Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat

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

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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.

Kyrie Irving sticks water-bottle challenge before Cavaliers-Knicks buzzer (video)

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The Cavaliers were trying the water-bottle challenge on the bench late in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but the national telecast showed Cleveland players only failing to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor – including an erratic attempt from LeBron James that bounced onto the court.

Thankfully, the local post-game show had an angle of Kyrie Irving nailing the bottle flip just before the game ended, his toss just leaving his hands before the final buzzer. Count it!

Nicolas Batum zips pass between Tobias Harris’ legs to assist Frank Kaminsky (video)

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Listen up, defenses: Nicolas Batum will throw passes between your legs.

Three things we learned Wednesday: Warriors, Cavaliers try to make statements in December

Golden State Warriors forward Kevon Looney, left, and Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford reach for a rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 115-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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ESPN thought they had a great double header on Wednesday, but those games were decided by a combined 49 points, you should have flipped over to Hairspray Live. Anyway, here are the big takeaways from Wednesday.

1) You can’t have a statement game in December. But if you could Cleveland, Golden State made them. Can we just skip ahead to Christmas when these two teams finally play each other? Plus by then my shopping will be done, and I’m dreading doing it. We’ve said before the Cavaliers and Warriors have established themselves as the best in their conferences and they made that point with authority on Wednesday.

Cleveland did it thrashing the Knicks 126-94. To be fair, the Knicks were on the second night of a back-to-back and were without Derrick Rose. But that is a small part of the disparity here. First, Phil Jackson may want to not try to piss off the best player on the planet. Just a suggestion. Beyond that, the Knicks have had a good season (12-10), but they match up poorly with Cleveland. They don’t have a good defender for Kyrie Irving. Nobody has a good one for LeBron (well, maybe the Spurs). Kristaps Porzingis struggles to defend in space, and Kevin Love can exploit that. I can go on, but you get the picture. Between beating Toronto Monday and this, the Cavs are back to exploiting their advantages out East.

Golden State made its statement by blowing out a Clippers team that had been the second-best team in the West to this point. The Warriors did it with defense first — Los Angeles shot 39.6 percent as a team. Stephen Curry did a respectable job on Chris Paul (15 points on 14 shots), Klay Thompson blanketed J.J. Redick (just four shots), and Draymond was built to guard Blake Griffin (12 points on 20 shots, with seven turnovers). The Warriors anticipated the Clippers skip passes and turned those into transition chances (Golden State won the fast break points battle 27-11). The Warriors didn’t even have a great night on offense — Curry was 0-of-8 from three — and won 115-98 (and it wasn’t that close). Still, the Warriors ball movement was there.

Marreese Speights is in a unique position — the Clippers backup big was with the Warriors the past few seasons, and he was honest and harsh in his assessment of the differences between these teams.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo got a triple-double on an off night. He’s that good. Portland is not a good defensive team. Improved with Al-Farouq Aminu healthy and back on the court, but still not good. However, their defensive strategy of having their bigs play back and not press high off picks works against Giannis Antetokounmpo because you want to make him a jump shooter anyway — and the Greek Freak was notably frustrated at times Wednesday night.

And he still had a triple double of 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. He’s playing that well. Look at it this way, in a Westbrook/Harden world Antetokounmpo is the only NBA player averaging more than 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals a game this season.

The real story for the Bucks was the 27 from Jabari Parker, that’s the reason Milwaukee beat Portland 115-107.

3) Kemba Walker needs to be an All-Star, he got Hornets a win over Pistons. Charlotte shot 34.1 percent Wednesday night, no way they should get a win in that situation. But alas, there was Kemba Walker, who had 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter sparking a Charlotte win, 87-77. Walker is averaging 23.6 shots per game, is shooting a career-best 41.4 percent from three, has a true shooting percentage of 58.2 percent (well above the league average), and is the everything for the Hornet’s offense.

The man deserves to be playing in New Orleans in the All-Star Game this year. I know the East is loaded with quality point guards — Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas, John Wall — but Kemba has earned the recognition this year.

Warriors rout Clippers 115-98 for 7th straight win over LA

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, left, tries to go up for a shot as Los Angeles Clippers guard Alan Anderson defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 115-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Klay Thompson scored 24 points, Draymond Green added 22 points and the Golden State Warriors routed the Clippers 115-98 on Wednesday night for their seventh straight win over Los Angeles.

Stephen Curry had 19 points for Golden State, and Kevin Durant, who came averaging a team-best 27.0 points, was held to 16 on 5-of-17 shooting.

Curry failed to make a 3-pointer for just the second time this season, going 0 of 8. The Warriors were 7 of 30 from long range.

Jamal Crawford scored 21 points for the Clippers, who have lost five of seven. Four of their seven overall losses have come at home.