Aussies in NBA Playoffs: Bogut focused on repeat championship above all else
“It’s always good to set an all-time record and one that won’t be broken for a long time. But in the grand scheme of things, it adds a little bit more pressure on us to win that ring as well so we still have some work to do."
These are the words of a defending champion, who just played a big part in his team setting the NBA regular season win record. If you ever doubted Andrew Bogut's motivations, the above should dispel any notions to the contrary.
Bogey. Wants. Another. Ring. Dammit.
It's been a renaissance season for the Bogeyman. The Golden State Warriors' amazing season, which left a whole mountain of records shattered, has given just about every member of the team some time in the spotlight. Bogey has been no different, seeing multiple articles trumpeting his importance to the team, particularly on the defensive end. Must feel particularly sweet, after his years of being seen as nothing much more than an injury-prone role player.
Well, injury-prone no more. Bogut played 70 games this regular season, the most since the 2007-2008 season when he was still with the Milwaukee Bucks.
“Last season was good. I wasn’t banged up going into the playoffs last season, so these last couple of years have been very good,” Bogut told Fox Sports Australia.
“Obviously a key, today, is avoiding high impact injuries, which, generally the consensus of what I’ve had in my career is impact-type injuries that you can’t really avoid too much. It’s been a good year for me."
Bogut averaged 5.4 points (a career low), 7 boards, 2.3 assists, and 1.6 blocks this past regular season. It doesn't sound all that impressive, but he's proven himself to be an expert at being a force without making much of a dent on the box score. His teammates certainly feel and appreciate his presence and smarts, and I have a feeling the big man himself couldn't care less about personal accolades as long as his team's winning.
Of course, recognition by the masses can only be helped by introducing Chris Paul to the hardwood via a brick-wall screen.
Highlight play of the season
Round 1: Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets
“The seedings don’t matter. Even though we’re being favoured to win the first round you never know what is going to happen. We need to come in with a renewed focus."
The journey to a repeat begins with the Houston Rockets, who've largely been seen as a massive disappointment this season, struggling to get into the playoffs after finishing second in the West last season. They cost Kevin McHale his coaching gig earlier in the season, seemingly through sheer indifference. Apparently that wasn't enough, for soon after they earned a public scolding from his interim replacement, J.B. Bickerstaff, who accused his players of "not treating the game the right way". Yeesh, call yourselves professionals?
Nevertheless, this is about as eventful an opening round for Bogues as you could hope for. This may not be the rim-destroying, you-shall-not-pass 2009 vintage Dwight Howard, but he's no scrub. Averaging 13.7 points and 11.8 rebounds to go with 1.6 blocks per game, Howard indisputably remains Houston's second-best player behind James Harden. This will be a bruising matchup of two big men who make their money on the defensive end and feast on getting open for dunks and alley-oop finishes on the other end.
“[Dwight] is a very very strong and athletic player, so making sure he gets no easy dunks or easy layups. Make him use his touch around the basket — shoot some hooks from five or six [feet] out — and if he’s making them, he’s making them. That’s kind of the mindset on him." Bogut revealed.
“And obviously making him come out and guard guys like Steph and Klay by [me] setting a lot of ball screens, and down screens on the weak side, so just being active out there, and trying to be a little physical with him, to not give him any easy baskets.”
Additionally, the aforementioned Harden is still a deadly scorer even if his defense has regressed again this season. Bogut, along with his partner-in-crime Festus Ezeli, will have to be on high alert to dampen the effects of Harden's herky-jerky Euro-steps to the rim.
“We’ve studied a lot of tape on that, and we know that when [Harden] comes in the lane, I keep my hands in the air and make him finish over the top of me, and if he makes it, give him a pat on the back and go back on offence.” said Bogey. Game plan in place.
Eighth-seed or not, disappointing season or not, the playoffs are a whole different animal and the Dubs and Bogey cannot afford to rest on their laurels.
“It’s a completely different ball-game now.”
You said it, Bogues.
Real Highlight Play of the Regular Season
Oh, what I wouldn't give for Harden to be on the end of one of those butt-screens.