Friday, June 22, 2012

NBA Update: LeBron (and ESPN) Finally Get Their Title

In almost any other sporting league, last night's Game 5 of the NBA Finals would have been a real thriller. Imagine the situation: Miami was up 3-1 and could wrap up the title by beating Oklahoma City at home. But the other two games in Miami were in doubt with two minutes to go, and if OKC could pull off the upset, they would have a chance to win the title themselves by taking Games 6 and 7 at home -- where they were almost unbeatable. Given the pressure on Miami to win it all and the really good chance OKC might have if they could get the series back home, this game should have been full of drama and intensity. Think of Chelsea hanging on to win the European Cup at Bayern Munich, or St. Louis coming from behind to beat Texas in the World Series, or the desperate struggle between the Patriots and Giants in the Super Bowl. For that matter, think how hard UK plays in almost any college basketball game it ever plays.

But this was not a baseball game, a football game, a soccer game, or any type of college game. This was an NBA game, and in the NBA Finals there appears to be a convention that once one team has proven itself to be better, the other team significantly reduces its effort. In 2008, for example, Boston beat the Lakers 103-98 in L.A. to take a 3-2 series lead; the Celtics wrapped up the title with a 131-92 victory in Game 6. In 2009, the Lakers won Game 4 in overtime to take a 3-1 series lead; they cruised to an easy 99-86 title clincher in Game 5. Boston fought all the way to the end in 2010 and Miami did so in 2011, but those were both veteran teams that felt like they had a great chance to win it all.

So I didn't watch last night's game. In fact, I watched almost none of this series after Game 2. I had a feeling that after close losses in Games 2, 3, and 4, the Thunder would realize that it was time for summer vacation. And, in fact, last night's contest took on the flavor of a glorified exhibition game as Miami took a very easy 121-106 victory.

I have made numerous complaints about the officiating in this series, and in fact I still think that OKC would have won the title if Games 2 and 3 had been properly officiated. I also don't think I'll be able to watch SportsCenter again until ESPN switches from celebrating LeBron to covering the NFL. I also wish, with all my heart, that Russell Westbrook would let Kevin Durant shoot more than he does. (In five games against the Heat, Westbrook went 52-120 from the field, a shooting percentage of 43.3 percent. Durant went 57-104 from the field, a shooting percentage of 54.8 percent. If you can make sense of why Westbrook took so many more shots than Durant, you're smarter than I am.) Having said all of that, I want to make clear that I have no complaints about LeBron himself. It's really not his fault that ESPN has become such a parody of itself. And it's not even his fault that the officiating in the NBA is so bad. He played wonderful basketball throughout these playoffs, and I'm glad that for at least a year, he won't have to put up with criticism from screamers who interpreted his unselfishness as a sign that he had no heart.

But for all that, I'm glad to have seen the last of the NBA for awhile.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah ... all of this. Failing to call LeBron's foul (which was intentional and good strategy) at the end of Game 2 against Durant just sucked the life out of this series.