Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Year When The NBA Regular Season Was More Fun Than The Playoffs

The Eater Of Hope
Tonight in San Antonio, Golden State ended any possibility that the Finals could be anything other than Cavs-Dubs in a ho-hum win over the Spurs. The home team actually led for brief moments in this game, which puts them in a relatively rare class of Dub playoff victims this year, and got a throwback game from 40 year-old Manu Ginobili, who can still ball, especially when his minutes are properly managed. But without downballot MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard and his fragile ankles, the Spurs are something like -80 over 2.5 games, and there's no sign that trend is going to change, or that Leonard is going to return. If the series doesn't end on Monday, it will honestly be shocking. And having watched all of these games in public areas surrounded by Dub fans, I can tell you for a fact that they worried about the Spurs... not at all. You'd have thought Game 3 tonight was a February mid-week game, not Essential Win #11 on the road to 16.

At least the Spurs weren't run off their on court in a manner that made the second half pointless, the way the Cavs did the Celtics last night. TNT had hours to come up with comedy GIFs and did not disappoint, with my personal favorite being the Tom and Jerry paddling GIF where LeBron James spanked the Celtic leprechaun over and over and over again. It was the Celtics' 4th home loss of the year and one of the worst in their history, with star guard Isiah Thomas going down for the year, such as it is, with an injury. If Boston was seen as the lEast's best hope for dethroning the Cavs in the near term, such hopes are more or less DOA now, no matter what kind of bang they get from the #1 pick in the draft.

The Finals start on June 1, which is to say, in 11 days and 3 more crushing wins by the obvious finalists; these should wrap up by mid-week at the latest. And sure, those games will be epic and intense and likely feature the first match-up of 12-0 teams in NBA history... but that's not how the playoffs are supposed to work. We get 15 playoff series a year; 8 in the first round, 4 in the second, 2 in the third and 1 in the fourth... and honestly, there might be 3 this year (Celtics-Wizards, Jazz-Clippers, and Cavs-Dubs) that will be in the least bit memorable.

Compare that to the regular season, where we had 82 games of Russell Westbrook challenging Oscar Robertson, and James Harden maybe even having a better year than him. Thomas whipped the Celtics to the 1 seed. The Sixers had Joel Embiid for enough stretches of the season to be the most fun team in the league, mostly because he made them the best defensive units. The Wiz were strong in the second half and finally healthy in the back court. Miami almost made the playoffs after a terrible start. Utah had their best year since Stockton to Malone, and the Clips did their annual sucking in the fan base before getting hurt routine. Plus the Cavs and Dubs.

We're never going to get to a place where casual fans care more about the regular season than the playoffs; that would require a smaller playoff field and promotion / relegation.

But in terms of actually watching hoop with drama, games that didn't always have garbage time, and a general feeling that the whole thing was an unpleasant waste of time?

Well, the regular season was a better place for that.

And so long as the Cavs and Dubs are this much better than everyone else, it's not going to be the last time that happens, either...

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