Finally! After several weeks of playoff series, the finals are set for both the NBA and NHL. It should be to no ones surprise that Golden State and Cleveland will meet for the 3rd straight year for the NBA title. It was inevitable even after last years finals that they would meet for the 3rd straight year. In the NHL playoffs, the upstart Nashville Predators will take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. I highly doubt anyone had the Predators going to the Stanley Cup finals, but it just shows that the NHL can be a highly predictable league which might suit the NBA well some day. Well anyways, as my custom is at this time of the year, I have a few random thoughts on what I saw during the playoffs and a few bold predictions.
1) The worst NBA playoffs ever. As a long time NBA observer, these playoffs have been the worst that I have ever seen in many years. Several blowout games and many series sweeps have made these playoffs totally unforgettable. In fact, the unimaginable has happened at this blogger’s household. The NHL playoffs have gotten a higher priority for viewership than some of those NBA playoff games. The NBA has some parity issues to deal with right now and maybe a great series finals between the Warriors and Cavs will help ease some of the playoff doldrums the league has experienced this year.
2) Extremely nervous executives at NBC. During that classic game 7 double overtime thriller between Ottawa and Pittsburgh, I kept thinking to myself about how the big shot television executives at NBC must be feeling right now. The NHL generally has low ratings as it is and Pittsburgh might arguably be the league’s best television draw. Suppose Pittsburgh does not make it to the finals and we are stuck with a series between Ottawa and Nashville? That would not be the most sexy series of all time to say the least! Fortunately for NBC, the Penguins won and they got their marque team in the finals and much higher ratings to boot.
3) Huge injuries in the NBA playoffs. Suppose Kawhi Leonard had not gone down with an injury in game 1 of the West finals? That was a huge turning point in that series between Golden State and San Antonio. I still think Golden State would have prevailed, but it would have been a very competitive series instead of a 4-0 sweep. And the East finals were affected as well by the injury to Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. Key injuries to key players were definitely huge story lines to this years playoffs.
4) Hooray for Nashville. If my favorite teams are not in the playoff mix, I tend to root for underdog teams. Nashville fits that to a tea. Nobody expected Nashville to make it out of the first round and now they are in the championship series. I definitely have jumped on the Predators bandwagon for these playoffs. In addition, I think the NHL should be thrilled that a non-traditional hockey market is having success. This is a great opportunity for the league to get new fans in the southern market.
5) 7 straight for LeBron. How many professional athletes in the major sports have made it to seven straight championship series? To play such a huge role in leading your team to seven straight NBA finals is a huge achievement. Anyone arguing about LeBron’s place in history has to bring this stat up.
Predictions: Like last year, I see the Golden State, Cleveland series going the full 7 games, but unlike last year, Golden State will win the title with Kevin Durant being the MVP. In the Stanley Cup finals, I sadly have to go with Pittsburgh in 7 games as well. Best of luck to the teams and fans still involved in the playoffs. Both series should be classics.