Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Another Offensively-Clueless Van Gundy

Is "Van Gundy" Dutch for "I will repeatedly run the same play on offense whether it works or not"? Watching the Magic-Celtics tonight was a nightmarish deja-vu of the late-2nd-millenia New York Knicks. From early in the game I was mystified: why does this team keep running post-ups for Dwight Howard? Give Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis credit: they continually push Superman further away from the basket than he wants to go, making him settle for somewhat-rushed running hookshots in the lane. Dwight is eventually going to be a post-up offensive juggernaut (let's try to remember, the kid is still only 23, and you can see the slow but sure development of a set of post moves). He needs to slow down, put repeated moves, switch directions more than once, and get closer to the rim. However, the 4th quarter of game 5 of the playoff semifinals is not a time to see if he can figure things out.

In any case, the 4 or 5 times that Rashard Lewis or Hedo Turkoglu posted up on the blocks, back to basket, with a clearout, resulted in the Magic getting positive production. A layup, a foul, a shot in close range. About the only time that happened multiple times, to the best of my memory, was in the 2nd quarter. Watching Dwight fail to convert any of his postups time and time again was painful enough; watching the Magic call his number after every successive failure was mind-boggling.

Memo to Stan Van Gundy: THE CELTICS HAVE NO ONE HEALTHY THAT CAN GUARD RASHARD LEWIS! How the &#$* does he not know this? Why is he not being featured? Rashard drives around Perkins, shoots over Davis, and just generally abuses Scalabrine, with incredible regularity and ease. If Kevin Garnett were healthy, this would be a considerably different situation. But guess what: GARNETT'S NOT PLAYING!

If you couldn't tell, I find Van Gundy's offensive play-calling maddening. There is an old sports adage that says you keep running the same play until a team proves they can stop it. In football, you run the ball down the throat of a team who's being manhandled by your offensive line and/or run over by your running back. In baseball, you pitch to a hitter's weak spot (e.g. up and in) until he proves he can hit it. In basketball, you maximize any and all mismatches on the court.

In the 1st-half, Lewis was 6-8, and on shots 13 feet and closer, was 6-7, an assortment of layups and short jumpers. In the 2nd-half, he was 1-2 at close range, and 1-7 on long jumpers and 3 pointers. Let's see; a certain type of play is 85% successful from the field in the first half, and you run it all of TWICE in the second? What the hell do they pay the coaches for? To yell at officials and call random timeouts?

I'm beating this horse dead, and I haven't even gotten to the worst part of the game: the 4th quarter. With 5 minutes to go in the game, the Magic had a ten-point lead and a collar on the game. The Celtics started defending the screen-and-roll much better, got stops on consecutive trips, and started hitting shots. The Magic continued to run the screen-roll. Couple more Celtic buckets, and Van Gundy calls a timeout. Out of the timeout, the Magic run -- yet another screen-roll. At what point does it sink into someone's thick skull that you need to do something different? Isn't this a lesson most of us learn as a toddler? Hand on stove, OUCH, I won't do that again.

But then again, that Howard post-up didn't work in the 1st half, not even once, yet Van Gundy kept calling for it. The meager 3 or 4 times Hedo or Rashard posted up, they got good looks. But hey, why go to something successful. Let's just keep posting Dwight, never mind that it hasn't worked with any success for 5 games.

In the end, the Magic didn't post up either of their forwards for the entire 4th quarter by my count. They never got the 1 or 2 buckets they needed to keep distance, and in the end, the lead slipped away. And with it, perhaps the series.

Good going Stan. This was your loss, make no mistake about that. Next time, try calling some plays that actually work!

No comments: