You’ve heard me talk about back court play and how certain skills are simply essential for success and winning basketball games moving forward in the playoffs. Round one is generally about match ups, staying healthy and executing. It is also about home court advantage early in the series.
To me, round 2 is far more about adjustments and that’s where it’s essential that role players make shots. I call it “catch and make” opportunities and these become far more critical moving forward towards the Finals. Catch and makes are defined as shots made off of passes that require no dribble and are often just ahead of defensive rotation. Think about Derek Fisher’s career role and the shots John Paxon and Steve Kerr made for the Bulls at any point in the game, not just game-winners.
Stats are great during the regular season and I look towards total offense and total defense as a great barometers, but come playoff time I think stats reset, particularly from deep range. Derek Fisher is a career 37% three point shooter in the regular season, and 40% in the playoffs.
When I look at the Spurs/Clippers series the biggest difference in the two teams is the Spurs ability to make shots. Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and the great Manu Ginobili combined for 9 three pointers many on catch/make opportunity. I think this is going to be a longer series because the Clippers do have their own catch and makers in Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Nick Young so buckle up.
The Sixers, who do a great job of playing complete basketball on defense and in transition , struggle offensively. But Jrue Holiday has been outstanding, particularly from behind the arc, some in catch and make situations. His 4 three pointers in Game 2 is why the Sixers have taken home court advantage away. That said, the Celtics have one of the all-time great catch and makers in Ray Allen, a player the Knicks are still looking for although he is battling through injuries.
Obviously, the heat are struggling without Chris Bosh. Bosh brings them a balance up front that they are clearly missing. He’s also a catch/make forward who does it down the stretch or to kill opposing teams’ runs. The heat were just 1-16 from deep including the Chalmers miss at the end. Obviously, Lebron’s free throws were huge as was the overall play from Wade, but when the heat lost to the Knicks their catch and makers, namely Chalmers, Battier and Mike Miller, were dreadful.
Which finally brings us to the Lakers and the Thunder. Fisher is now in OKC and the Lakers haven’t replaced his catch and make ability from the perimeter. Ramon Sessions is a very good point guard who has shot better, but isn’t proven in the half court of big games. Steve Blake can, but it’s a lot to ask. I like Goudelock, but he’s a rookie and Matt Barnes and World Peace are forwards, which is fine, but you need it from the 1 and 2 positions for balance. Kobe can’t do everything and catch and make situations result from him being doubled.
As far as the Thunder, Westbrook and Harden are above average, but not great, and Fisher certainly helps, but I love what Daequan Cook gives them. Dude has the green light to come in the game and knock them down, but you can expect D-Fish to make one or more big ones…Can’t forget how good Sefolosha has been as well.
If the Lakers are to make it a series, heck if all these series are going to be competitive, keep an eye on the team that has knock down catch and make opportunities and who takes advantage. They are usually the players who benefit from slight openings when the stars are double teamed or draw attention with teams hoping that the shots don’t fall from the perimeter.
It’s a huge need for the Knicks moving forward.