Words by Phlip
One thing I have heard growing up in basketball camps, and that I have noticed in the few chances I have had to work with kids since is that “you can’t teach size.” As the last line of defense, or the people whose movements will drive how the opposing offense will react with the ball, it is no small wonder that EVERY team to have won a championship in the last 14 years has had top-shelf Power Forward and/or Center play… Today, we will discuss what bearing this has on the Playoffs series left ahead of us.
Philly vs. Boston
Boston has 1.5 centers in Ryan Hollins and Greg Stiemsma. The lack of notoriety in those names should tell you precisely why the self-proclaimed “6-foot-12” Kevin Garnett has jumped at Center for the Celtics a lot this season.
Philly has Spencer Hawes and a capable-in-a-pinch Elton Brand…
As “size” is concerned, it seems that Philly has a slight advantage until you consider that the ONLY person available to play center behind him is smaller than anyone Boston has to match him, AND is a rookie. Experience is that magic bullet teams want to have when the playoffs are upon us. Make no mistakes; this will be an uneventful series, with Boston’s age being just as damning as Philly’s youth, but Boston will (should) pull this one off.
Spurs vs. Clippers
This is another “Experience vs. Youth” matchup, but the difference is that these teams play basically the EXACT SAME GAME. High pick-and-rolls, dead-eye shooters waiting on crisp ball movement to bring the ball to them ahead of slow defensive rotations and Duncan & Co. opting for short jumpers/layups while DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin go to make it onto highlight reels and shoe commercials.
As ever, the role of the guy setting that pick, and his knowledge of what to do after setting it – and his corollary’s reaction to it – will be where this series is won or lost. If it becomes a footrace, expect the Cripples to make a lot of Sportscenter Top 10s and the Western Conference finals… But Gregg Popovich is smarter than that and Tim Duncan is no dummy when it matters most, so expect San Antonio to take this, but in no fewer than 6 games.
and now we will discuss the sexier series…
Lakers vs. Thunder
The Lakers come with an oft-discussed almost 21 feet of human beings in their starting frontcourt and teams the league over WILL have problems handling that when the bigger two of them are playing as they can/should.
OKC does not have that, not even close. With Kendrick Perkins not near enough to 100%, the disparity becomes worse.
What OKC DOES have is offensive consistency and a competent coach. If, and that is a HUGE if, the Lakers who showed up for games one and two against the Nuggets decides to show back up, there is not a team left in these playoffs that can stop them in 7 games. If the team that showed up in games 3-6 shows up in this series, we’re dangerously in peril of another sweep.
I expect to lose in 6 games when Andrew Bynum longs for the begin of his summer vacation, since he is so recently removed from high school.
Indy vs. Miami
Miami is in peril of bringing in a cavalier attitude (no pun intended), assuming that “lesser” teams should lay down for them and that the refs should bail them out when they don’t. In game one, the refs did just that, calling ticky-tack fouls against Indy and turning the other cheek while Miami abused them in the second half, and Miami won the game. But the ONLY person who seems interested in trying to use his size to his advantage – Chris Bosh – went down with an abdominal strain in that game. Newly enabled in game two, Indy refused to be bullied and the Heat players’ response to it seemed to show as Dwyane Wade responded to a no-call with a Flagrant One and LeBron was the initial aggressor in a Double Technical with Danny Granger.
Without Bosh, that is completely devoid of anyone useful taller than 6’10” other than Rony Turiaf and NO natural Centers on the roster, nothing about the Heat bares intimidating to the Pacers, who have PLENTY, with Roy Hibbert, David West and Tyler Hansbrough (or however the hell you spell that). Firmly under the Heat’s skin, the refs’ attempt to give the game back to Miami was blown on the free throw line in the end-game. It will take MVP games from LeBron and/or (probably ‘and’) Dwyane Wade, for them to maintain this one, whereas Indy simply needs to continue what they did in game two. This series is going 7 either way, and that does not bode well for any championship aspirations either team should so happen to be having.
See? With the exception of the Philly/Boston series – but still it is a factor there too – the involvement or lack thereof, including their status on the active roster or not of each teams bigs will drive the outcome of ALL remaining games in these playoffs.