Playoffs are all about match-ups. With ratings struggling, the NBA really needed star-studded match ups. They even changed the playoff rules, assuring the best teams play in the Conference Finals, as public interest is peaking, even if they are in the same division. The goal was to avoid another Dallas-San Antonio matchup before the finals.
Well, back to the drawing board. Definitely in the West, and arguably in the East, the two best teams left are playing in the conference semifinals. With ratings moving closer to NHL levels than NFL and MLB levels, the last thing David Stern needed was the favorite, and biggest off the court loud mouth, going out in Round One, and having the best teams play before the mainstream audience gets involved. Well, look for some more rule changes in 2007. Joking aside, they should mimic hockey, the only other sport where half the league makes the playoffs, and re-seed every each round based on record.
Let’s start in the East. In Round One, Toronto was the only losing team to even win a game. Not only is the East terrible, the bottom half of the conference is worse than the top. Detroit is the clear favorite, and I would be shocked to see them lose, particularly with how strong they are at home. But, Chicago poses the biggest threat, with a young, dynamic team that can score in bunches, and Big Ben patrolling the inside. Still, Detroit has talent, experience, and home court. Cleveland and Jersey are playing for second. The least we can hope for is some exciting games, with LeBron and the Nets running game. Worst case, its another series of Can’t Watch TV, becoming more common in the NBA.
With Dallas gone, the Spurs are the team to beat. There success, like the Yankess in baseball, is measured in the postseason. Duncan does not come out to play until May. Expect 30 and 10 nightly from here on in, and probably a few clutch 3’s from Horry. The Suns improved since last year, but defense and clutch half-court offense wins in the playoffs, not exactly the Suns forte. Look for San Antonio in a battle. The Jazz-Warriors series is about as important as the Nets-Cavs, or the Devil Rays-Mariners for that matter. A tired Jazz team coming off a 7-game series and a hobbling Golden State that barely made the playoffs, may be an interesting match-up, but its clearly the JV game. Only difference is the NBA starts those games after the Varsity game, instead of before it. Either way, nobody is watching. I’m still scratching my head at how the East became more of AAA league. Each team, outside of Detroit, has major flaws, and would already be home if they played in the West. If you enjoy sleep, and do not want to stay up past the bewitching hour to watch meaningless games, my suggested viewing guide is to catch the second half of the Suns-Spurs games, maybe check in on Lebron, then spend your free time watching playoff hockey (much more entertaining), baseball, Seinfeld reruns, or watching paint dry. All more entertaining than the NBA.