Psychology of the NBA Playoffs: One Round at a Time!

Rewind

This is what all the fuss is about.

This is what all the fuss is about.

Last year, during the NBA Final Series between the San Antonio Spurs and the then LeBronified Miami Heat, I wanted to write about some of the more mental aspects of the game that came up.

I tried to pick out an interesting story or highlight from each game, something that I thought related back to the “Psychology of the Finals” and wrote a short blog post on that topic. For example, after the air conditioning in American Airlines Arena broke in Game 1, I wrote about the need to take control of the environment, rather than letting the environment give you cramp so bad you have to be carried off the court.

I wrote about the need to focus on What’s Important Now! after both teams seemed to spend the whole of Game 2 arguing with the refs. I wrote about the need for Short Memory Shooting, being completely prepared whether you’re a starter or the last guy off the bench, and a whole host of other areas of psychology that I thought characterised the Finals.

I taped each game (Sky+/Tivo for those of you born after 2000 who have no idea what a tape is), watched it the next morning, and wrote a blog while I was watching the game. To be honest, while I really enjoyed writing about the psychology of basketball, a sport I love, it was completely knackering and I was just happy that it was over in five. So this year, I thought I’d do the same thing, but instead of focusing on a game by game review of the Finals, I’ll be taking a look at each round and picking out some of the key psychological factors that might have played a role in who wins and who goes home for the summer. So what are the matchups and what are some of the potential stories?

LeBron cramp

LeBron getting “The King’s Chair” treatment for cramp in  Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals

2015 NBA Playoffs

Western Conference

In the West, the Golden State Warriors (67-15) claimed the top seed and will face off against the New Orleans Pelicans (45-37). The Warriors have the best record in the NBA and one of my favourite players at the moment, Steph Curry. There’s a lot of expectation on this team to perform well, so we’ll get to see how they handle that as they progress (probably) through the playoffs.

Another key matchup in the Western Conference sees defending champs, the San Antonio Spurs (55-27), who slipped down to 6th in the last game of the regular season, take on the L.A. Clippers (56-26). Will the Spurs with strong leadership, great coaching, and a bunch of veterans who’ve been there before, be able to handle the pressures of repeating as champions, or will the motivation and hunger of a team led by perennial Playoff underachiever, Chris Paul, be able to knock the Spurs out early?

The Western Conference is wide open this year.

The Western Conference is wide open this year.

Eastern Conference

In the East, the top spot went to the unassuming Atlanta Hawks (60-22). Despite not really having a legitimate superstar, the Hawks have, fairly quietly, gone about taking the number one seed in the East with the second best record in the NBA. They’ll go against the Brooklyn Nets (38-44) who snuck into the eighth spot on the last day of the regular season. The Nets are among several teams in the East who don’t have the pressure of expectation heaped upon them.

Perhaps they can cause an upset in the first round? (I very much doubt it, I’m just trying to create some excitement). The re-LeBronzed Cleveland Cavaliers (53-29) managed to rally from a poor start to their season to take the second seed, but can they stay together and show enough team cohesion to make their way to the Finals?

And then there’s the Chicago Bulls (50-32). Plagued by injury all season long, can they physically and psychologically recover in time to march through the playoffs and beat the Cleveland LeBrons in the second round?

If the Cavs can keep it together and stay healthy, they have the talent to make it out of the East.

If the Cavs can keep it together and stay healthy, they have the talent to make it out of the East.

What’s Next?

The 2015 NBA Playoffs start tomorrow night and will hopefully be as exciting as they were last year, when no less than FIVE of the eight first round series went to a seventh game (All NBA Playoff rounds are best of 7 games).

So who do you think will make it out of the first round?

Who’s gonna be the surprise of this year’s playoffs?

Who will be the 2015 NBA Champs?

My Predictions are at the bottom of the page, but I reserve the right to change them at a later date to make me look like I knew what I was on about.

Round 1: The Weight of Expectation

Round 2: The Last-Second Shot

Conference Finals: Intensity & Effort

2015 NBA Finals: ????

My Road to the Finals Predictions

Golden State vs San Antonio will be a tough series, but I'm gonna say Golden State vs Cleveland for the 2015 Title.

Golden State vs San Antonio will be a tough series, but I’m gonna say Golden State vs Cleveland for the 2015 Title.

  1 comment for “Psychology of the NBA Playoffs: One Round at a Time!

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