The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers shared a combined 19-0 playoff record entering Friday evening, as the two back-to-back Conference champions have yet to lose despite what seemed like sturdy enough competition.
The duo appeared spiraling toward a third-consecutive Finals matchup with each other last summer, and the excesses of the 82-game regular season and first month of playoff basketball have done little to dissolve that expectation’s potency. Cleveland plays in Boston on Friday night, in Game 2 of the Eastern finals, and even away from Ohio it should be favored.
Mindful of this, NBA commissioner Adam Silver had the right answer when asked by ESPN’s Hannah Storm on Friday “if the dominance of the Warriors and Cavaliers is a matter of concern, in terms of competitive balance.”
“It’s not a concern,” Silver concluded. “I think that we should be celebrating excellence.”
Translation: A decade ago, Eric Snow started in the Finals. Enjoy this.
Silver went on to note that a combined 86 years’ worth of championship droughts preceded the Warriors 2015 title, and the Cavaliers first NBA championship in 2016 before concluding that the entire affair was “fantastic to watch.”
It is, for a quarter or two. In Golden State and Cleveland’s case, for no longer than four games per series.
Some 6.4 million viewers gave the underdog Boston Celtics a chance on Wednesday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, clicking the ratings up 19 percent in comparison to 2016’s pairing against the Toronto Raptors. The contest was still down, in LeBron James terms, from the 11.1 million that tuned in to see the then-favorited Chicago Bulls take on James’ Heat in 2011, before LeBron had figured it all out, though the Game 1 ratings were about even with the top-ranked Atlanta Hawks’ Game 1 against James’ still-evolving Cavaliers in 2015.
The overall ratings will be in place, though, and while Adam Silver and company would prefer a few classic Game 7s to gift his billion buck business partners at the networks with, the checks are already cashed. The month-plus lull in competitive playoff play won’t mean a lick in the face of what could be boffo ratings for LeBron vs. GSW III, all it does is make for some angsty time for the press that covers the league, and some dull air for the valued viewer.
The lull’s impact on any future television contracts is best left discussed for another time, but it is worth reminding ourselves that the league’s massive 2015 television deal came with about half of his post-Michael Jordan seasons prior to that agreement ranking as absolute snoozers. The deal ends in 2025, quite a bit can happen between now and then. Quite a bit can emerge.
The same chatter was around two decades ago when Michael Jordan seemed to spin championships until quittin’ time, and when the Los Angeles Lakers bullied their way through the 2001 Western playoffs – necessitating the sort of rule changes that led to the freer, aesthetically pleasing game we see today.
Until it’s 45-27, with 7:12 to go in the second quarter.
This has not been a classic postseason, but it hasn’t been an especially unhappy one either. The NBA has strong hopes that a Finals for the ages might put a bow on what could become (for future reasons both good and ill) one of the league’s showcase years, and it’s not an outsized expectation.
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