Throughout the NBA Playoffs there’s been a battle being fought. A philosophical debate on style of play and how it defines or can define potential success. Small versus standard ball.
As it relates to the Wolves, this is a very relevant discussion, as the seemingly forgone conclusion indicates that Nikola Pekovic stands to make a lot more money with the Wolves and Kevin Love isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The Wolves are going to pay up to go big.
We’ve seen the Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies take this brand all the way to their Conference’s Finals. We’ve seen George Karl get fired as coach of the Denver Nuggets allegedly over the small versus standard debate and soon we will see Lionel Hollins sent walking, as well. Although in Hollins case, there would seem to be more than just lineup choices that will do him in.
I’m not sure how meta you can actually get with these events because most of them are based on personnel dictating decisions. But if you like, you could say these Finals are an example of the NBA’s evolution. Tim Duncan has always been a center billed as a power forward and the distribution of minutes show that is where he played much of Game 1. The Heat are able to play LeBron James at power forward because he is the biggest small forward in the history of the game.
Sure, there are advantages to be had on the boards — flying in the face of this, the Heat outrebounded the Spurs in Game 1 while taking 6 less shots, committing 4 more turnovers and grabbing 3 more offensive rebounds. Is it because the Spurs went small? Is San Antonio playing into Miami’s hands by matching them with their own brand of small ball?
The Spurs total of 4 turnovers would stand to reason they are more than well equipped to play that way. Can Miami go any other?
Earlier this season the Wolves out rebounded the Heat 54-24 with Pek grabbing 9 offensive rebounds and scoring 18. Love had one of his games you knew he wasn’t healthy, with a Love-like 18 rebounds but abysmal 2-10 shooting.
The Heat won that game because they shot 52% from 3 (13-25) to the Wolves 23% (4-17). Take away their awful 3-point shooting, and the Wolves hit 49% of their shots (34-69) to Miami’s 44% (23-52).
My main memory from this game at the time was Alexey Shved got punked something awful by Dwyane Wade and the league took notice; in the coming weeks it was over.
I’m sure I’ll write about this again, but this early game against Miami says a lot about the value of a front line and capable shooting. Mostly that shooting can save a no-show by your front line, but also — with this game as evidence, Kevin Love obviously not himself and Ricky Rubio nowhere to be found — the Wolves can be so stinking close. I digress. I have to.
LeBron had 18 rebounds in Game 1 and shot 7-16 while letting the Spurs’ defense off the hook with more than a couple long jump shots. Whether he settles for more of the same will likely influence the outcome of Game 2.