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Archive for June, 2010

How and When Does “Energy” Matter in an NBA Playoff Game Change?

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 16, 2010

(This is an addendum to the last post.)

If we can assume that both teams in a situation like a Game 7 or a game in The Finals or even any NBA playoff game, come out with the intention of having at least as much energy or passion as the other team, how and when does the energy that your team has supersede that of the other team and, in effect, take over the game? I think it’s much more subtle than simply trying harder for longer. What happens, instead, I believe, is you lose your energy or the other team does something that takes that part of the game out of you. Rips your will right from your heart, plants the doubt in your head. Subtle as it may seem, I think in Game 6 it was Ron Artest making those early shots. It was unexpected and therefore a game-changer. The deflation happens because one team somehow does something that puts a stamp on the game. It might be two or three trips down court where a team dominates the offensive glass, thereby putting the defensive team in a position to doubt themselves. That’s one way the Lakers can take the “energy steam” out of the Celts. The Celts meanwhile can take the lead in the energy game by having successive “lockdown” defensive possessions that can put the doubt into the Lakers. Or an alleyoop out of a timeout like the Lakers ran for Shannon Brown; caught the Celts off-guard and had to have made them question their preparation and their willingness to fight. Or Rondo’s dive and score versus J Williams in the Orlando series or Farmer versus Rondo last night. These are the plays that take it out of you, demonstrate a team’s passion and will to win. Each one is like a knockdown punch in a title fight. The legs go wobbly; energy has to re-group. The question is: who will provide these plays? Who will stay with the energy that they came into the game with and sustain it until they or they with their teammates can make a play that will take the will from the other team, further energize your own team, and pave the way to an NBA title?

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Energy, Emotion, Passion and Game 7, Celtics vs Lakers

Posted by Steve Bzomowski on June 16, 2010

Last night, near the end of the game, Mark Jackson said something like, “well, one thing for sure, the coaches won’t have to motivate their teams to come play Thursday night. It will be all about energy, emotion, and passion.”
There’s always a lot of talk by coaches and commentators about one team “coming to play” and the other team not. I dispute this. I don’t dispute it in the regular season – the long, long regular season – where it is impossible to “bring it” every night, but in the playoffs? C’mon, I believe in the most fundamental definition of all those “energy” terms, in the playoffs, especially The Finals, these players come to play, but the circumstances at the outset, usually the first few minutes, but occasionally a little deeper into the game, actually decide who sustains that energy, and who wins and who is deemed the team that brought the passion.
Basketball is unlike other sports, especially individual sports. Think about track and field or tennis; the hardest thing to do in those sports is once you are ahead, to then remain ahead. The energy comes from the pursuer. In basketball, for some reason, it is easier for individuals and teams to gain energy once they get on a little role. Success begets success and success brings new life, looseness, energy and freedom to the body. Made shots lead to more made shots, swarming defense by one player brings quickness and desire to the next player, a quick transition basket leads to quick feet and another steal and on and on. You’ve seen it a million times. An avalanche of energy; but the key is getting to the top of that first hill before the other team. At some point one team is saying to the other, “you are now reacting to us. Bye bye.” You’ve got to not just come with energy, but you have to win the energy game that exists within the bigger game. That’s why the first quarter, who wins the first quarter has been so important in this series. Whoever has won the first quarter has won the game in all six contests. You win the first quarter and you win the battle of who can sustain the energy. And, further, that’s why Rondo is so important to the Celtics. He’s the energy guy; he gets them out and going. If he starts by owning every inch of the 94′ x 50′, the Celtics will feed off him and give themselves a shot at winning the game. If Rondo, drives and dishes, or drives and makes the Lakers defense react, then it takes the pressure off their shooters when they run their sets (which proved totally futile last night and will prove futile again tomorrow tonight). Rondo must create. Rondo = energy and if that energy translates to made shots (as Jeff VanGundy said a few games ago, “this is a league of makes and misses”) then that energy brings the Celtics the championship. If the Celtics don’t push Rondo to that 100 mph role, then the Lakers with home court crowd and the momentum of Game Six, size, rebounding advantage and the indomitable Kobe Bryant, will grab the energy trophy and hoist it over their heads at game’s end.

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