Sunday, May 6, 2012

An Utterly Random NBA Playoffs Top 10 List

I don't know about you, but I feel like the 2012 NBA Playoffs are lacking more than a little elan.  At first I thought I was just acting spoiled, a petulance stemming from the embarrassment of riches lavished upon us by last year's heady Round 1.  Nope.  On reflection it turns out that, Grizzlies/Clippers aside, this year's opening series have been woefully devoid of intrigue or fun or even any particularly good basketball.  The overall malaise that has accompanied this past week has put me in mind of nothing quite so much as physics.

This is not to address the parabolic trajectory described by Ray Allen's jumper or to mean that the playoffs feel cold, clinical, and scientific this year.  (Though both could be discussed, I suppose.)  What I'm talking about is the thing every kid learns in middle school science class, usually illustrated by holding a tennis ball on top of a desk and then dropping it: the difference between potential and kinetic energy.

On a macro level, it's the perfect descriptor of every series besides the aforementioned Clips/Griz matchup.  All that beautiful potential that, for various and sundry reasons, has failed to be converted into anything compelling and dynamic.  The tennis ball is stuck, frustratingly, maddeningly stuck, on top of the desk.

On a micro level, the potential/kinetic energy difference applies to any number of critical story arcs and players.  To belabor the analogy for just a bit longer, take Derrick Rose.  Eight days ago, he was NBA's foremost personification of kinetic energy.  Now, one detonated ACL later, he's unable to harness any of that energy.  He's neutralized, stranded in a potential state.  Now apply that to the litany of other injuries we've seen so far.  You see where I'm going with this, right?  I don't want to have to exhume the dead horse to beat it again.  Point is: The playoffs have mostly been godawful dull so far, so I've taken solace by immersing myself in the little things that make basketball fun to watch even when the games are terribly inconsequential or just plain terrible.  Here, to help me (and you) with the Bland Playoff Blues is a no-particular-order-and-definitely-extemporaneous Top 10 list of brightly flashing instants, minor personages, and other arcana that have made round one marginally more bearable.

1. Jrue Holiday's smile.   I don't know if you've noticed, but whenever anything good happens for Philly or he does something cool, Jrue's grill goes incandescent.  At 21, he's an NBA young'un anyway, but when he lights up with that huge, gleeful grin, he looks about twelve.  Or like a twelve-year-old looks when he gets a new bike for Christmas or possibly a pony, anyway.  When he drained his second trey in a minute during the 4th quarter today, he turned an unleashed that Cheshire-Cat goodness on Elton Brand, and it was the most sincerely happy thing I've maybe ever seen.  Jrue Holiday is awesome.

2. J.R. Smith's "this is how you punk your opponent's entire front line with a monster jam" clinic.  All due respect to Blake Griffin, but this was the dunk of the year.  Posterizing dudes is cool an whatnot, but when there's no one there to actually posterize because you just blew by two defenders and faked a third out of his kicks with the most insane double-clutch ever, that is artistry, my friends.

3. Paul Pierce's insane night/Tebowing at midcourt.  He did this to my beloved Hawks, which sucked, but I can't even be all that mad at The Truth.  This was one of those games where the phrase "you can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him" doesn't even apply because ... well, because the Hawks hadn't a prayer of containing Pierce.  He was categorically uncontainable, which is probably why he felt saucy enough to emphasize that point with a good, old-fashioned Tebowing.  Annoying, sure, but when you toss up a 36-14-4 on a night your team absolutely needs you to bring that kind of production in order to win, you may invoke, utilize, and/or revive any dopey meme you wish.  Well played, Paul Pierce.  Well played.

4. The genius on the Indiana Pacers' training staff who decided to affix a "please do not hit" warning label to the fire extinguisher in the hallway leading to their locker room.  That was some absolutely inspired comedy, right there.  What did you learn, Amar'e

5. I've been watching Knicks/Heat as I'm typing this.  'Melo just dropped 41 points, 6 boards, 4 dimes, and a steal on Miami to force a game five.  It was magnificent.

6.  Zach Harper.  You're scratching your head right now trying to figure out if he's some obscure Nugget's bench player or Jazz assistant coach, aren't you?  Well: Zach is a tremendous basketball blogger and, more importantly for the purposes of this entry, he also runs the Daily Dime Live chats for ESPN.   DDL is, for lack of a better word, a sort of extended family.  For those of us with a marrow-deep affinity for NBA basketball, it's a virtually-based communion.  It's hoops nerds generally having a wonderful time watching games, cracking jokes, and sharing the sort of memes that only come to exist when a bunch of enthusiastic loonies get together in the name of fun and snark.  Zach is the grand poobah, moderator, setter of humorous emotional tenor, gently scolding parent, and general facilitator of this awesomeness.  Holla at me DDL, I'll be there later.  Doing laps, of course.  KLOE!!!

7.  Ivan Johnson.  I don't think I should have to explain that.

8.  Clippers/Grizzlies: Game One.  The most overtly ridiculous rally in playoff history involved Reggie Evans briefly morphing into Scottie Pippen, Nick Young plumbing the utmost depths of his Swaggy P-ness, and Chris Paul being the most perfectly amplified version of himself.  That fourth quarter was twelve minutes of undiluted, unrelenting glory (unless you're a Griz fan).  Just a gem of a game.  Thanks for that one, playoffs.

9.  JaVale McGee!!!  Sure, he spent a hefty portion of the season as the NBA's unofficial poster boy for ineptitude, but he's playing remarkably effective and coherent basketball in Denver.  Love it when the endearingly vexing quirky kids make good.

10.  I saw someone wearing one of these the other day.  However you feel about the Thunder, (and I love watching them play hoops.  Fear the beard!) you have to admit this thing is awesome.  I want one.

Happy playoffs.  Here's to a better Round 2.

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