Saturday, May 25, 2013

Noble's Weekly Notes: The Conference Finals So Far

Western Conference Finals

San Antonio has reminded everyone that they are to be taken seriously after jumping ahead of the Grizzlies 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals.  Memphis has been the Cinderella story thus far but looked shell shocked in game one.

The Spurs jumped out 31-14 in the first quarter and never looked back.  Memphis ended up losing 105-83 because Mike Conley and Zach Randolph (2 points) combined for 16 points, and 31 total points including Marc Gasol. 

The problem for Memphis wasn’t related to their offense but the defense.  The Grizzlies like to play a slow pace defensive game where there are fewer possessions in the game.  Their efficient defense is most effective when the pace is slowed down ala the 2008 Boston Celtics.

The Spurs ranked 6th in the league in PACE with 96.36 while Memphis played at 91.15, a difference of 5 possessions per game.   The surprising factor was that the pace of this game was in the low 80’s, a style Memphis would prefer but were unable to defense the Spurs.  San Antonio shot 52.6%. 

 Possessions = .96 * (FGA − ORb + TO + (.44 * FTA))

Knowing that the Grizzlies could slow the Spurs pace down, they had to do a better job of executing in Game 2.  

Memphis controlled the glass with 14 more rebounds and 19 offensive rebounds.  They ended up losing in overtime 93-89 with the Spurs shooting 43.4% compared to Memphis’ 34%. The second game’s pace was a much higher at 95.86.  The faster pace and lower shooting percentage in game two, actually kept Memphis in this game. Unfortunately, Memphis struggled to put the ball in the basket.

Going into Game three, Memphis will need to figure out how to continue their improvement on defense while finding some easy baskets.  Zach Randolph has struggled with 10 points per game in this series.  Scoring is down across the board but Z-Bo is the main factor on the offensive end.

Eastern Conference Finals

If you asked me if which series I would find more interesting, I would have picked the Western Conference Finals.  Thankfully, I was wrong. 

The Eastern Conference is back to being the tough guy side of the league, while the Western Conference runs a more finesse style with the Spurs, Thunder, Rockets and Warriors.  This year, we have the treat of seeing two very good defensive squads in Indiana and Miami tackle each other, literally.

In According to 99% of the population, had the Heat winning this series.  Some people even called it over in 3 games (the Onion).  The Pacers didn’t get this memo.

Game one went down to the last play, which resulted in a brain fart by Frank Vogel as he left Roy Hibbert on the bench for the final play.  A play that has been discussed for two days on twitter on whose fault it should be, Frank Vogel, Paul George or Hibbert for not speaking up.

Roy Hibbert did the right thing by following the coach’s orders.  That is how Roy Hibbert became the likable big man he is today.  Paul George did what he has been trained to do, that is bite on shot attempts by Lebron.  Paul George can take gambles because the Pacers usually have Roy Hibbert in the paint to protect the rim. 

Frank Vogel’s decision to remove Hibbert on the final possession is the reason they lost game one.  I can’t hammer Vogel entirely because his staff came up with a very effective game plan.  He just failed at the most important part of the game, and series up until this point.

Indiana took their lessons from Game One and applied them in Game two as they went on to win 97-93 to even the series.  Indiana’s starting five have been playing better than Miami’s three stars thus far in the series.  Miami has the better bench but has not received a significant performance from anyone on it yet. 

The Pacers have been the more physical team this series as they have found ways to get the free throw line against the team with the most stars on it.   Miami has received the expected unfathomable Lebron James stat lines but Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have yet to have a big game to help the Heat.

So far, the Pacers have the Heat right where they want them.  Now they just have to close it out, unlike last season when Indiana went up 2-1 in the series but failed to advance.

The Conference Finals have yet to begin. 


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