So Much for the Underdog

The NBA’s Eastern Conference has been notably worse than the Western Conference this year. Although some teams like the Toronto Raptors quietly succeeded, all the focus in the East went toward the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers.

Stories like the brief return of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah’s domination took away from this narrative occasionally, but the focus always returned to Miami and Indiana. ESPN even went so far as to spend days of programming building hype for LeBron James and Paul George’s final regular season meeting.

High profile rivalries are good for the NBA. They build interest among fans, make the players play harder and make for much more exciting games. Fans get bored, however, when all they can look forward to is one team comprised of high-performance wrecking balls taking on a streaky, but dominant young team.

A beautiful thing that makes a sports season interesting is the prospect that once the doors to the arena open, anyone can walk away a champion. From day one, nearly everyone expected the Miami Heat to come out as the champions of the East. The Indiana Pacers came as a bigger surprise, but once they settled comfortably in their spot at the top, it became clear the Heat were their chief threat.

Hope for the other six playoff teams in the Eastern Conference came once the Pacers began their end of the year slide in which they lost six of their last ten games. Indiana’s fallibility continued throughout the first round of the postseason. Indiana center Roy Hibbert played badly at the top of the series and the team collapsed to the point where it looked like Atlanta could have won the seven game series.

Indiana played the Washington Wizards next, a No. 5 seed that had not made the playoffs since the Gilbert Arenas days. Another underdog hope, no one expected the Wizards to contend for a championship when the season began. They had their chance though in the second round of the playoffs. The Pacers ultimately won in six.

Miami had better luck in the first round and swiftly swept an injured Charlotte Bobcats team. Their dominance continued against Brooklyn which did not stand a chance and lost the series in five games.

Though fans had their chance to see something new, in the end they got exactly what they expected: an Indiana versus Miami conference final. Though this series will probably go the full seven games, it probably will not be very interesting yet overhyped. Both teams are very good and deserve to be there. It just is not as entertaining and stunning as seeing an underdog fight Goliath.

Colin Jackson is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.