Orville Higgins | Basketball matchups don't matter
Matchups in basketball are overrated. What ultimately determines the result is the team that is more motivated, will execute better on the night, and the one with the better talent overall. However, people have been coming out of the woodwork saying how wrong I am.
I've pointed out that San Antonio Spurs won 67 games in the regular season. They lost only once at home. This means they lost 14 away. If we were to go with the argument that matchups play a big factor in winning basketball games, we would have to agree that San Antonio matched up better at home by huge degrees.
The flip side to that is that they would seem to struggle to get their matchups right once they hit the road. Clearly, that makes no sense. They won more games at home because at home, they feed off the crowd. This means that when they are on their own floor, they play with more determination, greater will and confidence, which all translate to a better execution of skills.
The Golden State Warriors won a record 73 games in the regular season. They lost only twice at home. This means they lost seven away, almost four times the ratio. Again, if we are to take the argument that matchups are so crucial to determining results, we would have to argue that Golden State matched up better at home. Again, that argument is ridiculous.
You may argue that those are just regular-season games. Well, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors have played five games in the Eastern Conference final so far. Cavs are up 3-2. Again, the home team has won every single game. If you extend the record to the regular season, they have played each other eight times. On every single occasion, the home team has won. If you combine the results of both conference finals, in the first nine games, the home team has won eight. The trend in the NBA is that the home teams, generally speaking, are more likely to win. Matchups, as a basis to winning basketball games, must be overrated.
People are now saying that the reason Oklahoma City Thunder are doing so well against the defending champions, Golden State Warriors, is because they have "gone small" and matched up well with Steph Curry's men. That is just mumbo-jumbo. This small ball thing is also overrated. OKC is doing well against Golden State because in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durrant, they have two of the world's five best players, who are healthy, who have hit form, and who are extremely motivated. Serge Ibaka is also proving to be a real handful and Steve Adams is proving to be a menace on both sides of the floor.
Not since they went to the 2012 final have OKC found themselves in a position where their main stars have played a full season where injury wasn't a concern. It's not about any great tactical matchups.
Basketball is too dynamic a sport for one-on-one matchups to be a big factor in determining results. The game moves too fast, and too often in the game, the person who you are supposed to match up with is not the person in front of you at a given point in time.
Team defence is about hustle and energy and scrapping with WHOEVER is in front of you. So at the risk of sounding like a complete idiot, I'm going to say it again: One-on-one matchups are overrated in basketball. The team that wins is the team with the best combination of talent and motivation.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.