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A Realist Point Of View: 5/21/2012

The playoffs are in full swing, so unless I am drunk, hungover, binging/purging, involved in a  domestic dispute, creeping, negotiating a CBA on behalf of the NBA owners, arrested, or just plain lazy, expect a column every couple of days with notes on the 2012 NBA Playoffs, a “Realist Point Of View”.

Heat vs. Pacers

The biggest beneficiary of Lebron James’ historical 40-18-9 performance in Game 4? The ESPN public. For at least a 48-hour period, we are spared from the “Lebron is not clutch” nonsense that has enveloped the Sports World for nearly 5 years. Don’t get me wrong, Lebron has had his share of stink bombs throughout his career, but as I have repeatedly argued on this site, certainly no more than nearly all of the top 15 legends that he is continually compared to, including Kobe Bryant, Kareem-Abdul Jabbar, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, or Magic Johnson. The only difference is that Lebron has yet to win a championship, which then becomes an exercise in ring counting – something that everyone knows I abhor.

But enough rehashing of a tired, old, Chasing 23 debate. While Lebron and Dwyane Wade were fantastic in Game 4, the real GOAT for the Pacers was not their players – it was their coach,  Frank Vogel, who never quite understood how to take a hint as Wade and Lebron executed a layup line for nearly three and a half quarters. Did it really take him that long to realize that the middle of the paint was wide open EVERY TIME Lebron/Wade executed a screen roll? Or that backing up Roy Hibbert 3 feet from the basket off screen/rolls still allowed Lebron and Wade the opportunity for easy floaters-  shots that they are more than capable of making?

By the time Vogel made his adjustments during the middle of the 4th quarter, and forced the Heat supporting cast to beat him, guess what happened?  They beat them, with Udonis Haslem looking like the Haslem of old, and knocking down open 15 foot jumpers.

So, a couple of suggestions for Vogel heading into Game 5:

1.)   Trap Lebron and Wade off the Screen/Roll: Learn from your mistakes and trap Wade and Lebron off the screen/rolls more frequently, forcing the others to beat you. You may get burned in the end, but given that the Heat only have 2 playmakers, you can sleep easy knowing that in the end, Norris Cole and Udonis Haslem beat you instead of the Big-Two.

 2.)   Wade almost never passes to Lebron in the half-court:  Has anyone else noticed this?  Lebron will pass to Wade, but Wade will almost never pass to Lebron in the half court. No joke, the over/under per game is literally 1.5, and usually occurs with the shot clock winding down. Knowing this, Vogel may want to incorporate this into his defensive game plan, perhaps having Danny Granger shade off Lebron more than usual?

As for the Heat, the question that everyone continues to ask is whether Lebron and Wade can sustain their Game 4 level of production for the rest of the playoffs, or at least until Chris Bosh returns. And why not? The 2001 Lakers had 2 stars in Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal that averaged nearly 60 points per game (30 ppg each) during the 2001 playoffs. Can Wade and Lebron do the same despite Wade’s ongoing knee injury?

Spurs vs. Clippers

Speaking of the 2001 Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs are beginning to invoke memories of one of the NBA’s most dominant playoff runs by remaining undefeated in the playoffs, closing out the Clippers by winning their 8th consecutive playoff game, winning their 18th straight game including the regular season, and winning 32 of their last 35.

Are you kidding me? The San Antonio Spurs? This has to be one of the biggest under-the-radar runs of dominance that the NBA has ever experienced.

By comparison, the 2001 Lakers rattled off a run that included a 15-1 record in the playoffs, 19 consecutive wins before losing Game 1 of the NBA Finals to the Philadelphia76ers, and 23/24 wins to close the season.

The major difference? The Lakers had 2 of the Top 15 players to ever play the game in their prime (or near their prime), while the Spurs have a cast of past-their-prime All-Stars and role players. Any doubts I had when Gregg Popovich won COY have officially been eradicated.

 

Related posts:

  1. 2012 NBA All-Defensive Team – The NBA Realist’s Selections
  2. Download/Listen: NBA Realist on the Blitz Hardcore Podcast (4/12/2012)
  3. Scott Howard-Cooper: Talent evaluators adjust their view on the 2012 NBA Draft class (3/22/12)
  4. Brown Mamba’s 2012 Playoff Predictions
  5. 2012 Parity In the NBA

Discussion

13 Responses to “A Realist Point Of View: 5/21/2012”

  1. Frank Vogel should take notes from Coach of the Year Popovich’s defensive playbook. Although LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are a different beast than Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, Pop found ways to let potential deep threats such as Mo Williams and Nick Young beat the Spurs by immediately trapping CP3. The end result? A seemingly effortless sweep of an exciting Clippers team. Although I cannot guarantee the same results for the Pacers, trying to force the Heat to win by allowing Mike Miller, James Jones, and the rest of Miami’s washed up bench to shoot open jumpers seems like the only solution to besting the two-man Miami Heat. If LeBron and Wade proved anything in Game 4, it is that they will not lay down and let inferior talent beat them.

    One significant plot that I wish you covered – what is your take on the importance of Chris Bosh to the Miami Heat? Popular media outlets such as ESPN and Yahoo have taken a 180 degree stance on the Miami Power Forward. However, I still believe that he is dispensable. For example, would you trade Bosh to Portland for JJ Hickson and other bench pieces or to New Orleans for Carl Landry and other bench pieces? These are players that can average 18 and 7 if given the minutes. Additionally, it provides the Miami squad with much-needed depth. Please feel free to respond.

    Posted by Nick | May 21, 2012, 4:14 pm
    • Nick, I know your comment was not directed at me, but if I may interject on your point about Bosh, the consensus view heading into the playoffs was that if the Heat fell short of the title again, they would look to trade Bosh this summer. I think it’s safe to say that his injury complicates the scenario a bit by pointing out his value to the team. But they may still try to trade him anyway, because (i) they won’t trade LeBron since there’s no way they can get comparable value back, crunch-time failures notwithstanding, and (ii) trading Wade might be too ballsy and cold-eyed for them. Or they may bring them all back for one more run, reasoning that with Derrick Rose out for much of next season, the path will be clear for the Heat to finish #1 in the East. It will be interesting to see where they wind up on this one.

      Posted by E-Dog | May 22, 2012, 6:18 am
      • Comments were open to all, E-Dog. Thanks for the reply.

        If the Heat do not win the title this season, we can anticipate the NBA headlines to include “What will the Miami Heat do with Chris Bosh?” among many other plots and subplots. There is no way that Dwyane Wade or LeBron James become the scapegoat again, especially after their game 4 performances against Indiana. I anticipate the Miami Heat offseason to include story lines such as a desperation to upgrade its bench. Since Miami has already committed $25.2 million to Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Joel Anthony, James Jones , and Norris Cole (not to mention Ronny Turiaf’s $1.2 million player option), we can almost expect the team to explore trade options for Chris Bosh.

        As such, do you think it would be wise for the Heat to accept a portrayed “downgrade” at the Power Forward to receive either cap relief or acceptable production from a role player included in the deal? I say portrayed downgrade because the players I listed (Hickson, Landry) do not have the same name appeal as a player like Chris Bosh. However, I believe that when given minutes, those players can nearly replicate Chris Bosh’s stats. I understand Hickson is a RFA and Landry is a UFA so it would take a sign and trade to work out a deal for Bosh. But what about Houston? Scola, Patterson, and Dragic (if Dragic resigns at about $6 mil/year) for Bosh?

        Posted by Nick | May 22, 2012, 10:42 am
        • As this season unfolds, my belief that James should have gone to the Bulls to create a truly great team becomes greatly re-enforced.

          James would have been a great fit with the Bulls roster, and imagine the narrative if James had led the Bulls to the Finals AFTER Rose’s injury.

          Posted by Paulie Walnuts | May 22, 2012, 11:11 am
          • Paulie, there’s a lot of support for the notion that Chicago would have been the best landing spot for LeBron. I do believe that at the time, the “shadow of Jordan” factor stopped him from going there. But with the benefit of hindsight, it’s fair to wonder if the case for the Bulls is as strong as many believe. Specifically:

            1. Carlos Boozer has been a disappointment, esp. in the playoffs, and while their other frontcourt players are tremendous on D, none of them provide consistent O, and that would have likely been an issue.

            2. Combined with #1 above, the Rose injuries this season would have left LeBron having to shoulder a heavy load, esp. on offense, with mostly role players around him. Now, one could argue that (i) the Bulls’ strong D would have kept him from having to expend so much energy at that end and (ii) Rose wouldn’t have gotten hurt so much, and wouldn’t have blown out his ACL, if LeBron had been available to share the burden. But my view is that (i) LeBron would have probably been asked to shoulder the same load on D as part of the Bulls’ overall defensive scheme and (ii) Rose’s playing style leaves him susceptible to injuries, and the torn ACL was a non-contact injury that could have occurred at any time.

            3. Ultimately, it comes down to LeBron himself, wherever he is. His poor play in the Finals was the biggest reason the Heat lost, and I’m not convinced that it would have ended any differently if he had been on the Bulls and they had played the Mavs instead. The big question is whether he has learned and improved from that experience. His regular-season performance suggests so, and so do his last two games vs. Indiana (including that utterly ridiculous Game 4). But the Finals hurdle remains, and the cold, hard fact is that however strong the team around him is, he’ll still have to play well to get his team over the top.

            Posted by E-Dog | May 23, 2012, 5:12 am
        • Nick, I agree that the suggestions you’ve put forth make sense, and I think that the Heat will give them at least some, and maybe a lot of, consideration. A trade of Bosh has been thought for some time to be the likeliest route to upgrading the supporting cast. My earlier point was that it’s not a slam-dunk he’ll be traded either, what with his value showing in his absence and with their top challenger in the Bulls likely to be short-handed for much of next season.

          Posted by E-Dog | May 22, 2012, 4:22 pm
    • Thanks for the read Nick. I too agree that Bosh is dispensable. I know that I am in the minority on this one, but prior to Haslem’s age and decline, I actually believed that he was a better fit than Bosh, because of his ability to hit the 15 ft jumper and play better defense than Bosh. Now, things have changed a bit, and Bosh is the better overall player. However, trading Bosh for someone like a Luis Scola would only help to improve the team and their toughness. I love Landry, but believe that he is still undersized which becomes an exposure in the playoffs. I definitely would not do a Bosh/Hickson trade.

      Posted by The NBA Realist | May 22, 2012, 6:50 pm
  2. Realist, I applaud you for summoning the courage to finally emerge from your mancave after three weeks of seclusion following the Derrick Rose injury. Did you at least take food and water, or was it all rending of garments ans gnashing of teeth in front of your altar decked out with the Bulls 1 jersey? :-)

    As far as the two series you highlighted:

    1. On the one hand, the Pacers have to be heartened by the fact that it took LeBron and Wade going off together twice for this series to be even. On the other hand, LeBron and Wade are certainly capable of going off twice more, and having two of the remaining games at home improves the chances of their supporting cast stepping up at some point. By the way, even if the Heat win this series, they are a dead duck against the Celtics in the East Finals unless Bosh comes back.

    2. The Spurs are the best organization, from top to bottom, in the league, and although it would hurt me to see the Lakers not get there (which it looks like they won’t), a West Finals between the Spurs and Thunder would be fascinating on many levels. Thunder GM Sam Presti has modeled his team after the Spurs, which figures since he cut his basketball management teeth in San Antonio. The wily veterans vs. the up-and-comers. Duncan-Parker-Ginobili vs. Durant-Westbrook-Harden. It would be a storyline-rich series, TV ratings be damned.

    Posted by E-Dog | May 21, 2012, 4:22 pm
    • E-Dog: The Rose injury was a heartbreak. However, what makes things worse is that he likely will not reach 100% until the 2014 season, essentially killing all of 2013.

      As far as a Miami/Boston series, I think that Miami gets past them despite their recent struggles. We’ve seen 2 vs 10 work in the NBA in the past, and I have no reason to believe it can’t work in the future.

      Lastly, what we are seeing from San Antonio is simply mind boggling. I still have yet to buy in, but they continue to become more and more convincing with each game.

      Posted by The NBA Realist | May 22, 2012, 6:54 pm
      • Realist, are you from Chicago?

        I am an avid Bulls fan, and when that injury occurred, it immediately projected into the top 10 worst moments of my life. I’m with you in terms of a year-long grieving process.

        Posted by Nick | May 22, 2012, 7:07 pm
        • Nick – Originally from Chicago and agree. The Rose injury is one of the more devastating moments in Chicago Sports History. If he is unable to regain his athletic form, he may be forced to transform his game by using less athleticism.

          Posted by The NBA Realist | May 24, 2012, 12:21 pm
  3. I think Miami can beat Boston even without Bosh. But I hope they have him back for the series. Because I would like for Lebron and Wade to not be totally tired before the finals. The good news is I don’t think Miami is the favorite to beat whoever comes out of the west anymore. So it takes the pressure off of them and might allow them to play more lose. I think Miami can beat OKC or the Spurs if Bosh is back and playing at 100%.

    Posted by nightbladehunter | May 23, 2012, 7:24 am
  4. I hate to say this but I want to call that Heat-Pacers is going to go the full 7 games. Unless the two Pacers players are really hobbled or both Wade and Lebron go off for 30+ again. Then it ends tonight. I am rooting for a closeout game tonight so they can get some rest for a couple of days but I see this one going back to Miami.

    Posted by nightbladehunter | May 24, 2012, 12:52 pm

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