Originally Posted by •LX•
Watching the playoffs so far, I can’t get over the abundance of jumpshots, many of them forced or out-of-rhythm. I have to give some credit to good defense, but I feel that the increased use and refining of zone defenses offers the best explanation. Through long stretches of both current series, the success rate in the paint plummets. Ball-handlers get crowded-out, big men get cramped, and passers lose their passing lanes, all thanks to four defenders, sometimes five, all sticking a toe in the lane and collapsing from there. When teams try to space things out on the perimeter, defenders run out at them all and stop ball movement. Early offense off of transition works to an extent, but all the remaining teams deserve credit for being able to take away that first option in early-offense scenarios, forcing their opponents into half-court sets, which they then can’t get going all too often. And the result has been a lot of attempts at drawing fouls, and jumpshots that are merely last resorts.
Yes there have been some nice displays of guys hitting shots over three, four, or five defenders, and aggressive drives that at least lead to the foul line, as well as some nice accurate entry passes - all providing momentary offensive advantages. But it all seems to come down to which team hits their J’s. I heard Doc tell his team that they were allowing the Pistons to take them “out of their stuff”. But I have to wonder if the kind of timing that Stockton and Malone perfected in running their stuff would have any effect today. Or if the footwork and passing of Hakeem and McHale would be the kind of stuff they could go to nearly as often as they did.
There was about three minutes of last night’s Pistons-Celtics matchup, mostly at the end of the game, where I got the distinct impression that I was watching a basketball game. The rest of the way I saw freethrow after freethrow, and jumpshots aplenty. And if you even go back to the Spurs vs Hornets, you will find that the team that hit their shots won easily in each game. It’s been a pattern throughout the playoffs really. Granted the need to establish aggressive play inside, whether succesful or not, has still been a necessary element. But that doesn’t take away from the feeling that wells up in me - that I’m watching a glorified darts tourney.
It all comes down to who handles the pressure and gets their shooting form working for them. Of course dart tossers don’t need to work to get their shots off (that’s something they might consider working on though - imagine Bowen face-guarding some guy with a sharp object at the ready). But these playoffs have shown that their is too often no amount of work that will allow for a team’s best options to open up. After spending a first quarter of futility in the paint last night, both teams finally went to what was there for them - quick shots off one or no passes. If you hit those shots then eventually a few other things might open up, or if you miss particularly bad shots it might lead to a nice fast break. Mostly the games plod through the ugliness, and if a real basketball play looks to be available, there will be a quick foul, helping get both teams into the penalty early, and adding to the march to the stripe, where the resemblance to darts can’t get any stronger.
You can even start to think of the Boston fans in the same terms as those insane Brits with a Guinness in them, cheering as the in-house announcer yells “RAY-jon RONdo for THREE” in a manner not so different from the guy with the mic who shouts “ONE-undred-an-AYteeee”. And the sound of thuds hitting back-rim inhabit the same deadness as the darts that miss triple-twenty only to land in the one-point piece of the pie. So should they try taking the game clock out of the equation, start each team with 80 points, and count them down to zero to decide a winner? Or should they just reduce some of the crowding issues by going with an international key, widened under the basket? Of course they will do nothing, and if games don’t end up like darts exactly, then they will surely be not much different from gridiron efforts featuring dozens of runs up the middle into the strength of the defense, and short routes that move a team downfield in short segments of nondescript action.
Which wouldn’t necessarily be bad for our Raptors. They are gaining an understanding of these kinds of games, and need maybe only one more player who can be that one good on-the-ball defender while the rest crowd the paint, as well as be that guy who can run it up the middle along with Bosh, and get enough foul calls to take a little pressure of of the guys with the darts. But it does disappoint me that so much of the give-and-take that played out between defenses and offenses in the past, has become less meaningful, if not altogether non-existent. Those Brits might be able to get inexplicably excited all the same, even if there were five Scalabrines with bad teeth thrown out on the court (all the better reason to down another pint). But I do hope for the beauty of the game to return to the forefront. Think of that shot by Ray Allen over Sheed’s outstretched hand, rolling in a perfect arc right into the pocket of air surrounded by the rim. Think of that happening every fourth time down the court,and then think of real ball movement, real footwork, and bodies acting and reacting every other possession. Think of not having to remind yourself that you are watching a basketball game showcasing the pinnacle of achievements.