Basketball at its Worst?

John Gruber on game seven of the NBA Finals:

But what struck me the most watching this series, and especially game seven, is what an ugly, ugly game the NBA has devolved into. No beauty and very little strategy offensively from either side. No ball movement, and lots of standing around. Very hard to believe that these are the two best teams in the league. The Lakers shot just 33 percent from the field and yet clearly deserved to win the game. For decades, a game seven in the Finals between the Celtics and Lakers resulted in basketball at its very best. Now, it’s basketball at its worst. Brutal.

There’s no particular reason that a sport, when played optimally, should be beautiful or even interesting. Most sports evolved organically, and continue to evolve (albeit slowly) under pressures other than what makes a good or interesting game. Strategy and tactics in baseball (the sport I know best) are clearly far superior to those employed even 20 years ago, in terms of teams trying to win games, yet certainly there’s some basis in arguing that the reliance on walks and home runs has made the game less exciting. (Stolen bases, while exciting, are very minor components of winning; a walk is far more valuable.)

So I wonder: Has basketball strategy been optimized such that the game has become boring, or “brutal”? Were the Lakers and Celtics playing a general style of game which gave them the best chance of winning (notwithstanding specific errors committed in-game)? Or were they playing a fairly stupid game and both teams managed to get to the finals only because of their superior talent (or luck)?

I have close-to-zero interest in basketball (slightly more than I have in hockey or soccer), so I really have no idea. But in the abstract, it’s an interesting sports question.

Speaking of interesting sports questions, has anyone else noticed that people (other than Lakers and Celtics fans) seem more upset that the Lakers won than that the Celtics lost? I guess that’s what being the Yankees of the NBA gets you.