One of the more unique thing in the sports world is the notion of a Halftime. Where else do you get to stop a test of your ability right in the middle to have a nice drink, chat with your friends, and watch a little TV? Can you imagine how SAT testing would go? You’d be able to talk to a math teacher about the quadratic equation and come back fresh, ready to ace the thing. How about sex? There’d be a loud horn sound, you’d each go to separate corners, huddle up with your buddies, compare notes about technique, and when the buzzer sounds come back refreshed and ready to win. (I’m not sure anyone technically wins in this scenario, but go with me)
So it is with basketball that we have this chunk of time where the coaches can sit down with their players, go over their play from the opening half, and adjust the strategy to ensure they win the game. Oh, and have a nice drink or even a massage if need be. You can only imagine how important this period of time is, especially since this is where the cheerleaders get to earn their money out on the floor.
I’m always fascinated about the start of third quarters – some coaches say the first 3 minutes or crucial, others say 5, seems kinda arbitrary to me, but there is no doubt that when two great teams go up against each other, this section of the game often decides the outcome. The gauntlet had been thrown in the 1st half, and now it’s time to see who’s gonna bend over and pick it up.
With the Bulls vs. Thunder game, there was a big flashing sign in each corner of the arena that said: “Derrick Rose is not playing today.” And below that, a smaller sign that flashed: “Neither is Rip Hamilton.” It is impossible to say how different the outcome would’ve been with Rose and to a lesser extent Hamilton, but watching the Bulls struggle to score against a revved up Thunder defense was cringe worthy. The Bulls repetitively settled for long outside jumpers they couldn’t make, which enabled the Thunder to come down quickly and score – essentially a recipe for disaster. Bulls fans clung to hope since Chicago has done so well without Rose for so long, but without him, it was like bringing a Bull to a gun fight.Over the last few weeks, the Thunder have staked their claim as the favorite to get out of the West. They have won 11 of 16, including impressive wins over Dallas, Miami, the Lakers, and the Bulls. Last night’s loss to Memphis merely accentuates how dangerous the Grizzlies are, but that’s for another post. Statistically, Russell Westbrook has been doing the same thing he’s been doing all year, but there appears to be a willingness to take less contested shots without passing. Their defense has also found another gear, creating turnovers and run outs the likes we haven’t seen except with the Miami Heat.
We are now at Halftime of this article, and I’ve taken that opportunity to break out a cold one, sit back and re-read what I’ve written, fixed a typo (made “11 out of 16” to simply “11 of 16”) and added some italics. I’m serious about having halftime in more aspects of life. How about parenting? When your kid gets to 9 years old, they take him away to a smelly locker room where a “coach” screams at him for several days about cleaning up his room and listening to his parents more. Love it.
Now, make no mistake about it, these next few paragraphs are crucial to the success of this article. With that, we go to the big guns the Miami Heat to figure out what’s wrong. One big red flag: they’ve started shooting more 3’s. Call it fatigue, ennui, or guys getting theirs, rather than post up and work their effective Horns set, they go from averaging 15 three point attempts per game – ranking 25th in the league, to 19 three points attempts in their losses. The real question is: Can Erik Spoelstra influence them enough to get his players to stop this.
Another issue I have is with Chris Bosh posting up. As the good teams have had time to prepare and take away things from LeBron and Wade, Bosh is even more vital to the Heat’s success. According to Synergy Sports, posting up is what Bosh does the most. But where it becomes infuriating is WHERE Bosh posts up. On the right block, he’s rated Very Good, in the 72nd percentile, and he gets 58% of his post ups there. But on the left block, he is an awful 28th percentile, shooting 32% from the field. And yet, he posts up there 39% of the time. I can only place the blame on Spoelstra for this – since he calls plays that get Bosh his post ups, and way too many of them are designed to get it to him on that left block. To continue to feed the ball to Bosh that much on the left side smacks of masochism to me.
Boston, left for dead 10 days ago, has made a resurgence of late. Having won 8 out of 9, they have vaulted aead of Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division’s inevitable 4th seed in the conference. The biggest adjustment has been to shift Kevin Garnett over to center. Now, on his pick and pops, a slower, less mobile center has to jump out and stop KG’s jumper. On the low block, KG is still quick enough to out maneuver most opposing centers. This has worked so well, he’s averaging 3 more points per game over the last 10 games. This move is Doc Rivers’ halftime moment, although it probably belongs more to Jermaine O’Neal for getting injured than anything else.
So here we are at the end. I truly feel that this article got better after halftime, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to use it. Right now, it feels like the Thunder will win the West, but I still think the Spurs have the best chance, followed by Memphis – a team no one wants to play – even with a halftime. I throw my hands up with the Heat at this point – they’re proven to be mortal against the good teams, especially when they can’t get turnovers and run outs. In a halfcourt game, the Heat become very mortal. So use your halftimes wisely, sports fans, especially while on a date, or a job interview, or even that visit to the in-laws. It might be your only chance to adjust.