Our leading (and only) basketball writer gives his, um, blunted, unconventional – and occasionally obsessively detailed – take on recent happenings in the hoops world.
Hey, Ballers. I’ve been quite ill for the last little while, hence the lack of a recent post. I’m still on the mend, but just wanted to sign in for a few quick thoughts before tonight’s HUGE Heat-Pacers Game 3:
What a great series so far in the East! LeBron James has been as advertised – one of the best players the games has ever seen – but even he can’t do it all by himself. His two turnovers during clutch time notwithstanding, King James has been crowning the Pacers, but if power forward Chris Bosh is going to be their best option from three-point land (!), Miami is going to have a hard time spreading the floor enough against the physical defense of Indiana. Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers – someone – needs to step up in that regard.
It also wouldn’t hurt if the Heat could shore up their baseline defense. I saw the Pacers get too many backdoor cuts – and even just straight-up simple baseline cuts – over the first two games of the series. Not only can that lead to easy baskets, but it stagnates defensive rotations, allowing Indy center Dr. Roy Hibbert (heeheehee) to dominate to the tune of 29 points and 10 rebounds, 6 of which came on the offensive glass.
The Pacers are 6-0 at home during these playoffs, and the Heat have won 5 straight postseason games on the road…something has to give.
How about those Spurs? They looked dead in the water during Game 3 against the Grizzlies, after coughing up eight turnovers in the first quarter that led directly to eleven Memphis points. But this is unflappable San Antonio, and they regrouped around the strength of the big three – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili – to force overtime and win. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is known for his love of fine wine, and Duncan is playing like one these days. Well, maybe the best power forward in NBA history isn’t necessarily getting better with age, but he’s looking just like his young self in big playoff games this year – doing whatever it is that his team needs to win, and doing it in ways that conventional stat lines can’t capture: Corralling loose balls, making the “hockey assists” and serving as the grounding force for his teammates. After the game, Duncan offered this prototypical no-nonsense, self-effacing response to a press question about his elevated play at age 37: “Am I surprised at what I’m able to do? I’m just here to play, man. I’m not worried about how old I am.” Neither am I, Timmy; you’re the best.
About the Grizz: There isn’t much to explaining their current struggles: Their bench is under-performing, and the same two players that were pulling out games for them in earlier rounds with huge numbers are floundering. Mike Conley’s recent play is best defined by the first three quarters of Saturday’s game, during which he had as many turnovers as he had made field goals (five). Zach Randolph hasn’t shot better than 35.7% from the field all series. Memphis has no hope in hell of even avoiding a sweep if at least one of those two stars can’t get their shit together.
That’s all I’ve got for now, ballers. It’s back to eating toast, trying to stay upright for tonight’s game….and cursing Jameson (wink).