May 21, 2010
In the immortal words of Gob Bluth, "you've seen the best, now why don't you get with the rest?"
What follows are the top 10 disappointments of the NBA playoffs thus far. As it's nearing happy hour, make yourself an adult beverage, and settle in for some sadness.
1. The games
There just haven't been enough of them.
As big as LeBron James'(notes) meltdown was, he's not bigger than the game, and the game has struggled over the last month or so. Though there have been plenty of storylines to go around and some good contests, we haven't seen nearly the amount of six or seven game close-ones that we'd hoped for, especially considering the particulars involved.
San Antonio was no championship contender, but they certainly weren't ohfer four worse than the Suns. The Mavericks and Spurs were too good to have seen their six game series go out with a whimper, and that Jazz/Lakers series that disappointed to no end.
On top of that, even when we have seen some extended runs, they've been marred by blowouts, like the Boston/Cleveland series. The Eastern Conference finals still have a chance to be a nail-biter to the very end, but the "very end" could end with Boston taking all four games in four tries by an average of four points per game. As it stands, was Cleveland's pairing with Chicago in the first round the closest series of them all? Pity us.
2. LeBron James
No way around it, James' listless play in Game 5 of his series with the Celtics was a crushing disappointment for any objective basketball fan. To say nothing of his willingness to let the blowout come to him in Game 6,
James meandered. He refused to push the envelope offensively, and for the first time in months, we saw him consistently take plays off defensively. Sure, he'd taken a few off here and there during the regular season, but not to this extent, as Paul Pierce(notes) set the Celtic tone in LBJ's face in Game 5.
It was a cruel performance, for those of us that expect so much better, and have seen him dominate the game so many times down the stretch. And if it's his last game as a Cavalier, what a waste.
3. The Denver Nuggets
We'll try to be as sensitive as we can. It cannot be easy watching the leader of your franchise struggle in the way that George Karl has had to struggle, in dealing with cancer and other significant medical ailments. That has to wear on a person, and an extended family.
But I can't see what Karl's struggles had to do with split-second decisions made on a basketball court, things you learn in your teenage years. Like refusing to rotate properly defensively, not running the floor, taking smart shots, making the extra pass, playing the game properly. Or, at the very least, attempting to play the game as you had for most of the regular season.
Denver stretched their opening round loss to six games, against a Jazz team missing two starters, but they dropped the ball.
4. The Atlanta Hawks
Yeah, well, who didn't see that coming? Good riddance.
Which sort of leads to ...
5. Game 6, between the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks
After three spirited wins over Atlanta, the undermanned and undertalented Bucks seemed ready to work the Basketball Gods' Way into order, using mettle and inspiration - to say nothing of dogged reserve and a sound defensive approach - to take down an uncaring Atlanta outfit.
Instead, with the home court on its side (though not as gnarly a home court advantage, the locals said, as the team had come to expect during the regular season and first two games of this series), the Bucks came out and laid an egg.
Milwaukee had just 45 points after three quarters, made fewer than a third of their shots in the game, and had all manner of observers ducking every time a wrongly-styled jumper came careening off the rim. And because the universe is empty and we all die alone, the Hawks overcame an early deficit to win the game and take the series in seven.
6. The way Charlotte looked an also-ran
This team overachieved all year, worked endlessly to try and put together a defensive advantage against whomever it played against, and genuinely enjoyed playing under Larry Brown; even if well-placed rumors about Brown's future with the team floated around as Charlotte suited up for its first playoff series as, well, a "Bobcat."
But running into Orlando hurt, as the NBA's best team (back then, at least) absolutely took it to Charlotte, making it so the typical Game 3 win at home was just something to hope for, and the usual "let's pull it together for Game 4 and avoid the sweep" run never materialized.
7. Only six Oklahoma City Thunder games
Admit it. You miss them.
8. No Hubie Brown beyond the second round
It's not that I mind Doug Collins or Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy. It's ...
Well, yeah. I mind Doug Collins. I mind Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy. In a vacuum, sure, and especially with the best in-game analyst in NBA history relegated to radio work in the Conference finals and beyond.
I tell you this - what I wouldn't give for an mp3 of Hubie, Dr. Jack Ramsay, and the great Jim Durham to listen to while I re-watch these games. Make it happen, giant corporation.
9. The referees
This is where fans of 16 different teams get to bitch about obvious bias against 16 different organizations, all at once, in the comment sections. I think the refs have been as good as they could possibly be, usually the case, but I'm oft-reminded by "Kobefan6969" that this is hardly the case.
10. No flow
Listen, I appreciate the nights off. I got to go see the Big Star tribute concert. Last night, I got to see Conan O'Brien. Tonight, I'll be able to watch a Blackhawks game from beginning to end for the first time all season.
And I understand why the league does it. I didn't like having to watch TNT games go up against TBS games a decade ago. I want my team - every team - to have the resources needed to add an MLE player on top of a capped-out payroll, and the seven-game first round series' (along with the added TV revenue grabbed from games that aren't competing against each other) help with that. As a financial whole, and for 11 months out of the 12-month NBA year, this is good for the league.
But for the last month? It hasn't been fun. Or fun enough. As fun as it could be.
And when the perfect storm hits - all these sweeps or near-sweeps - you're going to have some hiccups. Some spaces between the notes. And as much as I enjoy and appreciate that breather - I'm five weeks removed from having to watch 11 games on every Wednesday night - the lack of continuity hasn't helped.