Adjustments make or break playoff teams
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK — Gregg Popovich and Mark Jackson might downplay the importance of NBA playoff adjustments, but don’t try to convince Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel they’re overrated.
Judging by the picture he painted after practice Monday, as soon as the Pacers defeated the New York Knicks in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Sunday, Vogel spent every waking minute looking for clues to use in Game 2 today. Call it CSI, NBA style.
“You think about (adjusting), obsess about it sort of round the clock,” said Vogel, who was preparing for the 22nd playoff game of his coaching career. “You get done with practice, and you go and lock yourself in your room, and you watch the game. And then you watch it again a different way. You think of different things. You study the inside and out. I really enjoy that probably more than any time of year.”
Adjustments are a season-long part of the job description. But the playoff dynamic is far different from the regular season because of one obvious reality: The two teams in each series are locked in a hoops cage match of sorts. With the same coaches and players battling for weeks, the moves and counters take on more significance.
Some tweaks are major, such as Denver Nuggets coach George Karl’s ill-fated decision to play small after Golden State Warriors forward David Lee suffered a season-ending injury in Game 1 in the first round. There was Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks imploring his team to play five-on-five offense again after he leaned too heavily on Kevin Durant in the games immediately following Russell Westbrook’s season-ending injury in Game 2 of the first round.
Some moves are more nuanced, such as Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau assigning small forward Jimmy Butler to guard Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams in what led to some of Williams’ struggles.
Then there was the cat-and-mouse game between the Knicks and Boston Celtics in the first round. The Knicks geared parts of their offense toward forcing Kevin Garnett to switch onto Carmelo Anthony, trying to create a mismatch. Boston countered by … [For more on Do coaching adjustments make or break playoff teams?, click here.]