Tag: playoffs

Roy Hibbert

Did Roy Hibbert break out? No, but Indy may have found a way to help him out


It hasn’t been pretty, but the Indiana Pacers ‘survived’ to advance to the second round of the playoffs and in the process Frank Vogel has stuck with Roy Hibbert in his starting lineup.

Given the big man’s struggles on both sides of the floor, it wouldn’t have bothered most Indy fans if Vogel had made a change to tap Ian Mahinmi into the starting unit.

Prior to Game 2, Vogel let Hibbert play more than 20 minutes in just 3-of-8 playoff games, but the increasingly embattled coach has been clear that he won’t nail the coffin shut on his big man’s fragile psyche.

This paid off in a big way in Game 2 Wednesday night when Hibbert finally caught some breaks in a 28-point, nine-rebound performance, though when we go back to the tape it wasn’t nearly the breakout game that many are making it out to be.  The Wizards still targeted him relentlessly in the pick-and-roll and continued to rain jumpers over him at an alarming rate, going 10-of-16 for 20 points on shots created against Hibbert in space.

Offensively, the Wizards are fine with the way the Pacers entered the ball into Hibbert, who hit 42 percent of his shots in the post this season.  He’s not bending the defense and the Wiz will welcome anything to keep Paul George and Lance Stephenson from snapping out of their 16-of-55 shooting start.

Wednesday’s result was more about everything working in the big man’s favor on offense, with an early long-range hit setting the tone for a fortunate night.  Between teammate penetration, better positioning and some lapses by Washington, Hibbert took what the defense gave him and got the monkey temporarily off his back.

The good news is that Hibbert showed a different gear playing defense on the interior, which was still a mixed bag, but he changed a number of shots, fought for position and grabbed nine rebounds after securing four or less in 6-of-8 games before the Pacers’ Game 2 win.

Now in perhaps the most evenly matched series remaining, the question for Indy isn’t so much if Hibbert is back on the offensive end (that question falls on George and Stephenson against athletic wings Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal).  The question is whether or not Hibbert can hold his own on the defensive end, and Vogel might have tipped his hand on how he plans to assist in that development.

Here you see Marcin Gortat, a primary screener for the Wizards, is set to head up to familiar territory to execute the high pick-and-roll with Bradley Beal. But seeing that he is covered by David West, he motions for Nene to execute the play instead.


As noted, Hibbert has been a defensive liability on this action not just in the playoffs but for the second half of the year.  Typically, the Pacers have chosen to deal with the consequences rather than change who they are, and in the playoffs when teams expose weaknesses this has been their undoing.

But here, the Pacers decide to change things up.  Instead of following Nene up to the top of the pattern, Hibbert and West switch with the Wizards applying no pressure on the exchange:


Beal runs the pick-and-roll against a more mobile West, who keeps the action in front of him long enough for George to recover, and Stephenson pinches in to give help when the ball is passed back to Nene:



Nene arguably can take the 18-footer but it’s going to be contested, so he instead decides to put the ball on the ground and go to the hoop.  Instead of West securing the paint, the Pacers have their seven-foot rim protector waiting in the lane:


Typically, looking at a still showing Hibbert going straight up like this is going to result in a miss or a block, but Nene made the conversion.  In fact, the three times the Pacers made this switch the Wizards were able to convert.  But as coaches constantly say, it’s the process that matters and not the result.

Having West handle pick-and-roll duties in space or forcing Nene to take contested jumpers on the perimeter makes a whole lot more sense than watching Hibbert feebly chase players that are half his size. When the switch results in keeping Hibbert anchored in the paint it’s a no-brainer.

It’s unclear if the adjustment is a realization on Vogel’s part or a card that he felt pressured to play when facing the prospect of an 0-2 start.  Should Vogel continue to go this route, the Wizards will need to find a way to keep Indy from switching the big men without a penalty, and Randy Wittman and his group aren’t known for their imagination or late-game execution on the offensive end.

Vogel can keep this card in his back pocket as a change-up or he can play it right away, but he needs to do something to mask Hibbert’s deficiencies and keep him in a position to defend and clean the glass.

If that doesn’t happen, Hibbert can score all that he wants and it’s not going to make a difference.


The crazy schedule could really mess with playoff seeding

Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls - Game Five

Our own Ira Winderman writing at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel points out that changes this week to remove divisional opponent record from tie-breaker procedures for playoff seeding don’t go far enough. Because the imbalanced schedule impacts record as well.

But if the Board wanted to carry out the process to its natural conclusion in the wake of the lockout, then a one-time strength-of-schedule tiebreaker should have been added beyond the primary tiebreaker for head-to-head competition, considering the degree that the 66-game schedule is so out of balance.

For example, say the Heat and Chicago Bulls split their four-game season series (the Heat lead 1-0 with the second game Thursday night at the United Center), consider from a Western Conference perspective that while the Heat are scheduled twice apiece against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, the Bulls have just one game again each of those three (the Heat and Bulls each play the San Antonio Spurs once).

via Miami Heat battle against Chicago Bulls could be determined by NBA playoff tiebreakers. – South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com.

It’s an interesting line of thought, but beyond playing the West teams, what do the Strength of Schedule numbers suggest? Here’s what Basketball-Reference.com says:http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/share.cgi?id=qGjrP&output=iframe


OK, Bulls fans, before you blow a gasket, yes, being the best team in the league is going to bring down your SOS. You’re just not playing against teams better than you that often. But the fact remains having the weakest schedule in the league is tough to argue. At the same time ,though, if you take the numbers out of it, consider this. Twice the Heat have ventured West on a road trip and twice have suffered losing streaks. When Chicago has gone West, they haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been efficient and effective.

Shouldn’t how you play against the best teams in the league count as well?

Of course, by that measure, the Heat are 1-0 against Chicago this week. Hey play this week. Good times.

But there’s a simple solution here. Win the most games. Or don’t worry about it. The best teams in the NBA can play on the road anyway. But it’s an interesting debate.

What Heat-Celtics means to the Miami Heat

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat

The Miami Heat want to be great.

Greatness is such a bizarre concept. How often is it used outside of sports? Politics. Spirituality. Business. Show-business. And all those things are complex and contextual. But it’s what we pursue. If the Boston Celtics symbolize that single-minded obsession with gold, the Heat are pursuing something that almost goes beyond rings. They want to cement themselves as great. It takes a special kind of arrogance to pursue that as a goal in and of itself, but then, that arrogance is a product of talent and ability. It is that drive for greatness that brought the Triad together, it is what turns so many off of them. But it’s there, and if we want to talk about them as adults and not self-righteous judge and jury, we do need to recognize it. The Heat want to be great.

The Miami Heat can’t be great without beating the Boston Celtics.

You have to have a villain, and guess what? The Chicago Bulls don’t work because of their youth and relative unknown identity. The Lakers don’t fit because there’s no counter of identity. But the Celtics? The Celtics eliminated James’ Cavaliers. They eliminated Wade’s Heat. And they have made it clear that they neither respect, nor acknowledge any team that lays claim to the East, especially the Heat.

The Celtics represent the old guard, the Pistons to the Heat’ Bulls, the Pistons to the Heat’s Celtics, the team that stands in their way. It doesn’t matter that this is the conference semifinals, not the conference Finals. It doesn’t matter that the Bulls await the winner, licking their young chops while the two go to what will likely be an abject war. This is what they’ve waited for, and this feels like the kind of drama they have to experience.

The Celtics are Miami’s mirror image. Three stars, one the franchise icon, who unite to try and do something extraordinary. The Celtics adopted chemistry and commitment. The Heat have preached chemistry and a commitment to business. The versatile small-forward. The iconic shooting guard. The long power forward. The Celtics are so much like the Heat, but just a little bit closer, a little bit of a better fit, a little bit able to mesh. And if the Heat want to advance, they have to come together like the Celtics did.

The Celtics hate this team. They’ll act dismissive. They’ll talk about it being just another opponent, and how it’s on to the next one if they were to win. But this team hates how they celebrated while the Celtics were still smarting from losing Game 7 of the Finals by a quarter without their starting center. They hate the adulation of the individual over the team. This is more than just a playoff series, it’s a validation of Ubuntu versus the most talented team the Celtics have ever faced. Miami can’t allow a team that disdains them to get this win. If the Heat have been driven to shut up the haters, losing to the Celtics would mean surrendering to the biggest collection of them all.

The Celtics are the villain, the bad guy, the team that took it to them in the regular season and exposed them early and often. The Heat need this series to vanquish those demons. The confidence they’ll have were they to beat Boston, the big bad Boston Celtics, would be enough to carry them as far as they want to go. That’s not a dismissal of the very talented Bulls and Lakers, it’s a testament to the mental edge Boston has carried over Miami.

The Celtics bring defense. The Heat bring defense. The Celtics are individually magnificent. The Heat have some of the most talented players in the league. The Celtics return to their team concept just as the Heat do, for strength and guidance. The identities of these teams are not so different. Garnett whispered in LeBron’s ear after the Celtics defeated the Cavaliers last year. What he said isn’t known. But you have to wonder if it is the way these Celtics have tortured James for three years that drove him to abandon his home and responsibilities as the franchise player (as was within his rights to do) and join Wade and Bosh. The Celtics will make you crazy. They just keep coming, just keep hammering, and just keep challenging you at every position.

The unstoppable force meets… the unstoppable force.

No team embarrassed the Heat like the Celtics did this year, not even the Bulls. This matchup has it all for the Heat. Revenge. Vendettas. A philosophic difference between basketball for basketball’s sake, and basketball as a portal to fulfillment of all life has to offer, including, yes, greatness.

The world does not exist past this series for Miami. It is their entire universe. They may simply not be ready for this challenge, they may not have had enough time together. That doesn’t matter. The moment is here by which they’ll be jumped, their careers put into perspective. The game is the same it was at the start of the year.

You want to be great?

You gotta beat Boston.

NBA Playoffs: Will the Mavs come undone?

Dallas Mavericks v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Four

There aren’t many choke job opportunities in your every day life.

Think about it. You can say someone choked on that stage, but they never go through 80% of speech or performance and then just when the crowd is preparing to give them a standing ovation trip on a banana peel or make a racist joke.  Just doesn’t happen. You don’t choke in meetings, you bomb. You don’t choke when fixing your car, remodeling your kitchen, or raising your kids.

So for something that doesn’t happen in the majority of human existence, the Mavericks have an unconscionable amount of experience with doing so. The question now is if undergoing yet another catastrophic collapse is going to affect them the way it has before… except, you know, those weren’t the same teams.

The 2006 team that lost the Finals after being up? Yeah, here’s that roster. There are two players left from that team. Oh, but how about that 2007 team that lost to the freaking Warriors in the first round? Yup, same two players. Now, you can be a troglodyte and suppose that Dirk Nowitzki, one of the best clutch performers in the game, and Jason Terry, whose fourth quarters are legendary, are the problem, since they make up those two players, or, you can assume that the first was a monumental performance from one of the greatest players of his time in drawing fouls and making a difference, the second was a matter of matchups which can derail big-picture logic in a series faster than anything else, and this?

This was just Brandon Roy putting on a show. What are you going to do, really?

But that is the question now. What are the Mavs going to do? Are they going to come apart as the pundits are hoping, praying, wishing they will so they can pile on? Or will they do what teams as good as they are do, which is buckle down, get over it, come out in Game 5 at home and crush the hopes of the upstart in a rain of superior execution and experience? This is an entirely different Mavericks team than the one that fell apart against the Warriors. Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic, Terry, Nowitzki, they all have experience in these types of situations and know how to respond.

Even more dubious? The odds of Brandon Roy doing what he did again. Forget Roy’s injury issues. Let’s assume the Brandon Roy of old is back, just for fun. Roy was launching shots that could have been, should have been, and would have been better contested. The Rose Garden got to the Mavericks, there’s no doubt. But a team that’s been as good defensively as the Mavericks have will respond. The Mavs certainly could use Caron Butler in this spot, but even without him, there are systemic adjustments they can make to respond.

It was a tough loss, but the Mavericks were a few missed plays away from going up 3-1 in this series. It’s a best-of-three again. But really, if the Mavericks thought this was going to be easy, they were fooling themselves. On the other hand, it works both ways. If the Blazers expect this Mavericks team to lay down and die, they’re probably confused in their own right.

Wade says 2011 Heat remind him of non-championship 2005 team

Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers

It’s not what he meant, but it’s how people are going to take it.

Dwyane Wade told reporters Saturday that this Heat team reminds him not of the 2006 championship team, but the 2005 team that lost in the Eastern Conference Finals. From our own Ira Winderman writing at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

“More similarities to maybe our ‘04-05 team, the team that lost in the Eastern Conference finals,” Wade said, “probably more similarities to that team in the standpoint of how close we were as a unit, the way we approached the playoffs.”

via It’s beginning to feel a lot like . . . 2005? – Miami Heat – Sun-Sentinel.

Wade wasn’t talking about the results of that team, but about the chemistry and locker room. It’s meant as a positive, to talk about how close they were in terms of chemistry. It’s odd that he would say that, and it comes off so much as a PR statement trying to insinuate that this team is so close. It’s hard to believe that this team would be so close in their first season… until you look at that 2005 team. The first season after the addition of Shaquille O’Neal, when the Heat were still mostly young players built together around O’Neal, who was traded for two big members of the scintillating 2004 team, Lamar Odom and Caron Butler, that team was before the Heat brought in key veterans which helped the 2006 team win the championship, Antoine Walker and Gary Payton. That team was simply not deep enough to get over the hump like they did in 2006.

That does sound familiar.

Wade trying to sell the narrative that this team is all buddy-buddy probably won’t fly, but it makes sense. Still, he’s going to make the headline that Wade doesn’t believe this team is built to win a championship. Which is not what he said. That’s how this works. It’s almost like Wade’s just toying with the media.


One final note: The 2005 Miami Heat swept the first two rounds of the playoffs. Probably not a good comparison to make when you haven’t closed out the Sixers yet and the Boston Celtics are (almost certainly) waiting.