Well, the NBA playoffs are right around the corner. To that I say, "Oh, well." I know there are millions on top of millions on top of millions of NBA basketball fans worldwide, but the NBA playoffs rarely peak my interest.
It may have to do with the lengthy duration, or it may be because of the disparity between teams facing off in the first round. But we all know if a team is not in the top four seeds, maybe top five depending on where Memphis ends up, of a conference they have no shot at the NBA Championship.
Even then, Indiana at the three spot in the East, still has little chance at reaching the Finals as they will have to get passed Miami in the second round. Then if they somehow beat the Heat, they'll run up against the Bulls in the Conference Finals. Not such an easy road to haul for Indiana fans.
The series' prior to the inevitable Bulls-Heat Eastern Conference Finals matchup are obligatory, mere speed bumps.
However, there are opportunities for entertaining first round matchups: Grizzlies-Clippers and Knicks-Heat\Bulls depending on the seeding for example. Yet overall, the first round matchups are less than sexy.
Is there anything that the lower seeded teams can do to bring much needed entertainment and focus to their series? Well, yes. I’m glad you asked.
What teams like Orlando, Philadelphia, Denver, and Atlanta can do is take their opponents to a Game 7. Otherwise, those outcomes will be as expected, mere prerequisites before moving on to an inevitable, more competitive series. Sadly though, the NBA is an individual driven league, with usually the team with the best player(s) advancing rather than the best team (last year’s Memphis Grizzlies notwithstanding).
If the best players were more dispersed throughout the league and less concentrated onto fewer teams like the NHL, first round matchups would be more competitive, thus entertaining. But this lack of disparity is not the only reason why I follow the first round of the NBA playoffs via the ESPN ticker.
To me, the NBA lacks the passion and pizaz of the NHL playoffs. With the NHL, you know the intensity of every game will be ratcheted up until whatever bad blood has been brewing will eventually erupt into a hard hitting, high scoring thrill-fest leading to a very physical and entertaining series. The NBA on the other hand lacks intensity until two top-notch teams meet.
In the Stanley Cup Playoffs you know you are going to see a more competitive and entertaining first round series than in the NBA. While recently in both leagues an eight seed has defeated a one seed, in the Stanley Cup Playoffs it seems to occur more often. Given the current NBA environment, that trend seems likely to continue.
So come on, NBA, let’s fast-forward the first round and get to the meat and potatoes of your playoffs. Don’t make us suffer through three weeks of ceremonial basketball, or what you call the first round, before we can begin to enjoy the road to the Finals.