Email Chain: Discussing The Conference Finals (Round Table)

Welcome to our first ever discussion thread. We conduct these in email chains to pass the time throughout the day and thought it would be a good idea to publish one of our many discussions the team at Hoopscritic.  This conversation came yesterday prior to the Cavaliers eliminating the Atlanta Hawks in what might have been the most boring Conference Finals ever.

Jacob Noble

Just when you thought we would have two sweeps and arguable the most boring?, no least entertaining? no… wait, just a weird Conference Finals, the Rockets give us some hope that the playoffs will extend for a few more days. How come we haven’t had a competitive series in terms of wins and losses so far in the Conference Finals?

Justin Salkin

It hasn’t been competitive honestly because the Warriors and LeBron James are that good. James Harden went nova in games 1 and 2, he was just otherworldly. It didn’t matter. Golden State has every gear, and is amazing at finding your weakness and picking at it. Once they figure you out, it’s over. They fell asleep at the wheel up 3-0 but I expect a dominant game 4.

In the east, the Hawks still are not themselves. They run a read and react offense contingent on quick decisions. Once nerves get in the way and impede those decisions, they bog down. Cleveland plays bogged down by design, but they do it with LeBron, and he has been brilliant. There is no better player at elevating role players than the King. While the Cavs don’t have an explosive high end gear minus Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, they surround the league’s best player with an arsenal of shooting and gritty defenders. The Hawks cannot handle it right now.

With the Warriors ability to turn it on at will, rally from any deficit, and lock up any offense, does anyone have a chance of delaying the inevitable title run in Oakland?

James Holas

I agree that the LeBron Factor and The Warrior Death Machine are the story, but more than that, there’s a feeling of ennui, almost “basketball burnout”; a combination a too long season (I’ve done a complete 180┬░ on my “leave the season 82 games” stance; the last 2 weeks of the year are basically just wasting away and praying for no injuries). Also, the slew of late season and playoff injuries have taken the shine off of these match-ups. Thabo Sefalosha, Kevin Love, Pau Gasol, DeMarre Carroll, Kyle Korver, Kyrie Irving: the playoffs have been a battle of attrition. What LeBron has done has been amazing, but Cleveland now looks awfully a lot like the 2007 Cavs. Atlanta with all hands on deck was a wondrous display of ball sharing, but now they’re down to Kent Bazemore and Paul Millsap trying to contain the games best player. Not ideal.

The Western Conference finals are simply a team being outmatched. I commend Houston’s gumption and tenacity in that Game 3, and here’s hoping they can bring that level in game 4, but yeah, the Dubs are just THAT good.

So guys, my question. Put on your coach hats: what are 3 keys for Atlanta and Houston in these next games for extending their respective series?

Jacob Noble

I like that you asked me to do something I do all the time, I am always wearing my coaching hat. For Atlanta, I think it’s pretty basic, mundane items again. 1. Rebounding, we have seen time and time again that they are losing the rebound battle giving the Cavs second and sometimes third chance opportunities. I believe this is what lost game three. 2. Turnovers, as good as they were in the regular season on turnovers, they’ve been careless with the basketball at times. This can’t happen against a team like Cleveland (or Golden State) who capitalize on your mistakes. Turnovers will also help Atlanta control the tempo of the game. 3. Hustle/Desire, it seems the Cavs want it more. Not in terms of Lebron wants to win more than Jeff Teague but how much does Pero Antic want it compared to Matthew Dellavedova? I think the proof is in the pudding on this series for this item.

Houston on the other hand, I think they showed us how to win this series. Remember, they could have won games 1 and 2 (I know, I know, they didn’t but they were competitive games). 1. Keep the ball movement going, they have done a really good job of sharing the basketball in games 1,2 and 4. This was missing badly in Game 3 where they basically rolled over and died. 2. Attack the basket, when the shots aren’t falling for the Rockets, they tend to just keep shooting. This is all well and fine but once in a while you need to attack the basket, doing this will also open up spacing for the shooters. 3. Get Dwight involved. I know he may not be 100% but you need a second star to contribute in order to have hope against the Warriors. Josh Smith and company have done a nice job filling in here or there but you can’t rely on them. Anything they give you should be gravy…not the main course.

Speaking about Hustle, what are your takes on Matthew Dellavedova? Is he dirty, terrible coincidences, or just out hustling everyone?

Justin Salkin

I think Dellavedova just out hustles everyone. If you have played basketball, sometimes, when you have too much respect for your competition, you get a little nervous about leaving it all out there. You worry about what others think. Many role players in the NBA are like that. But also, NBA players respect certain players more than others, based on what they have accomplished. Dellavedova is one of those players that does not care what anyone thinks. He never worries if it is okay to dive for a loose ball, to lay it all out there, what someone will think. He knows being a pest makes him effective, he leaves it all out there, and he stops at nothing to do what he has to make an impact on the game.

No player should try to injure other players, but that’s not what Delly does. He just tries to make plays for his team, the results (and what others think) be damned.

James Holas

I get what you’re saying, and while Delly may not be “dirty”, there’s something to be said about recklessness. You don’t have to tiptoe around the opposition, but recklessness in regards to not caring about the consequence of what you’re doing is as bad as “dirty”. Delly walks that fine line and I think he might cross it at times. Not a good look for him.

Hawks just lost by 30, Rockets are on the brink of possibly being down 1-3. For the Hawks the refrain is they need a “star”; is there anyone you see on the Hawks roster currently who can be that individual offensive player next year? Put your GM hats on: Who realistically could Atlanta get to fill that role? Who would Houston sign next year to be that ” 2nd ball handler/creator”? Don’t say Josh Smith!

Josh Eberley

I said earlier this week that the Hawks had the guy on their roster already. That guys name is Al Horford. Horford had his best first half of the post-season, dropped 14 points, and then found himself ejected. The Hawks were leading the majority of that half. When Horford is given the ball he delivers. For a long time Josh Smith and Joe Johnson denied Horford the opportunities he needed to become a 20-10 big man, Hawks need to make him an offensive priority moving forward.

The Hawks are 82-25 when Horford scores 20+ points. They are 69-101 when he scores 10 or less points.

The Hawks are where the Pacers were last year. They are coming off a successful season with two of their key guys heading into free agency. They have big decisions to make. The Hawks may have to look to their bench and the development of Mr. Dennis Schroeder as they won’t have the opportunity to be major players in free agency if they retain both their key guys. (Millsap, Carroll.)

As for the Rockets, James Harden is their point guard. Patrick Beverley is their secondary handler and it might’ve been a different Conference Finals had he been healthy to slow Steph. Beverley is an ideal point guard for Houston, he doesn’t disrupt Harden and the offense. He shoots well from distance and he’s an excellent defender. If Morey was looking for an extra pair of perimeter hands I’m sure he’d love Wes Matthews, though Matthews is likely a high prized free agent this year. Some other options could include; J.R. Smith, Danny Green, Eric Gordon, and reigning sixth man Lou Williams.

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