NBA Playoffs: First Round – Day 5
Well I’m not in a good mood. The playoffs haven’t exactly gotten off on the right foot, if you ask me (well, that and Utah kinda sucks right now). There are few upsets to cheer on, fewer actual competitive match-ups to enjoy, and the injury bug continues to prohibit the true champions from really setting aflame.
Last year at this time Memphis took on the number one seeded Spurs like the awesome underdog champs they were, the Blazers were giving Dallas a nice run for their money, and Chris Paul and the lowly Hornets were actually making people believe they stood a chance against Kobe’s gang. (The Eastern Conference kinda sucked, but what can you do?)
This year has delivered a few first day surprises, but none to get worked up about. Did anyone really think Orlando stood a chance against Indiana? Does anyone really think the Nuggets have a chance against the much bigger Lakers? How about New York over Miami (fat chance now since Stoudemire went all Metta World Peace on a fire extinguisher)? Or Utah over San Antonio? Nope.
Exactly two series captivate me this year: Dallas and OKC (because you can never count out the Mavs); and the Boston/Atlanta contest, but only because I half expect Kevin Garnett to eat Josh Smith’s brain at any moment.
Utah vs. San Antonio
Final Score: 114-83 (San Antonio)
Series: 2-0 San Antonio
(Don’t forget to read Matt’s recap here.)
Well, Gordy got his wish. The Jazz shocked the world, but not in a good way.
I think a rule should exist that automatically disqualifies teams from continuing their playoff run in the event they lose by more than 20 points. Eighth seed or not, In the NBA Playoffs, such horrific play is completely unacceptable.
Now should a team lose by more than 30, they must face banishment from the NBA for the next 10 years simply as a means of hiding their shame. (The NBA may dispatch players accordingly.)
Unfortunately, no such rule exists. And so my Utah Jazz will continue to flounder against the dreaded San Antonio Spurs for exactly two (maybe three) more games.
“They’ll come out more poised in Utah,” some will say over the next few days. “Corbin says ‘Team ready for a battle’,” others will comment. Yet, all will refuse to mention a simple truth: Utah has gained nothing by playing in the post season so far. Unless the whole point was to teach his team humility, Coach Corbin’s squad has failed miserably against the Spurs.
Oh, but they’re young! They have a lot to learn! Then what the hell are they doing in the playoffs? What was the reasoning behind this? Experience? Losing by 30 points does not grant one experience, grasshopper. Nor does running the same offensive set Utah has run for over 50 years – the same offense EVERY FRIGGIN TEAM IN THE NBA MEMERIZED DECADES AGO, along with the big book of How to Not Win Playoff Games, written by Jerry Sloan (co-author George Karl).
I never expected Utah to win this series. Not a chance. But you’d think after giving up two first round lottery picks (in what some people are calling one of the deepest drafts since 2003) that Utah would put up a better fight than what we’ve seen so far.
How hard is it to hit a jump shot? What do Corbin and his coaching staff actually work on during practices? I see the same rotations, the same back screens, switches, and pick and rolls I’ve watched for over 20 years now. Corbin even utilized Sloan’s age old time out scheme – he let the Spurs annihilate his players throughout the entire second quarter (a terrible, embarrassing 20-0 run) and only stopped the game once. Once. And that was when the Jazz trailed 42-26. I’m not joking. And he made no imaginative substitutions. Instead, he followed the set-in-stone rotation, brought in his starters when the little hand hit a specific point on his watch, and sat back to watch the show. It’s all for experience.
Here’s a clue: THE JAZZ OFFENSE DOESN’T WORK! Not in the playoffs anyway. That’s why Utah lost to Chicago two years in a row back in the 96-98 finals; that’s why they’ve lost to LA every year for the past 10 years; that’s why they – an athletic, quick, exciting team – allowed the Spurs to completely punk them for 48 minutes – they run the same damn offensive scheme every friggin season and continually expect different results each time! (Isn’t that also called insanity?)
Here’s an idea: Coach Corbin, instead of emulating Jerry Sloan, why not take a page from G-Pop’s page book? Spread the floor, push the tempo, and for Heaven’s sake: utilize the damn 3-ball! You’ve got shooters – Harris, Hayward, Howard, Bell, Tinsley – and yet none of them can shoot a jumper. Why? Because the only play we have to accommodate them is that stupid Matt Harpring curl … the same one we’ve been running for (say it with me) 50 damn years!
Didn’t we learn from our “magical” end of season spurt that our greatest strength was pushing the ball up the court? Granted, San Antonio rarely allows turnovers; so stop doubling their players. Play man-to-man – don’t give up the damned 3-point shot. I swear, in one bit Danny Green flew into the paint and the entire Jazz team converged on him like a pack of seagulls attacking a bread crumb. The result? A wide open three point bucket. In the words of GOB: Come on!
San Antonio gets to relax on the defensive end. They chill in the paint because they know our entire offense is screwed if left to depend on outside shots. Here’s another idea: tomorrow during practice, and again on Friday, practice your outside shots instead of practicing layups! (Big Al, so good just a short while ago, where did you go? Why do you look like somebody just drowned your puppy in a bucket of acid? Do you have vacation plans? Are you tired? Gimme a call – we’ll talk.)
But Utah won’t change its offense. Corbin and co. will continue to pound the ball in the paint, regardless of whether or not that particular style works, for the next 20 years after which we can praise Ty for acting as the longest tenure coach in all of basketball … and nothing more.
(Of course this all goes with my theory that the Jazz brass simply want playoff berths and have little, if any, championship expectations … two draft picks people. Two. I jumped on the playoff bandwagon out of reckless abandon. Now I’m wishing Jefferson would’ve missed a few more shots against Phoenix.)
Angry Jazz fan out.
Indiana vs. Orlando
Final Score: 97-74 (Indiana)
Series: 2-1 Indiana
The Pacers used a 32-point third quarter to squash any hope Orlando had at an upset. I think it’s cool that Van Gundy managed to get his players pumped up enough to “shock” Indiana in Game 1 of what many considered to be a sweep-in-the-making, but the Magic are done. They’ve been done since their star center went out after refusing to play for his coach with a back injury. Without Dwight, Orlando remains a one-dimensional team. Heck, with him they were fairly one-dimensional; except, unlike a certain ball club in Salt Lake City, Orlando carries outside shooters and nothing more.
Indiana rocks the house, though. I’m really hoping they can come in and shock Miami when they meet up in the second round. Or at least make a good run at it … I’m really digging Hibbert, Collison, Granger, and West – a great group of athleticism and talent. (Roy Hibbert aint too shabby either.)
Man, I’m really pissed about the Utah game. How hard is it to make an outside shot … sorry, sorry. Back on track.
Let’s say Orlando comes back and beats Indiana in Game 4. Now you have a 3-game series. It could happen, especially in Orlando where those 3-point bombs will eventually drop with more regularity, and especially if Orlando plays like they have nothing to lose (which they don’t).
Of course Hibbert provided the biggest difference tonight. The Pacers gave him more looks, and he capitalized by demolishing Orlando underneath the basket with 18 points (as opposed to the paltry four he scored in Monday’s game). Indiana would be wise to continue this route. They don’t want to get into a 3-point shooting contest with a team that could just as easily burn you from afar as crumble under your shoe.
Clippers vs. Memphis
Final Score: 105-98 (Memphis)
I’m starting to wonder whether Memphis will pull off this series. The match-up against LA presents several problems: number one being that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are too damned fast for Marc Gasol and Mike Conley to defend. Plus they’re like friggin’ annoying mosquitoes … the ones who relentlessly pester you at night, thus keeping you from obtaining any sleep so that watching your team get demolished by San Antonio becomes a lesson in self-restraint …
Where was I? Oh yeah. Memphis already gave the Clippers too much hope when they blew that 27 point Game 1 lead (a day that will forever live in infamy in Tennessee). Tonight they allowed LA to get close enough to feel like they blew another victory, when the Grizzlies should’ve buried them the way Indiana buried Orlando.
Now the series shifts to LA where fans must deal with a conflict of interest: Do I follow Jack and root on the no-longer dominant Lakers? Or should I start quoting City Slickers and become a Clippers fan? Tough choices. Of course most have already abandoned Kobe and jumped on a little ship sailing in Miami … In any event, the Clips will find their groove in Hollywood amidst the rich and famous (or those too poor to nab a Lakers ticket), while Memphis will suffer if they can’t solve their 3-point shooting woes (just 6-percent tonight … they shot a whopping 68-percent in Game 1, but made just one in the fourth quarter).
I’m not entirely sold on Blake Griffin (Look! He dunks!), but CP3 plays with the kind of heart typically found in future Hall of Famers (think Steve Nash). The man has no quit, and his teammates follow suite. (Even tonight, down by 10 with a minute remaining, CP3 was forcing his way onto the free throw line.) I’m thinking those six fast break points will triple in LA (aka Lob City), but the biggest question is whether they can keep Memphis off the glass (37 rebounds, 16 of which were offensive, for Da Grizzlies tonight).
I have a hard time seeing the Clips, a rag tag ball club if there ever was one due to injuries and recent coaching issues, pulling off the upset. But don’t count out CP3. At the very least, I must admit this series suddenly perked my interest.
But that Jazz game. So lame. So, so lame … sorry. Sorry!