Many basketball fans don’t care for the pro game, but you’d have to be made of stone if you’re not appreciating the NBA playoffs this year. Have you been watching? What a bunch of great games and series.
Round one featured an old-fashioned duel between LeBron James and Gilbert Arenas, Phoenix battling back from a 3-1 series deficit against a perplexing Lakers team (with Kobe playing team basketball!) to win, and an aging Shaquille O’Neal — after the refs demonstrated that he was no longer good enough to bull his way through defenders in the post and not get called for offensive fouls — going for 30 points and 20 rebounds in game six, playing a finesse game unseen from him since his college days at LSU.
And in the second round, the Clippers and Suns are going at it like cats and dogs (2 overtimes in game five, 253 total points in game 1), the defending champion Spurs are trying to come back from a 3-1 deficit to the Mavericks (3 of the games have been decided by 2 points or less and another went to overtime), and the Pistons, who by all accounts should have swept the Cavs in four, find themselves down 3-2 to a team with the best 21-year-old basketball player ever.
Despite the NBA’s dogged insistence on promoting individual players as the primary reason to watch games, watching the team play has been the most compelling part of the playoffs. Detroit, Phoenix, San Antonio, the Clippers, and Dallas are great to watch on either end of the court: how a team’s offense changes in response to their opponent’s defense, how the defense changes to compensate for the tweaks made by the offense, and so on. I don’t have a favorite team in the playoffs this year, but this is the most fun I’ve had watching the NBA since rooting for the Bulls in 1998. (I know, I know.)