After Friday's Celtics-Heat thriller, a lot of print was inked about the Celtics' offense. This was reasonable to me. After all, it was the 7th game the Celtics had played against the Heat this season, and the Celtics had done a remarkably good job on offense against the Heat. In seven games, the Celtics posted offensive ratings of 104, 101, 129, 86, 96, 119, and 116. For a team who averages an offensive rating of 100, that's above average for all but the last game of the regular season and the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals. Normally this wouldn't be all that weird -- after all, teams have irrationally good offensive performances against certain opponents all the time, right? True.
Except that the Heat are the 4th best defense in the league, and the Celtics the 27th worst offense. If the Celtics averaged what they average against the Heat -- again, the 4th best defense -- they'd average an offensive rating of 107 over the full season. That would be the 5th best offense in the league. And the sample size is now 8 games -- so small sample size is no longer a reasonable excuse. THAT'S absurd, and I understand why that was the story. However, as an avid reader of NBA Playbook and the like, I'd like to direct your attention to an unheralded factor in the Celtics’ Game 3 win last Friday: the absolute clinic the Celtics put on defending foul shots. Continue reading
Narratives are a powerful thing. For whatever reason, that seems to be a controversial statement, particularly in NBA blogging circles. Stats are king, you see. My kingdom for the purity of the game. Efficiency, ball-sharing, teamwork. But like it or not? The narrative -- lacking in substance though it may be -- is important. It’s the truth. Sports are entertainment, at least as a commodity. Professional athletes are for most of us as unknowable and inscrutable as a famous actor or politician. They’re caricatures, into which we plug the stories we’ve heard, the way they act on the court, and the individual components of their game. At times we project upon them our own personalities, our own flaws and sympathies, our own feelings on what’s important to the game, and in life.
On Sunday afternoon, the Miami Heat lost Chris Bosh to a lower abdominal strain. He's almost certainly gone for the series, and most rumblings have it that he's gone until the finals. The problem with an abdominal strain, it's one of the rare injuries that sounds a lot worse than it is -- it's hard to play through, difficult to get past without serious rest, and ruins a player's rhythm. I'll cut to the chase. I think the Heat are in a relatively large amount of trouble right now, and while I'm not quite ready to assure a Pacers win, I certainly think the series has become -- at worst -- a 40-60 series for the Pacers. Like it or not, they have a huge shot at an upset right now. Despite the Heat's one game already on the ledger. I think Zach Lowe rather effectively summarizes most of the reasons why in his large-as-a-mansion "caveats" section of his Bosh injury rundown, but I think he underrates a few factors. After the jump, I delineate them. Continue reading
Please see the parts I, II, and III of the Prognosti-Rank series for our picks through the first 3 rounds of the playoffs.
And so, it comes to this. The predicted finals matchup. I'm really not 100% confident about the Western team here, as you may have gathered by this whole exercise. I think if the Grizzlies win against the Spurs, they'll probably be good enough to beat the Thunder, but not necessarily. And I think the Thunder could -- if they steal game one and Durant has a breakout series going up against Kawhi Leonard or Tony Allen -- potentially oust either the Spurs or the Grizzlies. And honestly? I could see the Lakers in here as well, because if Bynum puts it together they're a team that can blow out any team in the league, four times in a row. Home, road, wherever. There are any number of combinations for the final western team standing that makes sense to me. One thing you would've had trouble convincing me of before the season, though, would've been that any of them stood a chance against the Heat (who I've had penciled in as the presumptive Eastern champion since opening night). In my season preview -- "A Lion in Autumn" -- I essentially gave the Heat the trophy. I didn't think any team in the west would have the firepower to beat them. At this point, though, given the vulnerabilities the Heat have shown this year? I'm officially not certain that any of them CAN'T beat the Heat in a series. Continue reading
And so it comes to two. Our intended-to-be three part series preemptively ranking the playoff teams based on our expectations for them was to end tonight, with our predictions for both the final un-predicted 2nd round matchup (Spurs vs Grizzlies), the conference finals, and — at last — the 2012 Gothic Ginobili pick for the team we think will raise the banner (in — spoiler alert — a tough 7 game slog). Or at least, that was what was SUPPOSED to happen. Then I wrote an incredible amount about the prospective finals, looked at my word count RIGHT as I was about to post it, got embarrassed, and realized the only reasonable way to do this was to split it into Part III and a final post examining the matchup. So… yep. Final part comes tomorrow at lunch. Until then, visit Part I for the first 6 teams, Part II for the next 5, and click the jump to identify our last five standing. Continue reading
I wasn't entirely sure how we should do playoff previews here at the Gothic. I knew how they were going to start, with Thursday's piece about the New Orleans Hornets and how one of my fondest wishes was that there was one underdog in the 2012 playoffs that approached the contest with the dedication and grit with which the Hornets approached their doomed season. That's a start, but certainly not a finish -- I do have picks, after all, and opinions as well. I tried to think of original ways to present my picks, and settled upon this not-particularly-creative way to do it. Here's what I'll do. I'm going to prognosticate which teams will be the best in the playoffs, starting from the predicted worst first-round out to the team I think will raise the Larry O'Brien this year. So, a prognosticated ranking. A prognostirank. (I'm bad at words.) For each team, I'll do my interpretation of why they should be higher than they are, and why they should be lower than they are. Not particularly original, I realize, but it gave me a platform to share my oh-so-dear opinions, and hopefully, it'll be of interest to you guys. On with part one of our preview, from the 16th worst projected team to the 11th worst. Continue reading