Riveting Playoffs Aid Notion of Golden Age
BOSTON – We are in the midst of a golden age of the NBA. Talent is everywhere, and anything is possible.
The first round of the playoffs has provided daily proof of those statements. There has never been a more entertaining and competitive first round in the history of the NBA.
The first two weeks of this year’s postseason have been absolutely crazy. No ifs, ands or buts about it. We’ve had upsets. We’ve had buzzer-beaters. We’ve had overtimes (a ridiculous amount of them). And they’re all happening at a record-setting pace.
Let’s start out with those upsets, which any basketball fan surely has a soft spot for.
We’ve already seen the Washington Wizards notch their first playoff series victory since 2005. Fueled by the stellar play of up-and-coming stars John Wall and Bradley Beal, they took down the higher-seeded Bulls, who were believed by many to be this year’s team that no one wanted to see in the playoffs. Yeah. About that.
Chicago’s season came to an abrupt end and the Bulls are unlikely to be the only higher-seeded team to be upset during the first round. Four of the other six active series are also on the verge of ending in upsets, and that doesn’t even include the surprising Raptors having the favored Nets on the brink of elimination.
The eighth-seeded Hawks will have a second opportunity to eliminate the top-seeded Pacers when the teams meet in Game 7 Saturday night. That won’t be the only series under the Saturday night spotlight, either. The Grizzlies will be in a similar situation when they take on the No. 2 seeded Thunder in Oklahoma City, and the Warriors will have an opportunity to oust the No. 3 seeded Clippers in Los Angeles.
If you weren’t keeping track, that’s three Game 7s that are scheduled to be played on the same day. That has never happened in the history of the NBA.
Fortunately for NBA fans, Sunday has a great shot at becoming the second day in NBA history to host three Game 7s. All we need to make that happen are home victories by the scrappy Mavs and favored Nets tonight, as well as a road victory by the favored Rockets.
With all of this parity, we’re bound to have had some great games. Too many to count, actually.
There have already been eight games that have gone to overtime, which is a new record for a single round of the NBA playoffs. The previous high was six. Two series in particular have fueled that record, as they’ve been closer than any series we’ve ever seen.
The Oklahoma City-Memphis series and the Houston-Portland series each went to overtime in three of their first four games. That had never happened in a single playoff series in NBA history prior to this season. It has already happened twice this year in the first round alone. The Thunder-Grizzlies series has also tied an NBA record with four overtime games, and they still have one more game to go.
Even the games that haven’t gone to overtime have been outstanding. We’ve had 28 of the first 42 playoff games enter into clutch time, which is defined by the NBA as games that enter the final five minutes of play with a margin of five points or fewer. That’s 67 percent of the games played thus far, which Tom Haberstroh of ESPN noted Monday ties the highest percentage of such games in the first round since the NBA began tracking clutch time in 1997.
With so many great games, there also came great moments. Vince Carter sent Dallas into hysteria when he hit a miracle 3-pointer at the buzzer of Game 3 to give the Mavs a 2-1 lead over the top-seeded Spurs. Former Celtic Kendrick Perkins also put home a buzzer-beater for Oklahoma City that sent Game 2 to overtime against Memphis. Additionally, two other game-tying or game-winning buckets have been scored in the final four seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime.
There have also been a couple of not-so-buzzer-beaters. Deron Williams threw up a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer of Game 5 against Toronto and it was clearly goaltended by Jonas Valanciunas, but the shot was ruled no good due to a backcourt violation just moments before. Serge Ibaka of Oklahoma City also had his game-winning putback at the end of Game 5’s overtime ruled no good after video review.
All of these thrilling finishes have been exclamation points on a phenomenal first round of playoff action. Fortunately for NBA enthusiasts, Celtics fans included, the excitement is just beginning. We still have three-plus rounds of playoff action to go this year, and after that, we’ll have years to come of great parity and entertaining play.
We’re in the midst of a golden age of the NBA, one where talent is everywhere and anything is possible. As a fan of the game, it doesn’t get much better than this.