By: Papa Minnow
It’s all come down to this.
The real season starts April 14th, 2018 at 5:30 pm in the ACC, where you guys will play host to the Washington Wizards.
A rematch of the 2015 playoff series, a series fans will always remember because of how tragic it ended: swept in four games. Washington comes in only winning three of their last 12, but we all know the playoffs are a different animal and records reset to zero. This will be a tough matchup.
But you guys are different now, and you’ve managed to cultivate a whole new system that relies on creating for others, while adding new pieces into the mix.
That system propelled you from 30th in assists per game in 2016-2017, to 6th in assists per game this year. It’s given you a +/- differential of 7.8; second only to the Houston Rockets, placed you third in offensive rating, fifth in defensive rating, and third in net rating.
Not to mention you locked up the first seed in the East for the first time in franchise history, and although you didn’t reach 60 wins, you managed to hold down the second best record in the entire association, which includes the Golden State Warriors.
Had anyone told me that this would be the case prior to the start of the season, I would have laughed them out the room…yet here we are. With all the roster changes from the loss of starters and role players to the addition of an unproven Bench Mob, no one could have predicted this.
In fact, ESPN’s “experts” projected you guys to win 43 games and finish 6th in the East. And to tell you the truth, I only had you guys finishing 3rd this year behind the Celtics and the Cavs, but man, did you guys prove us wrong.
Now it’s time to do so again.
The regular season means nothing if you guys don’t have post season success. Across the boarder, and even within the frozen soil, there is still that seed of doubt that’s been embedded in the psyche of the masses from past playoff traumas.
But this is the season where you guys have to prove them wrong. You’ve done it all season long. Carry that same energy into the post season.
The first step in proving that you’ve made the leap is to go out and win Game 1 of the series. You guys secured home court advantage throughout the playoffs, and posted 34 wins with only 7 losses at home. Use this to your advantage.
In series past, you guys are 1-11 in Game 1’s. You’ve managed to win some series despite starting off with a loss.
However, this is the first demon that must be slain to prove that you are not the same team as years past. With no 12 pm start, and an evening start time, everything is aligned for that to happen.
If you guys win Game 1 of the series on Saturday, I will truly believe that you are not the same team.
Washington wants to play you guys because they feel they can beat you, so step up to the challenge and show them why they’re wrong for challenging the top team in the East. Play that regular season style brand of basketball that brought you to this point.
Washington is a team that likes to share the ball, they’re third in assist percentage, and they don’t take a lot of threes, but they make them.
Use multiple defenders like OG, Powell, and Delon on Wall and Beal, hit your open shots when they trap DeMar or Kyle, create for others, and get JV going against Gortat. Not only has JV improved his game, but if he does struggle you guys have the benefit of using Poeltl or Ibaka to guard Gortat in pick-and-rolls.
Stick to your guns and you guys will prevail. I have faith…but win Game 1 to give me proof.
Raps in 6.
To: The Team
This year can be the exorcism of all demons. A round 1 victory would heal the scars of the 2015 sweep, leading to a matchup with King James who also swept you last year, and has blocked your path to the finals for two straight years. Beating him would not only avenge those past losses, but also immortalize you guys as the King slayer and the best team in the East which could potentially land you a date with Philly in the Eastern Conference finals where you could vanquish the demon of Vince Carter’s past as Philly was the team to stop the franchise from reaching the Eastern Conference finals on a last second shot that Vince missed, and went on to play in the NBA finals.
To: DeMar and Kyle
The playoffs have not been kind to y’all. You’ve both had up and down games, but the problem has been showing up on a consistent basis. This is the year where you guys need to be the best players on the court every night, even if that means contributing in other ways. You guys have to find ways to score, and if you’re not scoring get the other guys going. I believe in y’all.
To: Bench Mob
This is your first playoff appearance, the atmosphere will be unlike anything you’ve witnessed, and it’s fine to be nervous. But you guys have been the most reliable part to this team all season long and although minutes will be cut, there will be spots for you guys to shine so don’t be scared to make them count. You guys will be the x-factor. Good luck.