The Nature Of The Game
Whenever Blue Steel is set to enter a ball game — especially in ACC play — it’s safe to assume things have been going well for the Heels. Roy’s jump shooters caught fire midway through the first half and ran away with a game that was never really a contest to begin with.
Now much of that has to do with the fact that Wake Forest looks like a JV squad as soon as they leave the Winston-Salem city limits. And by the second half Tuesday night they were as disinterested as a team could possibly be. But Tim Duncan himself could have suited up for the Deacons and it wouldn’t have mattered. UNC shot over 50% from the field on the game, 60% from behind the arc, and scored almost 90 points. You’re simply not going to beat a team that’s shooting like that.
But the interesting bit here is that the Heels didn’t even play that well, and they still hammered a team that recently beat NC State and was a play or two away (or a call or two away…) from a win against the top-five ranked Blue Devils.
Great shooting can do that for you.
Once again UNC looked shaky on the fast break, sloppy in the half-court, and the anemic Demon Deacons were able to get to the rim whenever they wanted at times.
But a few swished threes later and, voilà, you have a twenty-five point blowout win. All sins are erased.
In what other sport is this possible? You can play a near perfect basketball game and get crushed because an opponent catches fire from long distance. And vice versa, you can play like “crap” (I’m unfamiliar with this term, but Roy seems to use it quite often in this context) and beat the hell out of your opponent anyway because the rim felt like the size of the ocean for some unexplained reason.
Try to seriously imagine Tom Brady whiffing on ten straight passes, or Serena Williams faulting ten straight serves. It’s tough. But if Kobe Bryant missed (or made) ten straight shots you would hardly see a blurb on SportsCenter that night.
Can anyone explain why the Tar Heels missed almost twenty straight shots at the end of their Elite Eight match-up with Georgetown in 2007? Did the Hoyas just crank up the D? No. It’s just the nature of the game. It just happens. It’s what makes basketball so exciting, and just as easily so frustrating.
The ball sometimes just doesn’t bounce your way in every sport, but only in basketball does it seem like a sizable portion of the games are decided by whichever team has the most players that happen to be “on” that night; like a roll of the dice.
You could even argue this is a good thing for the 2013 Tar Heels. After all, they have three fantastic jump shooters in Leslie, Bullock and Hairston, and James McAdoo and Brice Johnson are no strangers to the face-up jumper themselves. In that sense, the Heels can beat anyone.
It’s a fact that the Tar Heels are a fraction of a percent away from having three 40% 3-point shooters. The last time that was the case in Chapel Hill? 2009. That season turned out alright.
But here’s the difference: for the 2009 team, three-pointers and jump shots were just gravy. Hansbrough’s squad beat teams by getting easy buckets inside, holding onto the basketball, and protecting the rim when it counted (coincidently, the antithesis of UNC on Tuesday night). Three-pointers were just the icing on the cake, turning five and ten-point wins into fifteen and twenty-point wins. In fact, in a weird way you could argue the 2009 team shot so well from behind the arc because, well, they never had to shoot from behind the arc.
Tuesday night’s win was against one of the weaker teams in the league, but the lesson is the same. The Heels can beat anyone, anytime, anywhere. And as Roy prepares his team for their toughest two game stretch of the season (in Coral Gables and Cameron Indoor), he no doubt knows that. But the issue is whether or not the Heels can find a way to win like really good teams do: playing hard, smart, sound basketball. Not with jump shots.
Could the Heels get hot again and beat the best two teams in the ACC next week? Of course they can. That’s the nature of the game of basketball.
But do they want to roll that dice?
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