Okay, these two teams are good. I enjoy my burgeoning relationship with the Utah Jazz and all that, but despite the frenetic mess that was a lot of this game, and despite the fact that as of now it looks like the generally odious (or “efficient and disciplined” if you prefer) Spurs are going to come back for the win, these two teams are just plain fun to watch. Not simply because there are very good players on the floor, but because of that weird personnel alchemy that seems to happen in interesting playoff series in which almost all players become ten times more intriguing and unpredictable. The big narratives (you remember: that Will Smith-looking guy hip-checking the Arctic Monkeys-looking guy) are interesting; the smaller narratives just as much so.
Here, we’ve got a rejuvenated Manu Ginobili (26 points, 10 rebounds) annoying the hell out of everyone. There we’ve got Kurt Thomas (15 points, 12 rebounds) in what is unquestionably his best performance since “Gymkata.” And everywhere the expected dominance of Nash (human at the end of the game, but 19 points and 12 assists overall) and Duncan (21 points, 12 boards, 5 blocks), the continued impressive stats (24 points, 17 rebounds) and less-than-overwhelming-looking play from The Most Underappreciated Man In Show Business. I doubt there will be any blowouts in this series, but as I write this San Antonio just iced an 88-85 win that will give them a 3-2 lead in the series.
For all the good work Paul Shirley and Neal Pollack are doing in their dialogue over at Slate parsing the “relative irrelevance” of the NBA in the broader sports culture — here, for example, is a Pollackian analysis that involves blaming the Pussycat Dolls, among other parties — good playoff basketball sort of answers all my questions of why people ostensibly aren’t watching. Maybe the late games are on too late (Mushnick, where you at?), or the players’ tattoos scare people (in the case of Matt Barnes, I can relate), or whatever else. But between this series and the just-wrapped Utah/Golden State joint, it’s hard for those of us who enjoy watching not to say “your loss” and keep watching.