NBA, NHL Have a Close Game Issue

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Basketball is over and hockey is coming to a close.

The NBA and NHL are not premium sports for me. I do not religiously tune in and I do not have a big rooting interest in either league. Though I’d like the Knicks to do well.

A working knowledge of what unfolds for discussion on OutKick 360 requires me to plug-in to some degree (and some small bets may enhance my interest), but both leagues have failed to do their part to pull in neutral observers this late spring and early summer.

Both leagues have a close game problem.

The best potential thing about an NBA Final or a Stanley Cup Final game is the you-can’t-miss-this finish. Your friend’s text and Twitter is abuzz.

Out of the nine combined games that have been played so far, how many of those have we had?


Game 1 of Tampa Bay-Colorado, which was a thrilling back-and-forth. The Avalanche went ahead 3-1 in the first period, the Lightning pulled even in the second, and the home crowd exploded when Andre Burakovsky scored early in overtime to put the Avs ahead 1-0 in the series.

The second-closest game in either the Warriors-Celtics or Avalanche-Lightning series was Tampa Bay’s Game Three 6-2 win Tuesday night. A four-goal game isn’t holding my attention. How about you?

I’ll take big wins for my teams – a small group composed of the Yankees, U.S. Soccer and Chelsea – but generally I am in it for the drama. If the Yanks are up 6-0, I’m probably not sticking around for that one either.

I need a tight game late, a game-deciding two-minute drill, a Stanley Cup overtime, or crucial end-of-game possessions culminating with a shot in the air that will decide the game as the buzzer sounds.

The classics are close.

The best thing we’ve seen lately hasn’t been in the NBA or NHL, but on the 72nd hole of the U.S. Open. That gave us the edge-of-your-seat nerves and anxiety that make the end of a big event great. If it had been basketball or hockey, it would have been Matt Fitzpatrick needing a four-putt to seal it.  

The Warriors-Celtics series not only averaged a winning margin of 13.3 points, but the two closest games in the series were decided by 10 points.

Last year when the Milwaukee Bucks beats the Phoenix Suns in six games, the average margin of victory was 10, but the final three games were decided by six, four and seven points. There was a lot of suspense at the end.

The year before, when the Lakers beat the Heat in the bubble, the average margin was 10.2 points, but we had a six-point and three-point game.

Hockey-wise it took a great Lightning team a total of 11 games to dispatch the Canadiens in 2021 and the Stars in 2020. We were blessed with five one-goal games among them.

The 2022 Stanley Cup Finals has a chance to revert to the joy of the first game, but the last two have been decided by seven and four goals – differentials that push people to Netflix or bed.

So, things are trending in a bad direction and there is no fix except for the runner-up to be more competitive.

Hopefully, it’s just a bad cycle.

It’s certainly been less interesting and entertaining. Tuesday night as the Lightning ran away from the Avs, I watched the first episode of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” on Amazon Prime.

Good news for the NHL It wasn’t good either.

Paul Kuharsky cohosts OutKick 360. Read more of him at

Written by Paul Kuharsky

Paul Kuharsky is an award-winning writer who has covered the NFL for over 22 years in California, Texas, and Tennessee, and also is a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After ESPN, PK came to join the longest running trio in Nashville Sports Talk in 2012.

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