Winning the One-on-One Battle But Losing the Match-up War
Similarly, I've been skeptical of speculation that Miami is a likely suitor for Andrew Bynum. The reasoning behind this line of thought is that Bynum will help Miami compete with the Pacers' big lineups. My question is, why try? The Heat's defense operates by being faster and more athletic than the opposition, consciously giving up a little edge on the defensive glass in order to create turnovers and facebreak opportunities the other way, where with LeBron and D-Wade, they are simply devastating. Why change that to play the same style that Indiana has perfected, only doing it worse?
And of course the classic example of "matching up" backfiring is this year's Knicks. After great success last season with a small, shooting-heavy lineup featuring Carmelo Anthony as a small 4, Mike Woodson has returned to a more traditional "two big man" style of play. Which has contrived to make New York a subpar version of Generic NBA Team. "Melo at the 4" is like blood in the water near a pack of sharks in Knicks blog/twitterland.
It's not exactly Sun Tzu, but the Art of NBA takeaway is that the team which chooses the style at which the game will be played has an advantage. A key difference between good coaches and bad is that the better coaches rarely concede their team's identity for the sake of "match-ups" as such a concession mean's the battle is being fought on ground of the opponent's choosing.
And Toronto's problems came on the other end, where Hayes' status as a more or less total non-threat allowed Pau or Jordan Hill to wreak havoc with Toronto's offensive sets:
Oddly enough, today's game against the Bobcats serves as the perfect counterpoint. In that contest, Al Jefferson used 11 possessions against Hayes and 11 against either Jonas or Patrick Patterson. He scored 8 vs. Hayes and 13 against the other Raps, but unlike the Lakers, the Kemba Walker -less Bobbers had no Nick Young-like figure to pick up that scoring slack. The succession of stops including a number of Jefferson misses and turnovers, combined with some unexpected offense by Hayes allowed the Raps to almost make up a 30 point deficit (with Kyle Lowry missing a free throw to tie late on). So in addition to his defensive contributions being more important, Hayes also made himself useful on the offensive end down the stretch, contributing to Hayes' +15 in 15 second half minutes.
This is hardly the only example of coaches, fans or commentators only seeing one half of a given match-up. There is often a clamor for players such as Steve Novak to play more for the Raptors. The problem is Novak helps both offenses; while his shooting is obviously elite, the list of players he can credibly guard is very small. No matter how much he adds on offense, it's not enough if he gives up more on defense. And as Hayes against the Lakers shows, the reverse can is also be true.