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Al Horford playing 28 minutes in the NBA playoffs and other inexcusable coaching decisions

You'll find something like unanimity among the advanced metric crowd that measuring the impact of NBA coaches is difficult. Many have attempted to stick a number on it, but there's hardly anything approaching consensus regarding a measure that accurately reflects coaching quality. Even wins are problematic, as Doc Rivers' career suggests.
Maybe we're just going about this all wrong. Instead of trying to measure what coaches bring to their teams, we should focus on what coaches take away and implement a "do no evil" philosophy to coach judgment. So this morning, instead of praising Frank Vogel for giving Paul George a long leash despite a rough shooting afternoon, we would simply issue a demerit to Larry Drew for what Peachtree Hoops' Jason Walker writes about this morning.
[W]ith 5:29 left in the first half, Lance Stephenson would put himself in the path of a transitioning Horford around midcourt in an effort to slow the Hawks big man down. Horford would put his arm on the Pacer wingman and then Stephenson flailed wildly, enticing referee David Jones to call an offensive foul away from the ball.
It shouldn't have been a foul. [...] It was Horford's second personal foul and Larry Drew decided the risk of Horford picking up a third foul in the first half was too great to his team's success and he benched him for the rest of the half.
Oh, the fallacies of such fraidy-cat strategery.
Horford sat, the Hawks' momentum was blunted and the Pacers won. And Horford finished with three fouls for the game.
This is a persistent issue with some coaches, but Drew might be the league's top offender, with Horford as the victim. It makes no sense on so many levels! Horford is not remotely foul prone -- he averaged 2.2 per game while playing 37 minutes a night this season. Drew has been his coach all year. He has seen first-hand that Horford can defend really well without fouling.
Drew pulled Horford with five minutes left in the second quarter, so there were 29 minutes of game left. Even if Horford had three fouls at that point, his performance all season long indicates he would pick up two or fewer fouls the rest of the way, even if he played all 29 minutes remaining plus a five-minute overtime period. At two fouls, which is where Horford was when yanked, he would have had to pick up fouls at more than double his normal rate while playing the entire second half and one overtime to foul out.
I think you take that risk when the alternative is sitting your best player. After all, the worst thing that could happen is that ... your best player would have to sit! You know how awesome people get sandwiches named after them? This move is not awesome and it should be called The Larry Drew.
Drew, of course, is not the only coach who makes mistakes. Here are some other inexcusable decisions that require demerits in our Kierkegaardian coaching value system.
* Playing seemingly random rotations game to game. We'll call this The Keith Smart.
* Installing a complicated new offense despite a Rolls Royce roster featuring two of the best offensive players ever, one highly-skilled 7-footer and a dominant center. The Mike Brown.
* Antagonizing your star player. The P.J. Carlesimo.
* Playing an injured player beyond his medically determined minutes limit and getting into a fistfight with your boss. The Vinny Del Negro.
* Trusting your team defense to assistant coach Chuck Person. The Reggie Theus.
* Keeping your best player on the bench because your second-best player plays the same position. The Kurt Rambis.
* Suspending your best player without buy-in from your boss. The Paul Westphal.
* Destroying your entire franchise -- front office to players and back -- in a post-game presser. The Doug Collins.

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NBA Western Conference Finals Betting Preview

Talking to a number of various wise guy bettors living in Las Vegas, one conclusion was evident before the playoffs started, yes the Los Angeles Lakers looked vulnerable but were still the safest bet to win another title and the Phoenix Suns were the best long shot among the top four seeds from either conference to become the upset champions of the NBA. Not coincidentally, that is the matchup for the West Finals, which begin Monday in Los Angeles. The Lakers are a -340 series favorite according to

One aspect that is often forgotten in the NBA playoffs is how very good teams can pick up momentum. The Lakers closed the regular season 4-7 SU and ATS, and stumbled a bit in the first round vs. Oklahoma City. However, since then, L.A. has gotten serious about basketball again and has won six straight, covering five times and now another championship ring is in sight.

There is no getting around it (literally), the size of the Lakers’ changes how teams can attack them. With Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, it just doesn’t leave much room in the middle, which helps takes away the one inside player the Suns have in Amare Stoudemire.

L.A. guards and wing players can be super aggressive defensively, knowing what they have behind them. Ron Artest is not the defender he was a few years ago, but what he’s lost in quickness he makes up for in smarts and he will try to attach himself at the hip of Jason Richardson or Jared Dudley when he enters the game.

Phoenix has picked up a reputation as being a good defensive team, while they are not as lame as when Mike D’Antoni was coach; they are far from good, mostly just average. With the talk of Grant Hill being a defensive demon, that’s all Kobe Bryant needs for a personal challenge.

Remember last year when Denver had all those high effort guys coming off the bench and they actually gave Phil Jackson’s team trouble at first, yet after Game 3 had little impact, that’s what the Lakers do as the series wears on, systematically they take away your strengths and even Derek Fisher becomes more useful knocking down shots. There is a reason why the Lake Show is 5-1 and 4-2 ATS against the Suns at Staples the past three years, they are bigger and better and hard to beat four times.

Since Steve Nash has arrived in the desert with his injury-plagued career in the balance, all he has done is transform Phoenix into the most entertaining team in the NBA and a outfit that has been among the better groups out West. Be that as it may, the window of opportunity is closing and the sense is the entire club and organization knows it.

That creates the first chance for the Suns, desperation, hardly something the Lakers ever feel and when they do, usually nothing good comes from it. (Game 6 Lakers at Boston two years ago comes to mind) Phoenix has to be able to leave it all on the floor each night, no Game 1 or Game 4’s against Portland “we just weren’t focused” nights. You only get once chance to beat a champion and if you let it slip, look in the mirror.

Coach Alvin Gentry is credited for making Phoenix a more complete squad than past versions, with greater attention to detail on both ends of the floor. Steve Nash should be able to run circles around Derek Fisher, but his key is drawing the defense to him to make the assist and frustrate the Lakers big men.

Coach Jackson will try to prevent dibble penetration by Nash and make him more a shooter than facilitator, Nash has to defeat this defense by using the screen and role continually with Stoudemire. If successful, this forces other defenders to get involved and the NBA’s best outside shooting team will find itself with many more open looks.

Phoenix can’t let the Lakers play volleyball on the offensive glass; they have to at least be within five boards at all times once the second half starts.

Gentry’s bench has been a difference maker, which is why this desert squad is 22-4 and 19-6-1 ATS since Mar. 14.

It goes without saying Phoenix has to run, but as they proved against San Antonio, it’s not about running and dunking for layups, it is about beating the Lakers defense back and making the extra pass to find the three-point shooter who is open to bury the shot and wear down the big guys in gold and purple late in games.

As is said in boxing, “contrasting styles make fights”. That will be the case out West, with the Lakers trying to control tempo and have their size be a difference maker, while Phoenix wants to play fast, hit 3’s and make enough defensive stops to matter.

At the end of the day, the Lakers having a long break before the series, another lengthy break before heading to Arizona, gives them rest and ample time to make adjustments, which makes them awfully difficult to beat unless the opponent plays great defense.

Pick- L.A. Lakers (-340) in seven over Phoenix (+280)

NBA: Heat and Suns have to play better

While the biggest story surrounding game two between Miami and Boston centers around the Kevin Garnett suspension, Heat players know the real issue involves shooting 39.8 percent, scoring 76 points and committing 22 turnovers. If that happens again, the Heat jump into a 0-2 hole they helped dig. At least Miami hasn’t lost at home, something Phoenix can’t say. The Suns players should have listened to local talk radio, as their fans assumed they would be mature and take the game to the short-handed Portland. Instead, they waltzed around and let the Trailblazers steal the series opener. Two NBA teams, two NBA situations, the Heat and Suns must address. Let’s take a quick look at both games. Head over to the GAME MATCHUP page on for more key betting trends and information.

Miami at Boston 8:00E TNT

The Heat knew what to expect against Boston, they had already lost to them three times this season, yet once again they failed to find the answer. Dwayne Wade can win a game or possibly even two with the right set of circumstances; however he can’t go at it alone to win a series.

Boston’s strategy is to do the best it can with Wade defensively, but more importantly, don’t let anyone else become a factor. Other than the former Marquette product, no other Miami player has scored 20 points this season against the Celtics and in series opener, Quentin Richardson was the only other player to reach double digits (15 points).

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said, "We just did not show a lot of composure. ... To play to that kind of pressure, a little bit of duress, a little bit of adversity, we did not respond well to it." His club is 6-19 ATS in road encounters revenging four or more losses to same opponent.

Boston will miss KG, but coach Doc Rivers will do what he does best, rally the troops for key moments.

“Kevin also facilitates a lot of offense. In the first game, a lot of our open shots came off Kevin being involved in the play. That’s my biggest concern. You’re losing 15 points and, more importantly, you’re losing all the picks, all the postups where they had to trap. That’s big. We’re going to have to try to find some points somewhere.” Rivers also talked about Garnett’s defensive energy and will present this as challenge to Glen Davis, Rasheed Wallace and others to pitch in. saw Boston go off as 4.5-point in the first matchup and took revenge and no Garnett into consideration and dropped the Celtics to two-point choice, with the wagering public taking it a step further. The Celtics are now listed as single point home favorites, with steady total of 179.

Boston has won six straight over Miami at home (3-3 ATS) yet is merely 13-26-2 ATS as a home favorite and 21-12 UNDER after they’ve covered the spread this season. The Heat is going to have to force the tempo and make shots. They are 8-0 OVER off a road loss scoring less than 80 points, winning by 7.8 points per game.

Portland at Phoenix 10:00E NBA-TV

The clues were there and the intelligent sports bettor spotted them and played Portland in Game 1. Phoenix was an eight-point favorite with total of 204, suggesting the Suns should have won the first round opening tilt 106-98. The score relating to the Trailblazers exactly matched their season total home and away. Phoenix however averages 110.1 points a game and over 112 at home. The numbers didn’t add up and Portland got the upset.

Every typical flaw the Suns have was exposed by an outstanding game plan by coach Nate McMillian.

Defensively they pressured Steve Nash early in the shot clock, making him yo-yo the dribble and eat up time. Phoenix prefers to get right into offense and most times they didn’t get anything started until 15 or less seconds. They doubled Amare Stoudemire wherever possible and he needed 19 shots to accumulate 18 points.

On offense, Portland ran when given the opportunity and Andre Miller kept driving to the rim and Phoenix had no answer. This allowed Marcus Camby and LaMarcus Aldridge to score in deep. A 14-2 SU & 11-4-1 ATS close to the season meant nothing after four quarters of playoff basketball for coach Alvin Gentry’s squad.

Nash was candid about how his team played, even if it seemed unusual. “We didn’t quite have the spirit or the energy collectively that we had in the last few games of the regular season,” Nash said. “Sometimes that happens.”

When asked about the importance of this being playoff time he responded, “You can never predict. I mean, I thought we played hard. I just thought we didn’t quite have that spark that we needed,” he said. “I don’t know— biorhythms.”

Phoenix’ compelling season could be all but over with another loss, however, the Suns are 8-1 ATS at home after a defeat by six points or less this season. The Suns are 8.5-point faves with total of 204.5. Watch that total closely, since they are 41-24 OVER revenging a same season failure the last three seasons.

Portland has the second best road record in the NBA at 25-17 (26-14-2 ATS) and is 18-6 ATS off a road win this season. It will be imperative for the Blazers to again contain the tempo as assuredly the Suns will want to play at a more aggressive pace. Portland is 21-8 UNDER as visitors when the total is greater than or equal to 200.

The StatFox Power Lines for these games show Boston by 3, Phoenix by 7