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Playoff Basketball is Finally Here: While We’re Waiting

LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers Cavs Playoffs Pacers
Scott Sargent/WFNY

It’s finally here. Say whatever you want about switches being flipped and whether or not this Cleveland Cavaliers team can get back to the NBA Finals, but playoff basketball finally being here is a gift to us all.

Many may not realize it (and judging by the three comments that are attached to Game 1’s on-location BtBS, many do not), but the contrast in playoff basketball compared to the regular season rivals that of baseball. Sure, there are one-game Wild Cards and a ton of randomness that goes into results, but you have a regular season where players get scheduled time off, teams take the ebbs and flows, but the main goal is just getting in, whatever the record may be. But once regular gives way to post, it’s like the door-opening scene in Wizard of Oz.

Aesthetically, the atmosphere is brighter, and the energy is palpable. Rally stencils are chalked on to the sidewalks. The in-game entertainment feels like the volume is cranked up even higher. Fan Fests come complete with a concert stage and a litany of activities for fans to take part in pre-game. Yes: The day is an event. Getting downtown just before tip-off and leaving immediately after is for October through April. Once the playoffs roll in, it’s much, much different.

Listeners of “Road Trippin'” will know that the players are much different in the postseason as well. Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore was a recent guest, but they will all tell you that the texts and inter-team chatter comes to an end once the playoffs are underway. Sure, for the Indianas, Chicagos, and Miamis of the world, that last week of the regular season counts. For everyone else, however, it’s the calm before the storm.

Covering these games is so much different as well. During the regular season, if you arrived before Ty Lue’s pregame press conference, you were good to go. In the playoffs, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin was uploading videos to his Instagram story feed at 7:30 a.m. the day of Game 1. Players typically begin pregame shootaround at about the 90-minute mark (read as: 90 minutes until tipoff), cycling on and off the court as their respective routines allow. Before Game 1, however, LeBron James was the first person on the floor for either team, hoisting up shots shortly after noon. Anyone who would have arrived as if it were a mid-week game in February missed all of it. And all of this “difference” doesn’t even include the podium setup that pulls the game’s key players out of the locker room for postgame addresses. If you’re covering a game solo (ex. Me.) it becomes difficult to cover both the locker rooms and the podium, so one has to rely on precise navigation between podium spots to head down the hall, or they must rely on colleagues to get them a quote or two for their stories.

Even said quotes get a change in tone. Don’t forget: It was just a few weeks ago when LeBron James stated that he’ll never offer up a quality thought on any faux importance of a regular season game. On Saturday night, his thinking was much different, viewing each series as a conglomerate of pieces rather than specific games meaning more than others.

“Game 1 has always been a feel-out game for myself – seeing what you can do, seeing ways you can get better,” said James. “You always go into Game 2 even more prepared because you see what type of game plan they have. So like I said, as the series goes on and on you start to learn more about the team, learn more about your opponent and we’ve got to be better the next game. But it’s a great start for us.”

If you’re an NBA fan (as opposed to a “Cavs” fan) you’ve already seen a slew of quality games. The Jazz beat the Clippers by two, Milwaukee upset Toronto, and Chicago shocked all of Boston.  We’ll see how prepared the Cavs are for Game 2 come tonight. If you’re going to the game, get downtown early. If you’re watching at home or at a bar, I recommend waiting for the commercial breaks to hit the restrooms. Playoff basketball is here, and it’s why we’ve spent the last six months in waiting. Soak it all in, you guys. It won’t be long before you’re forced to watch the Browns.

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