The only thing more surprising than Rashard Lewis’ impact on the Eastern Conference Finals is that not even he saw it coming.
“When [Coach Spoelstra] called my name [in Game 3], I sat there like, ‘Did he just say my name?’” Lewis told Grantland’s Zach Lowe. “And he looked at me like, ‘Let’s go!’”
"Yeah, the short roll is a dangerous play. Because any defense, the best way to attack a defense is to get the ball to the middle of the floor. And when you're aggressive on the pick-and-roll defense against a non-threat especially, where they are looking to pass, you give up the short roll. And then depending on the player, they have a menu of things they can do. They can take one dribble and they are at the rim, they can kick to three-point shooters. And it puts unnecessary pressure on your defense.
Steve Kerr the coach won't be Kerr the commentator, Kerr the announcer, or Kerr the splashy offseason hire. What will he be?
With his team leading by one point and the fourth quarter game-clock winding in his team’s thrilling Game 4 win over the Wizards, Roy Hibbert caught the ball three feet above the left block. Bodied ably by a game Nene, Indy’s embattled center took a left-handed dribble and two lumbering steps to the middle, pushing himself farther away from the basket. Uncomfortable shooting over his right shoulder from such a distance, Hibbert quickly gathered, pivoted, and flung an awkward 12-foot hook at the rim over the outstretched arms of his defender.
Perhaps more than anything, individual matchups are magnified in the playoffs. As rotations shorten, intensity heightens, and coaching looms more influential than ever, the exploitation of a certain player’s strengths and weaknesses can easily swing a game, and by proxy a series. Which teams win or lose a single mismatch can be the tipping point between advancing into June and being eliminated in April.
For Dirk Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks, first round playoff exits deem entire seasons failures. Such was the case in 2004 when Don Nelson’s last team was ousted by the Sacramento Kings in five games. The dominant 2007 Mavs will be remembered forever, but on the wrong side of history: they fell after six dramatic games to the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors. And the 2008 and 2010 squads suffered similar fates, as high aspirations led to new questions and offseason changes after they were easily ousted in late April.
Scott Brooks believes that Kevin Durant had a choice.
“[Durant] has the opportunity to catch and drive,” Brooks said of his star’s missed 28-footer in the waning seconds of Game 5. “I give KD that decision to make a play. Tough shot.”
Though difficult to comprehend now, it wasn't long ago that the Miami Heat – with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh wearing red and gold – looked lost offensively. Conventional wisdom before the 2010-2011 season was that Miami would take the league by storm, ushering in new structures of team-building both on and off the floor. Back then, it didn't seem insane when Jeff Van Gundy predicted that this new Big Three would lead the Heat to a record-breaking 73 wins – never before had skilled, smart, uber-athletes of James and Wade's caliber ran opposite wings, and Bosh was an ideal fit alongside them as rangy inside-out scorer.
[caption id="attachment_5740" align="aligncenter" width="680"] Jun 20, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks with San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan (21), point
That analysis of the crushing impact Andrew Bogut’s indefinite absence will have on the Warriors playoff hopes has been relegated to one side of the ball is extremely telling. Golden State was a defensive team first and foremost this season, after all, due in large part to the supreme influence of its seven-foot Aussie. But his near-dominance on that end of the floor not withstanding, we’d be remiss to continue acting as if the loss of Bogut won’t prove detrimental to the Warriors offense, too. And considering that reality, it bears mentioning that Golden State is in even more trouble against the Clippers than anyone's anticipating.