Syracuse was cooked last weekend in the NCAA Elite 8. Down by 16 in the second half against No. 1 seed Virginia, nothing was working.
So Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim made a choice. His coveted 2-3 zone ineffective and allowing the Cavaliers to milk the clock and control the pace to a walk, he decided to think outside the box.
Er, outside his zone. Boeheim called for a full-court press.
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It surprised Virginia. It energized the Orangemen. It changed the pace, and paved the way for a monumental upset as his 10th-seeded rallied all the way to Houston and this Saturday’s Final Four.
Don’t look now, but Mavs’ head coach Rick Carlisle just called for his team to press. At least their final eight games will be entertaining, if not wholly effective.
With his old, slow team now without Chandler Parsons and with 10 losses in 12 games almost evaporating its playoff chances, Carlisle Monday in Denver inserted youth and athleticism into his starting lineup in the form of Dwight Powell and Justin Anderson.
The move – like Boeheim’s – is outside of Carlisle’s DNA.
For a night, it worked. Against the lowly Nuggets? Yes. And tonight against the awful Knicks? Perhaps. But is it sustainable enough to get his team into the postseason?
With Deron Williams iffy with a pulled abdomen and Dirk Nowitzki closing in on his 38th birthday, Carlisle’s move is more desperation than inspiration. But it’s also the right move.
At 36-38 they’re currently 9th in the West standings. Anything other than No. 6 and it’s a first-round date with the Warriors or Spurs, neither of which has lost at home, or back-to-back games this season. In other words, a sure sweep. To avoid that they must pass the Rockets, Jazz and Blazers.
It won’t be easy. Six of their final eight opponents are currently headed to the playoffs. But with younger, more energetic players, at least it will be entertaining.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.