Christmas Day brought us more than just material gifts…..the NBA games on national television taught us a few basketball lessons as well:
Talent beats execution. This may not be true over the course of a full season or a playoff run, but on any given night it happens. The New York Knicks were blowing out the Boston Celtics in the first half, then Boston put on a clinic of execution in the second half that probably made Bob Cousy’s Christmas somewhere (the rebounding of Brandon Bass was equally impressive). Behind Rajon Rondo‘s brilliant orchestrating, the Celtics built a ten-point lead at one point. That was, until the Knicks decided to isolate Carmelo Anthony each and every possession down the stretch. The result was a 17-point 4th quarter for Anthony and a N.Y. win on opening day (106-104). Oh, and I also learned by watching the Knicks postgame huddle at halfcourt that this is without a doubt Carmelo’s team.
You can’t cheat success. Last Christmas many people used this line when talking about the Miami Heat, as they struggled to gel early in the season after a free-agent coup. Well, this year I’m talking about the Dallas Mavericks. They got blown out by the Heat, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who follows NBA basketball. Throw out the emotional banner-raising ceremony and the revenge factor of it being a Finals rematch…it’s not even that complicated. It’s what the Mavs did the past two weeks that caused this debacle on Christmas Day. They lost their defensive as well as team identity with key free agent departures. They decided to plug holes on the offensive end with mercenaries like starting shooting guard Vince Carter (who has already been taken out of the starting lineup after just one half). Defensively, they aren’t the same either with Brendan Haywood as the back line. Oh well, it’s all about next summer anyways in ‘Big D’ (Dwight? Deron?? Defense???).
The NBA game is more mental than physical. Derek Fisher was matched up against the reigning league MVP Derrick Rose for most of the day. While his offense was rusty, defensively he held his own. ’Fish’ even broke up a few Bulls fastbreaks as the last man back on defense (his specialty). Age is truly just a number when Derek gets between the lines. Kobe Bryant, meanwhile, is playing with yet another significant injury (torn ligament in right wrist, blah blah, skeet skeet). Funny thing is, you can’t even tell just by watching him on the court. The Chicago Bulls certainly didn’t notice it, just ask Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. Bryant was almost too productive…on the last possession he thought he could drive to the basket on 4 Bulls players. Not a good look, Lakers lose.
You must double-team superstars in crunch time. The Celtics decided to play Carmelo Anthony straight-up with Marquis Daniels on him down the stretch…the result was a 17-point 4th quarter and a New York win. The Chicago Bulls, on the other hand, chose to double-team Kobe Bryant every time he touched the ball in the game’s final minutes. The result was numerous turnovers and miscues on offense, resulting in a Chicago win. Most times this strategy is usually a philosophical decision, some coaches believe it’s a good strategy and some just don’t. If Christmas Day was any indicator, the answer is simple…..DOUBLE!!!
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