If we didn’t know better — and didn’t mind being lumped in with the black helicopter crowd — we would be certain the script for these N.B.A. playoffs was being written in some studio somewhere, perhaps by out-of-work soap opera writers under the watchful eye of the N.B.A. marketing department. The Miami Heat’s whole season followed the perfect narrative for the league’s new villain franchise: the players stumbled early, really stunk for a while, blamed their clueless coach, bounced back, humbled the mighty Lakers a few times, then overcame the sage elder statesmen of the Celtics in the second round of the playoffs.
LeBron James playing a dominant role in the stretch of the clincher Wednesday night, after which he got all sentimental, hugged Dwyane Wade like a lost brother and for humiliating its fans last summer. If you had to predict the script for the next two rounds, the Evil Heat would make it to the finals, where it would be thwarted, perhaps in seven games (Dirk Nowitzki in a white hat, anyone?), to provide the proper dramatic story line for next season. A few weeks ago, you would have thought maybe the Lakers had been cast in the role of finals foil, but apparently not.
So far, though, the script is holding strong. This is going exactly the way James hoped when he spurned his hometown for Miami, , and Game 5 against the Celtics played out in perfect fashion to prove James is a clutch performer, . That put him halfway toward his championship goal, , and set up the warm and fuzzy embrace with Wade when it was over, . Oh, it had it all: “redemption,” (sigh) vindication, triumph over imagined adversity, tears, pathos. Even , who strafed James with criticism after “The Decision,” lauded him for apologizing to Cleveland no matter how self-serving and unsatisfying the timing might seem from the Rust Belt point of view. Seriously, now that he has won a big playoff series he is sorry?
Proving, however, that the N.B.A. does not have enough script writers for all of its series, the Thunder and the Grizzlies continued their entirely inexplicable one (starting with the Grizzlies even being in it) when the Thunder took a 3-2 lead with a victory that required only three quarters of actual basketball. That’s because the Grizzlies were completely worn out after the triple-overtime victory Monday night, , while the younger group from Oklahoma City bounced back quickly. Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins might have seen this coming, , because his pregame pep talk emphasized his team could not lose the series Wednesday night. Highly inspiring.
Neither coach can use that tack Thursday night in the N.H.L.’s pivotal Game 7 between the Sharks and the Red Wings, although frankly, the Wings cannot really lose here. They bounced back from the 3-0 deficit so we could all watch San Jose battle its demons in public. As , the Sharks are smelling blood, and it happens to be their own. helpfully loads the pressure onto the shoulders of the perennial playoff underachiever Joe Thornton.
At least San Jose has this going for it: The city cares enough to agonize over the Sharks. In Atlanta, the mayor has come out and acknowledged to keep the Thrashers from leaving, which appears increasingly likely. Winnipeg rejoices.
In equally unsurprising news, the Bowl Championship Series decided , as long as it pays a $1 million fine. This isn’t a terribly steep price considering the bowl just offloaded the $600,000 salary of its chief party-thrower, John Junker, and the B.C.S. made it look better by earmarking the money for charity, but that even a small ethical step is huge for the B.C.S. , however, writes that the message to the other bowls is, party on!
The saddest news Wednesday, however, was — who was inexplicably left out of — of an apparent heart ailment. He was treasured for his infectious good will, , which made him so likeable despite all the trouble he found in his life. He will also long be tagged as the player , but the only with fondness.
Traylor’s life followed no script, and ended the way no one wanted.
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