by Jerry Stackhouse
Playoff basketball is one of the most exciting times of the year for me, especially since my team is still in the race.
We are playing the Boston Celtics in the first round and are tied 1-1. We were on top of the world after Game 1, and then after losing Game 2, it felt like doomsday. This is where some of my veteran leadership comes in because I keep telling the guys that we are fine; we needed to take one of our home games, and we did. I’m glad we had two days off before Game 3 because that gave us one day to stew over the loss. But today, it’s back to work at practice and time to focus on Game 3. Josh Smith got hurt in that last game, so we don’t know really know his status. But in any game, there’s a chance of guys getting banged up, so you have to deal with it.
I love the Playoffs, especially since my team is still in the hunt for a title (Getty Images).
We are heading to Boston for Games 3 and 4, and I actually think it’s easier to focus on the road because it’s more of an “us against the world” mentality. There is no better feeling playing sports than when you quiet the opponent’s fans, watching them file out of the arena with two minutes left. Hopefully, we can quiet the crowd twice in Boston. With a veteran team like theirs, you don’t want to lose two games. They have a lot of momentum, their fans will be really into the game, Rajon Rondo will be back from his suspension, and I imagine Ray Allen will make an appearance too. To combat those factors, we need to do what we do and play every possession as hard as we can. Even though we don’t have the same experience in our core rotation as Boston, we have guys that can get it done.
Playoff basketball is not so much about game plans as it is about effort and doing what you know how to do on both ends of the floor. The key to the playoffs is limiting mistakes. We made a lot of mistakes in Game 2 that we did not make in Game 1. If we execute a carbon copy of Game 1, then we can get the win. We are like a band of brothers going against Boston.
As for me personally, I haven't had the opportunity yet to play but I feel like I could be contributing a lot more. The reason that I am on the team is that I can still play and make an impact.
However, I have also come to a point where you have to accept the changing of the guards. I have accepted that my role is to provide veteran leadership, stability in our locker room and leadership that includes getting in my teammates’ ears if things aren’t going well. If I could change my role to include contributing more on the court, I would. I’m a ball player first, but very capable of doing my part from a veteran standpoint at the same time. Regardless, I’m mentally and physically ready in case the opportunity to play presents itself.
Sitting on the bench has allowed me to share my knowledge with players like Josh Smith (Getty Images).
Passing the Torch
Even before my time with the Hawks, Josh Smith and I had formed a bond. I have been sharing advice with him that can hopefully help him make the steps to get to the next level as a player and a person. The way he came to training camp ready to play was a sign that he was ready to take another step toward becoming a better player. He is open and responsive to my guidance…and he has been one of our more consistent players having played every game. And in my opinion, he should have absolutely been an All-Star. Josh is definitely on the verge of becoming a true star in our league.
Around the League
Chicago vs. Philadelphia:
Derrick Rose’s injury was obviously a devastating blow for Chicago from a psyche standpoint. I’m praying for Derrick and wish him a speedy recovery. He’s fun to watch…I’d even pay to see him play!
For the Bulls, it is extremely difficult to lose a teammate of that caliber knowing he will not be coming back until next season. During the regular season when Derrick was out due to injuries, they were motivated knowing that he would be back for the playoffs.
Even without Derrick, Chicago is still more talented than Philly. I predict the Bulls win this series, but the chances they win a Championship or go to the Finals this year are pretty slim.
Miami vs. New York:
Even though Miami is winning the series 2-0, New York is one of those teams that you can never really count out. Amar’e Stoudemire made a mental error in injuring his hand. The team has struggled since his return from that back injury, so maybe since he’s out of the lineup, they will go back to when they were on a hot streak. It’s hard to predict what we will see from the Knicks, they have had a lot going on the first two games. Tyson Chandler was under the weather but he’s getting his legs back. Also, even though they lost Iman Shumpert’s defensive contributions, J.R. Smith can make up for him offensively. Miami is going to win the series, but there is still a chance it goes five or six games. The veterans on that team like Baron Davis have too much pride to get swept. For Game 3, the Knicks are heading to their home court, and the fans’ support should help them get a win or two.
Oklahoma City vs. Dallas:
This series is interesting because even though OKC is leading 2-0, both games could have gone either way. This is a rematch of last year’s playoffs when Dallas won 4-1 - those games could have gone either way, too. The series comes down to which team makes the most plays late in the game. This matchup features young, exciting talent in OKC against Dallas’s veteran experience. Each of the remaining games will be a battle, and it comes down to making shots. When things shift back to Dallas, guys like Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd will find a way to use the excitement in the building to defend their championship. Despite the 2-0 lead OKC has, it won’t end in a lopsided manner…there’s a lot more basketball to be played here.
Injuries are part of the game. People can blame it on the lockout and rushing these games together in a shortened amount of time, but injuries always happen. In any 82-game season, you have injuries that change the landscape of basketball. We would all love to see guys like Derrick Rose out there in the playoffs and it’s disappointing that he is out. As a player, when this happens to your team, you have to roll with the punches and keep your head in it because on the bright side, injuries can give an opportunity for another player to step up.
Early Finals Prediction
I am clearly planning for Atlanta to be in the Finals — if I put on my analyst hat, however, if we are looking at the personnel and everything that’s going on during these playoffs, I have to take Miami to win it all. Miami is the favorite to come out of the East, and I’m not counting out the Lakers in the West the way Ramon Sessions and Kobe Bryant are playing.
Tune into Game 3 this Friday when we take on the Celtics in Boston. And stay tuned for my next playoffs blog. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy playoff basketball as much as I do…
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