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NBA Playoffs: Injuries and "D"

   by Al McMordie - 04/27/2005

You may have noticed the defending champion Pistons cranking up the defense over the last month. This is not a coincidence. Defense won them the NBA title a year ago, and coach Larry Brown knows how to teach and motivate defense. He also knows you don’t win, or repeat as champion, by trying to run and outscore your opponent. You have to play the sweat game, digging deep into your last energy-reserves, and fight for every rebound while forcing your opponent to work hard for EVERY shot. The Pistons are 7-2 “underâ€쳌 the total the last nine games.

Coaches know you win with defense. Detroit had some really ugly games offensively in the playoffs last season, having games where they scored 78, 64, 79, 74, 72, and 69 points. Oh yes, they WON three of those games! They are a much better team offensively this season and certainly have more confidence, so it will be interesting to see how far they can go again. For the record, the Pistons are 16-7 “underâ€쳌 the total their last 23 playoff battles.

Injuries are also one of the more intriguing aspects of this NBA postseason. Seattle and Sacramento came into the playoffs with all kinds of nagging injuries to several key players (Peja Stojakovic, Mike Bibby, Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen) and even some serious injuries that kept center Brad Miller and Seattle sixth man Vladimir Radmonovic out for several weeks. The two are back, but haven’t looked sharp thus far. Depth and star power are certainly most important this time of year.

This biggest injury concern is in San Antonio, where Tim Duncan missed most of the end of the regular season because of a bad ankle injury. The thinking was that they were being super-cautious, letting their star get completely healthy for the games that really count. But now there are reports that Duncan is only 50-75% and his ankle is still a problem. After going 4-1 at home “underâ€쳌 the total in last year’s playoffs with its brilliant defense, Game 1 against Denver this year went under, but the Spurs lost 93-87. The good news is they held a strong Denver offense to just .415% shooting, the bad news is that the less than 100% Duncan was 7-for-22 shooting.

Finally, the Chicago Bulls got off to a great start by beating Washington in their first game. However, they shot just 42% and remember the Bulls have been really unlucky with injuries, as starters Eddy Curry and Luol Deng are done for the season. Those two are Chicago’s No. 1 and No. 4 scorers! Those of you holding 200-to-1 tickets on the Bulls to win the NBA title from last October, I tip my hat to you. But you also had better find places to hedge, because those injuries are going to be too much over the long haul for this young team to overcome.

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