We might have just seen the Play of the Playoffs. To be considered a Play of Year or in this case Play of the Playoffs, a play has to have a game changing, momentum swinging, stomach punching, wow-I-can’t-believe-he-just-did-that type feel to it. Sasha block of Jason Kidd yesterday fits that category.
Let me set the stage a little bit in order to prove my point. The Cavs hadn’t played a game in six days and looked a little rusty. The Nets looked a little tired from their previous series which they had finished less than 48 hours earlier but were still threatening to steal home court advantage from Cleveland. The Cavs were playing sloppy and slow. LeBron was sick and he’s no where near Jordan’s I’m-sick-with-a-103-fever-but-can-still-score-50-like-it’s-nothing status. Cleveland, after trailing most of the game, was holding to a four-point lead with just under two-minutes in the game.
Larry Hughes made a weak pass to Sasha, who still should have caught the ball (come to the ball young kids). Kidd stepped in and tipped the ball to himself and went in for what looked like an uncontested lay-up. Sasha, never giving up, chased him down and blocked the shot in to the front rows. The Nets still had a chance to make it a 2-point game but again Sasha saved the day by stripping Richard Jefferson.
The play was almost the exact same play from the 2004 Eastern Conference Finals between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers when Tayshaun Prince blocked Reggie Miller from behind. Indiana was down 67-69 with 17 seconds to play in Game 2. Miller’s layup would have tied the score and with Indiana already up one game to none, could have put Detroit down 2-0. Prince stopped him, gave his team the momentum and Detroit went on to win the game, the series and the NBA Championship. Sasha’s block could be the momentum the Cavs ride to at least the Eastern Conference Finals if not the NBA Finals. Yes, the Cavs still have a long way to go before that comes to fruition but if Sasha doesn’t make that block, they might not win the game. Not winning Game 1 takes away home court advantage and completely changes the series. Now, Cleveland has the momentum and New Jersey has to regroup. By no means is the series over but the block defiantly set the tone.
Another similar feature about both blocks is who got blocked and who did the blocking. Reggie Miller was an aging All-Star who was slowing down and about to retire from the NBA in a year and could no longer dunk. Prince was an up and coming player making his impact for the first time in the postseason. Kidd is an aging All-Star, still a great player still slowing down a bit, who doesn’t dunk. Sasha, this year has established himself as a quality NBA player and is making his impact in the postseason for the first time. If either Miller or Kidd could have dunked the ball, the outcome of each game could have changed.
If Cleveland does go on to win the series (they will) and advances anywhere beyond that, Sasha block will be created for allowing the Cavs the chance to do that. That’s the kind of play that is a Play of the Playoffs type play.