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Why We Love NBA (Part 2) – The Playoffs

Conor O’Mahony is here with Part 2 of this special feature looking at ‘Why We Love NBA’. Part 2 focuses on the all important playoffs; that time of the year where dreams are made, and crushed.


Check Out Part 1 – The Brilliance & Hilarity of Gregg Popovich.


The playoffs are the payoff for the eighty-two game slog of the NBA regular season. The phony war ends in mid-April each year and it is then that the real business starts.  For an NBA fan, the playoffs mean two months of high quality basketball on ours screens almost every day. NBA heaven in other words.

Here are three reasons why we love the Playoffs.

1. Rise In Intensity

Watching the Spurs crush the Jazz on a cold January night, while never breaking a sweat can seem like a night ill spent for even the most die-hard NBA fan.

Sitting down to watch Philadelphia take on Milwaukee, both teams desperate to lose, to improve their chances of snatching the no.1 lottery pick can be soul destroying.

You cannot however knock an elite team for occasionally playing at half speed during the season, playing at full throttle for 82 games is a sure fire recipe for player burn out and thus a playoff let down, see Indiana Pacers.

Once the playoffs begin however, to paraphrase Yeats, “everything changes, changes utterly.”

The weaker teams are weeded out, which means the quality of basketball on show instantly improves. The top players in the world compete against one another every night.

The level of talent seen on the court is something we often times take for granted. However, the appreciation is amped up a little bit more come playoff time when we watch these players continuously produce despite the hectic scheduling and traveling. We really start to understand the meaning of the phrase, “NBA talent.”

“Defense wins championships. ”

It is said so often it is almost a cliché but that does not make it any less true. In the playoffs, defensive intensity ratchets up, meaning that teams have to rely more on their offensive sets to score the ball.

Look at the team that won the championship last year, San Antonio Spurs. They were best equipped to deal with tougher defenses, as their offense is the best in the league.

That play is poetry in motion, and should be shown to every young basketball team, not the Blake Griffin flashy dunks, or the Joe Johnson isolation plays.

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2. Best Team Always Wins. Sort Of.

Unlike other sports, such as the NFL where a team can get hot at the right time and steal a championship e.g New York Giants in 07, the NBA Playoffs best of 7 series system produces a worthy winner.

An inferior team might win one, two, even three games, but they are extremely unlikely to win four.

Returning to the Spurs, let’s pause for a moment and look at their road to the Larry O’Brien trophy. Pushed to the pin of their collar by a Dirk Nowitski led Mavericks team, they advanced after a fraught seven games in Round One.

In the Conference Finals they faced off against a superb Thunder team, who count two of the top ten players in the league amongst their ranks (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.) The Spurs advanced after six games, but had to go to overtime in Game Six, where Tim Duncan rolled back the years, scoring eight points off post ups, dragging San Antonio to the finish line.

Miami conversely had an easy passage to the finals, sweeping The Bobcats, dismantling the Nets in five and beating a poor Pacers team in six. The Spurs had taken haymakers to the jaw and survived, whereas The Heat hardly had a glove laid on them on their journey to the finals.

The result?

The Spurs obliterated the Heat, outscoring Miami by the largest average point differential (14) in NBA Finals history. In a real feel good story, The Spurs atoned for the devastating loss of the year before. We can safely say that the best team won this year.

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3. Legacies Are Created

Type “LeBron choking” into youtube and it throws up a multitude of hate. Stuff like this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3kKxtSQa-4

“LeBron cannot play in the 4th quarter. He is a choker.”

This much trotted out line has long ago been disproven, with LeBron winning back to back titles with Miami. Still, until he got over the hump, and won his first ring people questioned him. They questioned his game, his mettle, his inner drive and his ability to lead.

LeBron was not the first, and will not be the last superstar to be the focus of vitriolic claims from the media about their ability to win it all.

As preposterous as it sounds, ‘The Great One’, Michael Jordan, was also once derided for not having what it took to win a ring. He started his career with three straight first round exits, and a solitary playoff win.

This was mainly a result of the dearth of talent on the Bulls outside of him, but it must also be remembered that Jordan was still growing as a player and learning how to be a good teammate at the time. He was not, in other words, the Michael Jordan that led The Bulls to Six NBA titles, winning MVP in all of those Finals.

He was considered by many too much of an individual. Sure the stats were mind-boggling; he averaged 37.1 PPG on 48.2% shooting, in year three of his career. However, as in the previous year, the Boston Celtics swept them in the first round.

Things did not get much better during the next three years of his career. All three times “The Bad Boy” Detroit Piston’s inflicted losses on his team.  In ’89 Detroit beat them in the 2nd round, 1990 saw Chicago lose to the “Bad Boys” in the Conference Finals.*

Phil Jackson arrived the following season, and The Zen Master guided the team back to another Conference Finals showdown with Detroit. The Bulls pushed the Pistons all the way, going down in Game Seven.

It was not until Jordan learned to play with and share the spotlight with Scottie Pippen (who became an All Star for the first time), much like LeBron and Dwyane Wade, that he finally banished his demons and won the first of three straight NBA Championships. On the way to the title, Jordan finally defeated the Pistons , winning the series in four games in a ruthless fashion.**

The rest as they say is history, Jordan would lead his team to two separate three-peats, never losing an NBA Finals, and even fitting in a two-year hiatus to go and play baseball (poorly I might add!).

Winning it all cemented his legacy, and by the time he retired he was the consensus G.O.A.T.***

Jordan’s story is but one example of how The Playoffs, and crucially winning it all, creates a legacy. There are many, many more.

Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, George Mikan,  , Wilt Chamberlain,  Kareem Abdul Jabaar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Oscar Robinson, Julius Irving, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitski, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, and too many more to mention all were great players before they won their rings. But what separates the very good from the great are titles.

The Playoffs count for everything, and that is why we love the NBA.

Conor O’Mahony, Pundit Arena.


 

 Author’s Notes

*The Pistons developed a unique tactic for defending Jordan, they termed “The Jordan Rules” which consisted of double and triple teaming him every time he touched the ball.

**Isiah Thomas famously led his team off the court before the final seconds had concluded. The Pistons went directly to their locker room instead of shaking hands with the Bulls.

****Greatest Of All Time.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team. If you would like to join the team, drop us an email at write@punditarena.com.