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What a Sunday! Penguins rout top defense, Celtics rally without Isaiah Thomas to beat LeBron James’ Cavaliers

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts in

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts in the second quarter against the Boston Celtics during Game Three of the 2017 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on May 21, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. Credit: Getty Images / Jason Miller

The defending champs returned home on Sunday, armed with the best player in the world and aiming to take control of the conference final. Sure enough, that they did – in a blowout.

Penguins 7, Senators 0.

Yawn. Isn’t that sort of thing bad for the sport?

Just kidding. See what I did there? And of course it isn’t.

An illustration of this could be found later Sunday a mere two-hour drive away, where another defending champ with the best player in the world came home and was supposed to win in a blowout.

Celtics (without Isaiah Thomas) 111, Cavaliers (with LeBron James) 108.

Cue the late former major league pitcher Joaquin Andujar, who famously said that the one word in America that says it all is, “Youneverknow.”

You never do, which is why the bad-for-the-sport handwringing over this year’s snooze-fest of a basketball tournament en route to Warriors-Cavs III is shortsighted.

Have the first three, mostly lopsided rounds been a tad dull? Yes, that is indisputable.

The always unpredictable Stanley Cup playoffs are more fun to watch most years, but this year that has been truer than ever.

Still, let’s put this NBA thing in perspective:

In the short term, the first three rounds have been a challenge to watch. But the payoff will come when the Cavaliers and Warriors finally meet in the first three-match in NBA Finals history.

And make no mistake, that will be what you, your children and your grandchildren remember about this era 30 years hence, not the Warriors steamrolling the rest of the West along the way.

Look at it this way: The 1980s were and still are the most important decade in NBA history, and memories of those Lakers-Celtics Finals bring a warm glow to fans of a certain age.

What many of them forget are the cakewalks the Lakers had in earlier rounds, which at the time were considered a bit of a bore and a chore.

Here is a list of games the Lakers lost on the way to their nine Finals between 1980 and ‘91: two, zero, three, three, two, one, six, zero, three. (In fairness, it took fewer wins to reach the Finals then than it does now.)

Also, as those of us who have followed sports and life long enough know: This, too, shall pass.

Maybe the Celtics will parlay the No. 1 pick in the draft into further closing the gap with the Cavs. Maybe James will get hurt or old or bored or take up baseball. Maybe the Warriors will begin to resent sharing the spotlight.

Things happen, always. So relax and enjoy the journey.

Celebrate the fact that we live in a world in which the Celtics can get embarrassed by 44 points at home, lose their most important player, fall behind by 21 in the third quarter on the road and win.

And a world in which Sidney Crosby’s Penguins can demolish an Ottawa team best known for its stifling defense earlier on the same day.

And a world in which the 1985 Cardinals could miss a chance to win the World Series on a bad call in Game 6, then lose to the Royals, 11-0, in a Game 7 in which Andujar got ejected and later demolished a clubhouse toilet with a baseball bat.

The next year the Lakers lost the conference final to the Rockets in five games – their only non-NBA Finals season in an eight-year stretch.

And the Mets won the World Series.

Humans are endlessly fascinating and unpredictable. Youneverknow.

New York Sports