The Cavs don’t have to win Game 6… or do they?

The Cavs of Cleveland do not have to win in Toronto on Friday night in Game 6 — not in a narrow, immediate, technical sense. The Cavs could lose. Heck, they could even get drubbed by the Raptors. It wouldn’t matter in the Eastern Conference Finals — not in all likelihood. LeBron James and head […]

Raptors-Cavs is the 5-minute series which asks us many questions

The Eastern Conference Finals between the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers is the five-minute series. No, this isn’t a reference to the length of time in which these games cease to be competitive; it’s a reference to an old saying about climate change (in the older and less political sense of the term): Don’t […]

Basketball opinions exist on a foundation of quicksand

Professional basketball possesses the most intense spotlight in North American team sports — perhaps not in terms of the amount of media coverage devoted to the endeavor (the NFL wins that distinction), but in terms of the extent to which one or two players get a disproportionate share of credit or blame for their team’s […]

The NBA playoffs have uprooted what we thought we knew

It’s not an original observation, but it’s the main observation which should be advanced at this point in the NBA playoffs: The 2016 postseason is shattering our perceptions of the league and its balance of power. The power of the statement lies not in any relevatory quality — the revelations taking place on the court […]

Solving the mystery of the rolling Thunder

How great Thou art — no, the “Thou” is not a deity, if you believe in one, but the Oklahoma City Thunder. The beloved old-time hymn, as many of you will recall, includes these lyrics: I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed. Oklahoma City is the home […]

Golden State trails 2-1: What’s new and what’s not?

The Golden State Warriors have been here before. Last year, the Memphis Grizzlies took a 2-1 lead into Game 4 of a Western Conference playoff series on their home floor. The Warriors defeated them to turn around a series they eventually won in six games. Last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers took a 2-1 lead into […]

The Thunder, so close to escaping the darkness, try to handle prosperity

Shake down the Thunder? That’s what Oklahoma City did to the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. This surge might mean that the Thunder — viewed with legitimate skepticism entering these playoffs, especially the West semifinal series against the San Antonio Spurs — are about to cast away the dark […]

The 2016 West playoffs, and the reality of rhythm-free results

What’s true in the larger global theater of sports is true in the NBA’s Wild, Wild West. It is a first-world problem, but a problem nonetheless, for many professional athletes: How do you perform well over a broader expanse of time when so many games lack rhythm? How does a tennis player sharpen her groundstrokes […]

The Raptors exhibited meaningful desperation in Game 3

Whenever a best-of-seven NBA series begins with two wins by the home team, Game 3 invariably becomes a do-or-die occasion for the trailing team, even though it’s not technically an elimination contest. Students of sports history are well aware that no NBA team has successfully overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven battle. Three teams […]

GSW-OKC Game 3: Golden State tries to slay a particular demon

The Golden State Warriors are playing more than one opponent in the Western Conference Finals. The Oklahoma City Thunder represent the official foe for the NBA champions, but Steve Kerr and his roster know that an opponent as formidable as OKC can be found within the Warriors’ own bones and marrow. Golden State is its […]

The Strain: Why Game 3 looms large for the Thunder

The Strain is not just the FX thriller about a destructive and virulent microorganism. It’s the toll a long season takes on a team whose record is 82-12 entering Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. My colleague at Crossover Chronicles, podcaster and columnist John Cannon, has taken care to note how constantly the Golden […]

Cleveland’s compound advantage: not just rest, but rolling rest

The Cleveland Cavaliers gained a lot of rest before the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavs are rolling past the Toronto Raptors. The rested team is rolling. Why is it rolling? Because of rolling rest. * What’s rolling rest, you ask, and why the seemingly cute introduction to this story? Very simply, this is not a […]

A familiar debate is revived by the Eastern Conference playoffs

The NBA’s Eastern Conference playoffs have provided a number of timely reminders to sports fans. One reminder is that the playoffs need to be desegregated in terms of conferences, and ideally turned into a conference-free bracket. The NBA’s need for conferences no longer exists. The concept has outlived its usefulness. Another reminder is more specific […]

The 5 worst conference finals since the start of the Magic-Bird era

The Eastern Conference Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the injured yet still scuffling Toronto Raptors are drawing very little reaction from #BasketballTwitter… and really, who can blame folks for not having much to say about this series? Say this much for Cavs-Raptors, though: At least one team’s playing well. Sometimes, neither team does. You […]