In our first Coaches Roundtable of the NBA Playoffs 2004, we sought the counsel of sage postseason experts to get their opinions regarding the opening weekend. At our roundtable we have:
Don Chaney played 11 seasons in the NBA, was a member of two Celtics title teams (1969, 1974) was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1990-91 when he was with the Houston Rockets
Kevin Loughery played 11 seasons in the NBA and led the New York Nets to two ABA titles in the 1970s
John Lucas played 14 seasons in the NBA and spent six seasons as a head coach with San Antonio, Philadelphia and Cleveland
What was the biggest surprise to you during the opening weekend of the NBA playoffs?
Loughery: "The biggest surprise was that no road team won. So far, there have been 12 games and all the favored teams -- or home teams -- won. Only two, the Lakers' series and the Miami series were close, all the other games were blowouts. I was surprised by the discrepancies.
"I can't remember this before. There have been 12 games played through Tuesday night and every home team has won. I'm sure it's happened in the past but I can't remember it being that overwhelmingly in favor of the home teams.
"I think there's a great imbalance this year, which was proven by many of the records in the NBA. The top teams in each conference are so far superior to the bottom teams. But the biggest surprise is that no team has been able to win on someone else's court."
: "I thought the Lakers-Rockets series would be more of a one-sided deal in Game 1, especially with the Rockets on the Lakers' turf. I was surprised the Rockets were right there and had an opportunity to win that game.
"The other matchups, like the New Jersey matchup against New York, were pretty predictable for the first game. Usually the home team dominates the first game and the Rockets could have stolen one."
: "I thought Memphis would be in the games with San Antonio. I thought they matched up better than they would in that series. That was a big surprise. Now, after watching them in Game 2, I think they may be getting comfortable. Now, they can't beat the Spurs, but I thought they would be able to match up much better.
"The second surprise I have is how competitive the Miami Heat are against the New Orleans Hornets. I think that's a series that can go to the wire. Those two teams are pretty evenly matched.
Were you surprised the Heat went to a rookie in a go-to situation in Game 1?
Loughery: "No, because of the way Dwyane Wade played all year. He's a tremendous, tremendous player. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have gotten all they hype, but when Wade is healthy -- he's missed a lot of games -- he's a tremendous player. He has great one-on-one ability and he's bigger than Baron Davis, who was guarding him in that situation. Not only did he make a great play, but he used the whole clock. Basically, there were 1.2 seconds left for New Orleans to a get a shot off. It was a great, great move and a great, great finish."
: "Not really. I'm never surprised at something like that because when you're coaching a team, you know your players and you know what situations to put them in.
"You're working with them every day and you know when they can deliver and how they can deliver. To an outsider's eye, you may wonder why you would put a player with less experience in that situation. Every coach has a feel for his individuals."
: "I'm not surprised. I think he is one of the better off-the-dribble guys, besides Lamar Odom. And I think they can spread the floor with Eddie Jones, Caron Butler and the shooters that they have with their bigs. In the initial part of the play with Odom and Jones they were not able to go, and they got Wade in the middle of the floor to create. I think that's what that opportunity was. Wade has the chance to be a special pro and I think he's proving a lot of coaches wrong in that he's more of a point guard than we all thought."
Do you think the Heat would have gone to Wade had they been down two instead of tied?
Wade handled the pressure like a veteran.|
: "I think so. One thing about the Heat is they have several players they can go to. They have Eddie Jones, Lamar Odom, Caron Butler -- they're a very good team. It's no surprise to me that they've gotten where they've gotten. When Wade was out, they lost a lot of games and they also lost a lot of games early. But they have three or four go-to players during the stretch of a game. I can't think of another team like that that can create their own shots like that. They lack size and that will hurt them against some teams."
Chaney: "Probably, yes."
Lucas: "The play after the initial part broke down, you have to find your best player to break down the defense and in this case it was Wade. And I think for sure they would have gone to him again."
Did the Rockets miss their best chance to win on the road in Game 1, and what changes do they need to make to get back into their series with the Lakers?
Loughery: "The Rockets are a tremendous defensive team, but they've also only reached the low '70s in their first two games against the Lakers. When they go home, they have to create more of an up-tempo game, get out on the break and create some easy baskets.
"When you look at the Lakers, all year they didn't really play great team defense. But they have improved that in the first two games against the Rockets. The Lakers' offense hasn't been great, but their defense has been raised since the regular season. If you get in a half-court situation with a team that has four first team all-defensive members, you're going to struggle. For Houston, if they would go up-tempo that would help them."
: "I don't think by losing that first game, that you can throw in the towel and say that's the only chance we have. But I thought that was an excellent opportunity to steal one from the Lakers. In my experience, the home team is more prepared in that first game to get an edge. But I wouldn't say that's the only chance the Rockets have. Going back to Houston also will give them an opportunity to get back in it.
"I think they have to be more consistent hitting shots and taking care of the ball. I think strategy-wise, they were right on target. But the ball must go in."
: "They did miss a great opportunity in Game 1. They missed another great opportunity with Shaq being in foul trouble and they couldn't make any hay. If you remember that game, Derek Fisher hit two big 3s when Shaq got into early foul trouble in the second half and that kept them at enough distance to where the Rockets, who play position basketball, had a hard time catching them.
"The one change they can make that would really help them is they need to find a source of attack other than Yao Ming. They need to find more production from their backcourt, although Francis had a triple-double, you're not seeing a lot out of Mobley and you're not seeing a third scorer. You see two good scorers, but you're not getting a third scorer that's helping them."
The Kings need Chris Webber to continue to do what he's done in the first two games to keep his squad alive in the playoffs.|
With so many options in the Kings-Mavericks series, which one player from each team must play well for their team to succeed?
Loughery: "For Sacramento, there's no doubt in my mind that Chris Webber is the key player. If he's going to play well, then it's a big advantage for Sacramento. I've thought all year Sacramento has had the most talent in the NBA and that they would win the championship.
"When Webber came back, he wasn't nearly the player he was before the injury. He wasn't hurting their team, but he wasn't helping them much. I don't think Sacramento will win the series if he's not in shape. He played extremely well in the first game.
"Dallas' situation is a funny one. They've had different players step up every night, but I think Antoine Walker is the key player for them. He gets a lot of minutes, but he's been up and down for them. He likes to shoot the 3-pointer, but he hasn't shot it very well at times. He's been an inconsistent player for them all season, but I look to him to be the key player for Dallas."
: "I would say (Dirk) Nowitzki must be consistent. I just think with him and his ability to create mismatches and his scoring ability. They can't allow him to have off nights.
"As far as the Kings are concerned, I think the key is Webber. He has to play well every night."
: "Obviously, for Sacramento, Chris Webber has to play like he played for them in Game 1 for them to eliminate the Mavericks in an easy fashion. He's gotten healthier because he hasn't had to play back-to-back games and that's really helped him tremendously.
"For the Mavericks, the one guy who's going to need to step his game up is Michael Finley. He's going to need to come up big every night."
-- Rob Peterson, NBA.com
NBCA Coach's Corner archive:
March 5: Randy Ayers on the East
Jan. 23: Brian Hill on the Pacers
Jan. 16: Bill Berry on the Lakers
Jan. 5: Lenny Wilkens on Cleveland's improvement
Dec. 23: Casey on Houston's offense
Dec. 18: Casey on the Wolves' and Mavs' zone defenses
Dec. 11: Casey on Detroit's "diagonal cuts"
Dec. 5: Don Casey on Sacramento's "Princeton offense"