of this series and they have done it with their smothering defense. Chris Paul is simply playing at a different level than everyone else in the league (he should have been the MVP). The Spurs appear shell shocked by what’s happened to them. Simply put they have no answer for the Hornets. For all intents and purposes I feel comfortable saying the Spurs are ready to pass the torch, but due their one year on one year off history, I will withhold judgment, but N.O. is nipping at their heels.
Two conferences two completely different recipes for success, and no correct answer for which path is the right one. No matter what, it is good for the NBA that some new faces and new talents are emerging and becoming familiar names. Because it will not be long before Paul and Howard replace Billups and Duncan.