By: Jake Mattleman
“It’s a God Forsaken Bloodbath”
Ryan Reynolds argily stammers this quote in the entertaining action movie Smokin’ Aces after basically half of the cast dies. Unfortunately this statement could also serve to comment on the current state of the NBA Playoffs. Here’s a quick list of key players not participating in the playoffs or missing significant time: Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, Chris Bosh, Mike Conley Jr., and Avery Bradley. The absence of each of these players threatens or has already resulted in their team’s elimination. How about a healthy year for once, people!
I want to see the best players playing all the time, their teams at full strength, to truly determine who is the best. Last year we had to suffer through the NBA Finals sans Irving and Love, providing Golden State with extended time to acclimate the climate of the biggest stage and eventually making the series uncompetitive. I don’t want these things to happen again, and purely for selfish reasons. I desperately wanted to see a hate-filled, gritty, and desperate matchup between Chris Paul and Steph Curry. Instead we’re saddled with a sad contest of the 73-win Warriors against the one-dimensional, rebuilding 44-win Blazers. I wanted to see the Celtics and Hawks battle like we saw the Hornets and Heat, but instead we watched a team unable to score depend on Marcus Smart’s 35% shooting against a Hawks team that was desperately trying to lose. Finally, the poor Grizzlies were stuck with off the street scab Jordan Farmar to battle the mighty Spurs. Not impressed so far, but more importantly not entertained.
So to mix things up, I figured we could pair our main characters in the playoffs (all 8 remaining teams) with characters from movies. Perhaps humanizing them with evoke some sense of emotional connection moving forward, thus making their remaining journeys more watchable.
Golden State Warriors (1): “Maximus” from Gladiator
Maximus is the coolest guy around and a frontrunner. He’s smart, fierce, and commands his people well. His skill in combat is unmatched and is constantly fighting back against the empire, just as the Warrior’s style of play has been dismissed by many NBA Legends. Right before his final fight, Maximus is stabbed by his rival Commodus, but still emerges victorious. I still believe the Warriors will win everything in the end, despite losing Curry for the moment.
Portland Trail Blazers (5): “Sean Parker” from The Social Network
Sean Parker, the flamboyant creator of Napster and advisor to Mark Zuckerberg. Parker is flashy and brings a certain swagger to the nerdy Zuckerberg, providing some necessary advice in building something proprietary on the internet. However Parker quickly becomes a nuisance and his tricks are no longer useful once Facebook becomes increasingly popular. This is the Blazers. They’re great at beating bad teams and easily neutralized by top teams. The only reason they advanced was the apocalypse of the Clippers (by the way, thanks Doc for trading away the team’s only asset for Jeff Green before the playoffs).
The Pick: Warriors in 5. Maximus would murder Parker’s winey butt with one swing of his sword.
San Antonio Spurs (2): “Superman” in Batman vs. Superman
Oklahoma City Thunder (3): “Batman” in Batman vs. Superman
When I saw the poster for this movie, I chuckled because the idea of the mortal Batman defeating the immortal Superman seemed completely illogical. This should be the sentiment when thinking about this playoff series. The Thunder have plenty of skill, pedigree and have looked unstoppable at times, but they are only human. Their first round matchup with the Mavericks was far more difficult than it needed to be. The Mavs surprisingly competed each night with Raymond Felton at the point, Wes Matthews covering Kevin Durant, and Salah Mejri starting every game. I guess this cast of characters would represent the Mob in Gothem- simple criminals, more easily reprimanded. But the Spurs are no mobsters- they’re sophisticated efficiency machines poised to embarrass the “big fish in a little pond” Thunder. Even when Batman vs. Superman ends and you believe Superman has died, he returns and will never die.
The Pick: Spurs in 7. Mortals die, immortals live.
Cleveland Cavaliers (1): “Tug Speedman” from Tropic Thunder
Ohh Cleveland, how you tease. Cleveland has been the frontrunners in the East all season, despite all the controversy surrounding the team. They lead the pack, but seem perpetually confused and more so acting as leaders rather than actually being a true leader. Despite all this, the Cavs will probably be the representative from the East, awaiting their inevitable doom in the Finals. Speedman, the once popular movie star is thrust into his role as main character in Tropic Thunder, but is clearly unequipped for the job. Eventually he’s captured and brainwashed by a Vietnamese Community producing heroin (the Cavs coaching staff), but is rescued by his followers (lack of East competition).
Atlanta Hawks (4): “Zorro/Don Diego de la Vega” from The Mask of Zorro
Zorro has been there before, danced the dance, and lived to tell the tale. Now, as an older man, he cannot fight himself. He knows the techniques, posses the skills and brings requisite mental fortitude, but he just cannot move like in days past. In the movie, Zorro uses an apprentice to continue his tradition and fight for the people. Unfortunately the Hawks don’t have a younger, newer version of themselves and cannot fight Captain Love themselves.
The Pick: Cavs in 5. Yucky…
Toronto Raptors (2): “Dominick Cobb” from Inception
They finally won a series! Congrats Drake! However I think the fun stops here. Like Mr. Cobb, the Raptors seem perpetually desperate and slightly misguided, throwing a team together each year without much playoff success. They’re haunted by a historical absence of winning (Mal) and in the end we’ll be once again unsure if they succeeded (is Cobb in reality?). The Raptors do have a spark though and there’s something endearing about this team’s journey each season.
Miami Heat (3): “Will Hunting” from Good Will Hunting
Will is a genius, nobody can deny that. Individually he has all the tools and can outsmart anybody in a game of one on one. Yet when he’s forced to rely on others, he’s afraid, loses confidence and cannot operate appropriately. This is how I would characterize the Heat- a bunch of one on one players with boatloads of potential if they could just maximize their collective potential. I believe the Heat will take a high paying mathematical job, but they will eventually lose Skylar.
The Pick: Heat in 6. Will Hunting wouldn’t be fooled by is dreams, he doesn’t pay any mind.