This may not sit well with many Warrior fans and their concept of manifest destiny, but the NBA Finals has to go seven games.
Not “could,” or “should,” but “must.” In other words, it should scare the hell out of every basketball fan interested enough to care.
Sure, the joy of wearing a $35 T-shirt that says “Fo, Fo, Fo, Fo” (hat/tip to the estate of Moses Malone) is its own reward. And yes, being to lord your favorite team’s superiority in a convincing victory will make you the smug, obnoxious fan you’ve always wanted to be. And unquestionably not having to take a second trip to Cleveland or a third trip to Oakland is easy on the body as well as the budget.
But the hell with all that. A seventh game is the one true thing that makes being a human being worthwhile, and better still, a seventh game that ends in overtime elevates us all as a species. Even Ottawa Senators fans who watched their team miss out on a chance to go to the Stanley Cup Final in two overtimes Thursday night feel like they got their money’s worth.
And you can’t get a better deal than that.
For the record, this is not a prediction, nor is it attached to a preference for one team over another. I am rooting neither for Warriors nor Cavaliers. I’m rooting for volume. If this is the series everybody thinks it ought to be, then there ought to be so much of it that everyone should feel like they just binge-Thanksgivinged.
Only 19 Finals have gone to a seventh game, and only five in the last 30 years. But given how much discussion has been generated over the last one, in 2016, why would this series not benefit from a reprise?
Besides, until Game 7 a year ago, the series was wildly disjointed and even nonsensical; the margins of victory were 15, 33, 30, 11, 15 and 14. The 2015 series, which the Warriors won in six games, was at least more fascinating game to game (margins of 8, 2, 5, 21, 13 and 8), but the lingering memory and defining nature of those 13 games is Game 7. A weird series turned into an excellent one because Game 7 cures all other evils – a broken date, a broken heart, a broken femur, a broken computer just as you’re ready to hit “send.” All of it.
So that’s what this needs – especially after all the time the two fan bases have been asked to watch their teams sit idle because of the lack of games. Twenty-one total days between series for each team has worn even the most tortured narratives thin, and the only way the league can make it up to them is to provide a seventh game.
And when we say “provide,” we mean it in that totally-above-board, non-game-fixing way.
So should the Warriors hammer the Cavs with their superior firepower and depth and defense, while it may satisfy you, it will only serve to mark a disappointing end to what has been a disappointing postseason. And should the Cavs do the same with their superior James and Irving and Thompson, the reaction will be the same. The winners get a parade and a ring, and everyone else feels slightly jobbed.
So let the drama begin, and let it linger. You haven’t got anything better to do anyway. The Bay Area baseball teams are struggling as a daily work condition, the Indians have the second worst home record in baseball, the Browns and 49ers are horrific and the Raiders are looking to leave. Plus, we’ve got the Kings.
So with all due acknowledgement to whatever your petty needs might be, this must go seven games. In fact, it should be like the 1957 Finals between Boston and St. Louis, in which the Celtics beat the Hawks, 125-123 in double overtime for their first championship in what became North America’s most enduring sports dynasty.
After all, most games we call “epic” aren’t, but if this new rivalry is to be the equal of all those others, the way is clear, and it won’t be done by in-game pundits or off-day analytics. It will be done in Oakland June 18 – after midnight on the East Coast, just make sure everyone across the land is pot-committed to the game.
Anything short of that will feel like a bit ordering a steak and getting a sandwich. You get to eat. You just won’t remember it as readily.