Well, I ate this bet. And as always when I lose, whether it be in a poker hand, or a sports bet, or in a board game with my hated rival and best friend, the Supertrader, I do a post-mortem. That’s how I get better at what I do.
So, here’s my list of reasons why my bet on the Nuggets was either a bad bet or a good bet:
1) Aaron Afflalo: I didn’t realize he was injured. I’m not sure I how I could have found out, but I fault myself for not knowing this.
The Nuggets are not the Nuggets without Afflalo. Russell Westbrook was 19-41 (46%) from the field in the 2 games he missed. In the last three games, he was 21-60 (35%).
2) Team Chemistry: Obviously this was greatly affected by the Afflalo injury, and also by the terrific defensive pressure of the Thunder. But it was also clear that the newly traded-for Nuggets struggled in half-court sets due to their unfamiliarity with the plays, and with their new teammates. This turned into a big edge for the Thunder at the end of games.
3) Playoff Experience: The core Nuggets players have playoff experience, and so does Raymond Felton. But two of the new Nuggets didn’t: Gallinari and Chandler. Very surprisingly to me, Gallinari stepped up, and Chandler disappeared. I expected Chandler, who is one of my favorite players, to have a huge series, but he virtually disappeared, and was benched for long stretches. George Karl said he was a victim of stage fright.
4) The Superstar: The Thunder have one and the Nuggets don’t. Again, this told heavily in crunch time.
But I don’t believe it would have been nearly the factor it was if weren’t for 2) and 3) above. Superstars go down all the time in NBA playoffs. Just ask Lebron, or Kobe when he didn’t have Shaq or Gasol, or Dwayne Wade when he didn’t have Shaq, or…
5) Serge Ibaka: I noticed his play and traded for him mid-season in my fantasy league, to back up Marcus Camby. I hit the jackpot when the Celtic trade went down. And then when Camby got injured Ibaka saved my bacon.
And yet I still slept on Ibaka in this series. How? This 21-year-old kid is the second best player on the Thunder, and it’s not even close. And if he played with a real point guard, his offense would explode as well.
9 blocks in a playoff game? Won’t happen again until… The Nightmare hits the big stage.
6) David Stern: Never, ever bet against the face of the NBA. This is a hard and fast rule I have had for years, and yet I somehow managed to forget it in this series. That missed goaltending call that cost the Nuggets Game 1, and their confidence in this series. The clear path foul in Game 3, that was reviewed, and still mis-called. And in Game 5, the missed out of bounds off Ibaka’s leg, that was also reviewed, and also mis-called again after looking at the tape.
Not to mention that clear over and back on Kevin Durant. Don’t think that was an over and back? Go back and watch the tape. Yes, he landed with his foot on the line on the inbounds, which is fine. Not over and back: you are allowed to catch in the backcourt. But then he dribbled towards center court, taking a step with his right foot in the front court, and then again placing his left foot on the line. If that’s not over and back, then David Stern doesn’t care about money.
All of these plays took place in crunch time, and all were impossible to miss. Human error, right? A completely innocent explanation? Not for me.
I’m with Bill Simmons.
6) Bet the Games, Dummy! I wouldn’t call this a rule, but it’s a thought I have been carrying around for years: When you like the underdog in a series, it is far smarter to bet individual games, taking the points, than it is the series. Particularly when you feel like betting against the face of the NBA.
OK, let’s call it a rule. From now on.
1) Russell Westbrook: I called him overrated. A selfish gunner with no court vision and no leadership.
And I was right.
2) Nene v. Perkins: Next.
3) Kevin Durant and the OKC offense: Durant got loose in games 1 and 5, but other than that was kept nicely in check. And the rest of the Thunder struggled to pick up the slack. The Thunder shot 37% as a team in Game 5, and a generally miserable percentage for the series. As I predicted.
It will get worse.
4) George Karl disappointed: Partly because the Nuggets had very good individual defenders whom he trusted, Karl had a very poor game plan on Durant. The Nuggets didn’t double enough which I found perplexing given the weakness of Durant’s playmaking and OKC’s shooting.
But what really got my goat is that the Nuggets pushed Durant LEFT, and continually allowed him to turn right shoulder, which is his wheelhouse.
Don Nelson showed the world how to play Kevin Durant, when he was forced to guard him with a 6-3″ 180 lb. player named Monta Ellis, and pushed him RIGHT. But I guess Karl never saw that tape. And why should he? As we all know, Don Nelson never thought about defense.
5) It was close, and I was being laid odds. 4-1 is close? Yes, considering that game 1 in OKC was stolen in the last seconds, and you could say the same about game 5, also in OKC. If the Nuggets win game 1, in particular, this series could have looked very different.
There is a luck factor in every bet, and just because you didn’t win doesn’t necessarily mean you handicapped it incorrectly. If the series were to be played again right now, would you take +270 on the Nuggets?
No, you wouldn’t. Because from now on, you’re going to follow feltbot’s rule for betting playoff underdogs, and stick to the games.
So, after it’s all added up, GOOD BET or BAD BET?
I’ll leave that to you.