The NBA Playoffs: The One Game Bump Theory

Jeff PencekCorrespondent IIMay 12, 2009

HOUSTON - MAY 10:  Center Dikembe Mutombo and Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets during Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on May 10, 2009 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Multiple times this post-season, we have seen teams play better when one of their starters is injured or gets suspended.

Dwight Howard gets suspended in Game Five of the Sixers series, and the Magic won easily on the road in Game Six. Derek Fisher was suspended after Game Two of the Houston series, and the Lakers won a big road game in Game Three. Rafer Alston was suspended after Game Two of the Celtics series, and the Magic won Game Three by a wide margin.

The latest example of this was with the Yao Ming injury. The Rockets lost their star center for Game Three, and demolished the Lakers in Game Four. While the suspensions were temporary, Ming’s injury will last the entire post-season and will catch up the Rockets.

I have just provided four pretty big examples of a team playing better for one game without a key starter. All four of these situations were when a win was integral to the series and not a random fluky Game One victory. All of the teams above showed that come playoff time, teamwork can overcome talent for short spurts.

If the one game bump theory does work, which it has multiple times this playoff season already, then why doesn’t an innovative coach try this?

The Lakers are a team in need of a little attitude adjustment after their clunker in Game Four. Going home for Game Five, the Lakers should win since they will also adjust to the Rockets not having Yao Ming. Of course they can test the one game bump theory with a player who may be hindering them more than helping at this point.

Phil Jackson should come out and say that Andrew Bynum is out for Game Five with an undisclosed injury. It’s better if it’s a suspension, but that takes a lot of forward thinking during the game or a lot of trashing the refs during the post-game and Andrew Bynum isn’t getting a lot of podium time. Plus even the NBA would be laughing at blaming the refs as an excuse for losing after that game.

Dallas and Atlanta are done, so they might as well bench half of their teams at this point. Kenny Smith will have them fishing in no time.

The Rockets need to keep up the Ming injury momentum, with another injury. They need to have an every thing is going against us feeling, like the Celtics have right now. I would lean towards a Chuck Hayes injury, although almost any Rocket who gets big minutes will do.

The Celtics have excelled by overcoming many overtime games and multiple injuries. The Celtics have room to plan ahead with two home games, so they can enact a strategy for Game Six. In Game Five, Rajon Rondo should be throwing elbows, slapping people across the head and throwing every guard he can into the boards. He’ll really have to step up his game because it appears that the league has no interest in suspending him.

A Rondo suspension in Game Six will hurt in terms of running a half court set, but will help Pierce and Allen in stepping up their game by having them face even more adversity, which they seem to thrive in those situations. This strategy could backfire though as some Magic player may retaliate and beat Rondo to the suspension. It would be ill advised for Rondo to attack Courtney Lee or Rashard Lewis, since their absence will kick start the one game bump theory for the Magic. Attacking Rafer Alston is a safe bet since he is fearful of another suspension.

I would like to state who the Cavaliers should sit out for a game if they face a challenge. However, they haven’t faced a challenge yet this playoff series, and I haven’t watched a single second of a Cavs playoff game yet. I know boring drama.

As for Denver, they have a few candidates to help them with the bump in the next round, however it is more likely an actual injury to Kenyon Martin or Nene will take care of their situation.

The One Game Bump Theory is outside the box thinking, and no coach will use it in fear that he does it one of the few times it doesn’t work. Coaches hate losing, but they hate media criticism even more.

The NBA playoffs are the first team to four wins, and should be viewed as one game increments (yes those interviews with players where they say nothing do hold some truth in them) where momentum is temporary as best. Sometimes, to gain momentum, even for one game, drastic measures work.


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