In NBA, regular season is played differently and postseason is played in a different style. That is the reason experienced teams always come up big in Playoffs. During the regular season, teams will win with transition offense, half court offense and when it comes to Playoffs, the intensity of the game will be more as the teams are in do or die situation. So what kind of offensive schemes will work in Playoffs?
Looking back at the last 5 champions (Mavericks, Lakers, Lakers, Boston. Spurs), except Lakers all other teams played terrific pick and roll game and gave their star players a good matchup. For instance, Dirk got high pick and roll through Chandler and matched up against weak defenders and punished the Heat in the 2011 finals. Lakers played triangle offense in their Championship years and their scheme is an entirely different one and it is all about players positioning and ball movement.
Reason for bringing up this topic is when Heat played at Thunder recently, there were talk that “This is a potential Finals Matchup” and I was wondering if these two teams will even make it to Finals. Forget the stardom. Playoffs are all about matchups and schemes. Kobe, Shaq, Karl Malone, Gary Payton lost to Detroit in 2004 Finals.
Oklahoma City Thunder: OKC is a terrific transition team and they will beat any team with speed. But when the opponent defense is set, their game is more about isolation. If Kevin Durant’s name is called, he gets isolated and same for Westbrook. They do not play with clean half court offensive plays or pick and rolls. Veteran teams like Spurs will dismantle OKC in playoffs. Mavericks did the same to OKC in last year’s conference finals. Mavs dominated in defense when the game was played in half court and forced Kevin Durant to take bad shots as there were no proper plays. In fact, if Lakers’ bench can contribute 20 points, they will beat OKC. OKC cannot win the championship or even get to Finals with this game style. Also KD and Westbrook combine for 7 turnovers and that’s a lot from star players. Recently Memphis held OKC to just 2 fast break plays and both resulted in no points and OKC lost the game.
Miami Heat: Lebron, Wade, Bosh. All star powers are loaded in this team. But when you look at their offensive scheme it will be predictable and they will out of individual efforts and not through designed plays. Either Lebron will be posting up for a turnaround jumper or pull up jumper and Wade will beat the defender and lay it up for a score. Mavericks played solid defense from the 4th quarter of Game 2 last year and exploited the half court game weakness of Heat. From game 3, Heat had many empty possessions where Lebron will take a jumper in last few seconds of a possession as they do not know to play against a well set defense. Boston Celtics beat them with strong half court defense and Heat players were clueless on moving the ball.
Conclusion: Neither the Heat nor OKC will win the championship this year. It will be won by a team which plays good half court offense and a decent defense. It is too early to roll the red carpet by predicting the champion but I would say a healthy Rose and the Bulls can beat Miami in a seven game series. We cannot rule out the Pacers as they are also a young team that plays good offense. Likewise Spurs/Lakers/Mavericks (whichever team goes deeper) will beat OKC. The Spurs are always a dangerous team with a healthy Duncan, Parker and Manu. Lakers’ strength will be determined by the 6-10 minutes span the bench plays. Starters always contribute but their bench has been very inconsistent. Mavericks and Lakers are awful on the road this season. So it is going to be a terrific contest this season. Clippers miss solid veteran presence and hence they cannot go deeper in Playoffs. Young guns will fail and Lob City is good in regular season but the playoffs mean serious business.