There May Be No Saving The 2017 NBA Playoffs
OAKLAND — Over two merciless months, the wandering eyes of the NBA drifted to the first night in June, salvation for an empty spring. The stench of a putrid postseason, marked by inevitable outcomes and AAU-caliber competition, would lift over Oracle Arena. The casual fan, watching from Boise or Beijing, would not remember second-round box scores. They’d be treated to Warriors-Cavaliers, this generation’s Lakers-Celtics, and all the wreckage would be worthwhile.
That was the hope of league officials, and perhaps, the fantasy. Warriors-Cavaliers, as constituted a year ago, may indeed have been Lakers-Celtics. But with Kevin Durant on one side of the ledger, it becomes something else entirely. The Cavs, who added Kyle Korver, are better. The Dubs, who added Durant, are a monolith on a level the modern era has never seen. For one night, June looked no different than April or May, a new foil succumbing to the same ruthless result. Durant’s presence, the Cavaliers discovered, does not simply tilt the balance of this rivalry. It threatens to crash the scale.
Last season, Cleveland dropped the first two Finals games at Oracle by a combined 48 points, a figure that should provide solace for the Cavaliers as they withstand the latest wave of overreaction. The Cavs can handle deficits. Whether they can handle Durant, in addition to his three starry wingmen, is a separate matter. After another Game 1 landslide, James was asked to pinpoint a difference between the Cavs and Warriors. He could have cited transition defense, rim protection and ball security, all technical difficulties for Cleveland and not Golden State. But those issues seemed insignificant against the backdrop of the bigger picture.
“K.D.,” James replied flatly. “I mean, you take one of the best teams that we had ever assembled last year, that we saw in the regular season and in the postseason, and then in the off-season you add a high-powered offensive talent like that and a great basketball IQ like that. It is what it is.” Durant and Curry form a pairing so potent that Klay Thompson and Draymond Green can chuck 28 bricks in a game, the Warriors can blow 15 layups in a half, and still break out their bludgeons before the midpoint of the third quarter. That was the formula…