Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Bron Ends The Series

Pose, Struck
In the early game scoreboard tonight, it was Nets 96, LeBron James 49, and the rest of the Heat 53. And while you can talk about Chris Bosh hitting the big go-ahead corner three late to give the Heat the final lead, or how Miami's team defense was instrumental in holding the Nets to one make from the field in the last six minutes of the fourth, or even how Dwyane Wade's clutch o-board of a James miss was absolutely necessary to close the door on the home team's last chance...

Well, um, all of that doesn't really matter at all, because Miami isn't in the same zip code if James doesn't completely carry his snoozing teammates for vast stretches of this game.

How valuable was James to the Heat? So valuable that they won a de facto closeout game, on the road, when literally no one else on the team played all that well. The Nets got the tempo they wanted, got reasonable games from their legacy cases, got good bench pay from shaky guys, and were neck and neck with the defending champions all night. But they weren't ahead in the last two minutes, which meant they weren't safe from James, and that was that.

James is so valuable to Miami that their offensive sets in the fourth can consist of things like "Everyone Spread The Court Like A Tent, And Let LeBron Shoot and Score From 30 Feet Against One Defender" or "Watch LeBron Penetrate, Stand Still Behind The Arc, And Catch And Shoot An Open Three When The Defense Collapses." In other words, in the world's best basketball league, against the finest athletes, coaching and scouting, Miami won with half court basketball sets that resemble things an AAU team with one good player would run. And it's effective enough that on the rare instances when the Heat do run screens and a play, it works, maybe as much due to novelty as anything else. (Oh, and it's no surprise that the Heat seem fresher in those late and close situations; it's not as if the other guys on the team have had to work all that hard for much of the game.)

There is a simplistic but effective way of looking at NBA playoff series: the team with the best player wins. This ignores things like the Spurs, or when a club goes on a Bulls-like run with defense, and it lends itself to after-the-fact adjustments, where you call the best player on the winning team the true alpha dog, or denigrate some star as Not Making His Team Better...

But then there's James, and before him Kobe, Shaq, Duncan, Jordan, Olajuwon, Magic, Bird. The theory is right a lot more than it's wrong. And it's why I picked the Heat to win this series, along with everyone else who watches the Association. And why the later rounds are rarely as fun to watch as the early ones.

Miami is now up 3-1, and it was kind of necessary, seeing how Indy has turned their season around with the past three games of resurgent defense and Roy Hibbert resembling a center. So after many months of tease that what we were expecting wasn't actually what we were going to get, we are two closeout opportunities for the high seeds, at home, to set up the Eastern Conference Finals that looked inevitable in October.

If we're lucky, it'll be good to watch, too.

No comments:

Ads In This Size Rule