“There are 82-game players, then there are 16-game players.” That was Draymond’s message to the Warriors ahead of the 2018 draft and free agency, letting the front office know they need guys who can play in big moments. But determining 16-game players and teams is more complicated than the most often used “he just doesn’t have it.”
“The playoffs are nothing like the regular season. They are two completely different sports.”Bob Myers, SSAC19
As Kawhi said, the regular season is an 82-game practice. (One of the reasons ratings are down – who the hell wants to watch practice). The effort level and preparation is significantly lower than in the playoffs. Some players are good for 20 in the regular season and can barely get to double digits because the other team allows it.
“You better believe Paul [Pierce] listening to Doc as his coach in a regular-season back to back game at halftime going, ‘Who am I guarding?‘ In the playoffs, he knows exactly what he’s doing.”Bob Myers, SSAC19
Myers made a parallel with baseball. If you can’t hit a curveball away, that’s all you’re getting. The same goes for the NBA playoffs. Your first move is gone, and you better have counters. Steph Curry became great when he improved his inside game. Once you had to respect his game under the rim, Curry got the space he needs to be the best shooter in the history of the game.
“We’ve played some great shooters in the playoffs and have neutralized them. Because if that’s all you can do – shoot the three – you’re not necessarily the weapon we sometimes make you out to be in the regular season.”Bob Myers, SSAC19
NBA Champion Toronto Raptors can vouch for that. You need high upside players, but there’s a lot to be said about players who don’t have a significant weakness. The Raptors had eight guys who can play playoff basketball and not be targeted because all of them could pass, dribble and shoot.
“That two feet of space you had in the regular season, is two inches [in the playoffs]. You watch how many can not make a shot in the playoffs and shoot 42% in the regular season. You watch the playoffs; you’ll know who can play basketball.”Bob Myers, SSAC19
That’s why the 44 – 29 Miami Heat are outplaying the 56 – 17 Bucks. Is Milwaukee’s regular-season dominance fools gold? A little bit. The Bucks have a system that thrives when they are playing against tired teams that just want to get back home. In the playoffs, when there’s time to scout every detail, go over rotations in practice and zero in on your matchup? You need versatility.
Giannis is tremendous at things he’s good at but bad at things he’s not. He obviously isn’t a good shooter from outside (30.4% this season), but there’s another number that’s more concerning – 63. That’s his percentage from the free-throw line. Add that to Mike Budenholzer’s stubborn usage of only one system and approach to the game, and you have yourself a team without plan B.
Antetokounmpo’s absence forced them to go somewhere they didn’t want to go all season. I don’t think it will be enough to beat the Heat, but it should serve as a lesson moving forward. In a land of shooters, a dribble-pass-shoot guy is king.