NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls 101-97 victory over the Miami Heat to break the 27-game win streak was no accident, nor was it just a bad night at the office. Players’ have bad games no doubt; however, the Bulls (without Noah) outscored the Heat 22-8 in second chance points. Am I to believe the entire Heat team had a bad night at the same time? No, the Bulls just flat out played an agressive style defense against the Heat that most teams’ are afraid to play, and came away with a victory. Thibodeau learned from an earlier matchup against the Heat where the Bulls lost 86-67, that it doesn’t make sense to double LeBron, Wade, or Bosh and let them pass to wide open shooters who have spotted up in the corners. TT also realized that “sagging off” the 3-Olympians’ allowing them to basically walk right into open shots was an advantage for the Heat and a disadvantage for his Bulls. His strategy in this most recent game was to contest- and it worked.

Was Thibodeau’s strategy a blue print to beat the Heat? No; the Bulls’ didn’t reinvent the wheel, they just decided not to be intimidated. Where’s the rocket science in that? If anything, teams’ now know that they don’t have to be intimidated by the Heat because the folks at ESPN say so.

The key to victory for Chicago was not just on the defensive side of the ball; it also took balanced scoring and timely shots to complete the abrupt dismantaling of the streak. Going into game against Miami, Chicago was dead last in the league in scoring at 92.9 per/gm. With Rose out, that kind of offensive production- or lack thereof- will not only hurt in terms of winning a playoff series, but it will also over stress a defense that currently ranks 3rd in the league allowing 92.4 per/gm.

The one player who is a surprise to Bulls’ fans’ and myself is Jimmy Butler. If Butler can continue to bring to the lineup from a point standpoint what he did against Miami (17), the Bulls’ may have very well found themselves a much needed scoring option heading into this year’s playoffs and making their bench stronger in the process.

Off the bench: With Nate Robinson, Taj Gibson, and Nazr Mohammed, the Bulls’ second unit should be able to at least match the level of play provided by the starting unit. Maintaining or increasing the team’s lead can be crucial to playoff success. In some cases being able to outscore the opposition’s bench can make the difference in winning or losing a series.

The Bulls’ have a puncher’s chance aginst the Heat should the two meet in the Eastern conf. Finals’ if the offensive production on display in ending the streak can somehow be duplicated come playoff time.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: New York Knicks

After the first third of the 2013 NBA campaign was complete, the New York Knicks were blazing a trail that not only put the entire NBA on notice, there was serious talk about maybe this being Melo’s shot at winning his first ever MVP trophy. My oh my how quickly thing’s change. If nothing else, watching this season is a constant reminder that an NBA season is not a sprint, but indeed a marathon. I know the Knicks are second in the East behind Miami with a 42-26 overall record, but as the season winds down and the playoff contenders continue to jockey for position, the brand of basketball on display at the Garden from the beginning of this season to now is like night and day.

Melo being the leader on this team was giving effort on the defensive end of the floor never before seen his entire career up til now, and in turn, his teammates were following his lead until -it seems- Amare came back. Once Amare got back in the lineup it was back to the free for all on offense and to hell with it all on defense. Everything just vanished; no more ball movement, no more unselfishness, and no more listening to Mike Woodson.

The Knicks went from being a viable threat for winning it all, to a sure enough first round fall. As much as I like Melo’s tenacity and flat out scorer’s mentality, taking 65 shots to get 42 points is absurd!!! I don’t care who you are. Whatever offensive efficency the Knicks were utilizing at the beginning of this season is now gone and as a result (in my opinion), so to is Tyson Chandler and Amare. Playing out of sync has lead to unecessary injuries and Amare and Chandler get in each other’s way; when both are on the floor at the same time, Chandler is no more than a garbage man asked to pick up everbody else’s trash. The Knicks are most effective when Chandler is involved with the offense as a pick-n-roll player if nothing else. Right now the Knicks are 11th in total offense at 98.8 per/gm. If the season ended today, the Knicks would face off against the Celtics; do you think the Knicks win a series against Doc & co. playing free for all ball? I don’t either. The Knicks may be a number 2 seed, but they sure ain’t playin’ like one.

In order for the Knicks to avoid an early exit from this year’s playoffs, Amare must come off the bench, J.R. Smith needs to have a “governor” put on his v-8 type jump shot, and Melo needs to get back to his early season understanding of being a “table setter” first, and a scorer when the time calls for him to do so. It’s not how many shots you take that make the difference between winning and losing, it’s when you take em’. Another first round exit on his resume and Melo will be another forgotten scoring statistic.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets are flat out garbage. Ok maybe not garbage, but their play more often than not flat out stinks. I know the Nets’ are sittin’ pretty right about now in the number 4 spot in the East, but that’s primarily because the Eastern conference as whole is nothing to really get excited about. Surprisingly, they have a better road record (16-15) than the Indiana Pacers who sit at number 2 in the East, but are average against the division at 6-6. That tells me the Nets’ have somewhat feasted on the “bottom feeders” of the league.

It’s the style of play from some of their household name players that bother me most. Too often do they play as individuals and not as a team. This is a recipe for a first round exit I guarantee; with their roster it makes no sense to me.

Joe Johnson disturbs me the most. In part because he played under legendary Arkansas Razorback coach Nolan Ricardson (my favorite college team) who’s “40-minutes of hell” philosophy- I thought- should have given Joe the foundation for being a complete player; which clearly he is not. Secondly, a player with his pedigree and ability who can play both small forward and shooting guard should not be on his fourth different team (Celtics,Suns,Hawks) in 11+ years. Did I mention he is a 6x All-Star? How do you not stick? I expect more from him than 16.6 per. Oh no, here comes king of the iso!!

Brook Lopez is a true center and the team’s leading scorer at 18.8 per, but is slow and cloddy to say the least. At times, it takes him a few days to get a shot up at the rim. He needs to be stronger if not quicker around the basket. Guys like Bosh,Tyson Chandler, and Noah will eat him alive on the inside.

Deron Williams is a diva. Being the so called quaterback on the team, his play is to inconsistent for the Nets’ to have any real shot this year-or any year- at a title. If his jumpshot is not fallin’ he gets lost in the sauce. In my opinion he’s one of the most overrated players at any position in the NBA.

Gerald Wallace is one of my all time favorite players because of his hustle and tenacity. It’s unfortunate that he’s on the downside of his career. He’s going to have to do more than 8.4 if the Nets’ have any chance of getting out of the first round. What’s worse, he’s the only player who’ll give a sincere effort on the defensive end of the floor.

Andray Blatche is an interesting piece the Nets’ have. Although he’s not really lighting it up on the scoreboard (10.1/per), he does bring an energy on both ends of the floor that are mandatory for playoff basketball. Will he maintain that energy if he starts to see his counterparts playing disinterested? We’ll have to wait and see.

Kris “Kardashian” Humphries scored more with Kim than he has this season, averaging a paltry 5.5 per. What, if anything does he do well? You tell me and we’ll both know.

Reggie Evans is leading the team in rebounding (621) on the season, but to me is better at using his 6 fouls a game. He is so putrid on the offensive side of the floor, the Nets’ can’t even use him like the Clippers’ use DeAndre Jordan.

Because they have virtually no bench production to speak of, I don’t see the Nets’ winning more than 2 games in the upcoming playoffs no matter who they face in the first round. I also won’t be shocked if someone else “Sprewells” Carlesimo before the season ends.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Indiana Pacers

You would think by now most teams’ should realize that committing careless turnovers against the Heat not only makes what is a strength for them stronger, but also derails any chance for a victory. Especially if that team is the Indiana Pacers. The one team whose roster is compatible or comparable to the Heat. I know games are not won by who’s on the roster, but it’s not as if Indiana doesn’t have the talent to make a game of this magnitude formidable, they just don’t seem to have the mentality or want, to go toe-to-toe. If your goal as an NBA player is to win a championship, how in the world do you get off to such a slow start against the defending world champs? This was a game Indiana should have had circled on the calender six months ago. Where was the Pacer team that came to play in last season’s Eastern Conference semi’s? The Heat had 27 points off Indiana turnovers in a game that was essentially over in the first quarter.

I don’t know if the Pacers thought because they’ve beaten the Heat twice already this year just “showing up” was going to be good enough, I do know that any chance for beating Miami in the playoffs this go round centers around Roy Hibbert and no one else. Yes, Paul George must have much more of a contribution than the 10 insignificant points he scored in this woeful contest- at least from Indiana’s standpoint- but no contribution is more important than that of Hibbert’s.

Everyone that is anyone in the NBA knows the Heat are susceptible on the inside; why a 7-footer like Hibbert doesn’t demand of himself or from his coach the opportunity to exploit what is a glaring weakness for Miami makes no sense at all. It shows how poor the overall coaching is in the NBA and how undedicated to his craft Hibbert is. If Orlando Magic’s center Nikola Vucevic can pull down 20 rebounds against the Heat’s porous interior, surely a former Hoya-who’s been in the league longer- should be able to do better than 4; 1 offensive and 3 defensive in 32 minutes played!! Far too often Hibbert plays small instead of tall, like the 7-footer he is. To drive home my point even more, first year player Orlando Johnson had just as many (4) in a little over 14 minutes played. What a disgrace- for Hibbert and the Pacers. Free-throw attempts have to increase as well; 2-2 just won’t do. Hibbert would average 20+ pts/g and open the floor up for shooters Granger, Hill, and George if he were to get aggressive around the basket. Until he gets it in his mind to own the paint, we may never get to see how the Pacers’ roster really stacks up against the Heat.

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Miami Heat

It has become increasingly apparent that the Miami Heat will once again win the Eastern Conference on their way to a second straight NBA Finals appearance. A 14 game win streak, LeBron, and Wade surely don’t hurt the cause, but the Heat’s return to the pinnacle has less to do with the King and Queen, and more to do with the Eastern Conference being – as a whole – downright abysmal this year. Save for the Indiana Pacers, there are no serious threats for the Heat to have to contend with until they reach the Finals. Here’s why:

New York: With the return of Amare the Knicks seem to be going backwards. He and Chandler get in each other’s way clogging up the middle and making difficult for either to function with any efficiency. Taking Amare out late in the game for defensive purposes spells doom; and Melo taking 30 shots to get 40 points is a recipe for disaster.

Chicago: The Bulls would join the Pacers as a serious contender if they didn’t treat scoring like a trip to the dentist. One of the best defensive teams’ in the league, not scoring causes the defnse to breakdown after awhile. Making a play for Rudy Gay or Josh Smith would have given Chicago some real bite; Rose needed that kind of help.

Nets: Brook Lopez is tall, but slow. Joe Johnson’s would be exposed for his iso style of play and Deron Williams would twist, or tweak something before the series even got fully underway. Bench play is terrible.

Hawks: Al Horford needs to be playing for a real contender and Teague is nice; outside of that Atlanta is soft.

Celtics: Former champs took Heat to seventh game last season without defensive mosquito Avery Bradley, but now are without floor general “Tom Rondo”, or “Rajon Brady” if you’d like. Jeff Green has been playing well as of late, but father time may be knocking on the Celtics’ door. I won’t count out a Doc Rivers coached team though.

Bucks: Milwaukee’s guards are too small for Heat to take them serious. Heat are at times vulnerable on the interior; I couldn’t even tell who the Bucks’ frontline players are.

Pacers: Indiana was more concerned about winning the fight instead of playing as a team when these two met last year. Hibbert playing big on the inside and George finally showing signs of confidence could serve them well should the two meet again.

Alas, all will fall if Stern makes the final call… for LeBron is the “Chose One!”