The Air Done Changed

You know what I never want to hear again? "This is the playoffs," or "adjusting to the playoffs can be difficult," or "playoff experience might be the deciding factor." I'm sorry, but it's still a fucking basketball game. Maybe some young players, or those used to being slumped up in a culture of losing, find the buzz disorienting. Seriously though, they get so shook by nerves and circumstances that they can't execute? As Adam Morrison fans love to tell me, I've never been much of an organized basketball player, or else I would know stuff like this for sure. I suspect, however, that NBA-bound persons deal with varying degrees of spotlight from about age sixteen on, and that playing on the home court, at noon, in round one, is not like being pulled off the street and asked to start the Super Bowl. Hell, half the reason the playoffs last forever is so the build-up is steady and amenable to participants, virgin or otherwise.

Half the Raptors bench is now chewing their nails in unison, so maybe I should reconsider this point.

I guess there could be some truth to the brand of play differing greatly. However, couldn't any man off the street tell you what the hallmarks of postseason basketball are? It's not like they're secret, or impossible to prepare for, or unrelated to all the other competitive and technical education these pros receive. Or even applicable on any regular basis. I can see how, IN THEORY, if a team is just not constructed to get dirty like this, some problems could be presented. You know, in the same way that the Phoenix Suns can just zip right through everyone they face in the regular season. Please explain to me why that postulate doesn't grip in the playoffs, but slowing it down against the Suns does.

Do it without appealing to "playoff basketball," since a game between two teams is a two-element dynamic. It really comes down to this: teams try harder in the playoffs. The Suns can't just blow teams out because no one wants to get blown out. Teams that haven't been there before aren't used to everyone giving a fuck. I'm overstating this, and obviously this is problematic for me as an NBA fan. What I don't need to hear, then, is this double-edged cliche situated as a staple of NBA announcing. That's not shifting an embarrassment over to the strength column, it's just straight-up self-playing.


At 4/21/2007 4:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nail biting didnt cut it, Kidd had 8,10 and 15 to drop toronto. as far as announcing cliches go, I hate most, but some can be entertaining: did anyone just hear Jon Barry call Nocioni a football fullback?

At 4/21/2007 4:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Teams that haven't been there before aren't used to everyone giving a fuck".... some of the realest shit i've ever read.

At 4/21/2007 6:40 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

I disagree about that being why Phoenix doesn't blow teams out in the playoffs. In the regular season when teams go from one opponent to the next, they're not prepared for the Suns and their style of play (and personnel) when they meet them, so Phoenix can throw a lot of surprises in there and string together some big streaks on you. But in the playoffs when teams have days to prepare for them and make adjustments as it goes on, they find they can easily figure out that Phoenix can't guard the middle so they just go slow and pound it down low. It's exactly what the Lakers are gonna do in this series, and even though they don't stand much chance at all of winning, odds are good that it's gonna be LA that sets the tempo and not Phoenix.

At 4/21/2007 7:01 PM, Anonymous db said...

I think you're underestimating the lack of preparation that can occur during the regular sesason, when teams are on the road playing, takng late flights out, catching some sleep, trying to remember their own offenses, etc. Sometimes I think it's amazing that teams get it together at all in the regular season, and I think that's why core stability (see Spurs) counts for a lot, just people knowing what they're going to do.

Anyway, my point is that in the playoffs there is a lot more time and energy dedicated to understanding the other team's weaknesses and developing plans to go right at them. This is where the mental toughness comes in because you can't hide as easily - how do you respond when five people are going hard at your weak point?

Regular season and playoff basketball is like the difference between an argument with your work colleague and an argument with your boy/girlfriend.

At 4/21/2007 7:11 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i don't necessarily disagree with either of you. my point was that this preparation should allow teams to get ready to play "playoff basketball." i brought up phoenix only to show that if teams can prepare to face the suns' style despite its novelty, why can't a non-"playoff basketball" team prepare to deal with that style?

At 4/21/2007 7:12 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

"that style" being "playoff ball," not the suns.

At 4/21/2007 9:33 PM, Anonymous torgo said...

If, by 'non-playoff basketball' you mean teams that haven't been there (Magic, Raptors, Warriors) I think what might hold them up a bit is the younger players (the warriors don't really match this, they've got experienced players from different teams) in their first time out, maybe they think of it like just another game. Then, when they get in and play, they aren't ready for the fact that *every* player on the other team knows they can't go left (or, of course, something much more subtle), and by the time they learn to adjust, the series is almost over. Next year, they'll be ready, they'll be paying attention more closely in the film room.
That's why those knicks/heat games were so awful. It would have been more entertaining watching Riley and Van Gundy play chess.

At 4/22/2007 10:34 AM, Blogger Pacifist Viking said...

I think the thing to look for is the situation--not the "epic big game" situation, but the daily context for the players. For example, the Super Bowl is different because it's at a neutral field, teams are away from their regular practice facilities, and every day there is a different circus of unique activities. It changes the day-to-day prep.

If the playoffs are different in the NBA, I ask, "What's different?" They're still traveling to road games and playing home games. Two things seem distinctly different.

1. Break time between games. There aren't any back-to-backs, and sometime the wait is longer than even a day.

2. Playing the same team repeatedly. The single game is the same--the fact that you might be playing the same team for the fifth time in a row is different.

At 4/22/2007 12:28 PM, Anonymous Mavis Beacon said...

You're partially right. Last year's Lakers came in ready to play playoff style ball and they succeeded fairly well agains the Suns. But the playoffs are filled with heartbreak and younger, less-experienced teams have a harder time getting past that punch and moving no to the next game. After that missed rebound and Tim Thomas 3 pointer, the Lakers folded. On the other hand, I've only seen the Spurs fold for one playoff game ever - the one following Fisher's three point shot. You could argue the difference is coaching, but I think experience isn't insignificant.

At 4/23/2007 6:40 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Mavis Beacon said - On the other hand, I've only seen the Spurs fold for one playoff game ever - the one following Fisher's three point shot.

I'm sure nobody's reading this thread anymore, but I wanted to point out the Spurs WCF against the Lakers in 2001 as evidence that you're way off your assertion that the Spurs only folded one playoff game ever. If you recall, in that series after the Lakers took Game 1 in San Antonio and came back from 14 down in Game 2 to win, the Spurs absolutely mailed in Games 3 and 4 losing by 39 and 29 in the two games in LA to finish out the sweep. If that isn't "folding it up" then I don't know what is. That was arguably the worst drubbing anyone's ever seen in a Conference Final. The Spurs were the #1 seed that year and going into that series it was supposed to be this "Clash of the Titans", but San Antonio flat out quit in those last two games.


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