NBA Play-off Reflections


BLOOD BATH IN BOSTON

The newfangled Cavs dispatched the upstart Celtics 4-0. The first three games of the series observed a somewhat similar pattern with the Cavs possessing too much talent to lose, and the Celtics too much Brad Stevens and general resilience to get blown out. It was harmless entertainment.

On Sunday, all hell broke loose. In the middle of the first quarter, a loose ball made it’s way to the sideline with Kevin Love and Kelly Olynyk in pedestrian pursuit. Love held a mildly advantageous position, and Olynyk countered with an arm bar. Love’s should separated from its socket, and he ran immediately to the locker room with the Cav’s training staff closely behind.

The rest of this particular incident is open to interpretation. I do not think Olynyk intentionally injured Love, but he exercised reckless judgment in bringing about the injury. The arm bar is not uncommon under the basket, but this far from the basket with large, and awkward big men moving at speed it was a bad decision resulting in a worse result. Love will likely miss two weeks at the very least, and this could very well be enough of a burden to tip a series against the Cavs.

Later in the game, Kendrick Perkins was inserted for non-basketball purposes. 37 seconds later, he set a screen on Jae Crowder 40 feet from the basket, and in doing so raised his arms and knocked Crowder to the floor inciting a brief brouhaha. The Cavs were firmly in command of the game and the series. It was a malicious and pointless play from a malicious, pointless, and at this point, incompetent player. Fuck PERK!

The final act of blood was crafted by the Jackass known as JR Smith. Crowder aggressively rushed into the back of Smith during a rebounding situation, again with the Cavs in command of the game and series, and Smith back handed him in the face causing Crowder to take an incredibly awkward and injurious fall. Smith was ejected for stupidity as much as anything, and the episode fits nicely into the narrative of his bullshit-intensive career.

As a final note, David Stern pursued an initiative to have players arrive at the arena looking somewhat professional. I would encourage Adam Silver to pursue a similar initiative with regard to the appearance of Anderson Varajao, who’s bizarro mustache and pseudo-afro are patently offensive to any standards of professionalism outside those of being an extra during a Scarface club scene.

Cavs prevailed, but at significant cost.

WASHINGTON WIZARDRY

For the second year in a row, the Wizards have breezed through the first round behind John Wall and an impressive starting five. Again though it is tough to assess the significance of this accomplishment. Last year, Washington started well against a fading Pacers team, but crumbled under the crucible of genuine play-off pressure.

This year, they toppled a fading Drakes team, and are poised to face the winner of the Atlanta/Brooklyn series. The Wizards played unevenly throughout the second half of the season, but Paul Pierce makes this a dangerous team this time of year. He has already fired shots at the Nets, and critically-acclaimed Atlanta does not have much of a pedigree, and is struggling with the dreadful Nets. Things have lined up nicely.

JASON KIDD IS PRETTY DAMN COOL

The Bulls will win this series. They are better than the Bucks and this is a fact of life.

Jimmy Butler has been fantastic as a two-way terror, and really looks like a guy that you would love to have on your team. Derrick Rose has played his best basketball of the season (excepting of course the final 3 seconds of game four). I am saddened that Joakim Noah is not healthy enough to provide us with his particular brand of basketball.

On the other side, the Greek Freak has struggled. He is lost offensively and is not playing in the moment. MCW has struggled in much the same way. Game four was saved by a veteran bench unit, and the timely genius of Jason Kidd.

Kidd has long been one of my favorite players, and possesses a unique instinct for the game of basketball. I remember reading a profile many years ago that noted Kidd’s propensity to answer questions before they are asked, and complete sentences for other people. It spoke to a man, who does not just live in the moment, but lives a moment before the moment, and that was evident on the closing seconds as Kidd called a timeout immediately upon Derrick Rose turning the ball over preserving 1.3 seconds for a game-winning side out of bounds play.

While there is some question as to how much of the x’s and o’s Kidd is responsible for, the play was genius and perfectly executed causing me to scream out loud and leap out of my seat.

ATLANTA V. BROOKLYN (GOOD v. EVIL)

This series has been an abomination. The Hawks have been a joy to watch all season, and the Nets, an eyesore on par with a prison camp photo book. If good were truly good, the Hawks would whip the ball around the court and bludgeon Brooklyn with ball movement and shooting. We would celebrate Atlanta and do our best to forget Brooklyn even made the play-offs.

But good is not always good, and the Nets trail 2-1 after three uncomfortably competitive games that have raised questions about the Hawks ability to reach the conference finals, let alone the actual finals, while simultaneously doing nothing to improve the heroine house depression scale of the Nets.

RONDO’S LAST RIDE

The Rockets lead 3-1. Rajon Rondo has been essentially cut mid-series by the Mavs, and Dwight Howard has added to his odd resume the persona of “Play-off Dwight”, a player capable of turning back his personal odometer three or four seasons during the first round of the play-offs.

Last nights, Mavs win was really a back-handed reach around on the whole Rondo deal. Pre-Rondo, Dallas was a fun offensive machine with optional defense, and that’s exactly what they returned to in game four. It is not enough to win the title, and probably not even the series, but it makes Dallas a likeable play-off entrant that somehow feels as though they might only be a player or two away from genuine contention. Post-Rondo, they were an unpleasant, underachieving mass of dysfunction incapable of winning this series or even drawing out the inherently unlikeable qualities of the Rockets (which is no small accomplishment).

Here’s to the Mavs recapturing their flawed essence, and making the Rockets life miserable.

GOLDEN STATE

Anthony Davis was very good in his play-off debut. He confirmed his bonafides as a future MVP, but it was equally apparent that Monty Williams and much of the present Pelicans roster should not be along for the ride. Williams was overmatched at every turn, and team had no identity. Davis varied skill set asks legitimate questions as to what type of team should be built around him for maximum impact, but his career will ultimately be defined by the organizations ability to do so.

The Warriors cruised through three of the four games, but the fourth game is undoubtedly the most important. The Warriors trailed by 20 in the fourth quarter, and Curry was having a tough shooting night. It would have been no problem to have conceded the game, and won the series in five, but Golden State has been special, even historic all year, and this was the latest example. They did not concede. They kept playing, got some stops, hit some shots, and got it close. The Pelicans froze.

All accomplishment begins in the mind with the simple thought….”I believe I can”. That simple thought unlocks the powers of possibility and creativity. The Warriors believed they could, and they found a way to do it.

GRINDHOUSE RULES

The Grizz are the embodiment of play-off basketball. They are tough-minded and quirky enough to thrive in the cauldron of late Spring. The Blazers are a battered chick that can’t find a shelter fast enough.

On a personal note, it was great to see Nick Calathes play so well in game three. I have been watching Calathes play basketball since he was in middle school. He is a resourceful, team-oriented player, who has endured a trying and circuitous route to NBA success.

SPURS/CLIPPERS

This is a series too good for the first round. The Clippers are an immensely talented, but mentally fickle team, while the defending champions are a battle-hardened amorphouse machine showing signs of age. The series is tied 2-2, and it sickens me to think either one of these teams will not be playing next week. Nothing can change that fact so it is best that we do our best to enjoy the remaining 2-3 games of the series as these diametrically opposed teams fight to stave off ignominious elimination.

Final thought, Austin Rivers has become a much-maligned punchline throughout the league and social media. I have watched him play since middle school as well, and was thrilled for him to play such a prominent role in the Clippers game four win. I recognize that his game has significant holes, and that he has struggled to find a meaningful role in the league. It is improbable that he will fully realize the career of a lottery pick, or of being the best 7th grader in the country so many years ago, but I have listened to the things people said to him in high school and during AAU, I have observed the respect he affords those he speaks with, me included, and I have watched him on the floor by himself at Rollins getting shots up, working on his craft. He has never hid from a challenge on the court or created a problem for himself off the court, and for those things he has and will fully realize my respect.

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