The Playoff Diaries: Smoke up your ass & air in your ear

John Atkinson

Lance Stephenson blowing in LeBron James ear

Checking in briefly this week on the hoopvibes y’all—holiday weekend + real life + Aa album-recording-life hasn’t left much time for NBA musings, though rest assured I’ve watched every minute of every one of these damned games. We’ll be returning to diary format for the Finals, consider yourself warned.

Also: HOOPLIFE

Also: I clearly have no idea where this shit is going based on my picks so far, although I guess I have the sinking feeling that it’s headed towards three-peat territory.

Indiana has looked awful for the better part of the last four games—and, yeah, for the better part of the past four months—but somehow they once again (fitfully, in barely-sufficient spurts) refused to die when faced with elimination. The world is a deeply flawed up party, and the Pacers are (still, for now) your sulking hosts.

It’s not a great sign when you barely squeak one out over Miami in a game where LeBron shatters his personal worsts in points and minutes played. But a win is a win, and after a couple of games of comically shitty body language from Indiana it was a joy to see Lance Stephenson in such rare, inspired form:

(More LANCE antics here, an extremely life-affirming viewing.)

(Also, I think I finally coined a good nickname for Roy Hibbert: The Big Bummer. Like, next time you see Roy pull down an offensive rebound and somehow brick a baby hook from three feet away over dudes six inches shorter than him, I’ll be like “OOOOH, THE BIG BUMMER DOING WORK! WHATTABUMMMERRRR”)

And what the FUCK is going on in the Western Conference Finals? The Spurs may have been at least half-expecting Ibaka’s return this series despite Scott Brooks’ oft-repeated insistence that “he’s not coming through that door”—but were they prepared for this? Beyond Ibaka’s individual impact, his return somehow caused the entire Thunder team to hulk the fuck out and bury the simultaneously-enfeebled Spurs in an ultra-ATHLETIC flurry of steals, blocks, and fast breaks, led by the king freak Russell Westbrook.

(What’s a cool synonym for chronically overused ‘athletic’/’athleticism’ when describing OKC? Zach Lowe uses ‘springy’, which ain’t bad in general but doesn’t really capture the fury of Russbro…)

But of course the Spurs made adjustments in Game 5 and notched yet another blowout in this thoroughly weird Western Conference Finals. In a post-season full of insanity—or, at least, that glorious Round 1, now more than a month ago (!?!)—this series has been a unique mix of fascinating storylines and consistently one-sided, undramatic games. All-time great Coach Pop moment in the postgame when asked why these games have all been so lopsided— “You’re serious? You really think I can explain that?”

I’m with you Gregg! I’m also sticking with picking the Spurs, but, in the memorable refrain of the classic Darin Morgan X-Files episode “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space”—How the hell should I know?

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