Standing on the top of my lungs
This ain't no college ball blog, so I'll refrain from thinking on the Heels' rollercoaster victory. Suffice to say that they're the only home team I've ever had, and it's a soul-changing novelty to remember why most people care about sports in the first place (and, to paraphrase the Illinois-mad friend I watched the games with, why I'm capable of being an NBA fan). I will admit, though, that I can barely be bothered with college ball, and the Brown Recluse has the insider's track on UNC pride here. It's also amazing how readily sports anxiety—that home team thing again—can take the place, in a robust, joyful way, of actual worry. It would be like if someone told you that your credit card debt could be settled through a highly competitive game of Monopoly.
My main goal here was to back up and/or apologize for leaving the Sonics out of my cursory Western Conference playoff preview (it was one sentence, you probably missed it). Partly an oversight on my part, but really, I still cannot believe that this team can come through in the playoffs. I know that they're clearly for real in the regular season, and that their formula (shooters blazing, toughs rebounding, and wily point guards to keep the whole thing spry and unpredictable) is about as perfect an exploitation of the modern NBA as you'll find. What's more, they manage to win desite being utterly formulaic, much in the same way that the Suns kill teams who know full well they're being invited to a track meet.
If I really believed all this, I would probably have remembered to think about how they match up with the Kings. Instead, I can't help but think of them as a limited team—limited by just how fucking perfect they are. They're not just a team, they're a concept. And no matter how ingenius it is, the playoffs are wild, wooly, and unpredictable enough to fuck up anything this specific.
The Suns, on the other hand, seem tailor-made for the uncertainties of the postseason—they're near-chaos in the hands of one of the league's great improvisers. And unlike Nash's Mavs, they're hell-bent on making opponents feel just as unhinged as they do. I know the playoffs are supposed to favor discipline and control, but the Suns have already managed this season to single-handedly overhaul the NBA's gametime philosophy.
And hey, the Suns are fantastic at controlling a game, imposing their will on others, and making a discipline out of utter fastbreak mayhem. To imagine them rolling through the playoffs just requires a little imagination.