A second team punched its ticket to the NBA Conference Finals last night, as you probably guessed if you didn’t watch, it was the Warriors, who crushed the upstart Utah Jazz in Game 4, 121-95.
The first team to reach the Conference Finals was the Cavaliers, who curb-stomped the Toronto Raptors in a four-game sweep and now await the winner of the Washington Wizards-Boston Celtics series.
This is all to say what we’ve all been thinking since last season’s NBA Final wrapped up: There is no way to avoid another Cavaliers-Warriors showdown for the title. We discussed it on the podcast last night that the NBA Playoffs have been a dud, and even Charles Barkley has said he’d rather be watching the NHL Playoffs than the blowouts the NBA has offered up.
People worried about the Cavaliers heading into the playoffs because they dropped four-straight games to end the year, and ended up tied for the second-best record in the East, two games back of the Celtics.
And then the playoffs started and they haven’t lost a game.
They were at least tested four times by the Indiana Pacers in the opening round, and then put it into high gear in the second round, absolutely disposing of the Raptors in four game, winning by an average of 15.25 points per game. And honestly, that makes it sound closer than it was, because in at least two of those games the Raptors had a couple of garbage time runs to at least make scores look respectable.
Keep in mind that the Cavaliers and Raptors finished the regular season with the exact same record, so theoretically, at least over 82 games of regular season play, they were equals. Once the two teams hit the court in games that actually mattered, it looked like the Raptors weren’t even part of the same league, let alone finished with an equal record.
And then there’s the Warriors, who have been in Death Mode since the last month of the NBA regular season. Let this soak in for a minute: Over their last 25 games, including postseason, the Warriors are 24-1, with the only loss to the Jazz in the second-to-last game of the regular season. That loss is the only time they have been held under 100 points over those 25 games.
They’ve kicked it up a notch in the playoffs, where the closest game was a six-point win the opening round over the Portland Trail Blazers, and then crushing the Jazz by double-digits in every game of the second round. Over their eight games so far in the playoffs, the Warriors are winning by an average of 16.5 points per game.
This was pretty much to be expected of the Warriors, who boast four of the Top-20 players in the NBA, when most teams just hope for one and that he can carry them to a playoff berth, where a smackdown at the hands of the Cavs or Warriors awaits.
In addition to cruising through the first two rounds, the Cavaliers and Warriors are now set to rest for the next week or so while the Celtcis, Wizards, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs beat the hell out of each other for the right to try to hand either team a loss in the Conference Finals.
Every day off for the Warriors and Cavaliers is a day to heal their injuries and to put more of a gameplan in place for whoever they end up facing.
Hopefully the games in the Conference Finals are closer, but at the end of the day, what’s the best case scenario for any of those other four teams? They win two games and say, “Well we pushed them to six, great season.”?
It really makes me wonder, especially as a very casual NBA fan, what is the point of watching the first two rounds, or any of the regular season if you’re not a fan of the Cavaliers or Warriors?
A team like the Utah Jazz in every other circumstance would consider 2016-17 a tremendous year. They won 51 games, took the Northwest Division title…only the be smashed like a soda can at the recycling center 12 wins from an NBA title. It’s insanely stupid that you can have a great team like that, with a legit star player…and you still had no chance at winning anything.
Honestly, of the 28 other teams in the NBA, how many realistically have a shot at winning the title? Two? Probably the Rockets and Spurs? That’s it. The Celtics, even with the best record in the East, don’t feel like a real threat to the Cavs, and the Wizards just don’t have enough outside of John Wall to make you really think that they have a chance at beating them.
Long story short, as awesome as the NBA Finals of Cavaliers and Warriors, Part III, will be, the road to get their sucks, and feels like a giant waste of time for all fans of the NBA, not just fans of the league’s 28 other teams.