Embracing the Ugliness of the NBA Playoffs

The NBA Playoffs have been awful this year. There have already been four sweeps, with two more almost assuredly on the way. Only two series have gone to a Game 7 and just one of those – Wizards at Celtics – was even mildly interesting. Even though that game was on Monday, it feels like there hasn’t been a meaningful game in weeks. But here’s the deal: I love it.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before” is often used in sports. Generally, it’s for good or impressive things, like Russell Westbrook averaging a triple double or LeBron doing however you want to describe what it is he’s doing right now. Here, however, is a rare occurrence where we can use it in regards to futility. With complete and utter failure. That’s been the main theme of this postseason. We’ve never seen NBA teams get physically and metaphorically dunked on in the playoffs like this before. And a person like me can’t get enough.

Westbrook careening off a cliff at full speed. James Harden serving straight into a ditch for no reason. Toronto being classic Toronto. Blake Griffin going down and the Clippers no-showing without him. The Spurs and Celtics working hard and doing all the right things only to end up as zooplankton for the blue whales that are the Warriors and Cavaliers. The amount of disrespect they’re receiving and the insignificance they’re experiencing is staggering.

That’s what I’ll remember most about these playoffs. Yes, LeBron is incredible and the Warriors are pretty close to peak Warrior, but I don’t think about the superior team in blowouts. I think about the team that took the beating. Maybe that says something about me, but I can’t help it. Watching a supposedly elite team getting disposed of is hilarity at its finest. It shouldn’t be happening, so we have to savor the fact that it is, and that we get to watch it in real time.

These games have been so weird, I have come up with almost nothing to write about for more than a month. Sadly, I can’t just write “well, that was something” and post it to the site. That’s been my main takeaway from almost every game. I like to think I have a decent basketball mind, but these playoffs have dumbed me down. It’s just silly. And now I’m writing this before the conference finals are even over because…

We knew this was all going to happen anyway. Maybe not to these extremes (both teams will probably get to the Finals without losing a single playoff game, for goodness sake), but the Warriors and Cavaliers coasting to the Finals to meet for a third straight time was inevitable. Both before the season and before the playoffs. To many, that made everything less interesting. Luckily we had people like Westbrook, Harden, Kawhi, Giannis, and others to keep us occupied in the regular season. In the playoffs, sure the stakes are always high, but none of the series leading up to the finals really mattered, right?

Sure, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be fun. Follow the nihilist’s code:

Yeah, these games don’t matter at all in the grand scheme of things. So we oughta have fun with it! 40 point blowouts? Don’t see those very often! Meltdowns by star players? Hey, they’re human just like me! The sheer pointlessness of a 4 and 5 seed Game 3 in April? The search to find meaning in our existence is what keeps the human race from tearing itself apart! We’re all in this together, guys. So let’s enjoy it while we can!

NBA Playoff games are a finite resource. Feelings of joy, however, are infinite. Just because the basketball is ugly and the games aren’t close and you keep checking your watch to see if it’s June yet because that’s when the Finals start and you don’t even realize that your watch doesn’t tell you days and months because your brain might be broken from watching too much bizarro basketball doesn’t mean you can’t draw from that bottomless well of joy you have and apply it to these games.

There’s too much negativity and real horror in the outside world to let that stuff seep into your basketball experience. Sure, the games aren’t very good. But turning disappointments like these into positive experiences shows the true power of the human spirit. Appreciate it and embrace it.

Happy basketballing, everyone.

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