Monday, May 9, 2011

BDT -- The Most Confusing Playoffs Ever (May 9)

Go ahead and drive the lane and let's see if you're smiling afterwards...
Let me start this off with a disclaimer; if you're reading this with the hope of gaining a better understanding of what's happening in the NBA Playoffs, then you're going to be severely disappointed. Truth is I have no idea what's going on anymore. None. It honestly feels like everything I thought I knew about the NBA and about basketball in general has been tossed out the window...and we're not even to the Conference Finals! Think about it; thus far, the lessons we've learned are that Marc is the better Gasol, Z-Bo is the best post player in the game, and Miami's role players are better than Boston's. At this pace, we're about two games away from Brian Scalabrine taking the floor in his suit and throwing down over Josh Smith. I'm not even sure I'd be surprised!

Shock Level
1=Brett Favre is coming back
10=Al Davis is still alive

Mavericks sweep Lakers - Shock Level: 14.0

This series broke my shock level scale! Heck, forget him just being alive, this is more on the level of Al Davis winning the 2020 presidential election! So Dallas wins Game 1 in LA; big deal, right? The Lakers have seemingly had motivation issues all year, so it's not a huge surprise they didn't treat it like a big game. Then, Dallas wins Game 2 in LA. Surprising, yes; but there's a sense the Lakers, with their backs against the wall, will finally flip the switch and morph back into...well, the Lakers. Then, Dallas overcomes a late deficit to win Game 3 in Dallas. Uh-oh. Still, nothing on this earth could have prepared me for what happened yesterday afternoon.

122-86. Never in a million years would I imagine this Laker team going down 122-86. Never in a million years would I imagine Kobe Bryant taking a 36 point beatdown. Never in a million years would I imagine Phil Jackson's final playoff series ending in an embarrassing four game sweep. Yeah, the Lakers looked old at points this year, but I was certain they still had one last time to flip the switch and make their run. Apparently not. Pau Gasol sucks, Kobe looks old, Derek Fisher finally exhausted his last bit of usefulness, Lamar Odom is declining, Andrew Bynum can't keep his mouth shut, and Dallas was simply a better team. End of story.

At this point, the Lakers are at a major crossroads and they have significant questions to answer this offseason. I hate to be the guy who jumps the gun and makes rash judgments, but I feel comfortable saying this current Laker team will never compete for a championship again. Sure, they probably have another three or four playoff runs in them, but they simply aren't at the level of OKC, Memphis, Chicago, Miami, etc. unless they make significant changes...and those changes start with Kobe Bryant. Laker fans, it's time to face the fact that Kobe Bryant is no longer Kobe Bryant. He's still a great player, but do you really think vintage Kobe allows the offense to flounder for four games? Do you really think vintage Kobe allows Dallas to dominate every fourth quarter? I didn't think so.

Look, I'm not declaring doom and gloom on the Lakers. They're still the Lakers! As much as I may delight in their misery, it's likely short lived. They have a lot of valuable pieces on their roster, an excellent front office, AND THEY'RE THE LAKERS! If I had to guess, I'd say things are shaping up for them to land Dwight Howard this summer. The organization has been hesitant to part with Andrew Bynum, but after his "we don't trust each other" comments and his dirty, punk foul on J.J. Barea, it seems likely they'll be a bit more open to the idea. If they can pull that off, hang on to Shannon Brown, nail their coaching hire, convince Kobe he's past his prime, and get Gasol to grow a pair...hmm, maybe doom and gloom sounds reasonable.

As for the Dallas Mavericks; you convinced me. I disrespected them for two rounds now and I won't be making that mistake again. Seriously though, can you blame me for picking against them? After Game 3, I was so confused by everything and I went and looked through their roster one more time. Jason Terry is pretty good, but he's not an All-Star or anything. Jason Kidd is still pretty good, but he's well past his prime. I guess Tyson Chandler is a nice player and Brendan Haywood is a decent low post defender. But really, they picked Peja off the scrap heap! J.J. Barea is an undrafted rookie FA who never graded out as even an average player before this year! I'm just so confused! I will say this though, Dirk Nowitzki is the most unguardable player in the NBA. I'm not saying he's the best (though, maybe he is right now?); I'm saying he's the most unguardable. You put a big guy on him and he drives around him. You put a quicker guy on him and he shoots over top. You get a hand in his face and he still knocks it down. As a defender, you want your man to take awkward, off balance, fadeaway shots...but that's Dirk's game! There's nothing you can do to stop him! You want to double him? Fine, he'll find the open man for a three. Just impossible...

Grizzlies 2 Thunder 1 - Shock Level: 7.5

Dear Russell Westbrook:

Just in case you had forgotten, I wanted to remind you that Kevin Durant is on your team. I know you're a great player and all, but Durant is arguably the best scorer in the league, so perhaps you could work the offense through him every now and then? I mean, dumb, contested threes and wreckless forays to the basket all have their place in the game, but 30 shots sounds like a bit much, don't you think?

In all seriousness, Westbrook is killing OKC right now. For some odd reason, the media keeps telling me I shouldn't put blame on Westbrook; that I should cut him some slack for his play. Here's the thing...HE'S THE FREAKING POINT GUARD! If the point guard is jacking up dozens of dumb shots, turning the ball over seven times a game, and preventing the best scorer in the league from controlling the game, then I sure as heck am going to kill him for it! Not blaming Westbrook is like saying, "hey, don't kill M. Night Shyamalan for his movies! He's trying really hard!"

(Side note: Again, I don't want to jump the gun on things, but I think OKC needs to take severe caution with this situation. Bill Simmons has pointed out this comparison already, so don't give me any credit for thinking of it, but it feels eerily similar to the Kevin Garnett-Stephon Marbury pairing in Minnesota. I really hope it doesn't work out the same way, but it's headed down that path unless Westbrook realizes Durant will ALWAYS be "The Man." )

Maybe I'm the only one, but I don't understand how OKC doesn't sweep Memphis. I'm still not jumping on the Grizzlies train because I think they're just hot right now and OKC is anything but. I've seen a lot of Zach Randolph in my life, and he's not this good. He can't be this good, right? He can't even jump, he's so fat! I just don't get it.

Atlanta 2 Chicago 2 - Shock Level: 7.0

Here's another one I don't get. Watching last nights game was like watching an episode of 'The Twilight Zone.' How is Atlanta making all the big plays down the stretch? Isn't that what Chicago does? I thought Atlanta was the choker team...heck, I know Atlanta is the choker team! Now, Josh Smith is taking the ball to the basket, everyone is playing defense, and they're working the ball around for good shots. I swear, if Marvin Williams starts rebounding and hitting threes, I might have a panic attack.

All that said, I've still got to believe Chicago pulls this series out. Of course, if Derrick Rose keeps shooting 30% then who knows? Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 NBA MVP!

Miami 2 Boston 1 - Shock Level: 6.0

Effort. Simply put, this series is going to come down to Boston's effort. The most confusing aspect of these playoffs has been the Celtic's inconsistent defensive effort. It's been the mainstay of our franchise the last four years. It's been the catalyst to two Eastern Conference titles and one NBA title. You'd think a team full of veterans could consistently bring their trademark defensive effort to the table night in and night out. Nope. It was missing for the majority of Games 1 and 2 in the first round and it was totally missing for Games 1 and 2 against Miami. Why, I have no idea. It makes no sense to me and it frustrates the heck out of me. And then, just when I think Boston is ready to lay down and die, Game 3 happens...

I picked Boston in this series because I assumed Game 3 Boston would consistently show up. Now, I'm not saying I think we'll win every game by 16 points, but I don't think Miami can play with us if we play our game. Thus far, we haven't...and Miami has dominated. Perhaps it was the urgency of the moment, perhaps it was the energy of the crowd; whatever it was, Boston turned it on Saturday night and decided to make this a series. For four years, I've consistently said there are three keys to Boston's success:

Number one; defensive effort. We have fantastic individual defensive talent, but our scheme requires all five guys to play hard and to play together. The hard shows on screens, the constant motion and switching, the timely double teams; everything we do is predicated on everyone working their tails off. Miami's lack of threats beyond the "Fake Three" actually maximizes our scheme's effectiveness...if we work hard.

Number two; Rajon Rondo's aggressiveness. Forget the Big Three; Rajon Rondo is the most important player on the team. Everyone else takes their cue from how Rondo leads. When he's playing passive and not looking to attack, everyone else tends to float around the perimeter and settle for jump shots, and we simply aren't good enough to win that way. Rondo doesn't even need to score, he just needs to push the ball upcourt and attack the rim. From there, Ray Allen gets good corner looks, Paul Pierce gets easy looks off basket cuts, and the bigs get layups from dump off passes. In the first two games, Boston settled for jumpers. In Game 3, Rondo's aggressiveness gave us at least ten extra points off easy looks near the basket. At least.

Number three; Kevin Garnett's post game. I know he's a good shooter and all, but it frustrates me to see him away from the basket. No, he's not 25 ppg KG anymore, but he's still nearly impossible to stop on the low block...especially with Joel Anthony guarding him. Simply put, he's too long, too athletic, and he has too much touch to not be effective down low. Why he wants to settle for contested 18 footers is beyond me because you saw what he's still capable of on Saturday. Doc ran the exact same play for KG four or five times in a row and it worked every single time. More please!

Will Boston win the series? I don't know. I certainly hope so, but 2-0 is a big hole against Lebron and Wade. Still, we finally saw that familiar "Game 6" look in Lebron's eye and I'll be fascinated to see how he performs the rest of the way. I'll also be fascinated to see what Rondo can give us. I don't care what anyone says, that was a dirty play from Wade and I certainly hope he gets a couple Shaq Specials tonight. You know what I mean! In all honesty, Game 3 will go down in my book as one of the most incrediblethings I've ever seen. That type of injury puts most guys out for weeks, not minutes! To see Rondo trot back out and dominate Miami with one arm was beyond amazing. Like him or not, you have to have respect for what he did. Oddly enough, I'm not worried about Rondo tonight. His game is already goofy and it's not like we'll miss his shooting anyways. He can still handle, he can still pass, and he can still play defense.

Look, I still believe in my Celts! 8-10 minutes of Shaq makes a real difference and I wouldn't be surprised if the Rondo play gives Boston all the motivation they need to win the next three games. That's right! I'm still sticking by my Boston in 6 prediction! So what if I've been wrong about literally everything else?

1 comment:

  1. Don't ask me why, but when I read your shock level scale, I laughed nonstop for about 30 seconds. It was probably the image of Al Davis with his zombie bandage on his head as his brains ooze out during a press conference.