As the 2014 NBA playoffs have unfolded, the drama and intensity have been non-stop. The games have been exciting, the stars are performing at an unbelievable level and the action has been greater than Stallone’s next iteration of The Expendables (probably because let’s face it, they’re really old–but I digress).
So after the Pacers, Heat, Spurs and Thunder punched their tickets to their respective conference finals, I couldn’t figure out why I was bothered by it all. After a few hours, I realized it had to be more than just the greasy, delicious enchiladas I had for dinner. There was something wrong with the NBA playoffs.
Maybe “wrong” isn’t the right word, but let’s take a step back now that the dust has settled a bit. The four remaining NBA teams were each 1-2 in their respective conferences this year. In short, what bothered me was that there are no surprises. The best teams very predictably won. This has been the case each year for the past few years too. There is no room for the underdog in the modern day NBA. In fact, since 2008, only once has the team with the league’s best regular season record NOT been in the conference finals.
The reason, I believe, is that basketball is rarely skewed. The physical structure of the game is that typically, the team with the best makeup will survive a seven game series. On the contrary, a hot NHL goalie can put his team on his back and wreak some havoc (see: Price, Carey). In the NBA, however, hot streaks will last for a quarter; maybe a half. Much like the House in Vegas, the good teams will withstand that and go on a hot streak of their own. Much like Jobu at the craps table after a long night, the underdog is usually left empty-handed. Simply put, the field level sets too quickly for the underdog to survive.
Portland and Washington may have pulled off first-round upsets this year, but just a week later, the big dogs are still standing and the memories of those early upsets are as faint as Carly Rae Jepsen’s music career. I hope I’m wrong, and that the Thunder play the Pacers in the finals (don’t fool yourself, Miami would have had a better regular season record than Indiana if they hadn’t rested their stars down the stretch). More likely, however, we’re looking at a re-match of the Spurs and the Heat, because at the end of the day, they’re the best teams. I will continue watching though; because, just like my enchiladas, enjoying the spectacle in the moment always seems to make up for the predictability of what comes next.
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