It is the prevailing opinion of pundits and semi-pundits that this year’s first round of the playoffs have been the best ever. I concur with the experts on this one, it has been a pleasure to watch and observe Round 1 so far. I say so far because the round is not over yet( that is an issue within itself) and only the Lord knows how many more overtime games we might have. Upon further review, here are a few of my findings or conclusions I have seen and can confidently make.
- The Western Conference is better top to bottom than the Eastern Conference. Not hard to figure out right (Paging Captain Obvious). All of the series out West could very well go 7 games, because you have teams like Dallas and Memphis that are significantly better than their seed indicates.
- Frank Vogel has LOST his team. In their swoon over the last month and a half, this team went from being primed to possibly dethroning Miami to being embarrassed by an Atlanta team with a losing record and being without their best player in Al Horford. He WILL be UNEMPLOYED if they don’t advance.
- A good coach is still valuable. I agree with the moniker “Players win games.” In order for them to win games consistently though, coaches must put guys in the right position. I have seen this throughout the playoffs. The one move I have really liked so far: Terry Stotts deciding to make James Harden work defensively by isolating him on post-ups, and attacking him. I love this move because it can tire him out so much that he may not produce on offense. I am a believer in attacking the other team’s best offensive player, which Harden is for the Rockets. This is a underground reason as to why the Blazers are on the verge of winning this series.
- Charlotte has a nice future, but they need more support to help Kemba and Al. Coach Steve Clifford got maximum effort from his team against Miami. I thought they fought hard, but the name of the game is putting the ball in the basket. The Bobcats need a shooter to open the floor and lanes for Kemba, Henderson, and Kidd-Gilchrist to get to the rim, and Big Al Jefferson can operate in the post.
- I wish LaMarcus Aldridge had played a full season. This guy is proving why he was a MVP candidate the first half of the season. He is eating the Rockets alive offensively while making an impact on defense with four blocks in Game 4. His injury derailed any chance of getting any MVP love, but he has been my MVP of the postseason so far.
- The Pacers do not know who or what they are! It is amazing what a false sense of self can end up doing to people. Indiana has absolutely lost their identity! Two problems I see with them: they think they are better than what they are, and they do not trust each other. Part of the attraction to the Pacers was the sense of “team” and “the sum is better than the parts”. Right now, I believe the Pacer players think they accomplished everything individually. No, you guys have done this as a TEAM!!!! Get back to that mentality.
- There is still a place for tough, veteran players to make an impact on teams in this league. Yes, in a lot of ways it is a young man’s league, but don’t tell that to teams like Washington. The Wizards are infinitely better with Nene and Marcin Gortat. These two guys give their team a sense of toughness and physicality they haven’t had in a very long time. They have had the edge so far against Chicago’s frontline in their series. Every successful team has had these “tough, crazy, guys”.
- Canada may not be just be a “Hockey” nation, Eh! The coolest scene in these playoffs has been seeing the litany of fans outside Air Canada Centre in Toronto. There were around 10,000 fans outside of the arena during game 1 of their series against the Nets. Absolutely an amazing site to see! Maybe this opens up some ideas of expansion in the future?
- James Harden CLEARLY has a low regard for committing to playing defense, and I don’t see a high level of accountability. He is a good player, no doubt, but to me in order to be a great player it would behoove him to play hard and be competent on both ends of the floor. I have seen multiple times in the Portland series where he has been isolated by Wesley Matthews and the other guards going by him at will, REALLY? Are you kidding me? James, step your game up please!
- Tony Allen is still a premier defender in this league. He has done a sensational job on Kevin Durant. His ability to make it tough on the best offensive player to score is remarkable. He gets “up into your chest” and forces you to make multiple moves just to get a shot off. James Harden, Houston Rockets, and Portland Trail Blazers, take notes on Tony Allen, you could learn something.
Hopefully, the first round, and the rest of the playoffs will be just as good as the first two weeks have been. More observations will be soon to follow! And no, I did not mention Donald Sterling (that topic has been and will be over-discussed).