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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra was blatantly out-coached in the NBA Finals by Rick Carlisle. While Spoelstra was concerned about crying in the locker room and continuing to push through, Rick Carlisle was in the lab finding ways to get his players involved.
Carlisle took a page out of former Heat head coach Pat Riley’s book from the previous NBA Finals matchup between the Heat and Mavs when Riles switched to a zone in mid-series. Riles’ change, and a sick Dwyane Wade, brought the title to South Beach.
Carlisle’s change was on offense and it worked masterfully. The coach extended the Mavs pick and roll action to beyond the three-point line to speed up the pace and to get more space for his shooters. He made the defense make a decision either stop the rolling Chandler or give up the jumpshot. Chandler, who played more in the NBA Finals than he did in previous series, had three double-digit scoring games in the Finals alone. Conversely, Chandler had just three double-digit games in the three previous series combined.
Spoelstra never adjusted to that subtle change or the increase in isolation plays the Mavs were running. He often looked baffled on the sidelines and appeared in over his head. Now he returns with a group, and a player in James, that has been clowned repeatedly this offseason. If people were not talking about the lockout they were talking about James’ shortcomings late in games or D-Wade’s uncharacteristic turnover in Game 6.
New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni tried to become the first team since the 1992-93 Phoenix Suns to make the NBA Finals with little to no defense. Now the Knicks will try to finish what the Suns could not. Armed with two of the game’s premier players in Carmelo Anthony and Amar‘e Stoudemire, in addition to having one of the game’s premier leaders in Chauncey Billups, it should be a lock for the Knicks to at the very least make the Eastern Conference Finals.
Not when your head coach is Mike D’Antoni. No other coach, outside of Doug Moe, loathes defense more than D’Antoni, so it is a safe assumption that the Knicks will not be one of the top defensive teams in the league this season.
Yet, in order for them to make it to at least the Eastern Conference Finals they are going to have to improve on the effort side of the court. In the postseason the Knicks were ranked 13th in points allowed with 99.3 and first in opponent field goal percentage allowing 47 percent. They have to get more out of their defense, which is a daunting task with D’Antoni on the sidelines.
It is tough to fathom with Phil Jackson waiting in the wings Erik Spoelstra or Mike D’Antoni lasting past this season. Especially if either team starts slow, expect both to be gone by season’s end.