This Season, These Playoffs: Worst Ever?
May 23, 2007 by Ross Lancaster • Print Story •
This past weekend, something downright shocking happened. I found myself watching more of the Red Wings/Ducks game on Sunday than the Spurs/Jazz game.
And this is coming from someone who grew up on basketball in ACC and SEC country and didn't even know what hockey was until about age 8. But yet, I was finding the sport that NBC cut off the air for an hour and a half of useless pre-Preakness filler more appealing that the NBA playoffs at this stage. It's safe to say that with the tanking that infiltrated the regular season and a lackluster playoffs, this has best one of the worst NBA seasons in memory.
If you're a Spurs, Pistons, Jazz, or Cavs fan, you won't want to accept that last sentence. Sometimes, though, the truth hurts, and it's not (necessarily) a criticism against your teams.
Yet, in five years, the biggest thing I will remember about this season and these playoffs will be the Game 4 Robert Horry hip-check of Steve Nash that saw the fans ripped off of a potentially classic series by way of a ridiculous, outdated rule.
Going by the letter of the law, David Stern and Stu Jackson had to suspend Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw. That doesn't make the rule right by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, changing the rule needs to be the first item on the league agenda in the owner's meetings.
Would the Suns have won the series at full strength? I say no. The Spurs have the Suns' number and matchup against the Suns better than perhaps any team in the league. But the rational NBA fan has to believe that the series would have gone seven. Even so, the five games in the series with both teams having all their key players was great basketball.
The fact that the series ended one game too early was a huge problem. The biggest problem with the playoffs, though, has been the entire Eastern Conference.
In the first round, the only non-sweep was the Raptors/Nets series, a very average series that was perhaps only salvaged to that category by Games 5 and 6 coming down to the last shot.
In the second round, Detroit took a 3-0 lead on Chicago and then allowed the Bulls to get two games back only to put Chicago away at the United Center. None of the games, except for borderline unwatchable Game 2 were in doubt going into the final few minutes.
If Game 2 of Pistons/Bulls was unwatchable, then there's no explaining how bad the Cavs/Nets series was. Perhaps the Nets scoring six fourth quarter points and making only one shot from the floor in the final period of Game 5 and still winning would serve the series justice.
Many pundits and so called NBA experts kept using the crutch that both team were playing good defense as a reason why no one could make a shot going down the stretch in any game. But that wasn't the case. Each team missed an inordinate amount of open shots to essentially denigrate an NBA Conference Semifinal series into a Penn State/Northwestern Big Ten horror reel.
Cavs/Nets also took a turn for the worse when pre-all-star break LeBron decided to appear and camp out on the perimeter for stretches in the series. Perhaps he had some kind of sense that his team could still win the series with him taking bad 20-foot fall-aways. If he drifts into that, "I don't HAVE to get to the rim" mindset for similar periods against the Pistons, the Cavs will be swept.
Still, LeBron, in a series even the biggest of Cavs apologists would not call his best, averaged 25 ppg, 7 rpg and 8.5 apg. However, those raw numbers don't take into account his 42.3% from the floor against the Nets.
Another factor in why I decided to watch Red Wings/Ducks on Sunday afternoon instead of the second half of Spurs/Jazz is the sheer predictability of what we have left in the playoffs.
Mostly everyone who follows the NBA is already looking forward (or if you listen to some, dreading) another Spurs/Pistons Finals. There's no reason to think that everyone will be wrong. After all, the Spurs and Pistons have simply been better all season than the flawed Jazz and Cavs.
This season has seen more than its fair share of bad or lopsided basketball, and unfortunately, that doesn't look to improve in this round.