It has been quite an NBA Finals, hasn’t it, North America?
Who can forget Game 1, when Bob Cousy won it on a late, driving layup?
Or Game 2, after which the NBA’s Philadelphia franchise moved to San Francisco, exposing Northern California fans to Finals fever?
Or Game 3, by which time many people finally had color TV sets, adding a new dimension to the viewing experience?
Or Game 4, when the NBA introduced the use of the three-point arc?
Which led, naturally, to Game 5, and the biggest turning point yet in the series: Stephen Curry’s birth.
It’s been a wild ride, people, and here we are, set for Game 6 on Thursday night and what figures to be a dramatic showdown between . . . um, who’s playing again?
Oh, right. Golden State against the Celtics, a Finals matchup last seen in 1964, in a five-game series played on the following dates: April 18, 20, 22, 24 and 26.
But that was a saner era than this one, in which a spacey, spaced-out schedule has made for an incoherent narrative arc.
This is not a new problem. People have been complaining about long gaps between games for many years, even more so in the first round than the last. But the last round matters more.
I recall my first thought upon watching Hakeem Olajuwon block John Starks’ three-point try as Game 6 ended in the 1994 Finals: Three more days in Houston!
But at least that Knicks-Rockets series had four one-day breaks and only two two-day breaks. That was the usual pattern back then, and it endured through the NBC era and into the ABC one.
As recently as 2013, there still were four one-day breaks and two two-day breaks in the Finals.
In 2014, the Finals switched from a 2-3-2 format to 2-2-1-1-1, making for more travel, and since then two-day breaks have been the norm.
The current Finals did have one one-day break, blissfully. But only one.
What is behind this? Mostly the desire of the NBA and its players union to keep stars healthy and fresh deep into spring.
Traveling? Sure, take a travel day, by all means. But then another off day generally follows.
The schedule is a collaborative decision that also includes TV partners, but the NBA calls the shots in the end. Whatever. It’s not good.
Somehow hockey players manage to travel a lot and generally play every other day during the playoffs. Maybe it is because their sport is so much gentler and less physically demanding than basketball.
The Stanley Cup Final that begins Wednesday night – and features a Denver-to-Tampa commute – includes one two-day break and five one-day breaks.
After losing Game 5 on Monday, the Celtics cited fatigue as part of their problem. Fatigue!
OK, they did have back-to-back seven-game series leading into the Final after sweeping the Nets in a long-ago first-round matchup that I think began at the Long Island Arena in Commack. But still.
If you love basketball, you will wait until Thursday and watch Game 6, and if you are any kind of sports fan you likely will check out Game 7, if there is one, on Sunday night. Drama is drama.
In 2016, there were two-day breaks leading into Games 5, 6 and 7 of the Finals, and that did not take away from how memorable the Cavaliers’ comeback from a 3-1 deficit to beat Golden State was then and remains today.
But as every hockey fan knows and every basketball fan suspects, playing every other day is the best way to keep casual viewers involved and invested.
Remember, things worked out just fine for Golden State’s Philadelphia ancestors when they won the very first Finals in 1947.
They beat the Chicago Stags in five games, played on the following dates: April 16, 17, 19, 20 and 22. Now THAT’S entertainment!