It’s nearing the end of the first round and teams are showing desperation with signs of physical play. Trying to get into the heads of their opponents, teams are throwing elbows, knocking knees, blacking eyes and pretty much doing whatever it takes to win games. It’s called playoff basketball.
Physicality has been a major part of the game during the playoffs as long as there have been hardwood floors. Some of the greatest games in history are a direct result of players roughing each other up, taking the intensity of the game up a notch.
Lakers – Celtics, Pacers – Knicks, Bulls – Pistons, all series in which teams let the other team know, “We don’t care if you have a superstar; we are here too!”
This is the time when great players pull away from the pack and prove why they are destined to be great. Kevin Durant has lost co –superstar Russell Westbrook due to a knee injury. Knocking knees with Patrick Beverly of the Houston Rockets right before a timeout was called, Westbrook suffered from a torn meniscus and will be out for the remainder of the playoffs.
Although the Oklahoma City Thunder leads the series 3-2, they are facing a resilient Houston Rockets team with nothing to lose. This is the first time in Kevin Durant’s playoff career that he is playing without any additional offensive help.
Now is the time for him to show that he is capable of placing his team on his back and carrying them to victory. Stephen Curry, arguably the best shooter in the NBA, lit up the Denver Nuggets in Game 4 of their best of 7 series. With not much an answer for Curry’s rapid shooting, the Denver Nuggets turned around in Game 5, and threw the Golden State Warriors’ guard of his game a bit.
The Nuggets set hard screens and sent a message early that Curry’s baskets weren’t going to come easy throughout the rest of the series.
Golden State coach Mark Jackson responded after the game that “dirty play” wasn’t their style of basketball and that the best team should be determined within the integrity of the game. Well, Jackson don’t have to worry about the Nuggets trying to rough up his budding superstar anymore after Golden State bounced Denver from the postseason in Game 6.
So much for the dirty play tactics Denver was alleged to have done. In the end it didn’t matter.
Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks had hoped to sweep the Boston Celtics. The Knicks, at one time, lead the series 3-0. However, J.R. Smith (NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year) was ejected from Game 4, and then suspended for Game 5 for elbowing Celtics guard Jason Terry. And just like that, the Celtics are back in the series, trailing the Knicks 3-2.
Boston answered the call of physical play and is challenging the Knicks’ toughness. What will Anthony do to show he deserves to be in the elite player conversation? How will he respond in Game 6 in Boston? We’ll find out.
Great players answer the bell when opponents try different tactics to get you out of your zone. Michael Jordan was bruised up and knocked down many times, having to ice himself down after every game. Kobe Bryant has had multiple so-called “Kobe Stoppers,” trying their best to challenge his mental stability.
As a player you have to take that as a compliment and realize your opposition is running out of options to challenge you, skill-wise. They’re in desperation mode, hoping that by bumping you, talking in your ear, pulling on your jersey and just staying in your face, you will get rattled.
Our current list of superstars can take a breath, elevate their game with confidence and poise and show there is nothing their opponents can do.
The regular season was just a warm up act. All of those accomplishments don’t mean anything if you can’t kick it in the next gear. We know that some of these players have the necessary skills to make it this far, but do they have the mental toughness to move on and become great?