A Startling Loss of Momentum

These playoffs, these 2006 playoffs, have been some of the most exciting ever. The late night adrenaline has been so great that even us fans have had sleepless nights thinking about it.

But I slept like a baby last night. The adrenaline isn't so incredible anymore.

What happened? As far as I can see, three things:

  • The Matchup For whatever reasons that may or may not change, these games have not been close.

  • The Schedule If my math is correct we were treated to 83 playoff games in the 43 days between April 22 and June 3. We were spoiled that so many of those were close games, but that was hardly crucial. The point is, there was basically always something fantastic to watch. You passed up one evening of basketball at your peril. You had to run to keep up. A couple of blowouts here or there, unexciting fourth quarters with stars on the bench? You didn't have to watch any of those. In the Finals, however, we have had two fairly uninteresting games in eight days. The fun level is way down, and now we need Miami to get better in a hurry to make this must-see TV again.

  • The World Cup The only article about the NBA Finals, at all, in today's New York Times, is on page 5 of the sports section. The same is happening at papers across the country and even more so around the globe. The fact is, right now, a lot of the people who would be tuning in the NBA Finals are instead obsessing about World Cup. That's the event with the around-the-clock insanity this week. That's where the party is. That's the story. It's what DIrk Nowitzki would rather be watching right now. People are talking about it. As the NBA gets more global, and the US gets better at soccer, it's probably worth jiggering the Finals schedule so that it does not directly compete with the most popular sporting event in the world.

The best thing that could happen would be for these Finals to get close, and it's not clear if they will or not.

Is this a close series?
Well, the real answer is, it's too soon to tell.

I have a new attitude this year, about seven-game series. And essentially, it goes like this: there's no point in assessing the series in the big picture until four games are in the books. Despite the infinite number of things that can happen over four games, through all the big shots and hard fouls, there are only three possible things that can happen after four games: it's either 2-2, 3-1, or it's over.

  • If it's 3-1, it's a hail mary. One team is shooting for a miracle, and if it pans out, it'll be one of the best series of the year. Phoenix is especially good at that.

  • If it's 2-2, everything is perfect from a fan's perspective. It's likely to go seven. Nothing bad can happen from here. Exciting games ahead.

So, answering the question of whether or not this series has enough excitement to regain the nation's consciousness depends on the next two games. And it's still entirely possible that this series will get to 2-2. The NBA fan in me really hopes it will