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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 Sportsbook.com.
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)
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