- Tom Haberstroh
Playing fast doesn't work in the playoffs.
Or at least that's the conventional wisdom. The bar is raised. The game slows down. Teams cling to each possession like it's their last. Did we learn nothing from "Seven Seconds Or Less?" The NBA playoffs are where up-tempo teams go to die.
But this is one instance where the conventional wisdom doesn't hold up to much scrutiny.
The hidden truth in the NBA is that you can win by playing fast. Last season's San Antonio Spurs were a shot away from winning the title after being one of the speediest teams in the NBA. The 2008-09 Los Angeles Lakers ranked sixth in pace and won the Finals in five games over the Orlando Magic. The 2001-02 Lakers -- yes, with Shaquille O'Neal -- ranked sixth overall and took home the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Fast can win. And the Los Angeles Clippers are attempting to be the latest example. Beneath the cloud of exiled owner Donald Sterling, the Clippers are quietly testing the limit here in the playoffs, speeding up when everyone typically hits the brakes. With 98.7 possessions per 48 minutes this postseason, Chris Paul's Clippers are currently playing at a higher pace than any of then-coach Mike D'Antoni's Suns did in the playoffs.
In fact, they're currently playing faster than any conference semifinals team since Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and the 2001-02 Dallas Mavericks that averaged 98.8 possessions. And with their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder tied at two games apiece and Game 5 on tap Tuesday, the question remains:
Can they keep it up?
Tom Haberstroh looks closer at whether pace of play affects postseason success. He focuses on the Clippers, who are averaging 98.7 possessions per 48 minutes in the NBA playoffs.