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Peterson: Can we please fast-forward to the NBA Conference Finals?

This Saturday, the NBA Playoffs will tip off with 16 teams vying for the elusive goal of winning an NBA Championship. But hold on, folks, because we won’t see a winner crowned for another two months, with the NBA Finals potentially ending in mid-June.

After an 82-game regular season, a championship-winning team could have to play in 28 more games to win an NBA Finals if each playoff series lasts seven games. For those keeping track, that’s 34.1 percent of the length of the regular season, tying with the NHL for the longest postseason in comparison to the regular season of the four major American sports leagues. Even if we assume that a championship team only needs six games to win each series, that’s still a 24-game postseason, which is 29.3 percent of the length of the regular season and still longer than the MLB and NFL playoffs at their longest.

However, while the NHL playoffs provide excitement in the form of upsets, the NBA playoffs rarely see a much lower-seeded team win. In the NHL, the No. 8 Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup just two years ago. While there have been ten 8-seed over 1-seed upsets in the NHL playoffs since 1994, there have only been five first-round victories for 8-seeds over 1-seeds in the NBA. Over the past five years, 17 of the 40 first-round series in the NHL have been won by the lower seed. In that same span, only 11 of the 40 first-round series in the NBA have been won by the lower seed.

Let’s face it, is anyone who is not a Raptors or Nets fan going to follow a potential first round series between Toronto and Brooklyn this year? Should we really make the Heat wait up to a week to begin their next series after they sweep the Bobcats?

The NBA playoffs are too long. Earlier this season, during an ESPN broadcast of a Heat-Pacers game, the broadcasting team was discussing how they couldn’t wait for a Heat-Pacers Eastern Conference Finals matchup. Why should we have to wait as long as we do? Yes, neither the Heat nor the Pacers has looked as dominant lately, but it would still take an upset of massive proportions for a team to take down either of them in the first two rounds. Even in the much more competitive Western Conference, it’s unlikely that the Grizzlies, Mavericks or Trailblazers could earn a first-round series win in the current format.

Unlike baseball, where playoff games frequently occur on back-to-back days, the NBA playoffs always allot at least one day off between games and generally two days off for travel, stretching the playoffs to nearly two months long. We are forced to wait for meaningful, competitive series for several extra weeks.

The NBA should expedite the earlier rounds, which would also allow for more drama with early-round upsets. The first two rounds should be no longer than a best-of-five series — maybe even the conference finals too — while the NBA Finals should retain the best-of-seven format. Truly dominant teams would still advance, but games would have more at stake and provide more intriguing action, like the fast-paced style of March Madness.

I truly enjoy watching the intense action that comes from much of the NBA Playoffs. Last year’s NBA Finals and Eastern Conference Finals were some of the best in recent memory. Like a lot of fans, though, the playoff thrill doesn’t really begin for me until the later rounds. Maybe I’m just impatient, but I want to get to the good stuff now.

Michael Peterson is not enthralled by the prospect of watching the Nets and Raptors slog it out for the right to play the Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals; that is, if the two-time defending champs can outlast the formidable Bobcats. Send all suggestions for reading material to tide him over until the conference finals at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu and Tweet him @mpetes93.

About Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson is the football editor at The Stanford Daily. He has served as a beat reporter for football, baseball and men’s soccer and also does play-by-play broadcasting of baseball and men’s soccer for KZSU. Michael is a sophomore from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. majoring in computer science. To contact him, please email him at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.
  • Hoopster

    How about shortening the regular season instead? The lockout-shortened 60 game season worked remarkably well, and a 60 game season could help ease road back to backs, which nobody likes.

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