Cody comes through with a high velocity comparison of the remaining 8 playoff teams to the 8 Fast and Furious movies.

It is time for the second round of the NBA playoffs. Well, technically the second round already started. The Celtics and Raptors are on game 7 already. But now all the teams are officially set. This new basketball world we are living in is an insane, adrenaline fueled ride. For the most part, the games have been a joy to watch. Having basketball back has been awesome and the pacing has added to that. The schedule is fast and furious, you might say. Thus, as I thought about the eight conference semifinal teams, my mind drifted to another insane, adrenaline fueled ride. My mind also might have been shoved there by turning on TNT before some of the games. Or by turning on TNT any time in the last nineteen years. The eight movies in the Fast Saga turned out to be perfect simulacrums of the remaining playoff teams. I don’t mean exact replicas. What I will be laying out here is that the experience of each of these eight cinematic classics is a similar feeling to the one I get while watching these NBA title hopefuls. This is not about who is the best or who is going to win. It is an exploration. So without any more engine revving, let’s skip the gratuitous ass shot and wave the flag.

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

The first installment in the series follows Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), an undercover cop, who is tasked with discovering the identities of a group of unknown automobile hijackers led by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). -Wikipedia

The Celtics – A young team with gobs of potential trying to put the pieces together to build something great.

Cast

Jayson Tatum – Vin Diesel

Jaylen Brown – Paul Walker

Kemba Walker – Michelle Rodriguez

Gordon Hayward (oof) – Jordana Brewster

Daniel Theis – Ricky Yune

Marcus Smart – Matt Schultze

Enes Kanter – Chad Lindberg

In a lot of ways, the first Fast movie was a remake of Point Break. The Celtics are also playing with a script that has been successful in the past. They are taking two fantastic young two-way wings and trying to parlay that into competition. Much like, The Fast and the Furious which took a core group of young actors and built a franchise around their connection. And if Tatum and Brown are like the Dominic and Brian of this team, we cannot forget that Kemba is the Michelle Rodriguez. He might not be the reason you go to see the movie, but his style is undeniable. You need him to pull the family together.

In the same way that the first installment was a smaller movie, the Celtics are not the deepest team. Seven players deep and you get into the “Jesse” type of guys. He’s a tech wiz, but shouldn’t try to race his father’s car. He’s the “can’t play Kanter” of the crew. Still, quirks aside, this team can create some undeniably awesome moments. I remember when I heard Vin Diesel say he lives his life a quarter mile at a time. It was the start of something. Maybe the Celtics can become a Corona-sipping family. Maybe Jaylen likes his tuna with the crust cut off. If so, Boston cannot be discounted.

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

Brian O’Conner and Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) team up to go undercover for the U.S. Customs Service to bring down drug lord Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) in exchange for the erasure of their criminal records. -Wikipedia

The Heat – A fun team of complimentary players with a distinctive style. They fit together smoothly.

Cast

Jimmy Butler – Paul Walker

Bam Adebayo – Tyrese Gibson

Goran Dragic – Eva Mendes

Duncan Robinson – Ludacris

Tyler Herro – Cole Hauser

Andre Iguodala – James Remar

Yes, they’re both set in Miami. This movie and this team are not the first that leap to mind when a casual fan imagines a true contender. Yet when one looks a little deeper, there’s a lot to like. They are solid everywhere you look on the roster. The Heat don’t have that highest tier of star, but they have Jimmy Butler, who is like Paul Walker in that he can do so many different things for your team. He can anchor your team if you maximize his talents. Paul Walker is not Paul Newman. If you put him in a fast car and have him stare at Eva Mendes while he drives, he will give you a memorable moment.

Bam Adabayo brings that same magnetism and counterweight to the group as Mendes. When they’re out there, you can’t help but watch. I would also watch Jimmy and Bam recreate that scene. And let’s not forget Ludacris. His high efficiency screen time is a solid Duncan Robinson comp.. He doesn’t miss. No, I don’t think this team is winning the championship, but I like watching them and they shoot the hell out of the ball. The Bucks give up the most threes in the league. You can never underestimate a team that has the equivalent of launching a car over a bridge over another car. 

Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

High school car enthusiast Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) is sent to live in Tokyo with his father, and finds solace in the city’s drifting community. -Wikipedia

The Nuggets – The afterthought team is showing some real strength.

Cast

Nikola Jokic – Lucas Black

Jamal Murray – Sun Kang

Michael Porter Jr. – Bow Wow

Monte Morris – Brian Tee

Jerami Grant – Nathalie Kelley

Paul Millsap – Sonny Chiba

Torrey Craig – Leonardo Nam

Gary Harris – Zachary Ty Bryan

The Nuggets were left for dead down 3-1 to the Jazz. That series was already the afterthought of the first round. The Fast series was in a tough spot after the second movie. None of the original actors were returning. So it had to transform into something new. They set the third movie in a new location with new characters. For the Nuggets they transformed Jamal Murray from an intriguing young player into a human Nos canister. I don’t know that anyone saw this coming. Watching him and Donovan Mitchell bomb back and forth was reminiscent of the final race to become the Drift King. Still, this team will most likely be marginalized when they go up against the Clippers and it is true they don’t have the same depth of talent. They do have a lot of spirit. You don’t come back from elimination without some heart. And Tokyo Drift has the heart of a Fast film. Upon rewatching, it was better than I remembered. The Nuggets are similarly proving that they belong. And now they’re lined up against the Clippers like the playoff version of the post credit race with Dom. Don’t sleep on them.

Fast & Furious (2009)

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Brian O’Conner and Dominic Toretto are forced to work together to avenge the murder of Toretto’s lover Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) and apprehend drug lord Arturo Braga (John Ortiz). -Wikipedia

The Bucks – A team that knows what it does well. Trust the system, trust the stars and they’ll be fine.

Cast

Giannis Antetokounmpo – Vin Diesel

Kris Middleton – Paul Walker

Brook Lopez – Michelle Rodriguez

Eric Bledsoe – Jordana Brewster

George Hill – Gal Gadot

Donte DiVincenzo – John Ortiz

Wesley Matthews – Laz Alonzo

“Let’s just try running it back.”

That might have been the thought process behind the fourth of the Fast movies. And it may have been the thought behind the Milwaukee Bucks this season as well. The Fast franchise tweaked a lot about their chemistry in the second and third installments. They were good, as we’ve covered. However, one would not be remiss in feeling like something was missing. With the fourth movie, the team came back for a “true sequel.” The Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdan, but brought back the rest of their core and the results speak for themselves. The best record in the league. A record high point differential. Presumably a second MVP for the Greek Freak.

 What remains to be seen is whether regular season success can translate to playoff greatness. They are putting trust in the familiar, unless you count adding Marvin Williams. The studio put the trust back in the original family and it certainly paid off for them as well. Fast and Furious was the highest grossing of the four films at the time. Bryan and Dom’s relationship found it’s final footing, which is exactly what Giannis and Middleton need to do in the playoffs. Also, if Brook Lopez is murdered in a fiery crash that literally no one could walk away from, I do know that Robin Lopez will be able to see what happened as if he was there.

Fast Five (2011)

Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Conner and Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) plan a heist to steal $100 million from corrupt businessman Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) while being pursued for arrest by U.S. Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). -Wikipedia

The Lakers – They brought in the big guns to make a real run at the title.

Cast

LeBron James – Vin Diesel

Anthony Davis – Paul Walker

Kyle Kuzma – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Jordana Brewster

Danny Green – Tyrese Gibson

Alex Caruso – Gal Gadot

Dion Waiters – Ludacris

Markief Morris – Sun Kang

Dwight Howard – Joaquim de Almeida

Javale McGee – Elsa Pataky

Look at those rosters. It is sort of remarkable that either of these even worked. On the other hand, it feels inevitable. Both can be true. That sums up both this movie and the Lakers perfectly. On one hand, the movie feels like it was destined to be a massive hit. They brought in arguably the biggest star in the world. No-brainer. It’s the smaller moves that I find interesting though. They are setting up Elena and Dom. They got rid of Vince. Gal Gadot at that point was on her way to becoming a bigger star than almost all of them and she’s got a fairly small part. By the way, that is exactly the Caruso analogy. (Just kidding.)

The point is that making these pieces fit is as complicated as a safe heist in the middle of Rio. It’s a lot to navigate. Now we get to see if the Lakers can take all their disparate pieces and leave everyone else staring at an empty decoy safe in the end. Dwight hasn’t over reached. Dion and JR Smith haven’t disappeared to Vegas together. It is working for now despite the inability to shoot. That’s a risk. I would compare it to driving your car off a cliff into a canyon of water. It is thrilling to watch LeBron James and Anthony Davis  play together. LeBron is in year 17 and he’s still getting it done. I may not be quite sure how someone would survive a fall from that height, but that hope is a lot easier with AD and LeBron on the squad.

Fast and Furious 6 (2013)

Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Conner and their team are offered amnesty for their crimes by Luke Hobbs, in exchange for helping him take down a skilled mercenary organization led by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), one member of which is Toretto’s former lover Letty Ortiz. -Wikipedia

The Rockets – An undeniable force. They made some sacrifices in the pursuit of greatness.

Cast

James Harden – Vin Diesel

Russell Westbrook – Paul Walker

PJ Tucker – Dwayne The Rock Johnson

Jeff Green – Jordana Brewster

Danuel House – Michelle Rodriguez

Eric Gordon – Tyrese Gibson

Robert Covington – Gal Gadot

Austin Rivers – Ludacris

Ben McLemore – Sun Kang

Tyson Chandler (lol) – Luke Evans

I can picture Daryl Morey careening down a suspended highway, crouched on the hood of a car. The Larry O’Brien trophy is launched into the air. Daryl chrases into the side and is catapulted through the sky, catching the trophy, and crashing onto the hood of another car. It’s a risky move. It’s an all-in type of move. So is trading Clint Capella and deciding that the 5’ 11” PJ Tucker is your center. But the Rockets went all in.

They sent the message that they are going to play a unique brand of basketball. You may not like it, but you have to respect what they’re doing, especially in the bubble. Before the shut down, it felt like they had blown their Nos and the league was catching up. In the bubble, they were the toughest team I watched. They scrap and they battle and they shoot without a conscience. Both teams are not without their questions. If Letty is back in the picture, how does that work with Elena? Can Westbrook and Harden coexist? The film doubled down on what made Fast Five such a success. They said they were going to reinvent the series and they stuck with it. It worked. The Rockets have snatched close games and walked away from explosive blowouts.

If Russell Westbrook can come back strong, this team has a chance to be like Owen Shaw’s car that is designed to act as a wedge and use it’s quickness to flip over larger, more lumbering vehicles. Because that’s in this movie and that’s how the Rockets play.

My personal feelings about the Rockets are very similar to my feelings about Deckard Shaw killing Han in the post credit sequence and then a movie later being accepted as a member of the family. Bullshit.

Furious 7 (2015)

Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), a rogue special forces assassin seeking to avenge his comatose younger brother Owen, puts the team of Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner in danger once again. -Wikipedia

The Clippers – Added another superstar to an already stacked roster.

Cast

Kawhi Leonard – Vin Diesel

Paul George – Paul Walker

Lou Williams – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Montrezl Harrell – Jason Statham

Ivica Zubac – Jordana Brewster

Marcus Morris – Tyrese Gibson

Pat Beverly – Ludacris

Landry Shamet – Kurt Russell

Reggie Jackson – Nathalie Emmanuel

JaMychal Green – Ronda Rousey

When you have the chance to add a major star, you do it. Just as the Fast movies added The Rock, the Clippers added Kawhi Leonard. Then they decided to go even bigger. They brought in Paul George/Jason Statham. The chemistry of Kawhi and George or The Rock and the Transporter is apparent on first viewing. It’s so good, you could make a spin off. I would totally watch the two Clippers wreck a two on two tournament. The Clippers are more than just the two stars, though and Furious 7 is equally deep. When Kurt Russell or Lou Williams are your sixth men, you have an embarrassment of riches in the talent department. Also, Lou Williams might have been in the league when Breakdown came out.

When the Clippers are firing on all cylinders–I typed that pun in every section– they are scary. It is hard to believe the intensity, defense, and shot making. Watching Kawhi, George, and Patrick Beverly switch is like driving a car through a skyscraper, landing in another one, and then just for the hell of it, shooting for one more. Each new level spawns an, “oh my god, what are you going to do!?” The Clippers are a two way juggernaut. The seventh movie was still able to pull out shocking stunts like dropping real cars from real planes. It could also make my eyes get real hot and my throat tighten up when they say goodbye to Paul Walker’s Brian. I mean, come on, that is versatility.

Fate of the Furious (2017)

Cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) coerces Dom into working for her and turns him against his team, forcing them to find Dominic and take down Cipher. -Wikipedia

The Raptors – They lost a star, but they are just as good in so many ways.

Cast

Pascal Siakam – Vin Diesel

Fred VanVleet – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Kyle Lowry – Jason Statham

OG Anunoby – Jordana Brewster

Marc Gasol – Tyrese Gibson

Normal Powell – Ludacris

Serge Ibaka – Kurt Russell

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson – Nathalie Emmanuel

Terence Davis – Elsa Pataky

Chris Boucher – Charlize Theron

Stanley Johnson (former lottery pick) – Scott Eastwood

Kawhi Leonard is not dead. He plays for the Los Angeles Clippers and not the Toronto Raptors. Paul Walker died and left behind a family. I am not actually equating those two. This is about the movies. Fate of the Furious had a major, major piece missing from the previous installments. If Dominic Toretto is the heartbeat of the series, Brian was the backbone. Many folks, myself included, wondered what type of movie the eighth one would be without him. Especially considering how perfectly the everyone involved nailed the end of the seventh film.

We shouldn’t have been so concerned. F8 had a submarine erupt from right underneath the family. The Raptors had Pascal Siakam erupt from right under the rest of the league. Norman Powell is throwing down dunks on any and all heads, much the same way that Charlize is dunking on our heroes in this one. Fred VanVleet keeps getting better and is a real weapon. He always seems to hit threes like Roman Pierce hits one liners. They’re perfectly timed daggers. This team is crazy deep. They have former lottery picks that don’t take off their warm ups. Meanwhile, Helen freaking Mirren is in this flick! The Queen!

The Raptors didn’t replace Kawhi. They highlighted the talent they already had. They grew as a team, with some players taking on more responsibility. They play together and they defend you the full 48 minutes. I believe when you live and work in a bubble that chemistry matters. You need teammates who will shield you from a giant explosion by driving their cars in front of you. Or something like that. The team is not without its flaws. Who is going to be that bucket getter late? Is it Lowry? Siakam? The versatile wings of the Celtics might give them some trouble. Why did Dom name his so Brian if the in-universe Brian isn’t dead? Shaw killed Han!!!!

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