Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend NBA Ramblings

With two games down in the Eastern and three games down in Western Conference Finals, it is definitely time for another NBA column. I can't remember a string of nights where there were so many great games back to back to back. All I can say is that I am thankful.

Speaking of things that I am thankful for from this past weekend:

Lebron James, Beer (even Keystone), Marv Albert's “YES” call, that new Dos Equis commercial, the NBA having 69 year old refs who are good at evening up series, Whiskey, Ron Jeremy (the NBA coach), NCAA Lacrosse Final Four Memorial Day Weekend (especially Quint Kessenich, with his insights and coaching corner), Cornell upsetting UVA in the semifinals (hopefully they can win one more for the Nard DAWG) and last but least Mike Brown...for being incompetent.

Thanks, Mike Brown for making games 1 and 2 so close. On this site we may already be notorious for giving certain people a continued hard time on the regular, but certain individuals give us no choice. Let me give a hypothetical situation. Say you’re a coach in the NBA with a rebound machine on your roster that has little to no offensive skill, but can be a good defensive match-up for the other team's best player.

How would you use this guy? Well, if you’re Mike Brown, you bring him in to stop the other team's power forward who plays more like a small forward. Yes, I'm talking about Rashard Lewis who spends most of his time away from the basket, effectively taking away player X's biggest strength of rebounding. In addition, now Lewis can take a breather on defense until it comes time to box out player X. So by playing player X, you are not effectively defending the Magic's small lineup, and at the same time you do nothing to punish the other team for going small against you. Rather, it is almost like you’re saying, “We know your main advantage is playing small, what other lineups can we play that take no advantage of this and encourage you to do this more.”

By the way, Player X is Ben Wallace but I could have tricked you and said player X was Anderson Varejao. At this point in his career, Ben Wallace is just a poor man's Anderson Varajao. Both Varejao and Wallace don't effectively guard Lewis, while subsequently doing nothing to challenge him on the other end either. How about going small with LBJ at power forward? This way you can rest your big guys and keep them fresh throughout the game.

The other thing I don't get is having Lebron James guard Rafer Alston the whole game. This is a clear case of Mike Brown trying to out coach himself. We know you’re a good defensive coach, but when another team has two swingmen (Lewis and Turkoglu) that can hurt you, why not put the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year on one of them. Seriously, this is about as smart as pinch running with Harold Baines (for non Orioles fans maybe I should have gone with pinch running with Mark McGuire). Lebron is your best defender and you’re using the logic that he is also your best help defender to use such an asinine strategy.

However, this raises a more important question: WHY ARE YOU ENCOURAGING YOUR TEAM TO HELP AGAINST ORLANDO. They have a bunch of guys who just want to sit back and shoot threes. Look at Hedo Turkoglu, he relies on a stepback jumper as his only move, almost as badly as Seth Rogen relies on his dice move to knock up Katherine Heigl. Cleveland's defensive strategy should be to play up on all of Orlando's players and to help as little as possible. Don't let them play to their strengths and shoot 3's. Make them beat you off the dribble. You have 3 serviceable centers with 6 fouls to give each. So rather than help on Howard, single cover him and put him on the free throw line to earn it because he shoots terrible from the line.

I haven't talked about the LA/Denver match-up in a while and I have to admit that I was wrong. I thought that Denver was going to win because LA wasn't going to bring it. Now I think Denver is flat out better, and if they don't win, it will be either because they blow it like they did in game one or because Kobe takes it from them like he did in game three. Kobe isn't going to make me take everything I said about him back after one game, but if he continues to dominate in the crunch like he did last night, I might have to. He has a chance right now to throw himself into the stratosphere of great players and Kobe realizes how much is at stake for his career. There is no one on the court that wants it more than Kobe and you can see this during crunch time of games. It will take a superb effort to beat him, even from a better team. Compound Kobe's play with the mistakes they’re making and Denver may have an uphill climb. It’s clear that Carmelo will have no problem scoring this entire series but they need to get him the ball. The Nuggets have shown throughout this series they are the aggressors, ready to take it right at the Lakers but they need to finish games. I said two columns ago that Denver is capable of beating LA, but if the Lakers flip on the switch that Denver can’t take this series. However, I am convinced that Denver is capable of winning regardless of how LA plays; they are just more talented. But they need to play smart at the end of games and take care of Kobe.

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