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Reflections on the NBA playoffs

This time of year, professional basketball is the only televised sport I really care about. Football is over; I find baseball boring; the Olympics aren’t on yet; the World Cup isn’t for another two years; college basketball is over; and the only football news that matters is the draft (or Johnny Football’s apparently quite-deserved indictment).

As that is the case, I thought I’d offer a few quick thoughts about the NBA playoffs. Since I am very much a Cavs homer, many of these thoughts will probably be about Cleveland. Further, since modern sports coverage runs sports analysis through (to borrow Foucault’s words) an “endless mill of speech,” little of what I say will probably be novel. I offer it anyway.

1. The early Eastern Conference matchups are significantly more exciting than the Western Conference this year. The Thunder handled the Mavericks easily. The Spurs swept the Grizzlies (and looked like a typical Spurs team while doing it). The Warriors very well may have swept the Rockets had Curry played in game three. In the East, only Cleveland dispatched its opponent easily. The remaining series are tied at two games apiece (as of this writing). Competition is exciting, and the playing field in the East seems to be more balanced.

2. Isaiah Thomas is really good. He is fearless and feisty, and I love watching him play. He averaged 35 points at home, including a 42-point performance in game three. His 3-pointer in game four with 30 seconds left basically sealed it for the Celtics. Even without Avery Bradley, I would not want the Cavs to face them in the second round.

3. I hate when games are on League Pass. I don’t buy into this whole “Sports is a business” nonsense because it reduces what is an essentially public event into a mere commodity. Sports are a commodified activity, but they are also more than that. Economic evaluation cannot fully capture the importance of sports, especially in the postseason. (I feel similarly about the fact that the NCAA Div. I National Championship game is now shown on TNT, TBS and TruTV.) Like it or not, sports are essential to the public life of many in the United States, and as such, I think that as many games as possible (given restrictions on air time) should be shown on local, free channels. (I’d also accept if only local playoff games were this way. In other words, the Cavs should be on some free station for all of their games.)

4. The Cavs need to get off to faster starts. Their largest lead at the half in four games against Detroit was one point, and they were down at the end of the first half in game one. Yes, they won the games by an average of 8.5 points, but this is mainly due to their 17-point victory in game three. If you ignore that point difference, then the average margin of victory drops to around 5.67 points per game. Two more 3-pointers from the Pistons per game, and we would have been in trouble.

5. Sometimes I wonder how good LeBron and Kyrie would be if they had been coached by Popovich for their careers. LeBron is already a great passer, and Kyrie is extremely fun to watch with the ball, but the Spurs function so well as a unit. It’s really just fun to watch.

6. Departing from the playoffs for a moment, Minnesota will be very good in a few years. That roster is stacked, and Thibs is a great coach.

7. Spurs-Thunder will be a great second-round matchup.

8. The Warriors may still be a good team without Steph, but they are also infinitely less fun to watch. Even if it hurts Cleveland’s overall chances, I really want him to get back in time for a good portion of the playoffs. It will only make the Cavs’ first NBA championship all the sweeter.

That’s all I have for now. Here’s hoping the rest of the playoffs stay as good as they have been so far, and go Cavs!

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