NBA playoffs a good time to reflect on how far away the Bulls are
I hope you’ve noticed the NBA is still playing its games, even though the Bulls have gone into hibernation.
Some people are saying the playoffs thus far are boring, with the Cavaliers and Warriors dominating in a dull, predictable manner.
True, it’s monotonous, unless you’re a fan of those two teams or you like to watch superiority in action. For me, the highlight of the playoffs so far was watching little Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas’ front tooth somersault out of his mouth in slow-motion after he caught an elbow from the Wizards’ Otto Porter
Thomas picked up the tooth, gave it to a trainer, and continued to drain threes and dish to teammates while looking like a half-carved Halloween pumpkin. Even if you’re not into dentistry, you’ll remember Thomas as the flea who sucked the lifeblood out of the Bulls in the first round, making coach Fred Hoiberg complain about his dribbling — in a league where carrying the ball is the norm — and making Bulls fans wonder why the injured, previously benched Rajon Rondo was suddenly the straw that stirred the Bulls’ drink.
But the playoffs move on, whether Bulls engineers John Paxson and Gar Forman keep bumbling about or not. Because Chicago does not have a dog in this race, maybe we should watch what the good teams have done.
The main thing is they have assembled multiple superstars in their lineups. LeBron James is nice, but James plus Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love is deadly.
Same with the Warriors. Stephen Curry is maybe the greatest shooter in the history of the game. But Curry plus Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson is nothing but a monsoon of balls raining through the net.
The lesser playoff teams, the Rockets, Celtics, Wizards, and Spurs have multiple stars themselves. The Rockets have James Harden, emerging point guard Patrick Beverley, and, until he was injured, center Nene Hilario at center. (Now that Nene is out, and third guard Eric Gordon is in, the Rockets seem doomed against the Spurs.)
The Celtics have tooth-deprived Thomas, plus Al Horford, Jae Crowder and developing 7-0 bad guy Kelly Olynyk.
The Wizards have John Wall, Bradley Beal, and scary pick-setter Marcin Gortat. The Spurs have Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and ex-Bull Pau Gasol.
You need three outstanding players to be competitive in this game in which only five men are on the floor at a time. Basketball is much different from baseball, football or soccer in that regard. Hoops can be dominated by a superstar in a way that only a stellar pitcher can control a baseball game. But that pitcher starts every fourth or fifth game: LeBron and Steph are there every night.
Go back, if you will, to Michael Jordan, the most dynamic player ever. He crushed foes, but it wasn’t until he had All-Stars Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright and Dennis Rodman around him that he made the Bulls a dynasty.
So it’s no surprise that the Warriors and Cavs are ruling supreme.
The Warriors are 8-0 after the first two rounds, averaging wins by 16.5 points. Yawn, for sure.
And the Cavs, also 8-0, have won by an average of 9.6 points. Their second-round series against the Raptors looked like eighth-graders playing a bunch of feisty middle-school kids.
Superior teams have evolved with the game itself. It took years, but the NBA has figured out that a three-point shot is worth 50 percent more than a two-pointer. Coaches and shooters have evolved until you have Curry shooting from just over the half-court line and Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni basically telling his players to only take treys and bunnies.
Indeed, in one playoff game the Rockets did not take a single midrange jumper.
Three-point shots trump twos to the extent that players are firing pull-up threes as a normal part of the game. Consider that the Rockets have taken over 18 pull-up threes per game in the postseason, with Harden alone shooting 9.1 of them.
What do the Bulls have to counter this? Jimmy Butler and, uh, . . .
We’ll likely see the Cavs against the Warriors in the Finals. That is fitting and right. The games should be exhilarating.
Chicago folks can Barca-Lounge and watch. And wonder why the middling Bulls have been on vacation so long. And when they might wake up.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.