August 19, 2018

The Playoff Experiment: Final Week

The start of the NBA Finals marks the ending of my playoff fan experiment. I followed the Milwaukee Bucks as they fought hard to force a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics. I then followed the Celtics as they took care of the Philadelphia 76ers, but ultimately were no match for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. How would the Cavs, who don’t have a ton of weapons outside of LeBron, fare against the star-studded lineup of the Golden State Warriors?

Game One

The Cavs and Warriors were in a close battle in the first half. Cleveland widened their lead on a great dunk from Larry Nance Jr.

There was a scary moment a little later in the second quarter when LeBron got poked in the eye by Draymond Green. He stayed down on the deck for a while before getting up to shoot his free throws. And then he made them, of course. What’s your fave’s excuse?

The Cavs’ lead was short-lived as Steph Curry hit a long three at the halftime buzzer to tie the game.

One thing I really appreciate about LeBron is that he doesn’t go through long stretches of bad play. Even when he messed something up, as he did by turning the ball over in the third quarter, he came right back on the next possession and nailed a three to tie it up. He and Curry both played well in Game 1 and it was fun to watch.

It came down to the wire in the fourth quarter. Cleveland’s George Hill made his first free throw to tie the game, but missed the second. JR Smith got the offensive rebound with 4.5 seconds remaining and had a chance to beat the Warriors at home. Inexplicably, he thought they had the lead and dribbled out the clock instead. LeBron stood there with a look of sheer exasperation and another meme was born.

In OT, the Warriors had an extra gear that the Cavs just did not have. Maybe the Cavs were still in shock over the ending of regulation. In the final seconds, some frustrations boiled over as Green was talking trash to Tristan Thompson. Thompson pushed Green’s face away with the ball and got ejected from the game.

The most frustrating thing for me was that LeBron scored a massive 51 POINTS and Cleveland still couldn’t get it done. What more can he be expected to do? He can’t guard all five Warriors on the court and he can’t stop his teammates from making poor decisions with the game on the line. Game 1 had the feel of a huge missed opportunity – and possibly a bad omen.

Game Two

The second game of the Finals started with back to back JaVale McGee dunks for the Warriors and that was pretty indicative of how the rest of the game would go. I watched the whole time and wrote nothing down. It was barely competitive and, honestly, boring as hell.

The only other note I have from this game is the Warriors’ uniforms. The black and white alternate jerseys, which feature the phrase “The Town” and an oak tree, are a nod to Oakland, where the Warriors currently play.

Before finding out the backstory, I thought the look was odd and this tweet made me laugh a little too hard.

The uniforms debuted in 2017. It’s interesting though, that the Warriors have now decided to honor Oakland after they’ve made the decision to relocate to San Francisco in 2019. I wonder how the fans in Oakland feel about it.

Game Three

I actually turned on the game in time to see the national anthem, which was performed by a veteran of the Navy. He did a fantastic job, much better than a certain fergalicious rendition I recall from the NBA recently.

Not even a quarter had gone by when fans were treated to an incredible LeBron dunk. The man couldn’t get any help from his teammates so he passed it to HIMSELF. I am obviously a new NBA fan and therefore not as used to the slams at this level, but my jaw about hit the floor.

There was also some drama with the officiating early. Steph Curry picked up his second foul, which appeared to be a sketchy call. Then double technicals were issued to Draymond Green and Tristan Thompson. Green picked up a common foul less than a minute later and no one needed a Bad Lip Reading video to figure out what he thought of it.

This was important because he would have been tossed with a second technical foul. Players also face suspension after seven technicals in the playoffs and Green was pushing it with five. I love Draymond content as much as the next meme-for-brains Twitter addict, but he needed to chill out. He and Curry both finished the half with three fouls apiece.

While the Cavs held Curry in check, Kevin Durant completely went off. He ended the game with 43 points, including 6-9 from three and a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line. As the Warriors picked up a third win, it looked like the Cavs just couldn’t play the defense necessary to stop everyone for Golden State.

So now the question became would the Cavs get swept? I was hoping LeBron could will Cleveland to at least one W, if only so I wouldn’t have to hear all of his haters chirping. I was, and am, thoroughly sick of the LeBron vs. MJ debate. Both sides are so set in their opinion by now that no one is changing their mind or even being rational at this point. Debates like that, much like food arguments, are completely subjective and only start arguments you can’t win. It me, noted fun hater.

Game Four

I turned on Game 4 ready to see LeBron put a team of very large dudes on his back and drop another 50, just refusing to lose. But when the Warriors got out to an eleven point lead in the opening quarter, the hope of that happening started to feel very distant. The second quarter was more competitive, but ended with the Warriors up nine and I turned the game off to watch baseball.

I checked back throughout the second half, hoping to see something worth turning it back on, but it didn’t happen. The Warriors swept the Cavs to win the NBA title.

Final Thoughts

I got the most attached to my first team, the Milwaukee Bucks. They have the Midwestern underdog vibe that I identify with and Giannis Antetokounmpo is so fun to watch. I also gained a real appreciation for how good LeBron is. I hope next year I see him with a team that can do a little more to support him, whoever that team may be.

I spent the most time with the Boston Celtics and I initially disliked them quite a bit, but their young stars were so good that they won me over a little by the end. It will be interesting to see what that team can do next year with the major injuries they faced behind them.

So will I watch the NBA next year? It’s hard to say. The season runs from about October through June, so it overlaps with football at the beginning and baseball at the end. There’s only about a month-long gap between the Super Bowl and Opening Day for me to get really into basketball. But football is mainly on during the weekends and the NFL is getting harder for me to watch, for many reasons which could fill another piece on their own. I do LOVE the trash talk and the attitude of the NBA. The highlights are incredible. We’ll just have to see what the 2018-2019 season has in store.

Nicole Gustafson 27 Articles
Editor

Nicole was born in Chicago and raised in Des Moines. She took her talents to The Iowa State University, where she earned a degree in journalism. You can find Nicole cheering on her favorite sports teams, hanging out with her dog, or finishing a Netflix marathon. Nicole is a big fan of #pitcherswhorake, fat guy TD's, and carbs. She's not a fan of mornings, winter, or vegetables and will complain to anyone who will listen.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: