During the NCAA Tournament in general, and the regional games at EnergySolutions Arena in particular, I crushed the kids for shooting the basketball as though they had dipped their hands in motor oil, as though they had 20-pound weights strapped to their wrists, as though they were flinging salmon at the fish market. Certainly, the guys in the NBA would never pollute their important games by being so clumsy with their field-goal attempts.
Mind if we rearrange that observation, just a tad bit? Anybody notice the rim-bending devastation that’s occurred over the past fistful of playoff games, during which offensive basketball has been set back a half-century or so? Plainly stated, it’s been … broooo-talll.
On Saturday, the Grizzlies beat the Thunder, 87-81, the Pacers wrecked the Knicks, 82-71, and on Sunday, the Warriors caromed past the Spurs in overtime, 97-87. On Monday, the Heat defeated the Bulls, 88-65, and Memphis, again, beat OKC, 103-97, in overtime. And, somewhere, Dr. James Naismith broke down and bawled.
Rarely had the peach basket been so small, so difficult to find.
The team shooting percentages in those games, in that same order, went like this: 40 percent, 36 percent, 35 percent, 35 percent, 38 percent, 35 percent, 48 percent, 25 percent, 40 percent, 43 percent.
Over long stretches, it seemed as though the NBA had transformed itself into the 50-and-over league down at your local rec center. Rex the Wonder Dog could have shot better than a lot of these guys who are paid bajillions of dollars expressly to send the Spalding through the hoop.
Look at the numerical carnage: Tim Duncan hit 7 of 22 shots; Tony Parker 6 of 17; Harrison Barnes 9 of 26; Carl Landry 2 of 9; Serge Ibaka a combined 12 of 30; Kevin Martin a combined 12 of 29; Zac Randolph a combined 12 of 29; Marc Gasol a combined 14 of 32; Mike Conley a combined 10 of 30; Kevin Durant a combined 19 of 46; Carmelo Anthony 6 of 16; Raymond Felton 1 of 8; J.R. Smith 4 of 12; Paul George 4 of 17; George Hill 5 of 16. In the latest Bulls loss to the Heat, Nate Robinson went 0 for 12, and his team made just 19 of 74 attempts.
Ugh. You get the point.
Suit up, Ray Charles.
One reason the NBA has grown so popular over the past three decades is because people will pay ridiculous amounts of money to watch athletes do extraordinary things, especially at the offensive end. Dropping bombs from 24 feet is extraordinary, driving hard to the basket and finishing an off-balance floater over a 7-foot defender is extraordinary. There is nothing extraordinary about flipping bricks, about shooting 25 percent. You could watch your kid’s Junior Jazz team do that — for free.
Oscar Wilde once said: “It is better to be beautiful than to be good. But it is better to be good than to be ugly.”
This wasn’t just ugly basketball, it was ooooooooogly. It certainly was neither beautiful, nor good.
On the other hand, Wilde also hit a tough left-handed runner, throwing us a tiny portion of hope, when he also said: “Nothing is so beautiful that under certain conditions it will not look ugly.”
So maybe playoff basketball is beautiful, after all, it’s just that, on some occasions, it fits the best description of ugly — Phyllis Diller’s — that I’ve ever heard: “When I was a child I was so ugly my mom had to tie a pork chop around my neck to get the dog to play with me.”
Everybody knows defensive intensity picks up in the postseason, that every possession becomes a whole lot more important in the minds of the players. Fine, teams have to and usually do D up. But that doesn’t mean every game has to turn into an uncomely mess. Strong playoff defense sometimes is just a euphemism for weak playoff offense.
Tyson Chandler suggested Sunday that the Knicks’ struggles stem from the players being too selfish: “Honestly, we’re doing it to ourselves,” he told reporters. “I watched the tape myself, and there are open looks. We have to be willing passers. You have to sacrifice yourself sometimes for the betterment of the team and for the betterment of your teammates. So, when you drive in the paint and you draw, you kick it.”
And then, in theory, you hit it.
Great players and teams making the net dance is still the best reason for watching — and the best way to win games in — the NBA playoffs, even, especially, as the stakes are raised in each round.
Whoever said defense wins championships never fully grasped the concept of balance. Last time anybody checked, to win, you have to score. That’s half the reason the team with the best playoff shooting percentage — the Heat, at 49 percent, so far — is also the team that’s likely going to win a second straight title.
They need no pork chop tied around their neck to get the dog to play with them.
Gordon Monson hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM, 1280 AM and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.