Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Tale of Two Conference Finals

It's the cliche of cliches to say we live in a world where everything gets dissected and we try to create meaning in everything, but it's definitely true. I say this knowing that I now also turn to Twitter and Facebook during sporting events because that's how I feel connected to the event, and I don't even tweet. I just like to see other people's reactions even if they're by nature knee-jerk. I do this with TV shows, too, reading reviews of each episode after I watch them. These reviews, like in the moment sports tweets, functionally cannot take the long view because we don't know what's next. It's definitely a way to feel connected and to take in more information and to read some great jokes, but it leaves no time for real reflection.

My personal favorite sports tweet is when people talk about the narrative of a series because their talking about the narrative is defining the narrative of the series, since tweeting is such a transitory and time-sensitive activity. There's no narrative independent of all the prognosticators talking about narrative. The other problem, as you'll see below, is that the narrative can change in an instant because things change. It might seem obvious, but people miss it a lot.

These whole playoffs we've been discussing whether or not LeBron James is clutch. I think he is, a few indefensible mail-ins aside (and we can't just dismiss them, I know), but then I don't really know what clutch is. I think his performance in every game of these Conference Finals was clutch, but people may disagree. Others will say if he fails to deliver a championship (or just play great) in the Finals he'll further cement his reputation as unclutch. Everyone has an opinion and they can all be right and they can all be wrong.

I don't know whether I like or dislike any of this.

Anyway, judging from the articles I've been reading and people's reactions on Twitter, here are the perceptions of each series as they were going on.

Before the series:

Miami will roll the Celtics, Bosh or no Bosh. Celtics are too banged up to keep up.

OKC is great but they're still a year away and they need to learn how to win. San Antonio, a team that plays basketball how it should be played, can school them.

After Game 2:

Spurs, winners of 20 straight and 30 of 32, have already punched their tickets to the Finals. They might be an all-time great team. Just watch how they make the extra pass. It's a thing of beauty.

Miami, aided by  the refs*, looks unbeatable. Rondo's keeping it close but he won't be able to keep the Celtics in this by himself.

* I find it odd that fans would jump so hard on the ref conspiracy bandwagon with the Heat when the equally young, talented and marketable Thunder were not getting the similar benefit of the calls. I think it's more likely the refs just suck. In fact, I know they suck.

After Game 4:

That the series are tied is meaningless - both teams hold serve on their home courts, nothing more. Neither the Heat or Spurs can possibly lose 3 in a row, though, especially not with a home game coming up.

After Game 5:

The Heat (and especially LeBron James) are choke artists for losing a closely contested game at home. The Spurs look old and Kevin Durant looks unstoppable.

If I had to bet on one team coming back it would definitely be the Spurs, though. They know what it takes to win.

After Game 6:

Guess the Thunder figured it out after all, and the Spurs are no longer the veteran Spurs but the old Spurs.

LEBRON. LeBron was awesome, but if game 7's close the Heat will get tight, and Boston could pull off the upset. Is LeBron clutch? What is clutch? (Confidential to Skip Bayless: shut the fuck up.)

After Game 7:

Close game. Huge plays by the new Big 3. Heat-Thunder finals.

My take:


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