The Playoff Diaries: Welcome to the Finals

John Atkinson

NBA Finals

Looks like we made it to the FINALS y'all, but first:
RIP to the Indiana Pacers, finally put out of their misery after an intermittently-respectable six games. Indiana's impressively dysfunctional season was almost always ugly, often miserable, but, in the end… maybe kind of baroquely endearing?

Aw hell, I think I just love Lance, who needs to take a paycut to come home to BROOKLYN next year! His tormenting of LeBron over the last two games was a very #rare #blessing

And RIP to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who valiantly tried to beat the Spurs while playing 4-on-12 basketball and running no actual plays. Can you believe the finally-actually-crushingly-dramatic Game 6 was the first overtime in the playoffs since that glorious first round?

…In addition to their near-total lack of a bench and legit coaching, the Thunder also did about as well as possible for a team whose ostensible best player, the MVP, is clearly still afflicted by the #BASEDGODSCURSE! Shouts out to Lil B for surely non-coincidentally dropping the HOOPLIFE mixtape the day after OKC's elimination—real talk, this extremely rare and mostly-basketball-themed collection has been real helpful in getting me through the hoops-less wasteland of the past few days:

THE FINALS

Soooo nowwwww, after the epic shaggy dog story of the regular season, and after all the drama and intrigue of the first three rounds of the playoffs, it's come down to what everyone expected: a totally duh rematch of last year's unfuckwithable classic of a Finals: Spurs vs. Heat. And shit, despite the obviousness of this season finale, how else would you want it? If it wasn't obvious enough during the regular season, these playoffs have made it very clear these are the two best teams in the NBA, and it's not close.

As a basketball fan, I'm thrilled, excited for this action—the two most aesthetically pleasing, brilliantly-coached teams in the league going at each other, each with not only the present but their respective pasts and futures at stake. Will LeBron's Heat enter Jordan's Bulls territory with a three-peat—and in doing so, will they guarantee that LeBron keeps his talents in South Beach? Will the Spurs avenge last season's devastating loss, and etch in stone their credentials as one of the most unique and longest-lived dynasties the league will ever see—and, win or lose, whither Pop and Timmay after their 17th grueling campaign together?

But as a human being with an overactive sympathetic nervous system, I'm fucking terrified. Game 6 last year was one of the most brutally stressful sports viewing experiences of my life, like some unholy combination of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series and Games 4-7 of the 2004 ALCS. Is 2014 not already overfull with struggle? Is our timeline really so unmerciful, so dark, as to force the Spurs—and us—to endure THAT again? Does ANYONE outside of Miami want to officially be returned to the Jordan '90s redux, with every other great player and great team in the league relegated to footnote status in a New Era of Hoops Hegemony?

Fuck that negative thinking though. The Spurs are clearly, demonstrably better than last year in all kinds of ways—Manu's been awesome, the bench is even deeper and more international, and GOD have you been watching KAWHI lately??, etc —and the Heat certainly seem weaker on paper, although LeBron's effectively unlimited basketball abilities make it hard to put any kind of ceiling on their performance.

The biggest question (obviously?) is health, and specifically the health of Tony Parker's ankle. If Monsieur is at or close to his full powers, the SPURS VENGEANCE scenario is tantalizingly likely. If he's not… Well, shit, I'm looking forward to the Patty Mills coming out party. MY PICK: SPURS in SIX, if only because another Game 7 might actually give me a heart attack.

Back to diary-style from here on out and heading to BROOKLYN on Friday. LET'S DO THIS.

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