In a major (mythical) upset, the 10th-seeded Houston Rockets stun LeBron James and the second-seed Los Angeles Lakers in a quarterfinal matchup in the NBA Championship Tournament concocted by yours truly.
The Rockets, whose lineup featured four guards and a forward throughout the tournament, outscored and outhustled the Toronto Raptors in the semifinals before topping Boston in the title game.
Sounds crazy? Hear me out.
The Rockets could have won the title the previous three seasons, but the team just isn’t built to win two or three best-of-seven series in succession. The reliance on three-point shots and suspect defense found a way to drag them down.
Instead of finding ways to win critical games, the Rockets invented ways to lose. Remember the 27-consecutive missed threes in the 2018 Western Conference Final Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors.
But with James Harden and Russell Westbrook now on the same team, the Rockets could find five separate wins in a single elimination tournament. An overconfident Lakers team learns this the hard way.
In the real world, the Lakers’ James is still whining about fan-less games. I carried that attitude into my tournament. He, teammate Anthony Davis and other superstars could be worried about everything other than winning this crazy once-in-a-lifetime NBA tournament.
Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum and the Celtics would take it seriously – or seriously enough to reach the championship game against the Rockets.
The Celtics, the tournament’s fifth seed, would do the Rockets a big favor by beating the second-seed Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks’ center/forward Giannis Antetokounmpo would single-handedly destroy the Rockets, but that’s the beauty of the single-elimination tournament. The best team doesn’t always win.
The same pattern would play out if the NBA played the same style tournament to determine its crazy 2020 champion.
While the Rockets over the Lakers stands out, the tournament features several other upsets.
Bradley Beal poured in 51 points and his Washington Wizards, the lowly 22nd seed, topples 11th seeded Dallas. Owner Mark Cuban is livid and announced he will run as an independent for president.
Beal would be quieted by the defensive-minded Denver Nuggets in the next round and outplayed by Missouri one-and-done Michael Porter Jr. With the season complete, Beal would be eligible to be traded and he would demand that the next day.
I tipped my hand last week on the San Antonio Spurs beating the Philadelphia 76ers. That shouldn’t be considered an upset. Gregg Popovich’s Spurs would then lose in overtime to the L.A. Clippers, the tournament’s only game to go past regulation time.
As much as I wanted to take the New Orleans Pelicans over the Lakers, I just couldn’t do it. But Zion Williamson and his teammates take the Lakers down to the wire, setting the stage for the Rockets’ upset in the next round.
So, there you have it. The Rockets are champions. God help us all.
The Reid Roundup returns next week.
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” Find him on Twitter at @aareid1.