Fans Fight Fatigue in the Playoffs, Too

Hi, my name is Bethlehem Shoals, and I have a problem. What's worse, it's an invisible sickness that thousands of basketball fans suffer from, but no one will really admit the existence of, much less call themselves a victim. Like the same way it took parents years to realize certain ADD drugs were speed. It's called playoff fatigue, and right when the sport should have me bouncing off the walls, instead I'm in a total funk. ↵
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↵Yes, there's an element of "the NBA playoff are too long" to this. But while I'd prefer to have the first round back to five games, I'm not one of these people who thinks all seven-game series drag on, or finds it demoralizing that they favor the better team. There's nothing better in basketball than two elite teams playing their best for seven games. That sentence was actually fed to me by Mike Breen, but I believe it like my own. What gets to me is when you start to run out of teams, and the teams left either aren't looking like themselves, or just aren't displaying the kind of ebb and flow that keeps their story interesting. ↵
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↵This year? I've run out of ways to say LeBron is good, and his team's collapse, while startling, also seems like a regression to the mean. I'm sick of saying that Kobe is, in certain ways, as good as LeBron, that Gasol is underrated, and that other than Trevor Ariza, the Lakers have been a disappointment. The Nuggets? We should be talking about them as a team that proved they did belong in that top tier, but instead, their postseason has been bogged down by drama and now, they seem to have caught the Lakers who-will-show-up-itis. Where's the inspiration? The head-turning variation? Or the sustained excellence down the line? Those are the things that make the long playoffs bearable, even dramatic. ↵
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↵That's why, this Christmas, I am thankful for the Orlando Magic. Not just because they have gone from "2a" in the East to contenders over the course of the playoffs; it's been a long, strange trip. The longer the Magic play, the better they get. Against the Celtics, we were piling on Dwight Howard. Now, we see how this team really works, and Howard and Rashard Lewis's relative flaws matter less than how they fit into SVG's system. Simply put, this team is gaining momentum, and poise, and we're coming to better understand what they're all about. It took a heroic effort to beat Boston, and now, they're still in a good position to knock off the mighty Cavs. ↵
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↵And it's not a vacuous Cinderella story. The Magic's magic is a combination of a team's personnel getting healthy and gelling at the right time, a coach at the height of his powers (I would love to see Jackson and SVG go match wits), and all of us being forced to take our eyes off of LeBron and Kobe to see it happen. As plot twists go, the Magic's postseason is certainly at one extreme of the spectrum. But it certainly does throw into sharp relief how little the world needs to hear another word about Bynum's inability to get back, the Nuggets' physicality, Billups' transitive legitimacy, or any of the other recurrent themes of these playoffs that, for all their initial punch, are now thorns in our basketball-watching side.
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↵For more NBA coverage, visit SportingNews.com's new NBA blog, The Baseline.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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