Hello everybody and welcome to AC Playoff Takeaways, a series where I'll be writing daily articles with a focus on coaching/player strategy, and will be making predictions about player stats, game outcomes, and coaching adjustments along the way! The easiest way to stay updated when we release an article is by following our Twitter. Thanks and hope you enjoy the journey :)
Why the Bucks should be disappointed by Game 1, The myth behind Luka’s supporting cast, And the Brooklyn big 3 cooking!
If I were to tell you that Jimmy Butler scored 17 points on 4 of 22 from three and 6 turnovers, and that Bam Adebayo scored 9 points on 4 of 15 shooting, you would most certainly tell me that game 1 of the Bucks-Heat playoff series was a blowout. But no, you would be wrong, and that’s what I think the Bucks have to be worried about moving forward. This game went into OT, with Khris Middleton bailing out the Bucks at the end of the game on a ridiculous fadeaway buzzer-beater. As Miluakee breathes a sigh of relief, I think they should be shaking in their boots… and let me tell you why.
Sure, the Bucks bring some decent pieces off the bench (Portis, Forbes, Tucker), and they have some solid periphery players that can hit shots in big moments (Donte and Brook), but I think they’re not as deep as we give them credit for; the only three players on their team that can effectively create a shot are Giannis, Jrue, and Middleton. When you look at the Heat, however, it’s a TOTALLY different story. These are the players that can create a look for themselves on the Heat: Jimmy, Bam, Herro, Nunn, Dragic, and Iggy. Furthermore, they use Duncan Robinson as a focal point of their offense at times, which adds yet another guy you have to worry about (we saw Duncan exploit Middleton throughout this game on his DHO’s with Bam). There are just so many more creators and playmakers on this Heat team, and that’s why they were able to be successful in game 1 offensively without the normal production of Bam and Jimmy. If Khris or Giannis has a bad game, though, I think the Bucks will be in lots of trouble; when you’re reliant on Middleton, Giannis, and Jrue to make tough shots all game, you’re going to inevitably have some games where they don’t shoot as well, especially when the quality of shot is so difficult, which brings me to my next point.
Quality of shots
There’s no statistic (that’s readily available and is decently effective) to quantify the quality of shots that a team or player gets. However, if you’ve been around basketball, you can see that the Bucks are just taking (and making) far more difficult looks than the Heat. Middleton hit a number of tough mid-range fadeaways that he normally wouldn’t hit. Yes, I know he is one of the best mid-range shooters in the league, but the difficulty on some of these shots was just outlandish, and I anticipate the percentages balancing out in the long run. Giannis is also working incredibly hard to get all of his buckets, besides when he settles for jump shots (which is exactly what MIA wants him to do). I just don’t view MIL’s offensive strategy as sustainable; it’s a lot of one on one and not enough ball movement. The Heat, on the other hand, move the ball as well as anyone in the league and get excellent looks all night - they just happened to have missed them yesterday. I expect Jimmy to convert on a lot more of those looks in game 2, and I also think Bam will look to further exploit Lopez’s lack of footspeed with his mid-range pull up. Either way, the offense can come from so many different angles for MIA, so it’s really tough to load up on one specific thing.
This one is FAR from over, and I expect Spolstra, the second best coach in the NBA (behind Greg Popovich, but that’s another article for another day), to make some adjustments defensively such as limiting their fast-break points and placing a larger emphasis on tough block-outs.
Supporting cast my ass
As I was writing the first section to this article, I overheard a number of analysts (I won’t mention names) who were talking about the HUGE lift that Luka’s teammates gave him, especially in the 4th quarter. Similar sentiments were shared on twitter; Quotes such as “where was Luka towards the end of that game? He didn’t hit any of those big shots” were shared on social media. I have one question, though: Could you make it any more obvious to literally anyone that you’re a casual?
Listen, Luka’s teammates hit some big shots towards the end of that game, and yes, maybe 1-2 of them were created individually (Hardaway’s late shot on Kawhi comes to mind). But, it’s important to look at more than just who’s hitting the shots. For the majority of this game, Luka was double teamed at ~30 feet away from the hoop, and was forced to make a pass to either the wing players or the guy flashing towards the middle. He’s an absolute wizard with the ball, so he effortlessly made the correct play each and every time, resulting in 3 after 3 for the Mavs shooters. We can give them credit for hitting the shots, but when you’re getting WIDE OPEN looks that are created from Luka’s ability to create advantageous 4 v 3 situations at will, it almost seems like you could put anybody in those positions and they would be successful. Put any decent NBA shooter in the corner with Luka Doncic and they’re going to have a field day. I’m talking to you, Dorian Finney-Smith.
The Nets are unfair
The Celtics did about all they could to handle the Nets last night (especially in the first half), and it wasn’t even remotely enough. The Nets didn’t move the ball exceptionally well or do anything unique offensively besides give the ball to their 3 stars in isolation, but BOY OH BOY did that work out well for them. The big three combined for 82 of the team’s 104 points, and they did it with absolute ease; none of the big 3 looked even slightly tired, as they were able to essentially split the time of possession evenly between the 3 of them, allowing them to stay fresh. This even split also allows them to play far harder on the defensive end, something they struggled with throughout the season when they rarely had all 3 healthy. After seeing the game last night, I’m inching closer towards making a prediction about the Nets winning the finals, but I’m not quite ready yet.
I have to admit, I’m not even that concerned about the lack of ball movement or the obscene amount of isolation basketball that BKN went to last night (which I normally would be). James Harden was one game away from the NBA Finals a few years back with HOU, playing a way that we never thought we would see a successful team play. Now, he has two absolute studs by his side who can do things none of his teammates in the past were able to do, which gives him more space to create for himself as well. It’s overwhelming to think about the number of things that the Nets can do offensively; the number of primary playmakers, the number of guys you can give the ball to and say “go get a bucket”, the number of guys that can hit open shots OFF OF those guys’ playmaking. It’s truly blasphemous… stay tuned for a potential prediction in the coming days.
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