2012 NBA Playoffs Round 2 Recaps

Here are my top three reasons the Heat, Celtics, Thunder and Spurs advanced. With one bonus reason apiece.                                              

Heat v. Pacers

1) Lebron.

2) Wade.

3) Lebron and Wade.

4) Bonus Reason:  Nellieball.

The Pacers big bruising front line of Hibbert and West were no match for the small-ball Heat.  Why?  Even without the injured Chris Bosh as an option at center, the Heat were able to spread the Pacers defense out.  Both Lebron and Shane Battier took turns guarding West, and on offense assumed the position of stretch four. With the Pacers defense completely spread out, the otherwise stalwart shotblocker Hibbert was over-matched trying to guard the drives of Lebron and Wade.

Superior talent + superior speed + superior coaching > superior size + halfcourt basketball.

The Nellieball formula.

Celtics v. Sixers

1) Thaddeus Young got injured. I can’t emphasize this enough. Very often NBA playoff series are decided by a major injury.  You saw it in last year’s finals when Dwayne Wade got injured in game 3. Another finals a couple of years ago when the good (big, pre-injury) Kendrick Perkins got injured. The 2003 Western Conference finals when Dirk Nowitzki went down in game 3.

I’m not certain that the Sixers could have won this series with a healthy Young. I am certain that they had no chance with Young on one ankle. The Sixers won all year with small ball.  Thaddeus Young gave them speed, the ability to get out and run, without sacrificing anything on the defensive end. Without him, the Sixers were committed to Elton Brand, unable to run, and that doomed them against the dominant Celtics half-court defense. It also doomed them against Brandon Bass.

2) Kevin Garnett: That heart, length and agility look pretty good defending the paint at the 5, don’t they?

That length, vision, intelligence, unselfishness and passing ability look pretty good in the high post, don’t they?

Hey KG, Don Nelson was right. You should have been a Warrior. You’re 2 inches taller and 38 pounds heavier than Bill Russell was.

3) Rajon Rondo: With both Paul Pierce and Ray Allen hobbled, we got to see just how good Rajon Rondo is in this series.

He good.

4) Bonus Reason: Nellieball.

The Celtics?

Yup. Kevin Garnett at stretch 5. Brandon Bass (and Paul Pierce) at stretch four. The Sixers formerly high-tempo offense was larded down with Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand. Enough said.

Thunder v. Lakers

Let’s be clear, this series was given away. I think the two games the Lakers threw away with horrible play in crunch time proved that the series could easily have gone the other way.  So what happened?

1) Kobe Bryant:  I’ve stated repeatedly in these pages that I believe Kobe Bryant to be the most selfish basketball player in history. He is utterly and completely obsessed with his personal legacy, to the point of subordinating winning.

You saw it in spades in this series. His horrible fourth quarter hero-ball that shot the Lakers out of games, and gave up transition buckets to the Thunder. The complete disgruntlement of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol at Kobe’s refusal to run the offense through them — which is where the Lakers’s biggest edge lay.

Bynum and Gasol, like Shaq before them, despise Kobe Bryant. You can read it in their post-game comments, and their on court demeanor.  Which is why, like Shaq before them, they’re leaving Dodge.

2) Mike Brown. Brown is one of the worst coaches in the NBA, and it showed in this series. Magic Johnson could barely control himself.  He all but called for Brown’s firing during the Nuggets series. And during this series he stated that Brown’s offense “drove him crazy.”

What offense? Kobe hijacked it.  But, ultimately, that’s down to Brown and the complete disrespect he engenders from his players. Like Lebron James, for whom Brown (and Mike Malone) hand tailored a walk-it-up offense. Imagine not appreciating that.

And the defense, which is supposed to be Brown’s specialty. As I predicted, Brown refused to alter his defense to control Russell Westbrook (or as Don Nelson detractors might put it: “concoct a gimmick defense.”)  Brown forced Bynum to show on Westbrook’s pick and roll all series long, which accomplished three things: 1) Pulled Bynum out of the lane. 2) Tired Bynum out. 3) Allowed Westbrook to pull up for uncontested mid-range jumpers, his specialty.

Brilliant!

The best defense against Westbrook is what Popovich did to Chris Paul in the Spurs-Clippers series.  Trap him off the pick and roll and force him to give up the ball.  And the best defense against Westbrook is the best defense against the mediocre Thunder half-court offense (non-scoring centers, limited-range fours).

Contrast the choice that Thunder Coach Scott Brooks made on defense:  refusing to double Kobe Bryant.  This of course goaded Kobe into trying to destroy Thabo Sefalosha and James Harden mano a mano. He largely succeeded (except in crunch-time), but in the process took the Lakers away from what they do best: pound it inside.

Truly brilliant. I don’t often say this, but George Karl got it wrong.

3) Durant and Westbrook: The two young stars have never looked so comfortable rising to the occasion.

4) Bonus Reason: Nellieball.

The Thunder at their best are a Nellieball team. That’s when they get Ibaka at the five and Durant at the stretch four. You didn’t see it in this series against the Lakers’ behemoths, but you will see it plenty in the next series.

What you did see: the Thunder running down the Lakers’ throat. Superior talent at the point. Superior speed at the four. A scoring point guard initiating the offense off a simple high pick, looking for his own offense if that’s what’s being given (and it was). A point-offguard. A point-forward.

Spurs v. Clippers

1) The best coach and most talented team in the NBA.

2) Chris Paul was injured.

3) Blake Griffin.  Griffin is the most overrated player in the NBA, and there isn’t a close second. As a 5-6″ high school freshman, I had more post moves than Griffin has. No joke. Because Blake Griffin has precisely none.

What exactly does he spend his time in the gym doing? Practicing dunking? Flexing his biceps in the mirror? Practicing flopping? Scowling?

It boggles my mind to consider the level of arrogance and stupidity it takes to reach your second or third NBA season, possessed of the freakish size and physical gifts that Griffin has, and still not have one single go-to post move.

It don’t matter. David Stern made him an All-Star over LaMarcus Aldridge, on his way to a 32-50 record. Because winning is what matters. Right?

No, dunking over a Kia matters.

4) Bonus Reason: Nellieball.

The Spurs are the supreme Nellieball team in the NBA.  Pop wasn’t content with just one spread four, Matt Bonner.  He had to go out and get himself another: Boris Diaw. After a few short weeks getting acclimated on the Spurs, Diaw started at the four against the Clippers. And killed.

The Spurs spread the Clippers defense out all over the floor and surgically dismembered it. Threes fell like rain all over the hype.

And Diaw and Bonner are not all.  When Popovich wants to go really small, and he will in the next two series, he’s got Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson. That’s four, count ‘em, four spread fours.

Stephen Jackson a spread four?

Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten We Believe. Stephen Jackson on Dirk Nowitzki? I can guarantee you the best Nellieball coach (still) in the NBA hasn’t forgotten it.

Who do you think is going to get the call on Kevin Durant?

How about on Lebron James?

I’m getting ahead of myself.  Check out my 2012 NBA Conference Championships Preview.

One Response to 2012 NBA Playoffs Round 2 Recaps

  1. Thanks Felticus!