Brian Batty 4/21/14
1- The NBA Playoffs are a crazy game. Here’s what people don’t really realize about it, you play 82 games of basketball to get to this point and then you pretty much play an entirely different game once you get here. A friend of mine had a great quote last night in the group text I have with my buddies back home while we were watching the Bulls/Wizards game. “In the playoffs you have to have something called ‘that dude’ to get you baskets when the defense locks in”. That’s about as simple as you can make it about the NBA playoffs. I took it one step further that once you get to the conference finals you need two of those dudes. Ask the 2011 Bulls about that one. The 2014 Bulls absolutely do not have “that dude” or any dudes for that matter. They protect the rim at an elite level, and they’re definitely going to play harder than you every night, but man oh man is it a struggle to watch them try and put the orange ball into the red circle ten feet off the ground. Just call Chicago ‘Struggle City’ in the last five minutes of the rest of these playoff games. Stay tuned, this series might be shorter than a lot of people thought.
2- Even when they resembled a good basketball team the Pacers didn’t have the best offense, but that game was embarrassing. The Hawks, no matter how you spin it, truly don’t believe they deserve to be in the playoffs and I bet after a few cocktails every single member of that team from ball boy to upper management would say the same thing. Pacers couldn’t score against a team with a roster so devoid of big names that Lance Stephenson still doesn’t know who he’s guarding. I’m over the Pacers, they let us all down. They were supposed to be the team to finally beat the least likeable champion of all time in Game 7 at their place. Not anymore, that dream’s dead. Hawks in 3.
3- Damian Lillard doesn’t care about your feelings. He is out to conquer the world. He will rip your heart out of your chest like Lloyd Christmas on a dinner date and not think twice about it. On my NBA Playoff preview podcast I spent the entire time preaching “playoff experience” like an old man preaching Mickey Mantle to his grandkids. Damian Lillard walked into his first playoff game with his Beats headphones on singing “I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the maaaaan”. There’s something to be said for confidence, this guy flips the entire notion of confidence on its head. By the time he was done hitting enough big shots to make Robert Horry blush he finished with 31 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. He’s going to make the next decade of Western Conference playoffs 20% more fun on a nightly basis.
4- I may sound like I’m a sour Bulls fan (get better soon Derrick we love you) but injuries are the worst man. There is nothing worse in sports than an important player getting injured either right before or during the playoffs, and that’s across all sports. Al Jefferson means as much to his team as Instagram does to white girls. Of course he got hurt, because he’s playing the Heat. Nobody gets more breaks than they do. Apparently Big Al had to take 4 painkillers and get two shots in his foot just to be able to run up and down the court like the old guy at the rec that probably needs to hang up the Converse. He started out the game 3-3 for 6 points and an assist in the first four possessions, but just absolutely wasn’t the same once he hurt his plantar fasciitis (the Official Big Man Injury of the NBA!). Quickly, I do want to mention though, the Heat definitely didn’t have their same zip and gusto on both ends yesterday. I’ll save my deeper thoughts on that once we get a little into this thing, but look out for that.
5- How in the world can you possibly not have a plan B for a clock malfunction IN THE PLAYOFFS!?!!??! Come on Toronto, get it together. Act like you belong here. If Stern was still commish he’s in Toronto right now flaying the Air Canada Center’s building manager like Ramsay Snow. Luckily for them Adam Silver’s soft and probably only sent a polite e-mail. Figure it the hell out guys, there’s nothing ok about having to use a stopwatch and the PA announcer to keep track of time.
6- Thank God I’m not a Spurs fan. I still wouldn’t be over last year. I would be replaying that Ray Allen shot over and over and over again in my head for the rest of eternity. While the Spurs managed to win the more games than anyone in the regular season you could just kind of see it Sunday afternoon, they are not really looking forward to this grind that’s about to come. Their faces said it all “We have to fight like this 15 more times? Again?” I’m almost positive they have it in them, but the Heat look the same way. The Finals last year just took so much out of both of those teams physically, mentally, emotionally. Neither team is the same after that. Don’t be surprised if the Spurs and Heat both get the wrong match-up and lose early, which is something I would have never said before Game 1, but body language says it all.
7- On the other hand the Thunder are on a mission. Westbrook and Durant both got a taste of the Finals pretty early in their careers, and when you give a kid chocolate for the first time that’s all they’re going to want for the rest of their childhood. They look motivated and absolutely dominated that game 20 point comeback be damned. They’re the scariest team in sports when everything is going well (and Kendrick Perkins is on the bench) They’re going to cruise until the Conference Finals, cruise being an extremely relative term.
8- Act One of the morality play that is Clipper/Warriors was just as up and down as expected. The Clippers decided “everyone but Steph Curry is going to beat us” and it back fired on them. The Warriors Everyone Else came through for them. I sure hope the refs aren’t going to plan on fouling out a key player on each team for the rest of the series, but I wouldn’t be surprised. By the way, if you’re in the front row please bring a poncho, the audience may or may not get wet.
I’m going to reserve judgment on the rest of this series for a few games, because I really do just want to kick my feet up and enjoy the hell out of it. Thank you Basketball Gods for providing us with this. Doesn’t make up for messin with the homie D Rose like you have been, but this helps.