Is the dominance of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers good for the NBA? That topic has been debated with great ferocity in recent weeks. As the NBA Finals tip off tonight, there will, thankfully, be something else to discuss.
For the record, my answer to that question is contingent on the quality of the series. If the Warriors breeze by in a four- or five-game campaign, the payoff won’t be worth the months of inevitability and reduced drama. If this thing goes seven, it will all have been a journey to a grand destination.
But one thing that’s been noticeably absent from the debate is a sober look at where the NBA has been. Not in the 1980s or 1990s, when superstars were more spread out and the concept of a superteam was in the early stages of evolution. In the early 2000s, when points were at a premium and a plodding, ugly brand of ball was the hallmark of champions.
Take, for instance, the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons. They held opponents to 84.3 points per game during their title run. It was glorious for hometown fans. For the neutral observer it was brutal.
Today is the 13th anniversary of that team’s Eastern Conference Finals-clinching victory over the Indiana Pacers. The final score of that game?
It’s a safe bet the Cavs and Warriors will combine for as many points in the first 30 minutes of tonight’s Game 1. It’s a safer bet that if one of them manages only 27 first-half points they won’t emerge as the victor — as the Pistons did in this brickfest. The 33-27 halftime score may be similar to the first-quarter score tonight.
Forgetting the ugly era of offensive ineptitude obscures the reality that the Cavaliers-Warriors dynastic battle has the NBA in a much better place than it was in the past. Some of the uncertainty may have eroded, but the quality of ball is infinitely better than it was 13 years ago.
God forbid the game ever reverts to 69-65 final scores in the most important games of the year.