In the highly popular HBO series Game of Thrones, one of the more interesting dynamics of the show is that 95 percent of what takes place on screen really does not matter. The War of the Five Kings? Irrelevant. Arya Stark’s revenge tour? A fun diversion, but ultimately meaningless. Even who sits on the Iron Throne will be a mere footnote in the Westerosi history books at the Citadel.
No, all that’s ever really mattered, which is why it was the focus of the very first scene of the pilot, is the final battle between the White Walkers against the united forces of mankind (and Dany’s dragons). Everything else is mere window dressing to make us form a connection with the characters and care about the outcome of that final battle.
The current state of the NBA is a similar situation. Even back before the Golden State Warriors signed Kevin Durant, the Dubs and the Cleveland Cavaliers completing their NBA Finals trilogy seemed to be a foregone conclusion. The MVP race and Russell Westbrook breaking Oscar Robertson’s triple-double record provided entertaining distractions, but like George R.R. Martin’s universe, Adam Silver’s world is all building toward an inevitable final showdown. Heck, the Night King and King James even have the same signature move.
That feeling of inevitability has persisted in the postseason when the level of competition should have presumably ramped up. The two teams are a combined 13-0 in the playoffs. All five second-round games have had double-digit margins of victory. The Warriors have actually only won one of their six postseason contests by less than double digits, which was a nice bone to throw the fine people of Portland, all things considered.
As the final scoreboard tallies would indicate, the advanced stats also show the Warriors and Cavaliers have been head and shoulders above the competition. Golden State has the highest net rating in the playoffs of 16.4, while Cleveland is second at 11.5. After the two elite squads, the next-highest team is San Antonio all the way down at 7.1.
To keep things interesting, the clubs are so unconcerned about their opponents that they’re focusing on style points like the old Kudos feature in Project Gotham Racing. LeBron is pretending to drink a beer during the game. He’s spinning the ball out like he’s at a carnival before draining a 3 and telling Kyrie Irving to throw it to him off the backboard before they’ve even crossed half-court.
Then you have Golden State, who is doing all this without its head coach (get well soon, Steve Kerr). It’s as close to “roll the ball out there and play” as you’re likely to find in modern sports. The fact that they’re still performing as far and away the most dominant team in the league, in spite of having an uncertain situation on the bench yet again, is remarkable (starting four Olympians in their prime doesn’t hurt).
The Celtics and Wizards acting like they’re at WWE SummerSlam is an amusing bit of fun. Gregg Popovich figuring out a way to stifle Moreyball while Kawhi Leonard’s shot chart remains as green as the Elysian Fields is fascinating. Just remember to keep it all in perspective. Those subplots are nothing more than something to pass the time before we finally arrive at that foregone conclusion and the completion of the trilogy. So keep hoarding your dragonglass and grab your Valyrian steel sword. June is coming, and we know the two sides who will be left standing.