Playoff basketball pits the best against the best, which gets even more heated the deeper we get toward June.
The star players and better teams usually find themselves advancing. One aspect that all seeds, hot and cold, do this time of year is to make adjustments and strategic shifts.
Handicappers need to keep up on these adjustments as it can influence both the side and total of the next contest.
Coaches earn their money or hurt their team by doing nothing, or the wrong thing. Showing how concerned Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was with the loss in Game 1 to Houston, he benched Andrew Bynum, starting Lamar Odom in Game 2. Odom responded with 11 rebounds and 35 minutes of play, while Bynum got only nine minutes. The Lakers played with a lot more energy and won easily, 111-98. Oh, and Odom is in a contract year – think he has extra incentive?
The defending champ Celtics were in a similar situation last week, dropping Game 1 at home to Orlando. After settling for too many outside shots in the opener, Boston made a strategic adjustment, having guards Rajon Rondo, Eddie House and Ray Allen take it to the basket more to challenge Orlando’s big frontcourt with fouls, or to dish it out for better perimeter looks. Rondo had 12 assists without a turnover at halftime as Boston cruised, 112-94.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have improved their offense from a year ago, but defensively allowed the fewest points per game during the regular season. They can play any style, but Coach Mike Brown prefers emphasizing defense in the postseason. A year ago the Cavaliers started 10-3 under the total in the playoffs, slowing the pace down. So far, they are 4-1 to the under this year.
It’s important for sports bettors to watch as many games as possible and carefully read up on the games the next day. Such things as injuries and strategic adjustments can be revealing.
Two years ago the first round series between the Mavs and the Warriors was a fascinating chess match. The Warriors went small-ball under coach Don Nelson in Game 1 and Dallas coach Avery Johnson matched Nellie with a small, quick lineup of his own. The countermove failed, as the Warriors won 97-85 as a 10-point dog.
In Game 2, Johnson countered by going with his big men, the center tandem of Erick Dampier and DeSagana Diop, and the result as a +7 edge on the glass and a 112-99 win. By Game 4, Johnson was using his third starting lineup of the series, but he couldn’t curtail the fired up Warriors’ home court edge as they fell behind 3-1. The Warriors pulled the upset in 6 and coaching strategy played a significant role.
If you just read the box scores or catch the final score on TV, you might not understand all the complex moves taking place.
The fact is, key strategic adjustments by the coaches can influence the series, sides and totals.
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Jim Fiest