Did Lady Luck Play the NBA Playoffs in 2015?
Beginner’s Luck: Teams under the Guidance of New Coaches
There were four teams that played for the first time under their respective coaches in these playoffs. Lionel Hollins was the first time coach for Brooklyn Nets, David Blatt for Cleveland Caviliers, Steve Kerr for Golden State Warriors, and Jason Kidd for Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee and Cleveland had failed to qualify in the post seasons in 2014. But not only did they get through in 2015, they made their mark throughout the season.
Milwaukee Bucks played the Chicago Bulls in the Playoffs, which made for a mean spectacle. It was referred to as a 'dream season' for them even if there were no illusions about them losing to the Bulls from the beginning, according to a post on SB Nation. Brooklyn too received a boost of confidence at the playoffs, which reflected in the recent summer league matches. Cleveland and Golden State, of course, went on to the Finals and the Warriors became the overall champions, having undeniably played a notch above others.
Teams that Qualified Despite Losing Records
The Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics were two teams that had an unfavorable season up until the selection for the playoffs in 2015. It was a lucky shot and although it did not amount to much, it did a lot for their morale and for the records. Despite Brook Lopez being in great form at the Center, the Nets team had been ranking towards the bottom throughout the season; that is, until they made it into the playoffs. Although they lost to the Atlanta Hawks, they played well on home turf.
Boston, too, had had an off season but they made it through the playoffs, where they were put up against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs, about whom there were many predictions going around, such as those in the article, 2015 NBA Finals Preview, were to no one’s surprise in good form and they won 4-0.
The Team with the Winning Record Missed
Interesting when posited against this is the case of Oklahoma City Thunder. Although they had had a good season, they missed their berth in the Western Conference for the Playoffs due to a tie-breaker! If that is not a stroke of bad luck then I don’t know what is! They were also being coached by the first timer Billy Donovan, who was hired on April 30, 2015, but it did not prove to be as lucky for them as the others. Kevin Durant’s foot injury was mistimed and contributed greatly to OKC’s misfortune.
The ways in which they are trying to compensate for the misfortunes are debatable, including the hiring of Enes Kanteris for a whopping average salary of $17.5 million, Sports Illustrated reported. Perhaps it can be accrued to the fact that lady luck turning her face away from them resulted in a bit of desperation!
Did Injuries have an Impact on the Final Outcome?
This brings us to the conjecture that injuries had a major impact on the outcome of the 2015 playoffs. It has been called the ‘Season of Hurt’ by sports writer Shaun Powell, in his article on the official NBA website, since there were several injuries at crucial moments. Of these, the injuries to Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were especially rued by the fans, who speculated whether the final outcome could have been in their favor had it not been for these players being out of form.
Love suffered a shoulder injury in the first round and Irving fractured his kneecap in the first game of the Finals. However, one can only wonder whether the finals would have been different had Durant’s injury not kept OKC out of the equation. John Wall from Washington Wizards, Al Horford and Kyle Korver of Atlanta Hawks, Pau Gasol of Chicago Bulls, Mike Conley of Memphis Grizzles all lost time due to injuries of varied extent.