So for the third time in my young (and reckless) sports journalism career, I was featured on the Smash N’ Dash radio show on USF’s “Bulls Radio.” This time I chatted NBA playoff basketball with Justin Romaine, Renard Rowe, and Doug Miller (who I used to resent because we went to high school together and he was older than me and had my name so he was the cooler Doug). Once more, I come in at the 30 minute mark, but the entire show is great and is worth the hour of your time.
This time, the guys had some great questions for me about the playoffs and NBA hoops in general, so I want to offer a quick write up of my answers so I would sound a little more coherent than just babbling nervously on the phone. So, in order of our discussion, here are my takes on a few key NBA issues:
Of all the scorers playing in the NBA playoffs right now, with the game on the line with the last shot, who are you taking?
First of all, this essentially boils down to the classic, “who is the best closer in the game” discussion. If I had to define the word “closer” in basketball terms, I’d say something like “the go-to one-on-one scorer at the end of the game.”
With that understanding, I think you have to exclude LeBron James and Dwyane Wade from the closer conversation. Miami’s style of offense is based so largely off of ball movement and shot-sharing that ‘Bron and D-Wade are rarely in isolation situations anymore. So, in the last possession, Miami isn’t necessarily going to a one-on-one set for one of those guys; they’re more likely to share the ball and take the best available shot, and whether that’s LBJ, Wade, Bosh, Battier, or Juwan Howard, then so be it. While they might be the best closing offensive unit in the game, no particular guy is the best closer.
With the Miami gang out of the way, I think it comes down to Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Durant. Let’s start with ‘Melo. Obviously, Melo is extremely strong, has a lightning quick three point release, and isn’t bothered by a contesting defender, but here’s my gripe: Anthony has to get the ball in his spots to score. He’s deadly from the low block, the short corner, or the elbow, but in a one-on-one breakdown situation, Carmelo is most likely going to settle for a pull up three.
Durant, on the other hand, is so long that he can get his shot whenever he wants. If you’re stuck in an isolation, dribble set up situation, you can all but guarantee that KD will at least get a shot up. Combine his length with his dribble attacking ability and his nearly unlimited range, and Durant has to be the best closer in the game right now.
One of the common grips about the NBA playoffs is that they’re too long. Would you adjust anything in the playoffs to improve them?
CUT DOWN THE PLAYOFFS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Obviously I want as much basketball at possible, but even from an entertainment standpoint, I think it would be unwise to change anything.
On the show, Justin suggested shrinking the field of teams, trimming the eight from each conference to just the top four, but there’s a pretty serious problem with that. Have you ever watched a team in the last month of the season when they already know they’re not going to miss the playoffs? It’s brutal! Teams will create phantom injuries for their stars, work to “develop” young guys, and basically just mail things in to get a better lottery pick (the operative word here is tanking). If you were to make it even harder to make the playoffs, you would just have more early-eliminated teams trying to lose. For the later stages of the regular season, the quality of play would be brutal.
Another suggestion would be to cut the first round down from seven games to five, but there’s a big issue with that too. In a five game series, the initial instinct would be to play it as a 2-2-1 format, but that layout overly favors the higher seed. Think about it; if the higher seed wins their first two home games as they’re supposed to, the lower seed is forced to win three in a row, which is borderline impossible in a competitive series (in stacked home games in seven game series your first home game isn’t an elimination game, which is a HUGE difference). So, to make a five game series fair, you would have to make the format 1-1-1-1-1, which would include extensive travel and would end up taking just as long as a seven game series.
So the moral of the story here? Leave the playoffs alone!
The Milwaukee Bucks have been slightly more competitive with Miami than we anticipated; can they win a game in this series?
Nope! If they were going to, last night was their best chance when Ersan Ilyasova put up 21; I doubt they’re getting that out of him again. As dangerous as Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are, they’re too small to cause any real problems for the Heat. The incredible thing about Miami is that they play 4 1/2 guards defensively, yet they’re so athletic and long that they can challenge shots at the rim, while still being disruptive on the perimeter. When Jennings or Monta have gotten to the rim, they’ve been forced to take floaters or high-difficulty layups, and every jumper they shoot has a close-out on it. Basically, Milwaukee’s screwed.
Are the Celtics done against the Knicks?
I initially had the Celts losing to NY in six, and I still wouldn’t be shocked to see the series go that long, but it’s going to require some sort of contribution from Boston’s role players. Jason Terry has been a ghost, which is really killing the Clovers. When Boston had playoff success in the past, they always got big shooting games from guys like Eddie House of Nate Robinson, which would steal them a game when Pierce or the other Big 3 would have an off night. Now, it’s Pierce, maybe Jeff Green, and that’s it. Unless Boston can find some offensive output from their “other” guys, they don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Knicks. If games one and two are any indication, things are looking bleak in Beantown.
Which player is under the most pressure in the playoffs right now?
Renard tried to make the argument for Carmelo Anthony, and I get his point, but in my opinion you could make excuses for any player other than LeBron James. For example:
- Kevin Durant lost because Westbrook played too selfishly.
- Carmelo lose because Tyson Chandler was banged up, and they couldn’t string together enough stops without him.
- Chris Paul lost because Del Negro made bad coaching decisions down the stretch, or his teammates weren’t finishing plays off his creation.
But for LeBron, there’s no excuse. He has the best roster in the league, which has won the most games this year, while having his best statistical season ever, playing as the defending champ. Not to mention James has been the most scrutinized player in league history already. Frankly, I don’t think the pressure on anyone else is even close.
Is there any possibility for a Laker upset?
Heck yes! Didn’t you read my playoff preview?!?! I think the Lakers can and will win this series in seven. With Kobe out, L.A. can play a more post-centric offensive game. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol aren’t effective unless they get the proper amount of touches, and now they’ll be able to get them. The Lakers actually had success inside in game one, but they forced things a bit too much which lead to 10 turnovers between D12 and Grande-Gasol.
If L.A. can get anything out of their bench shooters (Jodie Meeks, Steve Blake, Andrew Goudelock), they can spread the Spurs out and really pound them inside. Remember, after the starters, the Spurs aren’t stout inside at all. Tim Duncan can’t log crazy minutes at all, and once Thiago Splitter comes out they’re stuck with Matt Bonner and Dajuan Blair.
Lastly, the two x-factors in this series will be Steve Nash and Manu Ginobili. Manu had a great game one, yet I can’t help but feel that his performance was mainly adrenaline fueled. Sometimes after coming back from a long layoff, players will have a huge first game but follow it up with a lackluster encore, and “Dr. Eurostep” might be headed that way. On the flip side, if Nash is able to get healthy and force Tony Parker to actually play on the defensive end, the Lakers gain another huge advantage.
The Warriors won last night, but can they win this series against the Nuggets?
I certainly think so. Even before David Lee got injured, all of the pressure for Golden State was on Stephen Curry and Jarret Jack. In order to win, they had to outplay Andre Miller and Ty Lawson. In game one, they didn’t and in game two, they did. With Lee gone, nothing really changes because the Nuggets already had an advantage inside.
Keep in mind, the Nuggets aren’t healthy either. Danilo Galinari is gone, Faried is hobbled, and Lawson just came back. If the Warriors continue to get big games from Harrison Barnes (see game two) and get anything from Andrew Bogut, they’ll be in great shape.
With Mike Brown back in Cleveland, could we see a reunion with LeBron James in the future?
No. Absolutely not. NO! DO YOU HEAR ME? NO!
Seriously, though. No.
Something about the Orlando Magic that like three people care about.
Something about Vucevic, Harkless, Harris, and Noel. I don’t remember, I wasn’t really listening.
So if you love my writing, but want to hear my sensual, sultry voice on the radio, give it a listen. These guys are really fun to work with, and I think Smash N’ Dash has a great thing going. In the name of Mulch, show your support.