Over the past few years, the NBA has changed drastically. Hand-check rules have allowed guards to dominate the game the way big men once did. The European influence on the NBA game has led to more perimeter-oriented bigs than guys who want to bang down low. The statistical revolution has changed the way teams are built and the game is played.
Thanks to all of those things and changes in the way the NBA is covered, a lot of the clichés that form the NBA’s version of mythology have been replaced by new-school strategies and analysis. So why is it that first 2.5 rounds of the 2010 playoffs have, more than anything else, proven that there’s wisdom in all those old clichés? Look at what’s transpired so far in the playoffs:
-The Celtics and Lakers have seemingly flipped the switch in the playoffs after long stretches of mediocre play in the regular season. (The Lakers did finish with 57 wins, but a lot of those were due to Kobe bailing the team out after a lackluster effort for the first 47:50 of the game)
-Kobe Bryant did save his best performances for when it mattered most.
-The league’s trendiest new type of player is the “stretch four.” Not only do the league’s two biggest frontlines look to be headed to the finals, but Kevin Garnett has absolutely decimated Antawn Jamison and Rashard Lewis throughout the last eight games.
-It was too early for LeBron James’ coronation, and his perimeter game still needs work if he wants to eliminate an elite team by himself.
-Vince Carter did come up short in a big moment, while Paul Pierce calmly drained his big free throws.
-Experience does matter: witness the Celtics not panicking and sending double-teams at Howard when he started to score, and JJ Redick making a boneheaded play to advance the ball before calling a time-out in game two.
-Ball movement and discipline on offense do matter: witness Utah destroying a more talented Nuggets squad in the first round.
-The Magic’s vaunted three-ball attack has failed them in the first two games of the Boston series: they went 7-18 from beyond the arc in game two, but didn’t make a single three in the last eleven minutes of the game.
-Finally and most importantly, the biggest NBA cliché of all: Defense Wins Championships.
It’s never good to rely on clichés instead of sitting down and figuring out what’s really going on. That said, the 2010 playoffs have been proving how those old (and relatively new) pieces of conventional wisdom became clichés in the first place.