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Point/Counterpoint: Which sport has a better postseason - the NBA or the NHL?

BY DI STAFF | MAY 07, 2013 5:00 AM

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NHL

People who think that the NBA playoffs are better than the NHL playoffs are, in a word, ignorant.

Not to say that it’s entirely their fault: the NHL has been mismanaged and mis-marketed for the last two decades, almost to the point of hilarity, leaving hockey to be seen as little more than a niche sport to many in the mainstream media. As a result, it experiences little to none of the same coverage the NBA gets, but that’s another story for another time.

Anyone not named Stephen A. Smith who has actually hung around to watch an entire NHL playoff game will tell you that it is, hands down, the best, most fast-paced, exciting sporting event of the year.

Hockey is one of the fastest sports in the world; some of the best skaters in the NHL reach speeds of more than 30 miles per hour. Because of the fast-paced nature of the game, the outcome of a contest can change in the blink of an eye, and the intensity of these bouts only increases when the score is close.

Contrast this fast pace with the last five minutes of any close NBA game: inbound the ball, take two steps down court, foul someone to stop the clock, or call a time-out, repeat over and over again until the final 0.7 seconds run off the clock.

Riveting stuff.

Another reason the NHL playoffs are superior is that the level of parity and chance for an upset are so much greater: with the exception of the ’07-08 Detroit Red Wings, no No. 1 seed has ever reached the Stanley Cup Finals since the current playoff format was established in 2005. In contrast, the NBA playoffs have basically become a three-month tease to see if anyone will actually beat the Heat (spoiler alert: no one will), and while upsets do happen, they are far less common.

Never mind that hockey players put their bodies on the line every single night, and often play through injuries that would sideline an NBA player for months; all for a chance to drink from Lord Stanley’s Chalice.

Why? The answer is simple: Because it’s the Cup.

— by Ryan Rodriguez

NBA

There’s no question that the NBA offers the best entertainment of the spring playoffs.

Basketball features 48 minutes of nonstop, back and forth, fast-paced action. Players sprint up and down the court, jump, block shots, dive for loose balls, and leap for rebounds. It’s 100 percent effort from start to finish. Hockey playerss float up and down a sheet of ice using thin pieces of wood to move around a small puck.

Fans are basically so bored at hockey games that they encourage players to harm themselves for their own amusement. The extremely long breaks in between the periods offer ample opportunities for viewers to change the channel and never come back.

When the players get the puck close to the net and maybe manage to score, hockey can be exciting. Goalies earn their money, by gosh, and some of the shots that earn those rare things called points in hockey take tremendous skill. But goals occur so infrequently that if viewers turn away from the tube and miss what ends up being the game’s only goal, they end up spending hours watching players passing the puck.

A 2-point game in a basketball contest’s last few minutes gets people to turn on their televisions. Two-score hockey matches at that same point turn TVs off. Basketball teams earn their victories over the course of all four quarters. Hockey games can be decided in the first seconds.

Some say that NBA teams don’t play defense. Tell that to the Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, or Memphis Grizzlies. The Knicks, who averaged 100 points per game in the regular season, have yet to score 100 in the playoffs. The Grizzlies held the Clippers, who averaged 101 points per game in the regular season, to under 100 in three of their four wins and won, 118-105, in Game Six.

The NBA is simply the better display of athletes. Players such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant can only be described as freaks of nature. Their physical prowess is intimidating. No matter how hard defenders try, they can’t be stopped. Who is hockey’s LeBron James? It’s not Alex Ovechkin, and it’s certainly not Patrick Kane.

But when it comes down to it, the NBA and NHL are pretty close to compare. The best-of seven format is excellent — there’s nothing quite like a Game Seven (when they occur). But the NBA’s fast pace, its athleticism, its place in mainstream culture, propels it past the NHL with ease.

There’s a reason no one cared about the NHL’s lockout.

— by Matt Cabel


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