A handful of tweets in the past few days have caught my attention. There appears to be a keen awareness and heavy interest in writers being surprised by both home court advantage and one-sided series’ thus far in the NBA Playoffs. But why? And more importantly what is this new found fetish for first-round parity and upsets? It’s possible that NBA watchers have been spoiled by multiple great playoffs’ in a row. It’s also possible that it has become fully ingrained in our sports culture that close games and upsets are the only two things that make sports (namely the playoffs) great. I guess I don’t disagree, but I’d be careful about how often I demand these two phenomenons, especially at the professional level. The truth is, we want these wars of attrition, but not all the time. We want them in the Conference Finals games and the Finals themselves. Ultimately the sarcastic responses and flippant tweets about what has been both a highly predictable and highly entertaining first round are impatient, and need to stop.
What would you prefer? For the Bucks to win a few games so we could talk about Brandon Jennings and his stupid claim that Milwaukee would beat Miami in six games? Would you rather see the Kobe-less Lakers miraculously shoot the lights out to upset the clearly better team in maybe one or two games before eventually being knocked out? Maybe the dark side of you wants to see James Harden sneak a sucker punch win in Oklahoma to resend a message from Houston, “you’re no better than we are.”
Except they aren’t better. The Thunder are better, and by a long shot. Same goes Miami in regards to Milwaukee, and despite the constant trolling from Laker Nation, the Spurs are a far superior team than the Lakers, Kobe or no Kobe.
For me, this is precisely what makes the NBA playoffs so much more enjoyable than, say, the NCAA tournament. I’ve been on record saying this for years. One and done is a silly format that gives way too much room for bad teams to get in a moment. The sample size is too small, and the result is an inaccurate picture of who the best team(s) are. You don’t have that problem in the NBA Playoffs. In fact, in a lot of first round cases (as we’re seeing play out right now), the better team will win almost all the time, and will most certainly win a seven game series. It’s not perfect, but it’s surely more statistically sound than March Madness.
So we all know this, right? Then why complain about it when it plays out? Why the incessant tweets about how unexciting the first round has been because the better teams are consistently beating the worse teams? Yes, home teams with higher seeds have better players and are therefore going to win by double-digits. No, Boston with an aging KG and Pierce (and no Rondo) will not be all that competitive against a good Knicks team when Carmelo scores 35 points. We’re going to get our wars, though. So be patient. We’re going to see our seven-game series’. We’re going to get those match-ups where we truly aren’t sure who is “better.” Hang tight. This is why this plays out for two months. It’s a whittling process, and the best process in all of sports in terms of finding and naming a true champion. Sit back, relax, and enjoy watching great teams beat the teams they are supposed to beat. This isn’t a movie, after all.