The Extra Pass: Winning regular season series doesn’t guarantee playoff success… but it doesn’t hurt

4 Comments

Not long after Mason Plumlee shut down LeBron James at the rim and the Nets had swept the season series from the Heat — two teams that very well could meet in the second round of the playoffs — I put this out there:

Nets fans shouldn’t count on regular season success equaling postseason success against Miami.

The Nets won three of those games by one point and the fourth went into double overtime — it’s not like they dominated Miami. Besides, Miami has rested guys (Dwyane Wade did not play Tuesday). More than that, teams change in the playoffs, where the match ups and the ability to exploit them matter more.

But regular season success in a series does tend to point to post season winners.

In the past three seasons, the winners of the regular season series are 23-11 in playoff match ups. (Eight series were tied in the regular season, and this does not include the Finals where the teams only played each other twice.)

That’s far from a guarantee of victory, but it suggests that the better team tends to win out in the regular season and postseason. You would expect a one seed to have beaten an eight seed most of the time during the season, same with a two-seven matchup, and it does shake out that way.

Here are the 11 series in the last three years where the regular season was not a predictor of postseason success:

• 2013: Clippers took 3-of-4 from Grizzlies then lost in six in playoffs.
• 2013: Nuggets took 3-of-4 from Warriors, but without Danilo Gallinari were not the same team come the playoffs.
• 2012: Celtics took 3-of-4 from Heat then lost in seven to eventual champs in Eastern Conference Finals.
• 2012: Sixers had taken 2-of-3 from Celtics in regular season but lost in seven games in playoffs.
• 2012: Magic took 2-of-3 from Pacers in regular season when they still had Dwight Howard, lost in playoffs without him.
• 2012: Bulls took 2-of-3 from 76ers in regular season but after Derrick Rose blew out his knee fell in playoffs to Philly.
• 2012: Spurs took 2-of-3 from Thunder in regular season, lost in six in playoffs after being up 2-0.
• 2011: Bulls swept season series from Heat but Miami dominated Eastern Conference Finals 4-1.
• 2011: Celtics took 3-of-4 from Heat in regular season but Miami beat them in five games in playoffs.
• 2011: Lakers took 2-of-3 from Mavericks in the regular season but Dallas swept the playoff series.
• 2011: Grizzlies take 3-of-4 from Thunder in the regular season but the Thunder win Game 7 and take the playoff series.

You note injuries play a role here in a few cases — Derrick Rose’s knee and Dwight Howard’s back changed the course of their teams’ seasons in 2012.

But a lot of times it’s a matchup issue. Down 2-0 to the Spurs in 2012 the Oklahoma City Thunder figured out how to better use their athleticism on defense and went on to sweep that series (they have dominated the regular season series since then as well). Miami has done the same thing to Boston twice, having come together in the playoffs and using their superior athleticism to their advantage on that stage.

That’s a Boston team that had a lot of these Nets players on it. Which is why Brooklyn fans may not want to read too much into that sweep.

Jazz deny rumored promise to draft D.J. Wilson

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Michigan forward D.J. Wilson said he’d stay in the draft only if he’d go in the first round. Yet, despite not doing any on-court work at the combine, the borderline first-rounder remained in the draft beyond the withdrawal deadline.

What gives?

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune:

NBA teams sometimes promise to draft a player. They never reveal that before the draft. So, Utah’s denial doesn’t mean much – even if it’s true.

The Jazz were the last team to give Wilson a full work out before he injured himself in a Spurs workout. So, this rumor could be based on circumstantial evidence rather than leak of a Utah guarantee.

Wilson would make sense for the Jazz, who could see their payroll bloat if they re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill (and maybe even Joe Ingles). They could move Derrick Favors, an interior who doesn’t exactly fit with Rudy Gobert. Wilson would give Utah another option with Trey Lyles as developing stretch fours behind Boris Diaw. (Utah could even move Diaw and count on Lyles/Wilson to emerge sooner than later.)

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

AP Photo/Ron Schwane
Leave a comment

LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

AP Photo/Kathy Willens
2 Comments

NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.

Isaiah Thomas makes it clear he wants to stay in Boston

2 Comments

It’s been a long time since there was so much discussion about whether a team needs to trade or just let go of an All-NBA and All-Star player at his peak who is clear and away a fan favorite.

Yet that’s where the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas find themselves. After landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft — where they will almost certainly take point guard Markelle Fultz — and with the Celtics looking a full couple steps behind the Cavaliers in the playoffs, the question about whether Thomas is part of the future in Boston has come up. He is a free agent in 2018 and are the Celtics willing to pay the big money it will take to keep him?

Know this, Thomas wants to remain a Celtic and win a Celtic. You can listen to his full comments above, but Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has the money quote:

Outside of chasing Gordon Hayward, this summer the Celtics are going to focus on getter some frontcourt help, someone to help with rebounding and rim protection. They will look to get better, but Danny Ainge isn’t going to push all his chips into the middle of the table to make a gambit on immediate massive improvement. He will remain patient, building this team so that in three years and five years they will be a force in the East.

And the Thomas discussion likely gets put on hold for a year (unless there is a change of course and contract extension talks come up, but that’s only if Boston misses on Hayward and any other big targets).