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Fresh faces

Denver, Toronto should spice up NBA playoffs

Posted: Thursday April 19, 2007 2:03PM; Updated: Thursday April 19, 2007 10:27PM
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Steve Blake, Allen Iverson
Steve Blake and Allen Iverson will bring plenty of excitement to the NBA playoffs.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
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If you like surprises, basketball hasn't very good to you this year.

In college, Florida, everyone's preseason favorite, won an NCAA tournament nearly bereft of upsets. The NBA's playoff field is pretty much the one everyone projected in October. Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, Detroit, Miami, Cleveland -- haven't we seen these guys somewhere before? If everything holds to form, we will get some good series -- a Dallas-Phoenix rematch of last year's Western Conference finals would be good news for fans of smart, fast-paced basketball.

But as a whole, the affair suffers from a feeling of over-familiarity. Predictability is a virtue in mailmen, but less so in sports.

Which is why it would be good if Denver and Toronto could make a go of it in the playoffs. For the sake of variety, if nothing else.

Even in the loaded Western Conference, Denver is capable of upping the intrigue -- more so than either Golden State or even Utah. The Nuggets made the boldest trade of the season, acquiring Allen Iverson, still the NBA's most exciting player to watch. They followed it with the smartest trade of the season, picking up point guard Steve Blake. Blake is a tribute to the mystery of NBA chemistry, because he is both the least accomplished of Denver's starters and also the one that seems to make that team work.

Denver also has Linas Kleiza, the sort of bench player who can turn a playoff series and have announcers scrambling to figure out how to say "Microwave" in Russian. He shoots only 42 percent from the field and 36 from the 3-point area, but that's a mystery to me, because everytime I watch Denver, the guy can't miss.

The Nuggets are still a David among the conference Goliaths, but as Davids go they are pretty darn good. And entertaining, which is why some of us are here.

The real curiosity of these playoffs, though, is the Toronto Raptors. They're the No. 3 seed in the East this year, but they've been nearly invisible. They've had almost no national television exposure, and their team is as anonymous as one you'll find in this postseason.

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