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The NBA Playoffs and Bad Decisions

Picking the right NBA playoff game to watch can be a challenge.

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I made a very bad decision Friday morning. Before leaving for work, I had to decide which of the Friday night’s games I would watch. I needed to record a game because 1. I live in LA with that pesky Pacific Daylight Time, and 2. we were watching the Picard finale before I could watch basketball. (I highly recommended the series if you are a Star Trek fan.)

I had three games to choose from: Boston at Atlanta, Denver at Minnesota, or Cleveland at New York. I figured that Boston would crush Atlanta again, so that was out. I didn’t expect the Timberwolves to put up a fight against the Nuggets, so that was also out. The third game seemed like the obvious choice.

The Knicks and Cavs were tied at one game each, the game would mark the return of playoff basketball to Madison Square Garden and its hysterical Knicks fans, and both teams were top ten in points scored per 100 possessions over the regular season.

As the Crusader said to Sean Connery in the third Indiana Jones movie, “He chose poorly,” with “he” being me, in this case. While the Knicks returned playoff basketball to MSG, no one told the teams that this was not basketball from 1990. This screen shot from very late in the second quarter tells a lot of the story.

The Cavs had a total of 32 points with 10 seconds left in the first half. Spoiler alert: they still had 32 points 10 seconds later when the buzzer went off. Even after exploding for 47 points in the second half, the Cavs’ 79 points for the game was the lowest number of points scored by any team in bazillion games played this season.

You know I like my statistics. How about this: the Cavs scored only 17 points in the first quarter but were still tied for the lead because the Knicks also scored 17. (The Celtics scored 37 in their first quarter, three more than both of the teams playing in the Garden combined.) The Cavs then got worse, and scored fewer baskets in the second quarter (2) than the immortal R.J. Barrett (3). The teams combined to shoot 6 for 38 from three in the first half —16% if you do the math (or even if you don’t). Cleveland’s excellent guard Darius Garland, who had scored 32 points in Game 2 with a plus minus of +29 (!), shot 4 for 21 and wound up with a plus minus of -21. Yes, that is a 50-point swing. Yikes.

Either of the games I shunned to watch the Travesty in the Garden would have been much more entertaining, thought that is a low bar. The Hawks upset the Celtics behind great games from ex-Spur Dejounte Murray and Trae Young. (Trae had been quite bad in the first two games.) The other ex-Spur in the game, Derrick White, had a quiet game, with 11 points, 2 boards and 4 assists.

In the Nuggets game, Nikola Jokic had yet another triple-double, and the Wolves put up a good fight, ultimately losing 120-111 to go down 3-0 in the series. But the real story came afterwards. Nuggets coach Mike Malone must be having problems at his house. He said this after the game:

“No disrespect to the T-wolves, this is about us, but we don’t want to go back to Denver,” Malone said.

Uh, coach, you and all your players live in Denver.