Point: The playoffs are boring.
Given the level of supremacy displayed by the Warriors, who are representing the Western Conference in the Finals, and the Cavaliers, who are one game away from representing the Eastern Conference in the Finals, I understand why people (from The Washington Post to fans, according to Kevin Durant) are saying that the playoffs have been boring. I mean, consider just these two points:
1. The Golden State Warriors have won their playoff games by an average of 16.3 points. That’s the largest average point differential of any team heading into the Finals in the history of the league. More impressive still: No other team has ever even cracked 16. And even more impressive than that: Only three others ever even got into the 15s (the 2000–01 Lakers were at 15.5, the 1970–71 Bucks were at 15.4, and the 1986–87 Lakers were at 15.0). Statistically speaking, this Warriors team is currently the most dominant playoff team anybody has ever seen. That’s nuts.
2. It took the Cavs all the way until the 11th game of the playoffs this year before they lost a game. If you go back to last season, they’d won 13 straight playoff games, which is tied for the longest postseason winning streak ever (the Lakers won 13 games in a row stretched out from the 1988 postseason to the 1989 postseason). Consecutive-wins-wise, this Cavs team is tied for the Most Dominant Playoffs Run Anybody Has Ever Seen. That’s nuts.
So that’s why I get the thing about the playoffs being boring. How can they be exciting if there’s a team in each conference that’s just machete-ing everyone in the forehead, you know what I’m saying? So I get it. I get it. But, since you are in a Considering Things mode, consider this:
Counterpoint: Actually, the playoffs have not been boring. In fact, they have been exciting.
Look at all of the beautiful gifts that were bestowed upon us while you, a Neanderthal, were complaining that there weren’t enough buzzer-beaters:
- We had Russell Westbrook, the league’s most ferocious superstar and also the first player in over half a century to average a triple-double, vs. James Harden, the league’s most velveteen superstar, in the first round. And were that not enough of a marquee matchup (we’re talking about two of the eight best players in the NBA, but we’re also talking about former teammates, but we’re also talking about philosophical inverses), we also had the whole Who’s This Season’s MVP? conversation happening in real time every night.
- We had Paul George saying he needed to be the one to shoot the final shot after his Pacers lost Game 1 of their series against the Cavs when C.J. Miles missed an open game winner, and then we had all of the entire internet rushing to point out that George was 0-for-15 on go-ahead shots in the final 20 seconds of a game since the 2011 season, AND THEN, because the universe is incredible, we had George get the ball in the final seconds of Game 4 with his Pacers down three (yes!) … only to turn it over (oh no) … then "miraculously" help steal it back (yes!) … then shoot a 3 to try to send the game to overtime (YES!) … only to not even hit the rim (oh no).
- We had the Chicago Bulls, the NBA’s version of those old cartoon hobos who would tie a bag around the end of a stick as a suitcase, taking a 2–0 lead on the no. 1-seeded Boston Celtics, then immediately falling apart after Rajon Rondo went down. (The Bulls crumbling after Rondo got injured was such an interesting and puzzling turn. By nearly all measurements, the Rondo-Bulls experiment was a disaster, and by January the in-house drama had spilled out onto Instagram. Them falling apart after he went out was like if you had a splinter in your foot and you pulled the splinter out and then your arms and legs just fell right off your body.)
- We had our first glimpse of Playoff Giannis, and don’t you dare act like watching him dunk it from the 3-point line and block shots with his elbow wasn’t exciting.
- We had David Fizdale offering up two gorgeous lines during a gorgeous press conference ("They’re not gonna rook us" and "Take that for data!"). That’s to say nothing of all of the other fantastic press conferences we got (Fred Hoiberg calling out Isaiah Thomas, Russell Westbrook’s You Shall Not Pass moment when he wouldn’t let that reporter ask Steven Adams a question, and Patrick Beverley pointing out Russell Westbrook’s large number of shot attempts, among them).
- We had Mike Conley and Kawhi Leonard shooting missiles at each other in Game 4 of the Spurs-Grizzlies first-round series.
- We had John Wall cussing at anyone who had the nerve to stand in front of him.
- We had a second-round matchup between the Celtics and Wizards, two teams that hate each other SO MUCH, and I am always game for that kind of thing.
- We had TWO Kelly Olynyk moments (him getting run over by Kelly Oubre Jr. and him becoming a Boston legend by hitting 25 3s in Game 7 against Washington), and I’m not even sure which one was more thrilling.
- We had Spurs vs. Rockets in the second round, which presented at least five different great things, including but not limited to: Gregg Popovich, an all-around basketball genius, vs. Mike D’Antoni, a brilliant offensive tactician; Kawhi Leonard, the league’s most terrifying perimeter defender, vs. James Harden, arguably the best offensive player in the league; the first playoffs matchup between the two teams in more than 20 years; that fantastic Game 5 when Manu blocked Harden at the buzzer to win the game, then that puzzling Game 6 when Harden decided he’d had enough and just mailed it in despite the Spurs having basically conceded the game ahead of time when they decided to sit Kawhi so he could recover from an ankle sprain.
- We had Blake Griffin missing the playoffs after injuring his big toe, which was the most Clippers-y thing anybody had ever heard, and then we had the Clippers improbably winning a Game 6 on the road against Utah to keep the series alive and force a Game 7 back in Los Angeles, only for them to lose it at home in front of their fans, which immediately became the new most Clippers-y thing about it.
- We had Isaiah Thomas’s Electric Revival Circus in Game 2 when he hung 53 on the Wizards. (He became the first player under 6 feet to score 50 or more points in a playoff game. Also, he nearly outscored the Wizards in the fourth quarter and overtime all by himself, putting up 29 points to their 30 points. And also, he stared down John Wall while doing it, and Wall was busy putting together his own brilliant performance [40 points and 13 assists].)
- We had the Toronto Raptors losing to the Cavs, and the Toronto Raptors losing to the Cavs in the playoffs is everyone’s favorite and most dependable spring tradition now, I think.
There are a ton of tinier moments, too, that I barely even remember: Isaiah getting his tooth knocked out; Steph Curry taking Rudy Gobert for a ride on the Gravitron; John Wall going behind-the-back then dunking on Kent Bazemore; that goofy play where Steven Adams missed the free throw on purpose and then threw it back to Russy for a 30-foot 3 to cut the Rockets’ lead to one with under 20 seconds to go, only for them to forget to foul the Rockets; ALL-CAPS JOE INGLES; Draymond Green blocking the light out of Damian Lillard’s eyes; and on and on and on.
So much stuff has happened in the playoffs already and will happen in the Finals (which, by the way, will carry its own gigantic bundle of story lines and angles). It hasn’t been boring. It’s been anything but.