Friday, April 25, 2014

There Is Nothing In Sports Better Than The First Round Of The NBA Playoffs

This Chaff Pic will make sense later
Seriously. And it just keeps getting better.

Tonight in the Assoc- iation, we started with the #1 seed in the worst conference in league history going down 2-1 to the 8th. Atlanta took this by 13 points on a night when fading MVP candidate Paul George took the pipe for the Pacers, and make no mistake about this, Indy's in real trouble. They've got no answer for Hawks PG Jeff Teague, who has savaged them in two of three games. The Hawks do one thing well on offense -- move the ball while shooting threes -- and that one thing has made Indy center and lodestone Roy Hibbert useless. Even if the Pacers survive, they look like stone cold losers to the surging Wizards, who are up 2-0 and going home in their 4/5 matchup against the fading Bulls. So much for the club that was supposed to give the Heat their biggest challenge before the Finals.

But then, we got to the good stuff: the Western Conference games. In the middle game, Memphis looked like they were going to go up 2-1 with ease against the #2 Thunder, only to get caught by a 17-0 run to end the fourth... which was one point too few, as Mike Conley got things back under control in the overtime, making the series 2-1 for the 7th seed. Memphis was able to keep Kevin Durant under control for much of the game, but Russell Westbrook's Random Acts of Randomness was almost their undoing. I don't know if I've ever seen a great player with as many terrible moments as Russ; in one late sequence, he made a turnover, bricked a shot, lost his man in transition and then canned a 30-foot 4-point play, when everyone in the building knew the ball was going up no matter what. I have no idea if you can win with Russ, but I also know the Thunder are helpless without him... and if I had one bet to make on this series, it would be that it's going to Game Seven, and will be among the best in the Association this year.

Then, the late game: Clips-Dubs. I find myself rooting for both teams from moment to moment, mostly because each team has a couple of guys who I don't want to see succeed. For the Clips, that's Doc Rivers and Big Baby Davis; for the Dubs, it's Mark Jackson and David Lee. The Clips led almost the entire game after a curb-stomping blowout in Game Two, but the Dubs kept coming late, with Draymond Green playing great and Stephen Curry finally getting loose for some Are You Kidding Me bombs from deep. The Clips got the benefit of some shaky calls, and combined with Paul's brilliance and the all-night action of Blake Griffin (32 points) and DeAndre Jordan (5 blocks and 22 boards), that was enough to make it 2-1. The Dubs are doomed, of course, and have been ever since Andrew Bogut was out due to injury; there's just no one from NoCal that can keep the Clipper bigs from getting easy score. If I were Jackson, I'd tell my wing players to drive into Jordan and fall down as often as humanly possible, because the Clips have no one else to protect the rim, and when that opens up, the entire offense does... but it's not like Jackson is a master of strategery here. I'm just hoping the Clips ease up on the throttle enough to give us extra hoop, as this series is just a weak call on Paul in Game One from being 3-0 LA now.

Oh, and all of this doesn't even get into Dallas giving the Spurs a series out of the blue, or Portland riding LaMarcus Aldrige to a borderline shocking 2-0 bump over the higher seeded Rockets. (I guess some might find drama out of Brooklyn and Toronto being tied, but as that might involve watching the Nets play basketball, I'm abstaining. There's a reason that series keeps going to NBA TV, folks.)

The problem, of course, is that *right freaking now* is the very best time of the year for the very best hoop on the planet. In round 2, San Antonio will have found it's stride and used the Blazers' lack of experience, and Aldridge's inevitable regression to something approaching humanity, to advance without drama. If it's OKC-LAC, that will be fun to watch until Paul or Westbrook break down (the former is already dealing with a hamstring); if it's MEM-LAC, it will be Thug Ball in the '80s and sorrow-inducing. (I don't dare hope for GS-OKC, and neither should you, as the Dubs are Fun Frauds and aren't getting out of the first.) Both series won't be half as much fun as the ones that preceded them, and in the East, fun exists only if you are a Wiz fan, because everyone else is either old and expected, or about to be terminated. The third round and Finals will be OK, because they always are, but I prefer More Great Games to Fewer.

So I hope you are watching, because the NBA doesn't get better than this round... and yes, that's something of a problem, but probably not one that can be "fixed". Hoop is as much art as sport, and art is better when it comes with flaws, so the greatness shines brighter. By the time we've learned who's the best, a good amount of the fun gets boiled off with the chaff.

Mmmmmm, chaff.

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule