Some of us, a while back on this board, at the start of the season, threw up the idea of having an entire self-contained second unit, that could play together and have it's own look. But that's kind of like saying that it would be a great idea to date a Victoria Secrets model: big gap between talking about it, hoping it might happen and actually doing it.
So while we've seen this bench do those things, and go out and raise the energy level give the opposition a different look, it wasn't until last night that we truly saw what that approach could actually achieve. Oh sure, the bench had great games before vs the Spurs, but the breakout performance there was Goran playing the game of his life, with the bench on the floor with him.
Last night was different...last night, this bench had balance and unity like we've never seen before, and did what we only dreamed of, which was to apply more pressure onto the Lakers at a point where they thought they'd get a breather. We attacked the Lakers at a point where they were most vulnerable, and basically wore them down. More to the point, we were able to overwhelm the Lakers without shooting particularly well overall, without shooting our free throws well, and with Kobe having almost a perfect game, from a box score point of view.
It should also be pointed out that the same things apply to our defense, which gets a lot more energetic and aggressive with the second unit on the floor, and provides a different defensive look to the 1st unit.
The upshot is that regardless of who you are, preparing for this two headed attack is difficult enough at the best of times, but insanely difficult to do and to implement counter-play in a playoff situation, when you didn't prepare for it before, and only have a single day's rest between games. To play us, you have to create two separate game plans, and hope the Suns don't add any more wrinkles to their own game plan .
What makes that task particularly difficult, is that each offense plays so differently, with the first unit relying more on Nash's improvisational skills, using passing and ball movement to create opportunities, and the second unit relying on speed and player motion.
Vs the Lakers last night, our play reminded me of Mohammed Ali vs George Foreman in Zaire, 1974.. the famous rumble in the jungle match, which Ali won using the "dope a rope" tactic, allowing Foreman to wear himself down before being KO'ed in the 8th. We've been winning a lot of games in the 4th quarter, this year, because of this.
I can't think of another team, in the history of the NBA, that was constructed like this, with two separate, clearly identifiable units, and imho, with this innovation, Alvin has placed himself in the conversation regarding as to who the best thinkers in the game are, and what's he's done, in partnership with Steve Kerr, is extend Larry Brown's philosophy for the championship Pistons to an entire roster.
Clearly, it's a more subtle achievement than Mike D's 7 seconds or less offense, because it requires the construction of a second unit with as much attention to detail as one would give to the starting 5 + 6th man, and because of that, will not have as immediate an impact on the league. Moreover, Mike's innovation is more profound because it speaks to a fundamental aspect of the game (i.e that it takes at least 8 seconds for a defense to get itself in proper position) that no-one up to that point had specifically targeted.
And, Alvin has also been lucky, in that two of his 3 best players are making $15M/year between them, which has afforded Steve Kerr the ability to sign good, intelligent second unit players without breaking the bank, and build this second unit the way he wanted. Very few teams have *that* luxury.
But ultimately, Alvin's "Double Dog" scheme, for want of a better name, is going to affect the league for many years to come, especially if we win the title.
If that happens, you can bet that teams with big cap space and flexibility wrt personnel, such as the Trail Blazers, Knicks and Cavs, if LeBron leaves, will be looking very closely at this as a model for how to restore their franchises to preeminence, using their cap space wisely without overspending for name talent.