D.A.: NBA Playoffs Desperately Need Unpredictability

The NBA guarantees stars on the biggest stage; it doesn't guarantee drama

Damon Amendolara
May 14, 2018 - 10:31 am

USA Today Images

Even if it's only one game, the Celtics delivered something the NBA Playoffs need more of: drama. None of the second-round series went past five games, and no underdog advanced to the conference finals. Sure, the Cavs swept the top-seeded Raptors, but Toronto's spring swoons and the historic dominance of LeBron James annually means the King in the conference finals feels as automatic as last-minute flower shopping on Mother's Day. 

Thankfully Sunday, Boston gave us more. The C's landed a blow square to the chin of Cleveland with a 25-point drubbing. It's nothing more than a good first step for Brad Stevens' squad. Should LeBron drop a patented 40-15-10 triple-double in Game 2, then head to Ohio to grab both at home, this could be a short series. The Celtics own home-court advantage and no matter how large their margin of victory, it still only counts once. The old adage rings true: It's not a series until the home team loses.

Sunday's thorough tail-kicking however, sends a message this will be no easy task for LeBron. Unlike the Raptors, the Celtics appear unafraid, unruffled, and unfazed by the daunting task that lies ahead. After a drab second-round, the NBA needs exactly that. There were thrilling games within some of those semi-finals (LeBron's buzzer-beater in Game 3, Boston's frantic wins in Game 3 and 5, Utah's desperate effort in Game 5). Overall, it was four predictable outcomes. The only eyebrow-raiser the ease of the depleted Celtics dispatching of the Sixers.  

While our three other oldest professional leagues do topsy-turvy well, the NBA does not. Take the most recent postseasons of each. Last October, the second round of the MLB Playoffs gave us the Yankees crawling back from losing the first two games to stun the Indians in a deciding Game 5. The Cubs also outlasted the Nationals 9-8 in a crazy Game 5 to advance. In January, the NFL's divisional round delivered a close-call in Philly as the Eagles stymied the Falcons four times at the goal line, and the Jaguars stunned the Steelers 45-42 in the zaniest playoff game of the year. Then, to top it off, the Minneapolis Miracle was etched into history forever on Stefon Diggs' catch and dash. Just last week the NHL capped off its annual carnival of upsets as an expansion team (Vegas), a perennial choker (Washington) and a never-before (Winnipeg) all advanced to the conference finals, the Jets in a Game 7 on the road.

None of this ever seems to take place in the NBA's postseason. While the league can be counted on to deliver its stars on the biggest stage, it can take until June for the drama to finally hit. Last year, the Warriors didn't lose a playoff game until Game 4 of the NBA Finals (and finished 16-1 to wrap up the title). The Cavs swept the Raptors (sound familiar?) and eliminated the Celtics in five games to advance out of the East. Granted, this may be a rare moment in time where a pair of superteams simply dominate their respective conferences. But the Dubs vs. LeBron has also been as expected as another Marvel movie every summer. 

The Celtics harassing LeBron into an uncharacteristically terrible game caught our attention. Even a speck of the unknown in the NBA playoffs is a good thing. Maybe this is the year the Warriors finally meet their equals in the West, as the Rockets have seemed unafraid all season. Two years ago, Golden State was down 3-1 to Oklahoma City, and had to channel all their greatness to survive. Perhaps that will happen again this year as Houston brings an element of firepower, and two super stars, the same way the Thunder did. Maybe LeBron's breathtaking overachievement, his ability to carry a woefully flawed team, will finally break against the Celtics. The Rockets and Celtics played twice in the NBA Finals in the '80s; perhaps we'll see it again. A Houston title would give every team out West hope moving forward and create a host of questions for the Warriors. A Boston banner would be the most unlikely NBA champion in nearly a decade and a half ('04 Pistons). Even if it still ends up as Dubs-LeBron IV, hopefully it'll at least be in question a few times over the next two weeks. The NBA could use it. 

Damon Amendolara, known by his fans as D.A., hosts “The D.A. Show,” from 9:00AM-12:00PM, ET, across the country on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. “The D.A. Show” is known for its unique perspective on sports, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, colorful listener interaction, and candid interviews with athletes and coaches. Amendolara also appears regularly on NFL Network as part of the “NFL Top 10” documentary film series, CBS television and SNY TV. He is a Syracuse University grad and native of Warwick, N.Y.