A little over a month ago, Crusader from T.H.A.T Anime Blog and I began watching some of the NBA Playoffs which were in their Second Round. What began as just a simple way of passing time ultimately ended with my remembering that watching basketball was something that I actually used to love to do. Along the way, there was plenty of conversations and in-jokes. Lots, and lots of in-jokes which only seemed to pick up as more people joined united by the desire to see the Miami Heat lose. Crusader covered most of the technical stuff as far as how the playoffs progressed, so I’m going to cover a little bit of everything else.
The early topic of conversation when we started was the Dallas Mavericks sweep of the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. The 4th game of the series had seen Andrew Bynum viciously foul JJ Barea with the game out of reach. Barea was the first of many in-jokes as a normal sized man in sport of giants. We called him Juan José despite knowing the order should have been switched. Then there was the YouTube clip of him on Puerto Rican television and by the Finals we were having fun watching him start games and running isolation sets which involved him weaving through traffic using the whole court.
On the other side were the Miami Heat, who at the time were in the middle of eliminating the Boston Celtics. It was fairly obvious Miami would ultimately win the series as Boston was an ancient team which would have been unstoppable had most of them been 10-15 years younger. The way they ultimately did win left a bad taste. In Game 3, Rajon Rondo suffered a dislocated elbow when Dwayne Wade decided to employ some wrestling moves in the low post on him. Rondo continued that game playing with one arm as Boston won their only game of the series that night. However, Rondo was never the same and Miami’s relative youth won it.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Memphis Grizzlies were putting on a classic series. It was a clash between promising youth and those discarded by other teams, but it also made for excellent conversation. Zach Randolph had been discarded by numerous teams, but had finally found a team where he could be a leader. Despite the fact that he never looked like he could jump, the man nicknamed Z-Bo kept getting his Z-Bounds.
The Thunder, on the other hand, had plenty of characters. Kevin Durant is the clear star, but there was also James Harden with his beard and Russell Westbrook, who was continued to be a part of the conversation long even into the Finals. Crusader and I had begun using the term Westbrookian who continued to take shots despite having better teammates who are also playing in form.
The series itself went 7 games with the Thunder ultimately coming out on top. The late start times for the games were convenient for those watching in the Pacific time zone. Being two hours ahead of that meant that I was usually worse for wear the morning after, especially after Game 4’s 3 overtime periods.
Finally in that round, the Chicago Bulls beat the Atlanta Hawks. Actually that should really read Derrick Rose and 4 other guys defeated a group of individuals going under the name Atlanta Hawks with Jeff Teague turning into an unexpected star.
The Conference finals provided Crusader and I a chance to finally watch the Mavs together. Dirk Nowitzki had the nickname Action Dirk already, but he was Dallas’s leading scorer in all 5 games of the series. He was completely unstoppable in scoring 40+ points in 2 of the games (including 48 in game 1 while making all 24 free throws). The Thunder’s one bright spot in that series was in Game 2 where they controlled the fourth quarter while playing 4 bench players with Durant. Westbrook had been benched for a Westbrookian performance.
On the Eastern side, Miami lost the first game of the series which included Chicago’s Taj Gibson posterizing Wade. After that, Miami figured out that they had to simply clog the lane and let Rose miss since he had no support. The fact that both Conference finals went 5 games meant an unexpected week off before the Finals began.
For Game 1 of the Finals, we were joined by Kuro and the first thing we noticed was that the international feed was something like 10 seconds ahead of the feed in the US. Game 1 will probably be remembered as LeBron James’s only decent performance of the series as the Heat won a defensive battle to go 1-0 up.
For Game 2, another member was added to the crew with krizzlybear joining the group watch. Game 2 wasn’t going well for Dallas again as Peja Stojakovic was getting significant minutes and making nothing. As krizzlybear is from Toronto, this added more to the conversation. Stojakovic had once played for the Toronto Raptors, where he was paid tons of money to play about as well as he had tonight. Thus he became known to us as Toronto Peja. Miami’s Chris Bosh had also played for Toronto, so when he messed up, he became Toronto Bosh, etc.
Miami had pulled out to a 15 point lead with 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter when Dallas called timeout and Wade celebrated like he had personally won the championship after making the last shot. Out of the timeout, Action Dirk would not be denied. An assist to Jason Terry cut the lead to 13, then it went down to 11, then 9 as Miami kept jacking up 3s. Dirk then found Kidd for an assist on a 3 to cut it to 6. A Terry jumper cut it to 4, before Dirk made a jumper of his own to cut the lead to 2. With a minute left, Dirk made a layup to tie it. Miami continued to panic and missed another 3. Dirk responded with a 3 to put Dallas ahead. After another Miami timeout, they executed for the only time in that 8 minute span as the inbound play allowed Mario Chalmers to hit an uncontested 3. With the game tied, Dallas went to Action Dirk. He demolished Toronto Bosh and got to the basket the winning basket with 3 seconds left. Momentum in the series was now on Dallas’s side.
Game 3 saw the final 2 more join the crew in Ryan A and Yi. This game seemed to follow the usual pattern. Miami jumped out to a big lead, Dallas tried to claw it back. Only on this night, Dallas just could not get ahead. The important thing that came out of this game was the fact that LeBron James had only scored 2 points in the 4th quarter (a dunk 22 seconds in). This led to an awkward exchange in the press conference after the game, but the story of LeBron shrinking in the 4th quarter began to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Game 4 saw Dallas make a change to their starting lineup as Rick Carlisle (known in our conversations as Jim Carrey for the resemblance) put Barea in for DeShawn Stevenson. It wasn’t a particularly entertaining game for what was happening on the floor. Both teams were cold from the field with the exception of Wade. Action Dirk was playing with a sinus infection and 102-degree fever and played like it. Fortunately, Tyson Chandler dominated the boards for Dallas, which was key in their narrow victory to level the series at 2. The real interesting point was LeBron being held to a mere 8 points for the game and nothing in the 4th quarter.
Game 5 was pivotal with LeBron calling it the most important game of his life. That didn’t prevent he and Wade from mocking Dirk being sick before the game. The game itself was the first high scoring game of the series. Action Dirk was back in form in scoring 29, while Terry picked up an important 21 from the Mavs bench. Miami was experiencing the same story. Wade and Bosh trying to carry the team, but they couldn’t do it for all 48 minutes. With 3 minutes to go, Dallas ultimately pulled away and took a 3-2 lead back to Miami. As for LeBron, he scored 2 points in the 4th quarter and finished with a meaningless triple-double (17-10-10).
Then, last night’s Game 6. Miami made a change starting Chalmers in a playoff game for the first time in 2 years ahead of Mike Bibby. Dallas dominated the first quarter, Miami stormed back briefly in the 2nd, but after that the result was never in doubt. Jason Terry turned in another excellent performance, LeBron once again didn’t show up. Miami’s Big 3 walked off the floor in disappointment, only Bosh seemed to really care. Dallas was left to celebrate their 1st NBA title while owner Mark Cuban could accurately say that his team “punked the shit out of Miami fans” in front of live cameras.
At the end of the day, I can say it was a genuinely fun experience watching basketball with a group of people. My own team hasn’t been relevant in 10 years, and while I did watch basketball games while I was at university, the grinding low-scoring Big Ten basketball just wasn’t for me. The atmosphere may have been fantastic, but the level of play left me completely jaded.
So I guess you could say I’m back on board the NBA bandwagon now. But wait, there’s an impending labor crisis that will lead to a lockout at the end of the month. The players had won far too much in the last collective bargaining agreement, which has led the league to lose $300 million a year. The very makeup of the league will probably look different when this is all said and done, but it could not have come at a worse time for the league or anyone who likes basketball.