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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 4:00 PM

To me, the biggest lesson so far in the 2015 NBA Playoffs regards what has become the clear inability for “individual” PLAYMAKERS to dominate a game or a series. In fact, we’re seeing a few one-dimensional “stars” get exposed as weak links.

Hero-ball has become zero ball!

You may have heard the TNT guys talking about Damian Lillard of Portland after their Game Two loss at Memphis (I had Memphis and Under in that game by the way). He’s an amazing talent. Yet, he’s also a fairly one-dimensional talent. He’s a very poor defender. He’s more of a scorer than a distributor…and it’s harder to distribute anyway when some of your best teammates are injured.

Lillard can’t do it all himself. He can’t have much of an impact trying to play 1-on-5. As he flounders on offense, it only magnifies his weak defense. Forcing up bad shots on one end…then letting your guy fly by you on the other is a recipe for disaster.

A lot of PLAYMAKERS won’t be cooking up much of anything in this postseason.

As students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping, you need to think very seriously about what’s happening in modern basketball.

*Defenses are much more complicated than in the past. The best teams are very good about making smart rotations, and helping on penetrators if the first man is beat.

*Defenses are much better at double-teaming or otherwise disrupting the most serious threats on the opposing offense.

*Many teams have either defensive specialists, or star players who are also great defenders that can stick with the opponent’s best shooter or passer.

The days of Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins trading baskets are over. The days of “one guy” carrying his team on his shoulders are over. Last year’s San Antonio Spurs were able to run away from the field with an intense ball-movement strategy that led to a lot of open looks on three-pointers or layups at the basket after great passing.

So, when I encouraged you to look at PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS within our standard handicapping process, it’s important to think about what those teams now mean in a TEAM game.

*Who can shoot AND pass well?

*Who can penetrate and then dish to a three-point shooter?

*Who can make three pointers?

*Who can start and/or finish fast breaks when those rare opportunities occur?

Nobody can succeed with a 1-on-5 approach. Nobody’s allowed to succeed with a 1-on-1 approach because defenses won’t let them. Be ready to embrace the reality that the “specialist” who stands at the arc and makes three-pointers is now the GAMEBREAKER!

Damian Lillard at his very best can be a dynamic force on offense...particularly against weak defenses. Put him on the court against a strong defense…and take away a few of his best teammates…and he’s suddenly the goat in postgame commentary.

Some quick homework for this series and beyond:

*Analyze each offense from a “ball movement” perspective

*Isolate PLAYMAKERS within that offensive structure

*Isolate GAMEBREAKERS that can end passing sequences with a bucket

A “one-man-show” is not a positive right now. Or even a two-man show that doesn’t feature bonus scoring from role players. Focus on studying the NBA through this overall team framework…and you’ll be very well prepared for the second round, the conference finals, and the championship.

Now, we’re coming to a point where THE MOTIVATION FACTOR is going to loom very large. The “Game Three” sequence begins Thursday Night. Seven of the eight matchups see one team leading already by a 2-0 margin. This will work with those key bullet points to unleash some very strong possibilities.

*Teams who CAN move the ball well but happened to be down 2-0 might play their best game in weeks in a must-win scenario. It’s all or nothing now. It would be a surprise if at least one of these early trailers wins a Game Three blowout at a very cheap price against a flat, coasting opponent.

*Teams who CAN’T move the ball well or don’t have “finishers” for the end of passing sequences are toast. They may have already thrown in the towel…and things are only going to get uglier. Maybe that’s not so obvious in Game Three if the opposing favorite comes in flat. It’s going to matter in Game Four…and then again in Game Five on the road.

*Series leaders up 2-0 who are intently focused on getting their series over with quickly may run away and hide in both Games Three and Four. THE MOTIVATION FACTOR is about to create some blowout covers in one direction or another.

If you’d like some help finding the best NBA Playoff picks from The Dean of Sports Handicapping, you can purchase my BEST BETS right here at this very website with your major credit card. Questions about extended service can be answered personally by one of my representatives in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155.

Back with you Monday to talk about either basketball or baseball. If the level of drama doesn’t pick up in the baskets, I may step in with a baseball update. If some important stories start to develop on the hardwood, we’ll “read and react” on the fly like always. Coursework is most vital when it’s connected to real world developments. Thanks again for your attendance and hard work!


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Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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