Once the NBA playoffs start, games tend to slow to a crawl.
Teams still run their basic schemes. They just run less of them.
Possessions become fewer and fewer as the game generally turns into a half-court contest. It’s a process that invariably occurs every time the calendar turns from the 82-game regular season to the pressure-packed playoffs.
“Every basket, every possession is so important in the playoffs, I think sometimes teams say, ‘Yeah, we want to run, but we want to take care of the ball,’ ” Dallas Mavericks forward Vince Carter said. “So I think some teams and players get hesitant and just want to get a good shot, so it happens that way.”
A slower pace keeps turnovers down and may give the underdog team a better opportunity to steal a game they wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to win.
“It’s not that they don’t run, I think it’s just that different teams have been successful — the teams that are better — in the half court,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. “I don’t think anybody tries to slow it down.”
“But you’re playing the better teams, and better teams will slow down your fast break and force you into a half-court game.”
Entering a best-of-seven, first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center, coach Rick Carlisle obviously wouldn’t divulge whether he plans to stray from his uptempo flow offense. Carlisle did admit that games change once the playoffs begin.
“Scoring tends to go down some, and part of it is because of the heightened level of preparation,” Carlisle said. “But the competitiveness mitigates the lack of scoring in my mind. It makes the game even more entertaining.”
It also makes every possession that much more valuable.
“Strategies are going to vary somewhat,” Carlisle said. “But most of it depends on matchups of the opponent, and then you adjust as you need to as the series goes along.”
Forward Shawn Marion believes it’s foolish for a team to bring its offense to a crawl in the playoffs when running the ball during the regular season is what put them in the playoffs.
“A lot of stuff doesn’t change, but for the most part if you’re able to run you’ve got to explore that option,” Marion said. “Think about all the teams that won it lately in the last three or four years, most of the stuff they were doing in the regular season they continued to do the same thing in the playoffs.
“It’s just that some series are going to be more of a drag-out, bang-out than others. But, if your biggest strength is pushing the tempo of the game, you’re going to continue to push the tempo of the game. You’re not going to slow down just because it’s the postseason.”
Marion understands the in-game adjustments. He just doesn’t understand why a team that’s been playing fast all season would slow it down for the playoffs.
“It’s about using your weapons and taking advantage of what you see,” Marion said.
“If you’re able to see something and recognize something you’ve got to take advantage of it and exploit it, and that’s what you’re supposed to do. If you don’t do it then it’s your fault.”