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NHL Playoffs Best Show in Sports; NBA a snoozer

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry reacts after being named Magic Johnson Western Conference MVP in Game 5 against the Dallas Mavericks on May 26, 2022 at the Chase Center.Kelley L. Cox/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

If you’re looking for excitement, forget the NBA playoffs.

They were a total snooze, full of blowouts and only a handful of must-see moments.

The lack of drama was particularly noticeable in comparison to the NHL postseason, which produced thrill after thrill.

Play 7s? Check. overtime goals? Check. Fierce rivalries? Check.

Once again, the sport of hockey’s playoffs are proving to be the most compelling show of any sport, surpassing basketball and just about everything else.

Just look at that game late Thursday night when the Edmonton Oilers won the Battle of Alberta with a 5-4 overtime win over the Calgary Flames.

The Western Conference Semifinals only lasted five games, making it an outlier for those NHL playoffs, in which five of the first 10 completed series reached the seven-game maximum — and two of those were decided by in-game overtime goals 7.

Still, the Oilers Flames showdown produced plenty of “Did you see that?!” Moments including a stunning back-and-forth in the deciding game as teams scored four goals in 71 seconds – two by each side.

It was the fastest four goals in NHL playoff history, breaking a 46-year-old record.

“It was crazy,” said Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, who shares a 26-point lead with teammate Connor McDavid. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The only regret for hockey fans was that this streak didn’t last a few more games.

Calgary’s only win of the series came in a hugely entertaining 9-6 shootout in Game 1 as the Flames squandered a four-game lead but rebounded to win.

After that, the Oilers bounced from a two-goal deficit to win Game 2 and bounced back to win Game 4 with two late goals after the Flames took Edmonton’s 3-0 lead with a torsion trio in less than 2 minutes had wasted.

Then came Game 5, which proved to be an extremely fitting capper.

What a series!

Now let’s move to the other end of the emotional scale.

The NBA Playoffs.

About an hour before McDavid scored the overtime winner for the Oilers, the Golden State Warriors secured their NBA Finals berth with a bumpy win over the Dallas Mavericks that was a microcosm of the entire basketball postseason.

The Warriors drove out 17 points at halftime and went on cruise control the rest of the way. The Mavericks were down as much as 25, reducing the lead to eight late in the third period, but couldn’t get over the hump with a 120-110 setback.

Yawning.

In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics had a chance to wrap up their streak at home in Game 6 against the top seeded Miami Heat on Friday night.

No matter who comes out on top, it feels like we’re all losers. Four of the first five games were decided by double-digit differences, including 20- and 25-point blowouts.

Even Game 3, which Miami won 109-103, wasn’t exactly close. The Heat shot to a 26-point lead in the first half and resisted a furious comeback in Boston.

Forty-two of the first 79 games in those NBA playoffs were decided in double digits — with 15 of them by at least 20 points and another seven that weren’t even remotely competitive, ending by a margin of at least 30 points.

Amazingly, one of those maximum blowouts was Game 7 of the West Semifinals, when the top-seeded Phoenix Suns — who had a league-best 64-18 record in the regular season — were defeated 123-90 on their home court by the Mavericks.

That came after a series that might have looked a little close from afar as there were only two of the first 13 decided series to go the full seven games, but that would be a misnomer.

Even before the defeat in game 7, three more games had been decided with at least 20 points. Not once in a game was it about last possession.

Celtics coach Boston coach Ime Udoka had some thoughts on the sad postseason state of the NBA.

“A big part of it these days is scoring goals,” he said. “Teams go on crazy runs. Depending on the team, defense is sometimes a luxury. It’s not always the premium with every team. There are often these shootings, and they can get ugly pretty quickly.”

In fact, the league has evolved into a more one-dimensional offensive style, with wins and losses largely dependent on which team gets hot past the three-point arc.

Another theory that has been put forward is the lack of rest days between games, especially when much of this can be eaten up by travel.

Whatever the case, this is hardly a new conundrum for the NBA.

Last year’s postseason was a little more competitive, but the average lead was still 12.5 points (compared to 13.1 this year after Golden State’s win) and well over half the games (49 of 85) went through double-digit differences decided.

And let’s not forget that a full five years ago, TNT and NBA Hall of Fame analyst Charles Barkley expressed his disgust at the lack of competitive playoff games.

“Thank god for the NHL playoffs,” he quipped in 2017. “I’d look at the back instead of some of these blowouts.”

That still applies today.

Let’s all give thanks for the NHL playoffs.

And the remote that will take us away from the NBA playoffs.

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