|Posted on May 5, 2013 at 8:25 PM|
New York Knicks over Boston Celtics 4-2
It was a close race throughout the last two weeks between Knicks’ Coach Mike “We’ll run plays when I feel like it” Woodson, the Thunder’s Scott Brooks, the Clippers’ Vinny “When a lineup doesn’t work, the only thing to do is to put in a weirder lineup that doesn’t work” Del Negro, and the Lakers’ Mike D’Antoni for the elusive “Worst Coach of the First Round” Award. But Woodson ran away with the trophy, his fifth time winning the award in the last six years, due to a tremendous performance in the fourth quarter of Game 6, as the Celtics closed a 26-point lead to four points in a matter of minutes because the Knicks stopped running plays entirely and cleared out for either Carmelo Anthony or JR Smith on every possession. The more bad shots they took on isolations, the more they went one-on-one. What’s most frustrating is just how obvious it is that the Knicks’ best offensive set is a Raymond Felton – Tyson Chandler pick-and-roll, with Anthony out at the three-point line. Because Carmelo is such a great spot-up shooter, his man cannot help in the middle, creating all the space needed for the simplest play in basketball, in which Felton can either kick it out to Carmelo if his man helps, alley oop it to Chanlder, or take it himself, as seen by these three plays:
But even beyond the simple pick-and-roll, New York has shown some creative offensive plays this season that they only use in what seems like one out of every ten games, such as a fade screen for the player making the entry pass to Carmelo in the post:
And this Harlem Globetrotters-esque three-man weave from December.
The Knicks will need to use some variety on offense if they want to beat an Indiana team that has the long-armed, athletic Paul George to defend Carmelo one-on-one.
Indiana Pacers over Atlanta Hawks 4-2
Let’s have a quick show of hands. Raise your hand if you didn’t watch a single second of this series.
It’s okay, you can be honest
Come on, stop lying already and just raise your hand!
Memphis Grizzlies over Los Angeles Clippers 4-2
Memphis took advantage of a bad defensive habit of the Clippers’ big men to randomly double team outside the paint and leave opposing big guys wide open. Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and Kendrick Perkins of Oklahoma City, who the Grizzlies face in the second round, are much better defenders than Deandre Jordan, Ronny Turiaf, and Blake Griffin, but the matchup of Grizzlies’ center Marc Gasol and Perkins greatly favors the Grizzlies. On defense, the husky Perkins will have trouble with Gasol’s ball-handling and shooting from the high post, and on offense, his futility will allow Gasol, the Defensive Player of the Year, to help out on drives by Kevin Durant and Reggie Jackson. After the Thunder were outscored by 39 points in the 28 minutes that Perkins was on the floor in the last three games of their first round series, Scott Brooks would be foolish not to play the more offensively-talented, more athletic Collison in favor of Perkins. If he doesn’t, it may not be long before we see a GEICO commercial saying “How happy are folks who save hundreds of dollars switching to GEICO? Happier than Marc Gasol guarding Kendrick Perkins.”
Oklahoma City Thunder over Houston Rockets 4-2
On the defensive end, the Thunder regularly had miscommunications on screens, as seen in these four very simple Houston pick plays:
This will not bode well for them in their matchup with the Grizzlies in the second round considering that Memphis runs a lot of effective high screen and rolls.
On the offensive end, Kevin Durant scored efficiently (38 points on 16 shots in Game 4!), but often became impatient when he couldn’t get the ball, which either resulted in him coming all the way out to half-court to receive a pass, or, more commonly, one of his teammates becoming impatient and either taking a bad shot or making a bad pass:
For some reason, Brooks still doesn’t realize that the way to avoid these mishaps is to have Durant come off down-screens, which worked effectively in these two plays (by the way, Brooks’s decision to intentionally foul Omer Asik down the stretch of Game 5 was embarrassing for a #1 seed at home with more than six minutes left in the game):
Still, the combination of the Grizzlies’ size, the Thunder’s porous defense, and their predictable, unsophisticated offense will lead to Oklahoma City’s demise in the second round.
Golden State Warriors over Denver Nuggets 4-2
In the three home games, Stephen Curry shot 24/47 from the field, 14/26 on threes, and 20/20 from the free throw line (just look at these this third quarter… and this one!) Everyone knows that Stephen Curry can shoot (he edged out Carmelo for my 2013 “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” Award), but he is also a terrific passer, especially out of traps, allowing him to average nearly ten assists per game against Denver, which got Golden State a lot open outside shots:
Nonetheless, the fact of the matter is that the Nuggets’ rotations were really, really slow. I mean slower than Brook Lopez defending a Nate Robinson – Joakim Noah pick and roll. Click on the links to see some of these wide open threes they gave up due to poor rotations.
San Antonio Spurs over Los Angeles Lakers 4-0
Mike D’Antoni could only do so much to combat the fact that he was forced to start Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris, one of whom can't play basketball except hitting threes, the other of whom can't play basketball. However, there was no excuse to have one of the best post players in the game, Pau Gasol, doing things that Ersan Ilyasova, not Pau Gasol, should ever be doing, such as…
Standing stationary on the three point line
Catching passes well outside the paint on the move in a crowded area
And for any Lakers’ fan reading this, here’s one last wave-at-the-offensive-player-as-he-goes-by-and-then-forget-to-box-out sequence to remember Dwight Howard by:
Miami Heat over Milwaukee Bucks 4-0
When Bucks’ guard Brandon Jennings said before the series, “I see us winning the series in six,” he meant that they would outscore the Heat in the first six minutes of every game and then careen off a cliff after that.
Chicago Bulls over Brooklyn Nets 4-3
UNPOPULAR OPINION ALERT: Derrick Rose needs to come back for the second round. I don’t want to hear any more of, “only Rose knows his body,” because this isn’t a physical issue – doctors cleared him to play over two months ago, he’s been taking part in full-contact scrimmages and dunking off his left leg for nearly two months, and it’s been a year and two weeks since he suffered an ACL injury that typically takes slightly under a year from which to recover. My dad put it perfectly when he said, “If Rose can dunk off his left leg, then he’s ready to play, and if he’s not ready to play, then he shouldn’t be trying to dunk off of his injured leg.” Additionally, the reason that the Bulls leave him as day-to-day instead of ruling him out is because they know that he’s physically ready. But if he’s physically ready, and Chicago has a chance to win a playoff series, and the Bulls’ starting point guard, Kirk Hinrich, is out, then he needs to play. His team needs him - not only because they need another scorer, but because of the emotional boost his return would provide. If playing the best team in the league in the playoffs isn’t high enough stakes for him to try to give his team a boost, than what will be? If he’s not mentally ready more than 12 months after his injury, then when will he ever be?