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Basketball

NBA Conference Finals: Good Series’ but Bad Games

When I think back on some of the classic NBA playoff series, I can remember nail-biters that would come down to the final shot.  Whether it was Reggie Miller burying the Knicks, Patrick Ewing coming up just short around the rim, Magic throwing up a last-minute hook shot, or Michael Jordan sinking that infamous shot over Craig Ehlo, the games had an intensity that was hard to match.

The games in both NBA conference finals certainly lack that type of heated intensity.  The 2018 conference finals haven’t included any nail-biters, or last-minute heroics. Instead most of the games have been decided in the first quarter as the team with the momentum establishes a double-digit lead. When we examine the final box score we see three quarters where the two teams were separated by a basket or two; but we see a first quarter that shows the winning team opened up with a double-digit lead.

The opening quarter bursts of the 2018 playoffs has doused the spirit of the eventual loser, who seem complacent with just going through the motions for the remaining three quarters as they point their arrows to the next game.  What happened to coaches that call quick timeouts to halt such outbursts? What happened to bench players making a difference and what happened to competing for 48 minutes?

I can’t imagine Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, or MJ just mailing it in because they were down 12 in the first quarter.  As a matter of fact, many of the great teams laughed when opponents broke out to an early lead and developed a false sense of contentment.  Great teams could tell you the very moment they took control of a game that seemed to be getting out of hand. It’s true, yesterday’s athletes hating losing much more than today’s high-priced superstars.

At least the series in the west has offered some form of unpredictability with the Rockets taking two games they weren’t expected to win.  But the games themselves have offered no intrigue or drama, unless you enjoy the antics and the trash talking, which I prefer to ignore. But the NBA is glad that the Rockets vs. Warriors series is tied at 2 games a piece and looks to be heading to an ultimate game 7 showdown in Houston.

As for this year’s NBA underdog team the Boston Celtics, the series has been defined by Boston’s youth, bench, and coaching versus the greatest basketball player on earth. (Sorry LaVar Ball, it’s not one of your boys)

I feel somewhat sorry for LeBron, because even though he’s playing some of the best ball of his career and doing things nobody else can do, he can’t carry the weight of 11 other players and the city of Cleveland on his back.  He suffers from a weak supporting cast, poor coaching and the pressure of trying to do it all himself. Imagine if an injury caused him to miss a game or a series, would the Cavaliers have any chance at all to win? The Celtics have proven that the “team” model provides for sustainable success.

What’s going to happen moving forward?

Both underdogs have secured home court advantage, which has proven to be a difference maker in the east.  It’s players #3 – #7 that rise to the occasion on their home courts but seem lost in the opponents building.  Proving that the team that gets the most participation has an advantage. Therefore, the Cleveland vs. Boston series is poised to continue just as it has, with the home team coming our victorious.  But, is it time to replace the incumbent champs out west? I think the Warriors will bounce back from the game #4 loss and restate their dominance, leading to yet another appearance in the NBA finals.  That’s right Golden State vs. Boston in a true east coast vs. west coast match-up to end the season. And the winner is…

The Warriors do it again as the baby Celts come up just short (6-games) but point to a bright future and use the loss to inspire the team to return to championship form.

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