The 2017 NBA Eastern Conference First Round Retroactive Review: An Exercise in Raw Emotion, Awful Futility, Fraudulent Activity, and Competitive Boredom

Well the 2017 NBA Playoffs ended two weeks ago and, boy howdy, those were the worst playoffs I have ever seen in my life, thanks to courage Kevin Durant showed last offseason.  The 2017  draft was just last night but I’ve never been one to get all worked up about the offseason.  I don’t follow college basketball so the draft doesn’t interest me.  No, rather than talk about the offseason, I’d rather rate how boring each playoff series this year was, starting with the first round in the Eastern Conference.  I then plan on going back in time a few years and doing the same thing until my memory completely fails me.   Yep, this is a very good usage of my time!

My ratings will be based the factors below and are PURELY BASED ON MY ERRATIC EMOTIONS.

Excitement:  Basically, how exciting the individual games felt for me.

Tension:  How tense and back and forth the series as a whole was.

Importance:  How important the result of this series is to the rest of the league.

Intangible Stuff:  Random, inconsistent emotions I have regarding the series. 

 

#1 Boston vs #8 Chicago- Boston wins 4-2

This series basically was defined by the tragedy of what happened to Isaiah Thomas’s sister.  Because of that, there was an aura of raw emotion, especially during Game 1.  Unfortunately, the games themselves were pretty meh.

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls

Summary of this series…the Celtics stumbling about until they manage to solve the Robin Lopez problem

Excitement: 

I expected close, hard-fought games in this series, with the Celtics having a bunch of young players who are tough, gritty and hyper competent and the Bulls having a group of battle tested but disjointed stars.  Instead, we got one game that went sorrrta down to the wire (Celtics made a late push in Game 1 to get close).  The rest of the games were all over early in the 4th quarter, due more to the losing team’s incompetence than anything exciting.    3/10

Tension:  When a #1 seed goes up against a #8 seed, you expect to either see the higher  seed annihilate the other team or a scrappy lower seed playing their plucky hearts out.  Here we had Boston somehow flummoxed by Robin Lopez and playing tight the first two games against a Bulls team that wasn’t actually playing all that scrappy.  It felt like the Bulls had tripped themselves all season long and fallen into their dream scenario.  Then Rondo got injured and the Bulls fell apart.  The Celtics did respond well, both to the terrible Isaiah Thomas situation, and to the whole “we worked all season long to get home-court against the Cavs and somehow we lost both home games to a clearly inferior team” issue.  But despite the back and forth nature, both teams seemed like they just caught breaks; it never felt like a series of epic adjustments.    6/10

Importance:  I (stupidly) thought going into the playoffs that Boston would be able to muck things up and make it tough for Cleveland.   Yeah pretty quickly, I realized this was a pipedream.  Again, IT’s situation was horrible but as soon as I saw how rattled the Celtics got while being battered and bruised by Robin Lopez and the ghost of Rajon Rondos past, this series lost almost all relevance to making the playoffs interesting.  3/10

Intangible Stuff:  Isaiah Thomas’s situation was heartbreaking and very rough to watch and it was great to see him play very well at times despite all the turmoil.  The emotion was compelling, especially early in the series.  However, with respect to the actual basketball, this was pretty low on my threshold.  A near-upset shouldn’t be this uninteresting.  3/10

OVERALL RATING:  15/40

 

#2 Cleveland vs #7 Indiana- Cleveland wins 4-0

A far superior team playing at 1/4 effort versus an awful team who’s star just starts half-assedly criticizing teammates left and right without taking accountability.  Such potential!

https-cdn.nba.netnba-drupal-prod2017-04GettyImages-663885832

One guy gets bashed when he passes to a teammate for a big shot.  The other bashes his teammate when he himself passes to said teammate for a big shot.

Excitement: 

Ok, so Game 1 was actually close and the Pacers almost stole the game until Paul George passed the ball to CJ Miles and promptly blamed CJ Miles for Paul George passing the ball to CJ Miles (Inception?).  Game 2 was one of those fake close games where a crappy team scraps towards the end and makes the score respectable so that the media can pretend that this is actually competitive.  Game 3 was legitimately compelling with the 25 point come back by the Cavs even though the game felt like it was following a script (bad team comes home, takes the big lead, much better team calmly destroys their hopes and dreams).  Game 4 had a close finish but it still never felt like the Cavs were breaking a sweat.  It did have this AMAZING finish from Paul George and J.R. Smith.  7/10

Hilarious ending to Cavs Pacers Game 4

Tension:  I get annoyed when anyone calls Cleveland a Superteam.  Look at the crap teams that they have to go through!  The Cavs were never threatened once and I don’t think they ever shifted out of first gear and yet they keep bringing up Lebron’s record in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  There was not one point in this series where I think Cavs fans were remotely concerned.  No tension whatsoever, despite the close games.  If Cleveland had dropped one, this woulda been much better.  0/10

Importance:  We knew the Cavs were gonna win this series so there was nothing really riding on it here.  However, if they lost, the playoffs would have been somehow even worse.  Points docked for the fact that there were three rounds of Eastern Conference foes first and the utter lack of a challenge in this round.  6/10

Intangible Stuff:  All the aforementioned Paul George stuff did make this an amusing series in retrospect.  However, despite my propensity for writing about things months later, I prefer to enjoy my NBA playoffs in the moment.  2/10

OVERALL RATING:  15/40

 

#3 Toronto vs #6 Milwaukee- Toronto “wins” 4-2

The DeRozan-Lowry Raptors are frauds.  Win 50 plus games, get media imbeciles to praise you and then constantly throw up big leads in the playoffs.  I’ve never seen a team try harder to lose in humiliating fashion than this Raptors team.   Here is another one of those classics.

Indiana Pacers v Toronto Raptors - Game One

“Boy we sure aren’t very good at this whole Playoffs things.”

Excitement: 

A couple of close games in this series but they are all tempered by the conundrum that is the Raptors.   Its like an annual rite of passage for the Raptors:   start wilting in the end of a critical playoff game and still pull off a win despite looking flakier and flakier by the moment.  Game 2, they had under control and almost coughed it up towards the end.  Then we had a couple of solid wins by both teams.  Then, the piece de resistance….Game 6.  I turned on the TV with about 10 minutes left and Toronto leading by 12 in Milwaukee….and the crowd was going bonkers.  I shook my head because I knew this was signs of a typical Toronto collapse.  Then I watched as Milwaukee kept grinding away to take the lead (after being down 25 about 12 minutes ago) while the Raptors looked utterly dead.  I was shocked that Toronto took that punch and managed to actually win that game…but that was not an thrilling, back and forth, ending.  That was one team going all out (the Bucks) and showing heart while the other showed why they can never be trusted.  (Note that I switched to the Spurs Grizzlies game with about 20 seconds left and the Raptors up 8….and they almost blew the game again.) 5/10

Tension:   This series did have some of that good ol fashioned back and forth tension with the teams splitting both sets of home games and setting up the debacle of a finish.  6/10

Importance:  I should note that this is the “Importance” as I felt when it was occurring.  Boy am I embarrassed to say this after the way I tore them apart up above, but at the time, I actually thought Toronto might be able to push the Cavs into an interesting series so I was mildly invested in the outcome here.  I am even more embarrassed that I somehow didn’t recognize the brilliance of the Greek Freak and correctly assess that the Bucks would have been much tougher on the Cavs.  My reasoning was purely based on the Raptors experience compared to the Bucks (granted that experience is riddled with failure).  I surprise myself with my idiocy sometimes.  4/10

Intangible Stuff:  Basically, all Giannis related.  The guy is a monster and was far and away the best player in this series (not saying much).  Granted his opponents were Kyle Lowry who somehow is amongst the worst shooters in NBA playoffs history and DeMar Derozan who is a fringe all-star somehow masquerading as a high-usage go-to guy on a team that is supposedly a contender.  This was my first time really watching Giannis and if Jason Kidd has just sat him for a minute or 2 once Game 6 was within reach rather than apparently telling him that “if you don’t literally die on this floor, we can’t win this game”, they probably would have won Game 6.   I can’t wait to watch him more.  4/10

OVERALL RATING:  19/40

 

#4 Washington vs #5 Atlanta- Washington wins 4-2

Man, this was such a middling competitive series.  Things were back and forth and I like Washington but I’ve lost my faith in Atlanta being anything more than mediocre.  They make it hard for me to watch their games.

9654094-nba-atlanta-hawks-at-washington-wizards-1-850x560

“Can someone please watch us? It’s not our fault that we have to play the Hawks.”

Excitement: 

The games themselves in this series were pretty solid.  All of the games other than Game 3 were relatively tight going down the stretch.  Washington pulled a Toronto in Game 6 and let the Hawks storm back and almost take the lead…but unlike the petrified Raptors, the Wizards have John Wall.  All in all, the games were genuinely good down the stretch (I just didn’t care).  7/10

Tension:   Both teams basically did what teams in a middling series do…they win their home games until the closeout game.  No major swings in momentum in this series, it all felt pretty by the book and Washington didn’t show enough to make Atlanta’s victories in Games 3 and 4 anything of note.  Washington never really seemed threatened other than in Game 2.  5/10

Importance:  Once Boston started struggling, I realized that maybe the Wizards were the better match for the Cavs in the Conference Finals.  John Wall is beastly enough that he may be able to steal a game on his own.  So I was mildly invested in Washington winning this series. 4/10

(Wow, I wish I had written this during the Bucks-Raptors series, and replaced the words “Boston”, “Wizards”, “Finals”, and “John Wall” with “Toronto”, “Bucks”, “Semi-Finals”, and “Giannis However-You-Spell-His-Last-Name” and I think I would have had an epiphany about the Raptors capabilities.)

Intangible Stuff:  Much like Giannis, I thought John Wall really emerged in this series as a dominant force.  And as much as I am bored by the Hawks, its always fun to watch Paul Milsap scrapping for everything and watching Dwight Howard be played off the court. 3/10

OVERALL RATING:  19/40

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE FIRST ROUND OVERALL RATING:  69/160 (42.5%)

 

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