In theory, the NBA’s own version of the Final Four should produce some of the best competitive basketball of the year.
In practice, the four finalists competing in the NBA’s Western and Eastern Conference Finals have delivered a handful of duds for the viewing public. And fans are not too thrilled about it.
The Golden State Warriors are up 2-1 in their series against the Houston Rockets. The Boston Celtics are enjoying the same series lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
From the outside, that doesn’t seem too bad, with no team holding the dreaded 3-0 series lead. But any fan who’s watched the games can tell you that they’ve been the worst possible thing any sporting even can be — boring.
Conference Finals Margin of Victory
Cavs vs. Celtics
Game 1: Boston wins by 25
Game 2: Boston wins by 13
Game 3: Cleveland wins by 30
Warriors vs. Rockets
Game 1: Golden State wins by 13
Game 2: Houston wins by 22
Game 3: Golden State wins by 41
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) May 21, 2018
The closest margin of victory through six total games played has been 13 points. That’d be considered the lower end of a blowout.
The other four games averaged a margin of victory of 29.5 points per game. Those are the kinds of games that are over in the third quarter, and hardly worth watching unless you’re a fan of a specific team.
It’s an interesting dilemma for the NBA.
On the one hand, a “superteam” like the Warriors can be a marketing juggernaut. Players like Steph Curry and Kevin Durant are instantly recognizable. Star players move merchandise and jerseys. Star teams do so on an even higher level.
And the Warriors also provide the NBA with a compelling villain. Sports are always better with villains you want to see knocked off their perch. Just look at the polarizing nature of the New England Patriots in the NFL.
But unfortunately for the NBA, this isn’t “Star Wars.” The evil galactic empire doesn’t get its comeuppance. The bad guys are winning, and winning big.
From a purely analytical standpoint, the NBA might not be able to do much about big blowouts in crucial postseason games.
As the league moves toward more and more 3-pointers being attempted, that lends itself to a far greater variance in final scores. More 3-pointers means more chances for a team to score a ton of points, but it also means more chances for a team to miss a bunch. If there’s one downside to the NBA’s modern scoring surge, it’s the variability.
That being said, it seems like NBA fans are getting sick of the lopsided results.
Not sure what's worse: The wait between these conference finals games. Or the games themselves, from a competitive/outcome standpoint.
— Michael Wallace (@MyMikeCheck) May 21, 2018
The series are both compelling – the games are not. Brutal.
— Christian webb (@ChristianWebbKC) May 21, 2018
Enjoy seeing great players and teams, but looking forward to actually needing to watch a fourth quarter again someday.
— Brian Mahoney (@briancmahoney) May 21, 2018
Interestingly, the one-sided games haven’t been particularly damaging to NBA ratings.
Game 3 of Cavs-Celtics, which was a 30-point romp of a win by LeBron James and crew, was the second-highest-rated Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals ever, according to Deadline. Game 3 of Warriors-Rockets was a 41-point blowout, and the ratings were up 26 percent compared with the comparable 2017 Western Conference Finals game.
So fans are clearly mad at the product. But perhaps like a car wreck on the freeway, they can’t stop watching.
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