Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lebron's Miraculous Shot Masks Some Uncomfortable Questions

Wow. Just watch this again, will you?



Dude just saved a season. Saved a city, in fact. And the reaction of the night award has to go to Stan Van Gundy.

I do have one substantive thought though: didn't Orlando show that they're sort of better than Cleveland in these first two games? I mean, there were periods in the third and fourth quarter last night (as well as in Game 1) where Cleveland's much lauded defense had simply no answer for Orlando's deceptively simple go-to play: pick and roll at the top involving Howard, with three shooters on the wings for open threes if help comes. Cleveland's best five (Z, Varejao, Mo Williams, Delonte and Lebron) are too slow to stop that. But if Mike Brown goes small (playing Lebron at the 4 to guard Rashard), Orlando simply beats them up on the boards. And they really have no one to guard Hedo -- poor old Pavlovic looked so lost out there that I wanted to put my arm around him and tell him that it would be ok. I think if Orlando actually shows up to start a game, rather than just in the second half, they can take this.

Denver-Lakers tonight. Won't be able to watch it, but what a fascinating series it's been so far. Isn't it fun for us to see Kobe and his team struggle so much? Good times.

4 comments:

bubs said...

Slightly off topic.

Ahsan, since you are a Malcom Gladwell and basketball fan, I was wondering if you had any thoughts on this piece.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/11/090511fa_fact_gladwell

Is it possible he could have discovered something that has eluded basketball coaches?

Ahsan said...

Bubs:

I thought it was one of Gladwell's dumber pieces. Sometimes he really overdoes the whole "contrarian" thing...sometimes conventional wisdom is conventional for a reason: it's right.

To be more concrete, his basic argument is that bad teams when playing good teams should employ the full court press more often. The obvious rejoinder to that would be that all a team needs is one good point guard, and the press is easily broken down. Good point guards are hard to find on female middle school teams (which is what his main case study is) but much easier to find at the top level of the game. Guys like Chris Paul would eat the press for breakfast.

Also, he says that more bad NBA and college teams should employ the press because it messes with other people's heads. But he ignores a fundamental fact about the NBA, which is that teams play each other 3-4 times a season, in an 82 game season. So what that means is that (a) the press won't be surprising, because people see it being deployed against other teams and, more importantly (b) teams get fucking tired pressing for 82 games. You can't do it. It's exhausting in just one game, but to try to do it for 3-4 times a week for 8 months is suicide. That's why pro teams usually use it only as a surprise tactic here and there within games, and never for more than a couple of minutes, because the surprise factor wears off very quickly.

Anyway, he had a response to this line of criticism on his blog as well as in a back-and-forth exchange with Bill Simmons on this issue. Simmons for some reason backs him slightly, which blows my mind. For those interested:

http://gladwell.typepad.com/gladwellcom/2009/05/underdogs.html

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/090513/part2

Pagal_Aadmi_for_debauchery said...

I see some Laker hatin' :)
The Cavaliers got very easily rolled over last night. They need to win 3 out of 4 now which would require 2/2 in Cleveland and 1/2 in Orlando.
Memo to Lebron: Before you make premature pronouncements of the 'historic significance' of the buzzer beater, win the series or we will forget about your shot by the time Lakers tip off with Orlando at the Staple Center.

Ahsan said...

Pagal:

Yeah, I just think Orlando is a terrible match up for Cleveland. They really are. And I think Cleveland knows it. I think Orlando wins this in six.

And unfortunately, I see the Lakers taking Denver in six too.