The Utah Jazz aren't the only thing that'll be missing from this year's NBA playoffs.
It looks like there won't be much drama, either. Unless, of course, you can't wait to find out which Western Conference team is gonna reach the NBA Finals and lose to the Miami Heat.
Sure, I know, the 2013 playoffs are barely underway; there's a ton of basketball left to be played, and history tells us that anything could happen during this upcoming postseason journey that will last the next couple of months.
Like they always say, "That's why they play the game ..."
And I get all that.
But really, in your heart of hearts, do you truly believe that anybody can beat the Heat?
Barring an injury to LeBron James, who I must begrudgingly admit lived up to all the hype and has become the best player on the planet — and certainly one of the greatest of all time — or his "Miami Thrice" sidekicks, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh, the Heat have emerged as overwhelming favorites to take home their second straight NBA title.
Oh, sure, there will be plenty of spectacular plays and several thrilling finishes along the way. But the final outcome almost seems like a foregone conclusion.
Of course, the Heat (a league-best 66-16 in the regular season) will lose a game or two on their way to the title. They'll toy with the Milwaukee Bucks (38-44) in the first round, and after that, the Indiana Pacers (49-32), Brooklyn Nets (49-33) and Chicago Bulls (45-37) are all capable of winning a couple of games against Miami in a best-of-seven series.
The New York Knicks (54-28) are seeded second in the East behind the Heat, and they have league-leading scorer Carmelo Anthony (28.7 ppg) as the main attraction in a long-awaited hoops renaissance in the Big Apple. But the Knicks are banged up and, even when healthy, they're simply not good enough to knock off Miami in a seven-game series.
Two?former members of Utah's last great playoff team that reached the Western Conference finals in 2007 — Deron Williams (Nets) and?Carlos Boozer (Bulls)?— will face each other in the opening round and?are hoping to advance and get their shot at upsetting the high-flying Heat, too.
Be careful what you ask for though, fellas, 'cause you just might get it.
Indeed,?LeBron's boastful pep-rally promise from 2010 about how many NBA championships the Heat would win — heck, who could ever forget his annoyingly arrogant "Not one ... not two ... not three ... not four ..." speech? — appears well on its way toward being fulfilled.
Out West, the Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22) get to face former teammate James Harden (the bearded beast) and the No. 8 seed Houston Rockets (45-37), who sputtered down the stretch, in the first round. With their dynamic one-two punch of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and a strong supporting cast, even without Harden, the Thunder look like the team to beat in the Western Conference.
But, unlike Miami in the East, it's far from a slam dunk.
San Antonio (58-24) also has its sights set squarely on reaching the NBA Finals, but first the Spurs, led by point guard Tony Parker?and ageless big man Tim Duncan, will have to get past a Kobe Bryant-less Los Angeles Lakers team (45-37) that finished strong to beat out the Jazz for the last remaining?playoff spot in the West.
If enigmatic center Dwight Howard plays the way he did at the end of the season, and aging but always dangerous point guard Steve Nash returns from injury, the Lakers could give the Spurs fits.
But without Bryant, that tradition-rich team from L.A. isn't going very far in these playoffs.
Two series which promise to be highly entertaining feature Denver (57-25), which was nearly invincible (38-1) at home this season, against Golden State (47-35) in a run-and-gun matchup that'll be mighty fun to watch, and the L.A. Clippers vs. Memphis — both teams finished 56-26 — in what shapes up as a dandy showdown that could go either way.
The Nuggets are a great team despite not having a true superstar, just a bunch of very solid?players who know their roles — including former Jazz center Kosta Koufos and former University of Utah great Andre Miller — and play them well.
The Warriors will counter with hot-shooting guard Stephen Curry and versatile big man David Lee, and hope to get strong inside play from another ex-U. of U. star, Andrew Bogut.
The Clippers have their own inside-outside, one-two punch in Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, while the Grizzlies' inside tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph lead the league's best defensive team. This series could be a grinder that goes the distance.
Still, the Thunder and Spurs are definitely the second- and third-best teams in the league, and which one of them eventually emerges as the top dog out West is anybody's guess.
But, seriously, when all is said and done, can either one of those teams?beat the Heat? For that matter, can anybody else?
Only two things, it seems, stand in the way of a Miami championship repeat.
If LeBron gets hurt — something only the worst Heat hater would wish for, and something most true?and classy sports fans would hate to see happen.
Or if there's an unseasonably chilly cold spell and it starts snowing in Miami in June — and the Heat suddenly go awfully cold along with it.
And let's face it — that just ain't gonna happen.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company