Perhaps a boring post-season is being salvaged?
Finally, a series we can get pumped about.
Thanks, Los Suns.
I don’t know how it’s all going to play out but what we’re seeing with the Suns these days in quite interesting on a lot of angles, isn’t it?
As everyone will fully admit – chief among them Mr. Nash – the Lakers are bigger, stronger, more accomplished and I think most rational people would expect them to win this series, and some might think they’d do it handily.
But now it’s a best-of-three and Phoenix has at least a puncher’s chance of pulling off a monumental upset.
Two reasons, both counter-intuitive to commonly held playoff logic, which makes me believe even more firmly that you coach your team and play your game and don’t be concerned about conventional, um, wisdom.
First, they are relying almost solely a zone defence, which most good teams shred with ball movement, good passing and the ability to knock down mid-range shot.
The Lakers, most of them anyway, aren’t doing that. They’ve been tricked into a shooting contest with the Suns for long stretches of the game and with the exception of that wonderful second quarter on Tuesday where no one could miss a shot, the Lakers don’t have the horses to play that game.
Los Angeles’s strength is Kobe Bryant and their bigs, that Bryant hardly shot the ball in the fourth quarter of Game 4 and that Pau Gasol simply could not get himself involved in the offence was a killing blow.
Now, you’d think the Lakers would figure this out, wouldn’t you? Flash Gasol to the middle of the lane at the free throw line and let him find shooters in the corner; space Kobe around the perimeter and set screens to get him open looks. Simple? Rather. But they haven’t done it nearly enough.
The second point is truly off-the-charts, strategy-wise.
Playing 10 deep? So much for shortening rotations in the cauldron of the post-season, right?
You could probably make the case that the game turned last night at the start of the second and fourth quarters, when the Suns had five backups on the court.
That game-brreaking sequence of the fourth – when Frye, Barbosa and Dudley all his threes in rapid-fire succession – might not have happened had Alvin Gentry done what so many other coaches to – panic and rely on starters to log heavier than usual minutes when the game is on the line.
Steve Nash is getting his regular rest in each game – and that’s going to be huge as Games 5, 6, and maybe 7 unfold – and it also imbues the subs with a true sense of confidence.
Now, it’ll be interesting to see if either of those things work on the road though. I think it’s more likely the defensive system works better than the use of such a long bench because the Lakers have looked befuddled at times in two straight games.
The backups? Well, they were virtually invisible in Games 1 and 2 at Staples Center and it’s definitely easier for secondary players to play at home – with energy from a crowd and familiarity with the surroundings – than it is on the road.
You know what I like most about this gang of Suns backups?
No Bench Mob, or Energizer Bunnies or Motley Crew (not be mistaken with Motley Crue ‘cause that’d be cool) or anything cutesy like that.
But I’d presume after their collective performance in Game 4 – which might be the game that saved the entire NBA post-season -- someone’s trying to come up with something.
I dunno, there might be something here to think about.
As a way to get into a point a lot have been asking about, let’s dip into the mail bag early.
And if you’d like to get something on the record, or off your chest, click here to send ‘em along. No idea how the weekend timing’s going to work out with games and the like but there will be mail.
Q: Hi Doug: Many TV commentators describe the Magic as missing Turk in this year's playoffs. They contrast his play, size, abilities with Jameer Nelson. We saw Turk play so well in playoffs last year for Orlando and we saw how he played for Raps this season. Your thoughts?
How do you at this point account for:
Whether commentators are right about difference between Turk and Jameer in playoff situation?
What might it mean for the future of Turk with Raps?
Courses for horses?
How does it play out in the case of Turk a year ago and this past season?
Charles N, Toronto
A: This is quite an interesting thing, isn’t it?
I think Orlando misses him only because of the somewhat desultory play they’ve been getting from his replacement more than anything, if the guy we all know and love was putting up 15 points and five assists a night, we’d hear nary a word, I think.
And yes, Turkoglu was excellent in last year’s playoffs because of the matchup problems he presented, which would be pretty much the same this time around seeing how the Magic are playing exactly the same way.
And while I contend Toronto gave Turk the ball quite enough – I’d guess he touched on about 80 per cent of the possessions he played – I do think they could have given him it earlier some times to allow him more time to make plays.
But who’s to say – with Nelson on the court in these playoffs and doing a pretty good job most nights – that Turk would have had precisely the same role with this Magic team as he did last year?
I think a lot of the Pining For Hedo has to do with The Absence Of Vince as much as anything.
Now, what’s Toronto do next year? As most know, I don’t think they can afford to coddle him again as they did last fall and I think if they try to exploit more mismatches – perhaps use him at the four every now and then, or the two, as they did in a couple of small-ball instances last season – you’ll see a greater contribution.
Quick scheduling note:
We’re losing some top-notch veterans in our department due to the economics of times, what with buyouts and all. One of the good ones is done today and there’s a soiree at a little post-work bistro near the office we call home so I’m thinking stool rather than couch for Celtics-Magic.
So no in-game blog thingy tonight (I can hear the collective groans) but we will re-surface Thursday for the compelling series.
Wanna know what’s really hard to do?
It’s hard to energize a dozen or so 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds to work hard at a baseball practice in 30 C heat.
I fear a slow start to the Mighty Yankees season – we open next Monday – is coming.
And I know you’re all excited to hear that.