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Impartial take? We're partial to thrills in NBA Finals

by | CBSSports.com Columnist

We're one game into the NBA Finals, and the reviews are in.

"Uhh, not so much." -- Dallas Morning News

"Yay us!" -- Miami Herald

"No, yay US!" -- South Florida Sun Sentinel

"In three years, we won't remember this one very easily." -- the nation at large

We'll go with (D) for now, while leaving open the possibility that it might ultimately end up being (E) -- "Well, that was more entertaining than we thought it would be."

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Game 1 was not that, though, and we suspect the entire series is actually going to be a fairly turgid slog, more along the lines of the San Antonio titles you hated and less along the lines of the Lakers titles you loved.

And no, this is not a rooting interest you hear talking. I think it would be fun to see Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd get a ring before they retire, since this will likely be their last best chance, but I don't care about it enough to have an actual rooting interest in the Mavericks.

Nor do I have any issues with LeBron James and how he came to advertise his relocation to the tropics (his relocation being a perfectly reasonable thing in and of itself). He threw too many instruments into the dance mix, but that's a style over substance thing that frankly is more boring an argument than it seems.

No, this was about the actual playing, and Game 1 was a hoot only if you had an active rooting interest in the Heat -- and hey, if that's you, then good on your fathers. You're entitled.

We want a seven-game series in which every game has an aha! moment, the kind you tell your friends about that night. Game 1 was like watching a boa constrictor eat -- first, squeeze the victim until it prays for the sweet release of recycling, then eat it, then sun yourself on a rock. And if that was fun, you would all be spending a lot more time watching the National Geographic Channel.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this, mind you. A lot of games in the East are played just this way. The problem is, without those aha! moments, this series becomes an argument about LeBron's legacy (and to a lesser extent, Dwyane Wade's) and Chris Bosh's redemption from being cast as the wheel on the back of the T-Bird.

And that's rooting for storylines you've all cast for the Heat from Day 1. That's you rooting for you. That's not about the actual art of the games.

And that's what we want. We want a series that goes seven games, and one in which you can't wait for every game that leads to Game 7. This series is looking like it will be a good deal shorter, and most casual folks will still think it went on too long.

We want greatness for the ages. Game 1 suggested that this will be good enough for government work. Barely.

Neither team shot well, Dallas didn't defend well and its age started to show as the game went on. Nowitzki's finger injury will of course be turned into an immense tragedy, but so far it is difficult to make the case that he could have altered the course of the evening if healthy. In short, the right team won, which means that Erik Spoelstra gets to keep his job two more weeks.

But the game never soared. Of course, neither did the season, so maybe this works as metaphor. All the best teams were more materially flawed than normal, and there was never a real clash of titans. There were a lot of clashes of reputations that are fraying at the edges, and there was also Chicago, which is coming but not quite there yet.

Maybe we're fooled by the fact that Miami and Dallas sailed through their three sets of prelims -- that the only real battle either had to put up was the Mavs in Round 1 against Portland. Maybe our expectations were outsized.

Or maybe it's just the fact that Mark Cuban has become a Carmelite nun.

But we want more from an NBA Finals than a lot of games like Game 1. We enjoyed the way San Antonio won its titles, but the nation hated it, so we decided we must be wrong.

Now we see, and maybe the nation will see as well, that the Spurs were either a better entertainment value than you gave them credit for, or that this is the way of the new basketball, or that you've made your choice based on the personalities rather than the play.

And again, good for you. Fun is what you make it, which is how we got college football in the new millennium.

But the games either will have to get a whole lot better, or this will be one of those playoff seasons that are soon forgotten and not hailed again, Wade Bronbosh or no.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com.


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