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      Welcome to the NBA Playoffs

      June 1, 2012
      From the column 'The Mercy Rule'

      The NBA, like most entities involving television and foreigners/minorities, is the sort of thing about which white people tend to have lots of opinions. This is weird, all these subspecies of sports-radio yutz and Coors Banquet Beer-scented uncles and NBA hipsters and Junior Sports Guys getting their TED Talk on in search of ways to fix a league currently stacking one year of record revenues atop the next. But for all the corniness that results from these dunderheaded exercises in Barcalounger-bound social engineering—"corny" is a nice way, I figure, to categorize the actual adults I have indeed heard expressing their barely coded concern about the number of tattoos in a league full of grown men—there is one thing that most everyone agrees upon when it comes to the NBA. The refereeing is indeed even more terrible than in previous years; yes, the entire Eastern Conference is an aesthetic bummer of Joel Schumacherian proportions; certainly, you should write a letter to your congressperson encouraging him or her to take action on the national syntax and diction crisis presented by Shaquille O'Neal's presence on TNT's "Inside the NBA." But for pretty much everyone who claims fan status, the NBA Playoffs are unassailably great.

      If you are just now joining the NBA Playoffs, you may be frustrated to learn that they're nearly over—we're almost to the NBA Finals, as the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat both have leads over inferior teams in their respective conference finals. You shouldn't worry about this: the playoffs will only get better from here, and whether you meant to do it or not, you were very wise to skip the part of the postseason that involved the Atlanta Hawks, because yeesh. Anyway, let's get you up to speed.

      How's Kobe Bryant doing? He's a basketball guy, right?
      Obviously you have followed basketball in the past. This is a reasonable question, but Bryant and the rest of the Lakers are at home—they were handled pretty roughly by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals. Kobe, for his part, is padding around his sprawling, overly air-conditioned home in sunglasses; giving pissed-off and undermine-y postgame "press conferences" to an audience of stuffed animals in his manse's "media room"; and calling Pau Gasol on the phone, waiting until Gasol picks up, sighing discontentedly, and then hanging up.

      The Miami Heat. Two things on this: 1) More like the Miami Super-Wealthy Russian Oligarch Jerks on Coke Making a Scene in a Restaurant, am I right? And 2) this team is really good, aren't they?
      Yes, it is definitely more like 1), or at least more like Grotesque White Club Promoter Guys Who Dress Like Rick Ross or Grown-Ass Men Dressed Like Either DJ Khaled or a 10-Year-Old Boy, if There's Even a Difference.

      But that's Miami in general, honestly, and the Heat is actually good, although it's only good in the same proportion and way that Watch The Throne was good. Which is to say that they're both an infuriating waste of talent for the most part, or at least a squandering of talent on chuckleheaded materialism and grandiosely butthurt rich-guy pettiness, but also intermittently pretty amazing given the talent of the people involved and the general state of play among the competition. The Heat are probably the villains of the playoffs at this point, but it shouldn't be this way—they're a bummer that doesn't have to be a bummer, and thanks to peevily hedge fund-ian co-stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, are somehow huffy and anxious and overwrought where they should be volcanically, unprecedentedly awesome. Someday, we should all hope, they will figure out how to play together and show us something we've never seen before. Until then, they're the callous preppy jerk-villains in a John Hughes movie under the illusion that they're a Don Corleone/Gordon Gekko Master Blaster tandem. So, really, more bleakly funny than anything else.

      But what about the Celtics?
      Rajon Rondo, their point guard, looks like a handsome alien and is playing absolutely, brilliantly out of his mind. You should watch a game to see him play, if that sounds like something you'd like to see. Paul Pierce is the world's greatest and most gifted grouchy uncle and Kevin Garnett is like if the alien from Alien developed a mid-range game and a mean, taunting sense of humor. They should be likable, but they're mostly not.

      So the Western Conference is more or less where it's at?
      Yes.

      That's it? This format doesn't work unless you make it work, man.
      No, I… I know, and I'm sorry I was terse. It was for effect—the Western Conference, and the interplay between the amazingly precision-calibrated and bafflingly great Spurs and the mercurial but totally giddy, lovable and great Thunder—is definitively where it's at. But yes, these are the games to watch, especially after the Thunder snapped the Spurs' 20-game winning streak—which included sweeps in the first two rounds of the playoffs—on Thursday and made it look, tentatively, as if this might be a series.

      It probably won't be, because the Thunder can't quite play boring-ish team basketball as well as they should or eventually probably will, but mostly because the Spurs unexpectedly but inarguably look better on offense than any NBA team in recent memory. It seems, at times, as if they have seven guys running around out there. This is all the more impressive because they won a bunch of titles playing as the basketball equivalent of an unshakeable sinus headache, and because many of the players they have out there are random-name-generator goofuses who have been cut by other teams. But they're amazing. You don't have to hate them because they were boring when George W. Bush was president. Enjoy this, it doesn't happen much.

      Non-basketball, but briefly: does TNT have some sort of secret market research indicating that NBA fans love Breckin "Elf Bro" Meyer? He's everywhere, during every broadcast. Acting in Franklin and Bash, aka Doucheman, Fratster and Choad, Attorneys At Law No Homo, but also producing that sitcom with the autistic-seeming guy from That '70s Show where male friends treat each other like garbage and bro down about titties. I thought they were letting him coach the Thunder, but that was actually Scott Brooks, who looks like Breckin Meyer's dad. But this is weird. Is there a reason for this?
      No, TNT just thinks you're sort of a simpleton because you watch basketball.

      Ah. That does explain it.

      @david_j_roth

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      Topics: david roth, The Mercy Rule, NBA, playoffs, the heat, Celtics, Spurs

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