So what we have for the Bulls is yet another mediocre game, with yet another comeback displaying grit and heart and what-have-you. The only change, really, was that the Bulls lost this time. Which, in of itself, is not bad. Teams drop the 3-0 game all the time. It would be nice to close out the series then and there and get everyone involved some rest and some more practice sessions with Tom Thibodeau shouting at them. But if the Bulls close it out in five—even six!—things aren’t too terrible.
The problem is—for me at least—that if you’re a great team, it doesn’t seem like a particularly tough ask to expect the team to actually play great one chance of those four. Perhaps the great game is the closeout game in game 5, in which case my anxiety level will decrease dramatically; but on the other hand, perhaps not.
I expected the offense to be a bit clogged—this is a team without enough shooters that relies heavily on the genius of its best player (its second-best player, Carlos Boozer, is what the English would call a flat track bully—i.e. a guy who only succeeds in low-pressure moments or against bad teams). But it’s the defense that has me worried—it’s just not quite as stifling as it was during the regular season. Something to keep an eye on.
The first half of Blazers-Mavericks was a real offensive quagmire. The Blazers have a number of decent to good offensive players, but don’t have shooters. I’m convinced that basketball teams do not, these days, sufficiently value shooters. Here’s an analogy: Facebook gains its power from network effects—i.e. Facebook is only really valuable to you because all of your other friends use it, and the density and interconnectedness of its network makes it easier to expand the network to others. Shooters, I think, are the same way: one shooter doesn’t really help spacing that much; two is about average; three should be the bare minimum; four really contorts defenses. Teams aren’t greedy enough for shooters and it’s not an accident that some of the most fearsome offenses recently have been based around the insight that it’s really good to put four shooters on the floor at the same time. A lot of people noticed that former Phoenix Suns players would get worse after leaving the team and attributed it, fairly, to Steve Nash’s puppeteering. I think the other factor there was the network effects of putting a bunch of excellent shooters on the floor simultaneously that made everyone better, at least in an offensive sense.