Saturday, May 3, 2014

Seven, Seven, Six: Day 13 Of The Best NBA Playoffs Ever

Roll Dem Bones
This here blog has been in operation for an eternity, with over 5,000 posts and all kinds of things said, right and wrong. I've been right most often when it comes to the NBA playoffs, where my favorite sport to watch has usually been predictable once it gets to serious money time.

And then there's this year, where six of eight series -- six of eight! -- have been spectacular total wars, where teams will survive and advance, much more than win.

It's been not just the best two weeks of the year for hoops fans. It's been the best two weeks ever.

And no one's going to think about it that way, because the story of any playoff season is always a building action toward determining the best, in an unforgiving crucible of ever-increasing pressure. But honestly, who's thought at all about the Heat and Wizards, AKA the only two teams to advance without a ridiculous amount of effort? Screw those guys. We're here to watch games, and delight in the competition and the moment. Who's best is boring. Who's the most fun is, well, the most fun.

In the early game, Brooklyn won the Of Course Game Six at home with a wire to wire job. The Nets finally got that playoff game that loading your roster with grizzled playoff veterans is supposed to give you, with a balanced attack and a lockdown effort on Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. Neither franchise has ever won a Game Seven, which would be more meaningful if either franchise had made a habit of going to the playoffs. And the only real crime of this series is that neither of these teams are all that much fun to watch, but even these teams have given the world some freakishly compelling ball, mostly around crazy runs. On Sunday, this game will put a full-throated Canadian crowd that isn't savvy enough to do anything other than mark out for all they are worth. Should be fun.

In the middle, Dallas continued to fight outside of their weight class against the Spurs, with discarded power forward DaJuan Blair continuing to be the oddly pivotal player in the series. When he's stayed on the floor, the Mavs have won; when he's thugged it up and gotten tossed, they've lost. Tonight, Dallas was just better down the stretch, which was mildly shocking, given that Dallas employs guys like Monta Ellis and Vince Carter, who have made careers in the regular season, much more than the playoffs. San Antonio *should* win Game Seven, but they should have won Game Six, too, and Dirk Nowitzki is 4-0 in his career in Game Sevens. (Tim Duncan? 2-2. Finally, we've found a chink in Duncan's armor.)

In Portland, the Rockets welcomed back the actual James Harden, and man alive, has this guy been missed. Instead of the inefficient volume scorer and utterly hopeless defensive turnstile, they got a guy who hit from beyond the arc, picked up steals to start the transition game from cagey play on his own end, and a guy who wasn't a ballstop.

They also got the best work of Dwight Howard's career since his early happy days in Orlando. Howard was the only Rocket who wanted any part of the ball late, and he played top-flight defense without fouling, too. Hell, he even hit free throws for longer than anyone would have thought. But the thing about a Howard-centric offense is that it can only score 2 at a time, and many times not even that, since you can put him on the line.

It's cruel to point out that neither of these teams should advance in the next round, but the stretch play showed why. Houston let Robin Lopez makde a big tip in for the lead, then relied on Jeremy Lin to take the shots late, as better players just stayed away from the ball. LaMarcus Aldridge, so good for vast portions of this series, not so much in the later parts. Omer Asik with a terribly obvious blocking foul for his sixth, wiping off a found money banked 3 from Lin that would have been the difference.

Then good plays happened. Nicolas Batum with a tying make with 40 seconds left, over Howard, who can't stay with him in the entirety of the half court on a switch. A presumably well-rested Harden dominates the ball and runs clock, then hoists up an airball with no foul called. Howard gets the board, but misses in traffic, and Damian Lillard's apparent board is overruled by the refs, who rule that he didn't establish himself back in bounds as Portland Fan freaks the hell out. Houston with a tie game, full clock, 28 seconds left. Harden takes the clock out, shoots, and the ball bounces twice on the rim, then once off Lopez, right into the arms of Chandler Parsons, who converts with 0.9 seconds left.

And just as everyone starts thinking about how Sunday is also going to have three Game Sevens, just like Saturday... Houston gets the ball advanced on the time out, in bounds to a shockingly clear Lillard, who cans a 30 foot three for the series ending shot.

No, seriously.

Portland advances, the better team won, first series win for Oregon's only pro team in a generation. They earned it.

And if you aren't watching this stuff...

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you?

1 comment:

snd_dsgnr said...

That Portland-Houston game (series too really) was amazing. I just wish that the NBA would stop scheduling to most compelling game of the day at freaking 10:30 eastern. At some point I'm going to need to get some sleep.

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