Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Game Five Redux: Random Acts Of Non-Closure

Roll Them Bones
Look out, folks. The second round is starting to get interesting.

Or, well, just utterly random.

The early game saw the Wizards, given up for dead after young and dumb stretch ball on their own home court in Game Four, with a downright dominant road effort over the back to baffling Pacers. Marcin Gortat was huge with a 31/16 night, Roy Hibbert went back to shellshocked mode, the overall rebounding numbers were astounding (62 to 23, or something you won't see in the most lopsided college game), and I'm starting to wonder if I've ever seen a pro basketball team that was more ready to turtle up as these Pacers. And I just spent 82 games watching the Sixers.

How the Wiz go from scoring 63 points in Game Three, blowing a 19-point second half lead in Game Four, then curb-stomping the Pacers in the season-prolonging Game Five... well, don't try to make sense of it. I've been watching pro hoop for decades, and I can't remember a series as random as this one. I'm also ready for Pacer Fan to stop going to these games, despite their teams being only nine wins from a title, since so many of their home playoff games are so freaking unwatchable.

David West was the only Pacer starter with more than two (two!) boards. People are calling out coach Fred Vogel for not getting enough rest for his starters, as if NBA players, on a young team, have such finite gas tanks. It's all an attempt to predict and understand that can't be understood. Hell, the Wiz are just 1-3 at home in the playoffs, so maybe the Pacers close this out on Thursday, It makes as much sense as anything else, and if this series has showed us anything, it's that the last game has absolutely nothing in common with the next one. And that your bet on the Heat going to the Finals is looking safe as houses.

In the late game, the Clips had a solid lead in the last minute, and it was looking like a simple exercise in closing out a game, with the best point guard in the game working for the road team... and then they fell apart like a team that had never been in a playoff before. There's really no other way to say it: the Clips played some of the worst hoop imaginable late, and while the Thunder roared back in a Disney-esque comeback, this was much more Fail than Win. The Thunder's 8-0 run to close it in the final 44 seconds simply resets everything in this series, and gives the high seed two chances to close, despite, well, really not deserving it.

I try not to reduce playoff games to the closing pieces, because so many other things had to go in a certain way just to make the stretch meaningful. And in the last 10 seconds of the game just defined imagination. With six seconds left and down two, OKC's Russell Westbrook is firing off a hero ball 28-footer for the win, rather than moving the ball and playing, well, basketball. He missed badly, but Paul and the refs bailed him out with contact, and Russell hit all three free throws for the lead. Then, Paul went for hero ball of his own, leading to a strip and failure to foul. Game, set, match, loss, despite holding Kevin Durant to a 4 for 20 start, and all kinds of other head scratching moments.

Oh, and there was a missed foul call leading to a blown possession awarded by the zebras before all of that, just to make sure that we all had a smokescreen that isn't hoop. Just a ridiculous ending to a ridiculous game, and the last two games are making me wonder if either team's fan base is going to be able to survive this. It's great and terrible, all at once, and the fact that one of these teams is going be in the final four is frankly staggering.

Afterwards, Doc Rivers put this one on the refs, asked for the replay system to be scrapped, and clearly made the decision to spend a lot of cash in fines, rather than throw his own team under the bus. (Fully.) "We still have the right to win the game... and that didn't happen." Hope that was worth $50K, Doc. (Note: I am not saying he's wrong.)

Unlike the Pacer series, this one has made some sort of sense, but only in the course of all or nothing runs. The Clips had one to close Game Four to make the series even, and the Thunder got one tonight. So if you believe in theft equaling out, the series is where it should be now.

And if you really feel good about who's going to win Game Six, you really need to go find a craps table, and put your skills to better use...

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