Posts Tagged ‘Playoffs’

Round 1- The East.

April 15, 2016

The NBA season is a marathon, a slog, a death march or a victory lap.

It can be any or all of those things depending on what part of the season you’re in or what team you follow. As a fan of the Chicago Bulls, this season never lived up to any expectations. Despite a few solid streaks, the team never felt like a contender and everything from the All-Star Break on was like watching a beloved family pet at the end of their life; it hurt to see them in pain and while I still loved them, I just wanted to put them out of their misery. If you’re a Warriors’ fan, this entire year was one big victory celebration. I’ve lived that life before with the 1990’s Bulls, and can say that there’s no better sports experience than watching your team celebrate a title while simultaneously kicking the crap out of everyone they played. Whether your team is great, awful or something in between, the season is too long. That’s a discussion for another day, but what really matters is that all the pain and drudgery of the long regular season is behind us and it’s time for the good stuff to start.

Round One match-ups have a tendency to be less than exciting,

the bottom half of the playoff bracket is obviously less strong than the top, and you end up with some horrendous mismatches and very quick series. Occasionally you’ll get an upset in the first round, but normally things play out according to plan. In order to make these first few series more watchable, it helps to do a quick look at how each set of teams matches up: the key factors, the most important players and maybe a fun fact or two for when it’s a 30 point blowout. I’ll also highlight what my favorite match-up in each series is. So, without further Adu, let’s dive in:

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Go hard, or go home.

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The Other guys- Hack a Backups

April 12, 2016

There’s no question that the NBA is a star driven league.

Every title-winning team has at least one dominant player, most have two and with the high level of talent in the league today, it’s become a near necessity for contenders to put together a roster with three All-Star  caliber players in order to have a realistic chance at winning. The desire to group stars together brought us multiple tanking efforts and offloading of contracts in the last few years, and while it is the stars that get you to the playoffs and ideally make the big plays for you, the back half of your roster is nearly as important.

Ever since Red Auerbach helped popularize the concept of the “Sixth Man” with the 50’s and 60’s Celtics, a powerful bench has been a key component for contending teams.

The teams of the 80’s had guys like Vinnie Johnson, Danny Ainge, Michael Cooper and Andrew Toney (Pistons, Celtics, Lakers and 76ers respectively). The 1990’s Bulls had John Paxson and Steve Kerr hit game winners, and there’s no way the 2000’s Lakers make the runs they did without guys like Rick Fox and Robert Horry. The Heat had Shane Battier and Chris Anderson and it’s impossible to overrate the impact of guys like Boris Diaw and Danny Green for the Spurs. I could go on all day about the number of important guys who don’t get top billing, but suffice it to say, winning or losing the biggest games often goes beyond the top players and boils down to the other guys.

Last years’ Playoffs may have been the high water mark for role players getting their 15 minutes of fame. In the first 3 rounds of the playoffs,  Kelly Olynyk swung the course of the playoffs with his part in Kevin Love’s shoulder injury, Matthew Dellavedova initiated scraps with Taj Gibson of the Bulls and Al Horford of the Hawks; helping to get them ejected in key moments and Thabo Sefalosha’s absence completely scrapped the Hawks’ offensive flow. The Warriors were on life support against the Memphis Grizzlies until Steve Kerr switched his defense to force the Memphis role players to take a larger part in the game. They were unable to step up their game, and the Warriors cruised from that point on. The Rockets were dead in the water when Kevin McHale got tired of James Harden’s B.S. and pulled him in Game 6 against the Clippers. With the league’s MVP runner-up on the bench, Houston went on a historic run led by Josh Smith and Corey Brewer. I’ve seen a lot of strange things in sports, but nothing prepared me for the headline “Clutch plays from Josh Smith key Rockets’ rally”.

Just when we thought we hit the apex of glue guy impact, everything climaxed in the Finals with Andre Iguodala winning the MVP award for his part in “slowing down” LeBron James. Even though he’s 2 percent body fat and looks like a superhero, Iggy represented the scrappy little guy. When he won that MVP, everyone who had ever come off the bench in a sport puffed their chest out a little bit; one of our own had helped beat the best player in the world. 

While we may have hit the super-sub apex last year, that doesn’t mean the importance of these guys has eroded in any way. I can’t say that I have all the answers, in fact, I probably have next to none of them, but that never stops me from trying to find them. It’s easy to pick out the stars in this years’ playoffs, but let’s take a look at which non-stars are going to swing the title.

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You’ve gotta love the Big Diesel.

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