Predicting the unpredictable

We’re deep into the second round of the NBA playoffs now — I remember when we had major discussions at NBA.com on whether it should be the NBA playoffs or the NBA Playoffs — and I have a few points to make:

1.) It’s funny, in a sad, lame, forehead-slapping way, how media folks can manufacture some trumped-up narrative around just about anything. Even when a souped-up story isn’t particularly needed. It’s enough to give the media a bad name.

A couple days ago, the Los Angeles Clippers took a lead in their series against the Houston Rockets, 3 games to 1, after a second straight blowout. At the same time, the Golden State Warriors found themselves down 2 to 1 to the Memphis Grizzlies after two straight losses.

And we get this, from ESPN

They’ve been the worst team. They’ve been a middling team. They’ve been a team on the rise. They’ve been a playoff team. They’ve even been a championship-contending team in recent years. But [the Clippers have] never been the favorites to win it all.

That is, until now.

And this, from Bleacher/Report

Well, whatever their shadowy reasons for sticking with a struggling club over the years, Clippers fans don’t have to fool themselves right now.

Their path to the NBA title is wholly realistic.

And this, from FanSided

Following the team’s commanding 128-95 victory over the Houston Rockets in Game 4 of their series, the Los Angeles Clippers have emerged as the favorites to win the NBA Finals.

All of this was based on three things: The Clippers’ lead over Houston, the Grizzlies’ lead over Golden State and an ESPN creation, the Basketball Power Index, which crunches numbers to come up with the odds of any particular team winning the title at any particular moment.

Right after this, of course, the Warriors got back on track by easily beating the Grizzlies in Memphis, 101-84. And then, last night, the Rockets at least made it respectable in their series by slapping around the Clippers by 21 points.

And I guarantee you — though I haven’t yet seen it — that the Clippers are no longer the favorites to win the NBA title, according to the BPI.

Sigh.

These types of columns (and their cousins, the “prediction” takes) are the lamest of sports columns, a lazy way to try to look smart and plugged in. Basing a story on a statistical model like the BPI, no matter how complex and savvy it might be, is even lamer — because, you know, many of these things (the BPI included) are constantly being updated with new data. Games get played, you know. Things change.

I don’t mean to completely knock guys who do this kind of column writing. I’m sure I’ve done plenty of them myself. But the best of us resist the urge to make something out of nothing, and wait for something tangible. Credible. Meatier.

Just let it play out, fellas. Write what you see, what others can’t. Think about it. And don’t try to predict.

Really. The Clippers the favorites?

2.) Akin to No. 1, a few posts back I wondered about the Clippers’ Austin Rivers and his viability as a good NBA backup. After a 25-point beauty in Game 3 against the Rockets, more than one columnist announced Rivers’ arrival as a bona fide bench stud. He was the missing piece. To, I guess, the Clippers’ title hopes.

And then he scored eight points last night on 3-of-11 shooting in the loss to Houston.

In the opening-round win over the San Antonio Spurs, Rivers shot .286 on 3-pointers in the seven games. And the Clippers still won. In his five games against Houston, he’s up to a very good .478, though he has nine turnovers to go with eight assists. And the Clippers, I’m guessing (but not predicting), will win again.

All of that is to say that I’m still wondering about Doc’s kid. And that’s OK. He’s young. He can go either way.

3.) A lot has been made of all the injuries this postseason, and it is a shame. Mostly because, maybe more than the fact that the outcome of some of these series may well hinge on the injuries, the watchability of the series is suffering.

With a hobbled Kyrie Irving (and Kevin Love out with a bad shoulder), the Cleveland Cavaliers have been, at times, reduced to LeBron James and some screen-setters. Even though LeBron is always fun to watch, seeing a guy dribble the clock down to 10, wait for a pick and then barrel his way to the basket is not great basketball viewing. It’s not the offense, I hope, that David Blatt wanted his team to run.

Likewise, with John Wall out, the Wizards are looking a little scattershot against the Atlanta Hawks. Luckily for Wall’s Washington Wizards, the Hawks are plenty herky-jerky on their own. So that’s been a series even without Wall.  Not a particularly well-played series. But it has been relatively even.

4.) I wouldn’t mind if LeBron and Chicago’s Joakim Noah threw down, just once. Noah doesn’t take any crap, which LeBron has been known to dole out (especially in his younger days). You can almost see Noah physically deflate after LeBron hit the game-winner in Game 4. He hates losing to that guy. Precious.

 

5.) Finally, this: Golden State’s Klay Thompson scored 37 points in a quarter this year. It still blows my mind. If you don’t follow the NBA, you have to admit that’s pretty amazing. If you do, you have to wonder where that sits in the best single-game performances, in any sport, any time.

I’m not sure that rises to the level of a perfect game — that’s a whole game — but this was as perfect as you can get for one quarter. He hit all 13 of his shots and both of his free throws, and made all nine of his 3-pointers. The 37 in a quarter is an NBA record.

It’s a little random — it happened in the third quarter of a game against the Sacramento Kings on Jan. 23. But the Kings do play some defense, and even if they played absolutely none, hitting nine straight threes? And 13 straight shots?

Check out the video below, listen to the Bay Area announcers, hear the crowd in Golden State. They appreciate.

I bring this up now because, yes, I’m still processing it. And because, as I finish this post, Thompson and the Warriors — the most exciting team in the NBA, by a long shot — are up by 17 on the Grizzlies in Game 5 of that series.

So put me down as saying the Warriors are the favorites to win the NBA title. Not that I’m predicting.

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