HOOP LOGIC with GOD FORBID’S DOC COYLE: “YES, GREGG POPOVICH IS THE TERMINATOR.”
Four teams remain. Each is eight (or so) wins away from sweet NBA glory, the fulfillment of dreams, a top-heavy trophy and watch-sized ring, a summer of bragging rights, and a sweet photo op beside NBA commissioner David Stern. It’s the NBA Conference Finals! Holy shit!
The action got underway this weekend, so as of this writing the Spurs and Heat have netted Game 1 wins against the Thunder and Celtics, respectively. And yet, God Forbid guitarist/backing vocalist Doc Coyle might not be convinced that those teams will prevail. Below Doc returns to take us through the ins, outs, and what-have-yous of this penultimate challenge. But first, a review of round two’s surprising, unsurprising, dismaying, and catastrophic results! Fucking stupid Lakers! I mean, this is Hoop Logic!
The Pacers jumped to a convincing 2-1 series lead, and were poised to push it to 3-1 with a Game 4 home win. But somehow, the balanced, multi-faceted Pacers failed to win that game or any further games against the ragged, Bosh-less Miami Heat. Doc, what the fuck?
DOC: This was a startling turnaround. Even without Bosh, the Heat seemed fully able to handle the Pacers. Collectively, we all underestimated the Pacers. They had an All-Star center, great balance, depth, and a fundamental approach to both sides of the ball, and this was apparent in their wins. On the other hand, Bosh’s value was exposed. He was providing almost 20 points and 8 rebounds a game, and in these low-scoring affairs, those points were invaluable. He was also the tallest guy on the team, the longest and most intimidating post defender. So if Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, and Udonis Haslem hadn’t stepped up, the Heat would be toast.
Two things had to happen for Miami to get back into the series after Game 3:
First, James and Wade would have to play Hall of Fame level basketball and carry the team against Indiana’s depth. The dynamic duo was superhuman in Game 4 and no one thought this could be sustained. Yet James and Wade then averaged 65 points per game over the final three games, and were utterly unstoppable. This goes to show that when a team has the best player on the planet and a top-five talent, they are never out of a series.
Secondly, Miami had to stop Roy Hibbert and David West, who had a serious skill and size advantage inside. I’m not sure if it was bad coaching or just poor execution, but Indiana did not go in the post enough and make Miami pay for being small. West and Hibbert did not get nearly enough shots, but I think part of it is because Miami plays great team defense, and forced the Pacers to stay outside and focus on their wing players.
The Celtics used all seven games to knock out the Sixers, which implies an evenly-matched series. Doc, if for some reason Game 7 had been in Philadelphia, would the Sixers be the ones moving on to the conference finals? Was it that close?
DOC: If you remember, I picked this series to go seven games with the Celtics prevailing. Although the Sixers were an eighth seed, there was evidence that they were much better than that in the regular season. I thought they matched up well with Boston because of their youth and depth. Also, you knew the Sixers would play hard for their excellent coach, Doug Collins. There was no quit in this team.
Boston, meanwhile, had some of the worst luck regarding injuries. G Avery Bradley became the fourth Celtic this season to be lost for the remainder season, joining the unenviable club of key rotation guys Jeff Green, Jermaine O’Neal, and Chris Wilcox. Bradley was the key to Boston’s second-half turnaround when they posted the best record in the Eastern Conference. With him out, and Ray Allen a shell of himself due to a bad ankle, Boston was going to be in for an uphill battle.
I also think the “Big Three era” Boston team has never done anything easy, and had a few long series even in their championship run. It seems like they overlooked this Philly squad, or thought that they could coast to the next round. There was a lack of intensity in a couple games, and Philly capitalized. The Sixers played with a lot of guts, and never gave up. The home court advantage was a huge factor, and that’s why we play a regular season. Teams should be rewarded for their consistency. Home court will often tip the scales in a tightly matched competition.
Well Doc, so much for our hopes for a hotly-contested second-round series between the San Antonio Spurs and the L.A. Clippers. Why such a smashing: Clips injuries, Spurs’ Terminator-esque efficiency, both? Do you miss Clips G Chris Paul already?
DOC: I have to say I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop with the Spurs, and it just isn’t happening. No one is playing as well. They dismantle defenses with their magical ball movement. And they take away your best option defensively. Anyone who says the Spurs are boring needs to get their head out of their ass. They may be the most fun team to watch left in the playoffs. And yes Gregg Popovich is the Terminator. He has definitely extinguished some lives in his past. Don’t fuck with that guy.
I hadn’t believed that a team could contain Chris Paul for a whole series, but the Spurs did. I suspect he wasn’t totally healthy, but it is further proof that the Clippers are still building and figuring out their identity. Blake Griffin is still developing. If he can improve his post repertoire, jump shots, and free throws, the sky is the limit. Their main flaw seems to be one of their best advantages: The “Lob City” moniker comes from their athletic, high-flying front line of Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, but if those two can’t hit free throws or develop some of the more nuanced aspects of the game, than the Clips will be bounced like this again next year. I look forward to watching this team grow.
Following this week’s round-two ass-whomping at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers were described by F Metta World Peace as the better team that simply played well below their potential. You predicted their defeat, Doc, but is there any truth to that statement? Can we fault head coach Mike Brown and his history of post-season ineptitude?
DOC: The Lakers had two of these games pretty much sealed up before Kobe Bryant of all people took bad shots and committed costly turnovers. The Lakers proved they were good enough to beat the Thunder, but they were finally served some of their own medicine. This is exactly what the Lakers did to this OKC team two years ago, and the Phoenix Suns that same year, and the Denver Nuggets in 2009. Winners snatch victory from the jaws of defeat even when they are outplayed.
I am not a fan of Mike Brown, but I don’t think John Wooden could have pulled this combustible group together. Despite a subpar bench, this team has plenty of talent. But this collection of personalities just doesn’t work for me. Kobe just seems like a bad, unsupportive teammate most of the time. He takes tough love to a whole other level. Andrew Bynum is a perpetual sourpuss who seems disconnected from any type of team unity. No one knows whether Metta World Peace or Ron Artest is going to show up at the arena; I think he has good intentions despite his many transgressions. There is a lot of mental and emotional baggage. Pau Gasol is underappreciated and under-utilized, which effects his productivity.
Expect some serious turnover in the off-season, but Mike Brown should be back. If they could make that Bynum for Dwight Howard swap, all could be saved in La La Land.
San Antonio Spurs (1) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (2)
Winner San Antonio Spurs
Doc’s Orders This is the toughest series to predict because these have been the best two teams in the playoffs. I give the Spurs the edge because they have home court advantage, and their stunning recent dominance. As of this writing, the Spurs have won 19 consecutive games with an average margin of victory around 14 PPG. The truth is OKC is built a lot like Miami: Almost 80 PPG come from their three stars. No one in the league can stop Kevin Durant, but if you can bottle up Westbrook, Harden, or both, than you have a chance. Stopping the Spurs almost seems like plugging hole in a dam. You can’t really zero in on one guy because they get production from so many. This series will be as intriguing as it will be entertaining. It will be a treat to see the game get played as such a high level.
Doc’s Team I have a soft spot for these older teams. I think a Spurs-Boston match up would be just as great as a Miami-OKC Finals. Another ring would give Duncan one more over Shaq and seal his legacy as the best big man of his era. And the Thunder will be in the championship mix for the next decade. I’m rooting for San Antonio.
Miami Heat (2) vs Boston Celtics (3)
Doc’s orders These games should be fairly low scoring. If Miami’s Big Two keep playing at this Herculean level by averaging more than 60 PPG, Boston has no chance. Also, if Chris Bosh comes back in the series, Miami will get a huge boost emotionally and physically. But Boston has distinct advantages at the 1 and 5 in Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo, so those guys have to play lights out. Rondo especially has to dominate because Miami has no answer for him. It was Rondo who keyed the Celtics 2010 run. The big x-factor is Ray Allen. If he is knocking down shots, it could change the dynamic of the series. He was virtually non-existent against Philly.
Doc’s team I love this Boston team. I’ve never seen a team with more heart since my old Knicks teams from the ’90s. This is likely their group’s last chance to win a title. They have never faced a bigger challenge than this Heat team followed by the Thunder or Spurs in the Finals. I will be pulling for them, but they are outmatched. They will have to play like it is their last playoff. If they play how they did against Philly, they will get stomped.
-Doc Coyle, God Forbid
Doc Coyle and God Forbid embark on the Trespass America tour with Five Finger Death Punch, Killswitch Engage, Emmure, Pop Evil, Trivium, and Battlecross in July (dates here). Gab with Doc on the Twitter @Doc4bid and check out this video of him ripping up a historic guitar solo.