This afternoon marks the first of three Game Sevens in the second round of the NBA playoffs. LeBron, who couldn't close out the Pistons at home in Game 6, gets a second crack at The Palace in Auburn Hills. The seventh games of the San Antonio-Dallas and Phoenix-LA series go tomorrow night.
A few things worth noting about these games:
The home team nearly always wins Game Sevens in the NBA playoffs - I'm not sure why. Regardless, Eric Kuselius of ESPN Radio mentioned on Friday that they have about an 80% success rate, which doesn't bode well for the Cavs, Mavs, and Clippers.
Almost everyone agrees that this has been the most exciting NBA playoff in some time. I wonder if that will continue if we end up with the same final four as last year, which odds tell us will happen. I don't know about you, but I'm not getting excited about the prospect of another Spurs-Pistons final. On the scale of exciting rematches, this definitely ranks above Holyfield-Ruiz II, but I'm not willing to give it any further hype.
If we end up with the same final four as last year, I have to root for the Suns, since they would be the only team of the four that is generally entertaining to watch. I love Shaq and D-Wade, but Heat games tend to be hit or miss. I should also note that while these would create rematches on paper, the Heat and Suns have significantly different lineups than last year - both teams have 3 new players in the starting lineup, and several key reserves who weren't with them last year.
Of the three teams going on the road, I would give the Cavs the best chance of winning (because LeBron can single-handedly win the game), followed by the Clippers (they won Game 6, so they have a bit of momentum), then the Mavs. I wrote about Dirk and the Mavs last week, and I still think that they missed their chance to close this series out. Game 5 was a tough loss, and losing Jason Terry for Game 6 definitely hurt. Nonetheless, now that they have to go on the road for Game 7, I don't think that anything short of a miracle is going to get them through to the Conference Final.
Not to take anything away from the Pistons and the Spurs, but if they advance - and continue on to the finals - I'll stop buying into the hype about the new and improved NBA. It would be like seeing teams like the Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals this year. For all the talk of eliminating clutching and grabbing, and creating a more offensive, exciting game, you end up with the boring, unimaginative clutch and grab teams who represented the worst of the previous era. That's how I feel about the Spurs and Pistons. While they're fundamentally sound, and find ways to win, they don't excite me. For all their technical superiority, I just can't get over the way they emphasize defense and physical play (Detroit) and whine to the refs all game (San Antonio). Seeing the old guard teams advance will ruin a lot of the good will that the first two rounds of the playoffs built up. At least, that's the way I feel. So that's why I really hope the Cavs and Mavs can find ways to advance. And my seat on the Clippers bandwagon is firmly entrenched.
To finish, here are five more reasons why you should root for the underdogs tonight and tomorrow:
The chance for LeBron to keep building on his legend.
The chance for LeBron's neckbeard to grow to Abe Lincoln-like proportions.
You have to feel for the tortured Cleveland fan base.
At least one more round of Mark Cuban.
The prospect of the Clippers knocking off the Spurs or Mavs and playing for the championship. A Clippers' championship to follow up the Red Sox's and White Sox's World Series wins would be the perfect way to cap off a strange 18 months in sports.
So here we are. I predicted that the Spurs and Clippers would win in seven, so I should stick with that. I'd like to believe in LeBron, but I gotta think that PA Announcer John Mason is going to the MVP in this game. How the Pistons ever lose when they have him to fire up the home crowd is beyond me.
Enjoy the games, and root for the Clip!