Are we there yet?
Maybe this year will be different. It’s the first week of May and the NBA has embarked on another interminable playoff season. The good news is the first round is almost over. The bad news, sadly, is that the NBA Finals will most likely be undecided by the time PSU students are done with their own finals come June.
Gripping drama the NBA playoffs are not. In fact, the playoffs are more a war of attrition, a two-month crawl to the finish line. By the time the Finals roll around, the remaining two teams are usually so battered stars are hobbling around on one leg Willis Reed style.
Since the NBA recently switched the first round format to seven games from five, there is a possibility that the NBA champion would have played 28 games if each series went the distance. That’s over a third of the regular season, just in playoff games. Cable channel TNT proudly boasts “40 games in 40 nights” as if it’s a good thing.
I don’t want to watch 40 games and certainly not for a month and a half straight. It takes half a year just to get to the playoffs. It shouldn’t take two more months to figure out who the best team in the land is.
Maybe this year will be different. Maybe the same two or three teams (that play the “right” way) won’t make the Finals, sparing NBA fans a San Antonio Spurs-Detroit Pistons match up, making the wait worthwhile. Can you imagine a seven game series of games in the 60s and field goal percentages threatening to go sub-30 percent? If I wanted to see that, I’d go watch a rec league game.
A boring Finals would be a disaster for the NBA, which recorded its highest attendance in NBA history, drawing 21.3 million fans over the course of the season. With its popularity booming right now, no one wants to revisit the 2003.
In case you’ve forgotten, that the year that the Spurs and the New Jersey Nets that duked it out, setting a record low for television ratings and also for memorable moments in the process.
No, what the NBA needs to spice the Finals up is a feel good story and some high-octane offense this June.
The offense could come in the form of the Phoenix Suns, a team that is probably not favored to even advance to the Finals (see the Spurs for your Western conference favorite) despite a league best 62-20 regular season record.
But the Suns have been gritty in their sweep against the Memphis Grizzlies, averaging 113 points while getting key defensive stops down the stretch. Steve Nash has continued his MVP caliber play, elevating the rest of his teammates while keeping the points flowing. They should give Tim Duncan and his Spurs all they can handle if and most likely when they finally meet up.
For your feel good story of the playoffs look no further than Alonzo Mourning’s triumphant return to the Heat, the team where the 6-foot-10-inch center out of Georgetown spent his most productive seasons.
Mourning was consistent in Miami’s first round sweep over the Nets, spelling an ailing Shaquille O’Neal, who is still recovering from a deep thigh bruise.
The Heat must make it past the Pistons, however. The task will be extremely difficult, considering that it was the Pistons that roughed up the Shaq-led LA Lakers in last year’s Finals, winning handily in five games.
But Shaq has a hungry supporting cast this year in Mourning, budding superstar Dwayne Wade and sharpshooter Damon Jones, not to mention effective role players such as Udonis Haslem. Though most of the Heat are not playoff tested veterans like the Pistons or O’Neal’s Los Angeles running mates from last year they should have just enough fire power to squeeze by Detroit and head into a fateful and thrilling battle against the high flying Suns.
With three rounds to be decided before the Finals, anything is possible at this point with well over a month to go.
Maybe this year will be different. But this is the NBA, League of predictability, so probably not. Hmm, I think I have my Tim Duncan jersey around here somewhere.