LOS ANGELES -- Phil Jackson is one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. I concede the point. I conceded it right here, in fact, just 11 days ago. Phil Jackson is one of the best ever.
But he's being outcoached by Doc Rivers in the 2008 NBA Finals.
|Phil Jackson ponders whether to disseminate information to Kobe. (AP)|
A lot of what goes into coaching goes right over our heads. Honestly, as well as you think you know the game, you don't know it as well as Rivers or Jackson or even Flip Saunders or Isiah Thomas. They could diagram circles around us, and we know it. What makes one coach better than the other? Hard to say, because at some level, the game at that level is too much for most of us to comprehend.
But this is a simple fact, something all of us understand: Some of the best coaching is done at halftime. That's when adjustments are made. Even if we can't understand every little nuance of the X's and O's, we all understand this much:
The third quarter of an NBA game belongs to the coach.
And in these NBA Finals, the third quarter has belonged to Doc Rivers.
The Lakers have lost the third quarter in all four games, never by less than eight points. Lose the third quarter once or twice, that's a fluke. Lose it three times, that's a trend.
Lose it four straight times? That's a problem.
The Celtics won the third quarter of Game 1 by nine points. They won it in Game 2 by 10. In Game 3 by eight. And in Game 4 by 16.
That's four quarters, or 48 minutes, or exactly one NBA game. And the score for that pieced-together NBA game would be 116-73.
Doc Rivers isn't just getting the better of Phil Jackson. He's kicking him right in his Zen ass.
It's sad to watch Jackson shrink from this moment, and from his own legacy. He was asked before Game 4 -- before Boston rallied from a 24-point deficit, the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history, which means it was the biggest choking-dog collapse ever -- how much pressure he felt personally, given his nine NBA rings.