Why have there been so many blowouts in the NBA playoffs?


The Eastern Conference Finals is tied at 1-1, but you wouldn’t know it from Thursday night’s Game 2, with Boston running Miami out of the gym in a 25-point laugher. Even with multiple series going the distance—Milwaukee took Boston to seven games in the Eastern Conference semis with Dallas/Phoenix also going the full seven—this year’s postseason has not been remotely competitive with routs galore and little in the way of late-game heroics. Meaningful fourth quarters have been hard to come by with dramatic climaxes characterized by buzzer-beaters and tense final moments—both playoff staples—becoming all but extinct. Frustrated by the distinct lack of drama, fans have taken to venting on social media, lamenting what has been an oddly anticlimactic postseason.

That’s not to say the playoffs haven’t produced quality basketball. From Al Horford’s vintage fourth quarter against the Bucks to Ja Morant’s near-50-burger versus Golden State, memorable performances have been in no short supply. But the riveting nail-biters fans have come to expect, the heart-pounding “ice veins” moments where legacies are made, have been few and far between.

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By now, we have a large enough sample size to suggest this is more than mere coincidence. The question is, why are so many games that would otherwise go down to the wire now being decided by 20 and 30 points? There are a number of theories as to why that might be, though Amin Elhassan of Meadowlark Media and The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz suspects the NBA’s increased emphasis on perimeter shooting with teams attempting more three-pointers than ever before has been a key factor in some of the colossal margins we’ve seen this postseason.

“If you hit a night where someone’s making theirs and the other team isn’t, it gets ugly pretty quickly,” said Elhassan, citing the 20 three-pointers Boston made in Game 2, doubling Miami’s output from beyond the arc (10-of-34). The NBA’s three-point revolution has, for better or worse (Bob Ryan would vehemently argue the latter), changed the math, resulting in games that, as we’ve seen throughout these playoffs, can get out of hand rather quickly. Unfortunately for purists who prefer the game the way it used to be played with teams running their offense through the low post and attacking the paint, there’s no putting that genie back in the bottle.

With teams living and dying by the three, are we doomed for another month of excruciating blowouts with fans heading for the exits midway through the fourth quarter? It sure looks that way.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Michael Reaves, Getty Images