What a miserable second round for David Stern and the NBA.
After a fairly competitive Round 1 of the 2010 NBA playoffs, Round 2 has been a bit of a rout.
In the postseason’s inaugural round, five of the eight series went to six games, including Milwaukee-Atlanta, which went to eight. The only games that went five or fewer were Boston-Miami, Cleveland-Chicago, and Orlando-Charlotte (four games), all of which fans and experts expected to be fairly mundane sets.
And there was a lot of excitement, too. The Thunder gave the Lakers a scare, instilling hopes of basketball viewers nationwide that a young, upstart team led by Kevin Durant might be able to knock off the defending champions in the round of 16. Even though Oklahoma City came up short in that regard, everyone sees the Ford Center as the toughest place to play a road game in professional basketball.
There was the thrill of the Bucks’ running the favored Hawks all the way to seven games, even though everyone had written them off in the shadow of Andrew Bogut’s gruesome season-ending arm injury. And the series displayed rookie Brandon Jennings to the world, who didn’t get much consideration for the first-year players’ top award despite being the only serious contender to lead his team to the postseason.
There was San Antonio, which knocked off Dallas in six games to no one’s surprise — in spite of being a No. 7 seed facing a No. 2. It was disappointment again for the Mavericks, who loaded up last offeseason and at the trade deadline to make a push for a title in what many expected would be their last serious shot.
And Phoenix knocked off a banged-up Portland team behind the inspired play of a rejuvenated Steve Nash to square off with their familiar foes in Round 2. Utah stopped Denver from reacquainting itself with last year’s playoff dismisser.
So far in the second round, the play has been entirely lopsided and devoid of drama. Orlando leads Atlanta 3-0, and each of the games has been a laugher. Los Angeles leads Utah 3-0, as the team’s height has intimidatingly towered over Utah’s forwards for a quick lead in the series. And Phoenix has run out to a 3-0 lead, too, and it seems the speed and shooting of this Suns squad will finally get the better of the slow-pace, fundamentally sound Spurs after years and years of postseason abuse in the other direction this decade.
The playoffs are supposed to get more exciting, not more boring, as the rounds progress. So this year, what gives?
It has been a problem of matchups.
The Suns-Spurs series is cursed this year with a staunch difference in the offensive paces of both teams. Phoenix tries to score as soon as possible, jacking up threes indiscriminately and perfecting the pick-and-roll with Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire. San Antonio prefers to lull its opponents into a malaise and then utilize flawless fundamentals to score with relative efficiency. And they play great defense, of course.
In the past, this collision of the unstoppable force and the immovable object has made for great, tense basketball. This year, however, as San Antonio is another year older, the Suns’ pace is finally getting the best of the Old Guard, and they’re running the Spurs out of the building. It also doesn’t hurt that the Suns have shown a completely unexpected commitment to defense this year, as well.
In the case of the Lakers-Jazz, the matchup problem is well-documented. Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap simply cannot contend with the height of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom. I’ve written about this before, so see that post for further details.
Lastly, the Orland0-Atlanta series has amounted to little more than a joke. The Magic’s margins of victory have been astronomically high, and the problem comes with the incompatibility of the offense, which I, too, have mentioned.
Hopefully, after this farce of a round is finished, we’ll see some more interesting play in the conference finals.
For now, though, I have to slog through a few more meaningless, monotone games to tide myself over.