So far these playoffs have been a real lesson in the importance of shot-making. As everyone is so fond of saying today defenses limit easy baskets inside very well, so having the ability to create and complete open threes and covered mid-range shots is critical (PS – that’s always been true). But if we look at the difference between the winners and losers, we see a lot of what you might call “bad shot makers” coming up big.
In the Boston – New York series, the Knicks only really had one great team offensive game. In Game 3 the NY Offensive Rating was 108, which is very good, but other than that the Celtics held them well below league average in points per possession. But when it came down to making something out of nothing and hitting long bombs, New York did better, because of Carmelo Anthony‘s ability to make tough shots and hot games from Iman Shumpert and Pablo Prigioni while most of Boston’s role players struggled throughout.
Similarly the Warriors beat the Nuggets because of Steph Curry’s ability to hit ridiculous shots, and the Thunder hung on against the Rockets because of Kevin Durant (and he also won game one against the Grizzlies on a series of great shots). The Heat and Spurs simply outclassed the Bucks and Thunder in all aspects of the game. Of course severe damage to the Lakers’ backcourt from injuries to Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Steve Blake pretty much doomed them in the series.
Interestingly some of the more old school big, plodding type teams fared well in the first round as well. The Memphis Grizzlies ground the LA Clippers into a fine, red powder of the course of the series, relying on their punishing man to man defense and the superb interior play of their double big man line-up of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. In the East, the over-sized Indiana Pacers outlasted the Atlanta Hawks again using a very tough man to man defense predicated on great length at every position and physicality. And in Chicago, a decimated Bulls team played brutal Tom Thibodeau defense to steal game 7 on the road without Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and Kirk Hinrich – hypothetically their entire starting perimeter.
It’s been a fun first round, and round two looks very interesting with some contrasting styles of play. Can Indiana control the pace of the series against the Knicks (they’re called the Pacers, so you’d hope they could)? Can they bully the smaller NY front line, or will they get run off the court? Memphis is weakest defensively at the small forward, the one place the Thunder are strongest, and OKC has strong defenders up front when they play big. Even without Westbrook they might be an unfortunate draw for the Grizzlies. With the injury to David Lee, Mark Jackson has the Warriors playing serious small ball. It will be interesting to see if that continues against the Spurs and whether or not Tim Duncan punishes smaller defenders with scoring and passing from the post.
I feel really bad for the Bulls and some serious sour grapes for Miami. Chicago has had a great season playing against Miami even without Derrick Rose, but the loss of Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrick is just too much. Deng is one of the best one on one options in the league to defend LeBron James, and Hinrich has a long history of success covering Dwyane Wade dating back to their Final Four meeting when they played for Kansas and Marquette. Even if they both play, if they are limited, the Heat will abuse them with team speed and game long aggressiveness. Hopefully Noah and Boozer and clip their wings and get in their heads like they did during the regular season, but I doubt it. Miami is a juggernaut, and they know it. It will be difficult for any team to dent their confidence.
Tags: 2013 NBA Playoffs, Atlanta Hawks, Basketball, Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony, Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Dwyane Wade, Golden State Warriors, iman shumpert, Indiana Pacers, Kevin Durant, LA, LA Clippers, lebron james, Los Angeles Lakers, Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, review, round one, Russell Westbrook, San Antonio Spurs, sports, Steph Curry, steve nash, tim duncan, Zach Randolph