We spend a lot of time here talking about expectations.
Is it a "good" season for the Knicks that without Lin (and without Shumpert), they made it to the playoffs, even if they lost in the first round?
Does it matter that they lost to the best team in the league -- a team that a full-strength Knicks team couldn't beat 4 out of 7 under any circumstances?
Would Knicks fans rather have missed the playoffs altogether? (As a Wizards fan, I will tell you that's not a great option.)
I think the expectations for the Knicks -- at least as a 7- or 8-seed -- was that they would lose in the first round. At full strength, you'd hope they would make it an interesting 7-game series (as other presumptive first-round losers are doing across the rest of the league).
But they weren't at full strength. A sweep was inevitable. Thus, losing in 5 -- at least getting the thrill of that Game 4 win at home -- was slightly better than expectations.
(I'm not sure what happens to those expectations next year: If Lin is healthy and Shumpert is healthy and the rest of the team stays healthy and they have a good coach... they might end up with the 4-seed -- maybe 3 -- in the East, which means the expectation is "Get to the conference semifinals before losing." It's not exactly "Four, Four, Four.")
The Caps! Now HERE is a team that has surpassed expectations, wildly. I think most folks didn't give them a chance to beat Boston in the first round -- and certainly not to beat the Bruins in Boston in Game 7. Now they have taken the Eastern Conference's top seed to a toss-up 7th game, with all the momentum back from the gut-wrenching Game 5 loss. It is fine to madly hope for a Game 7 win, but if the team loses at Madison Square Garden, it will be hard to feel like fans were robbed (which is decidedly NOT the case in previous years where the team has fallen short and/or choked).
Correction! In yesterday's post, I assumed away that the Eastern champ would win the Stanley Cup over whichever team from the West it faced. Reader Zach Smythe -- alas, no relation to the Cup MVP award namesake -- called me out on it, reminding me the Kings had blitzed through the top two seeds in the West and were very much a viable candidate to win it all. I stand corrected. Thanks, Zach!
Grizzlies-Clippers! The Grizz send it back to LA for Game 6, down 3-2 but certainly capable of winning the next game and forcing a Game 7 in Memphis. So what's more difficult: Coming back from 27 points down in less than a quarter... or coming back from being down 3-1 in a series? Seems like 144 minutes of win-or-go-home is more arduous than 10 minutes of frenzied comeback.
The most interesting thing I read yesterday: Greg Oden's interview with Grantland's Mark Titus. It's really hard not to root for Oden to at least get a chance to play relatively healthy for a little while.
Tonight's must-see: All those NBA Game 6s. Chicago tries to stave off rare 1-seed elimination at Philly, Atlanta (newly rejuvinated by the return of Al Horford, one of my favorite players) tries to stave off elimination at Boston and -- in the late one -- the Nuggets will try to use home-court advantage (and the -- I can't believe I'm saying this -- "JaVale McGee X-Factor") to stave off elimination against the Lakers. Would love to see all of these go 7.