By Will Stevenson
When the NBA Playoffs begin, I get excited. Not back-flip type excitement, more like Kriss Kross jump over your own leg excitement: Excited, but cool when you see me. Before the playoffs start, we talk about how bad the Eastern Conference is, how deep the West is, and how many bad matchups we have at our disposal. We go through our list of viable upset options and try our best to put our faith in teams we know won’t have a chance to beat the Cavaliers and Lebron. We wondered if John Wall and the Wizards would take the center stage in the Eastern Conference Finals. We looked at the matchup between the Rockets/Thunder and hoped it would be an epic seven game series. We thought the Celtics may actually get swept. We can’t talk ourselves into giving Rajon Rondo any credit. The Clippers have front-row seats to the Joe Johnson experience. I love the playoffs.
The NBA Playoffs are just different. Gone are the 11/12 man rotations and getting all the players on the court to get some experience. Gone are the offensive sets and getting the ball into the hands of those who think they want it. Gone are the regular season notions that free flowing-three point shooting is the answer (not for all teams). The playoffs are when veterans step in and take their best shot at greatness, or another contract. Rajon Rondo, Joe Johnson, Joe Ingles and Boris Diaw have proven once again they are playoff performers. Being a man who is over 30, I can appreciate the aged veterans as they display their talents in a young man’s sport. These individuals (3 on the Jazz) have proven they have what it takes to continue their brand of basketball. The playoffs are tight, never-racking, possession-clinching, and not everyone is ready for it. This isn’t a three game in 4 nights in January. That 0-7 performance with 4 turnovers will keep you on the bench for the rest of the series. We’ve already seen an offensive talent like Enes Kanter get reduced to nothing because he is a terrible defender of the post. His offense could not rule out his bad defensive play.
Isolation Basketball 101:
Watching the Jazz play is like watching the ’94 Knicks. They play defense, run sets, have some young wings, play through the post, and love isolation switches in the fourth quarter. As a former Atlanta Hawks supporter, I was there when Joe Johnson landed with the Hawks. I remember his isolations on the wing. I remember it during the regular season, the end of games, and during the playoffs. Isolation basketball doesn’t work well when you are playing a defense that matches up well. For the Jazz and Joe Johnson, they play it perfectly. Playoff basketball is all about matchups: How can we get our best player the ball, and how can we put the defense in a bind. The Jazz have been able to get the Clippers to switch on pick and rolls throughout the series. Jamal Crawford, Austin Rivers, JJ Reddick and Ray Felton have all been victims to Joe Johnsons isolations. The Jazz have also allow Joe Ingles to guard Chris Paul this series, although it has been a Chris Paul scoring series with Blake Griffin out with a toe injury. The Jazz have been confident down the stretch of games, and even Rodney Hood has hit some big shots in the fourth quarter. All they need now is for Gordon Hayward to join the party. Joe Johnson’s playoff performance is eerily close to Paul Pierce when he was with the Washington Wizards: A young team with no playoff experience that need a veteran to take the big shots. For the Jazz, it’s working, and the Clippers don’t have anyone defensively to stop it