Reports from the Front Line: Playoffs Edition

But the ordinary man knows, when he goes out to meet the wolf in his road, that he may yet come home in peace. Not so the knights of the Round Table. We win through one deadly peril only to face another. If we banish one evil, we must go on to the next and after that, to the next—until death meets us in the path. We yield up our bodies every day, not for glory and fortune but so that those weaker than ourselves may live. Do you understand?”
“I do,” said Sir Perceval. “And I say that there is no nobler calling. I am content.”

  • Suzannah Rowntree, Pendragon’s Heir

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originalThe playoffs are here! The first round has arrived in a hail of trumpets and prognostications! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

That said, there’s a lot to talk about, and the narratives are changing every fifteen minutes. The whole situation is awfully hard to cover in any real, consistent way. THUSLY, I shall be checking in with you, my glorious, enlightened readership, every so often to share my FRESH OUT THE OVEN TAKES! Quick reactions and thoughts will usually be silly, but hopefully these are at least interesting. For a writer more concerned with SEO this might be multiple short blog posts, but THAT’S NOT HOW WE DO WHEN IT’S ALL FOR THE LOVE. Now you read the intro. Thanks. Let’s get started.

THE RAPTORS CAN LEARN!

635962139122312640-PacersRaptors-extras-MM-004On the way to a recording, The Prophet and I were talking about the Pacers/Raptors matchup. The analysis was pretty much in agreement: Paul George can check Derozan and no one can guard Indiana’s resurgent shape-shifter. Lowry hasn’t been the same since his elbow. DeMarre has looked out of sorts. Casey hasn’t done a lot of adjusting in the past. Indiana can’t score. The Raptors have the deeper bench. All pretty easy conclusions to come to if you’ve been paying attention. On the playoffs podcast, Proph predicted the Pacers would win, same as in the car. After game one, I got a number of texts to that effect, yet look at game two! The Raptors’ stars were hot garbage (again), but BIG JV, The Outback Spirit Cory Joseph and Padawan Norman Powell brought the funk.

That’s going to be the key for this series. The Raptor’s have superior depth. They’ve got the parts to mess with Indiana’s limited line-up options. The Pacer’s are a bad offensive team whose terrible numbers are deceivingly strong as they were bolstered by a strong early season stretch before the book got out on their small ball strategies; strategies they’ve since moved away from. Patrick Patterson saw the limits of Indiana’s defense last night. He took advantage of mismatches against starters and the bench. He generated offense from new spaces and changed the offensive dynamics for the Raptors.

hi-res-e624567bcb8db71312d8845046b158ae_crop_northThis series is going to hinge on those sort of situations. The Pacers can’t score, but they can unplug the Raptors’ primary offensive generators. The Raps have the pieces to create mismatches and spice up the old offense. At the same time, Paul George will be creating offense eternally. The Raptors have no good answer. This series is going to be decided by how close the Raptors’s misfit toys can come to matching George’s production (he had 28 points last night Patterson and Joseph combined for 30). If they can match these results three more times, they’ll find a more manageable matchup in round two. If they can’t, Paul George can join Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson as over-sized and skilled wings Toronto fans see in their nightmares.

WHAT EVEN JUST HAPPENED?!

I don’t have a lot to say about the Thunder and the Mavericks. That game was watching old people eat. Durant played like Ramsay Snow had his mom locked in a creepy Winterfell Tower. Unlike the other two games last night, there was not really a take away for me. The sun will explode before Raymond Felton goes off like that again. The Thunder played like ass and still would have won if Mr. Mustache had gotten to that rebound a split second earlier. This was an aberrant performance and when these teams lock up again KD and Russ are eating hearts. (My twitter handle is @mlsurfboard, so get at me when the Mavs win in six and I look like an idiot).

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THE WARRIOR GODS OF THE PACIFIC

The Knights of The Round Table didn’t disappear when Arthur died. The Warriors didn’t lose without Steph. Even better, Steph just turned an ankle he didn’t get maced in the skull by his weird incest offspring (shouts to Mordred). He’ll be back and the Warriors will continue their death march to the title.

Steph’s absence played out differently than expected. You’d think when the thirty five foot sniper sits the offense would slow down.

No such luck.

The Warriors dropped a hefty 115 on a strictly optional Houston defense. Ok, you say, ‘Well, they probably played some lockdown D and got some fast break points.’

Steph-Curry-sneerNOT TOTALLY WRONG, BUT MOSTLY INCORRECT, IMAGINARY FRIEND!

The Dubs got theirs in transition. They always do. The defense was far from dominant, though. They ate 108 points off the back of a strong performance from James Harden.

I don’t really have any useful analysis about why this happened. It could have been that Houston played their best offensive game, the Warriors brushed it off, and we move on. There could be more though. I have said before that Steph Curry is magic, and maybe it’s possible that his magic trickles down Reagan style (LOL) to all the facets of this team. Maybe it’s easier to defend Camelot when you know Arthur has everything else under control.

To extend this dumb metaphor a little further, we also got to see a peak of our Lancelot and Galahad last night: Draymond, a great one in his own right, put up a near triple double. It was another reminder that Curry might be amazing, but he’s not a lone star destroyer cruising the galaxy. The beast rolls with a fleet. Pure of heart and mind, Klay Thompson sublimated himself and his CRAZY WIDE skill set to the greater function of this Warriors team, but last night he got to flex those skills to the tune of 34 points. It’s easy to forget the King Arthur was one of many stars in his own story, and when you look the the Camelot in Oakland you see more than one celestial body lighting up the sky.

Consetllation Steph

Never was that clearer than last night.