The NBA Playoffs have always been prone to slow starts, building towards crescendos. Or so the story goes. Basketball is simply not an upset driven sport over seven-game playoff series. One game? Anything can happen, which makes the NCAA tournament fun, where 40 minutes and a shorter three-point line always puts upsets and comebacks in play. Cinderella stories have never been a big part of the NBA’s playoff fabric. The storied teams in league lore aren’t the upstart Davids – they don’t exist – but the brutish Goliaths as every decade has yielded a super team or two that rule the league. The best teams almost always win. And in this year’s playoffs, they’ve been winning by bigger margins than ever, as fans of the Toronto Raptors would know well. Through 68 games the average winning margin has been 12.9 points a game – more than double the regular season gap. The Raptors did their part, finding themselves caught under what appears to be an unstoppable Cleveland Cavaliers steamroller helmed by LeBron James. Toronto’s second-round sweep at the hands of the Cavaliers, a series in which they never led at halftime and held the fourth quarter lead once, was one of an NBA-record four sweeps in the first two rounds, all by the Cavs and the equally dominant Golden State Warriors. It’s an exaggerated twist on a theme. In the 33 years since the league went to a 16-team playoff format the only eighth seed to win a seven-game series was the 2007 Golden State Warriors, who knocked off a 67-win Dallas Mavericks club. When the league played best-of-five first-round series, the eighth seed won twice. And it might get worse before it gets better. In the NBA’s two most recent CBA negotiations, the league has made efforts to make it easier for teams to keep their core of talent together and harder to build super teams, moves designed to help smaller markets compete.
Why the predictable NBA Playoffs could actually get worse
Sportsnet | May 19