Games during the regular season are basically one-night stands. Sure: teams might plan for them a bit better than your average dude looking to hook up on a Friday night, but usually, by the time anyone figures out what’s going on, one of the participants already has a foot out the door. A blowout either way becomes a chance for the bench to get some run, for the starters to get some rest. A tight game can be thrilling, but it quickly evaporates as everyone involved rushes off to the next conquest. Teams in the same division only see each other four times over the course of a five-month-plus season. That’s not the way to build meaningful relationships.
But in the playoffs, your next opponent is the team that’s blowing you out RIGHT NOW. The guy who keeps elbowing you in the paint is the same guy who’s going to be guarding you the day after tomorrow. As appealing as the NCAA’s single-elimination tournament is from an entertainment perspective, it’s also a testament to how one game can go any which way, to how limited in-game adjustments can be. But game to game? A playoff series is a grind, a slog, a commitment. It’s taking a beautiful, mercurial thing and squeezing every last drop of blood from it. And I can’t wait.