The 2015 Western Conference playoffs always figured to be a brutal affair, with quality clubs looming in every possible matchup. There are, however, certain teams to be avoided at all costs, and other teams which provide somewhat more amenable challenges.
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey knows this all too well. It's his job not only to get his team to the playoffs, but to secure the best possible first-round matchup. Ever the tactician, Morey did what any chess grandmaster would do -- he sacrificed his most important piece in order to check mate his rival.
Morey's most important piece -- his queen, if you will -- was none other than our own Alexey Shved. And we were all witnesses to his grand vision during this first playoff weekend.
Houston's indomitable intrastate rival, the San Antonio Spurs, closed the regular season on fire, yet came a single game short of the second seed in the West. Let's check their schedule to see if any one loss stands out:
That's 22 wins, three losses to eventual playoff teams, and one public Shvedding:
Yes, that is Shved putting Kawhi Leonard on skates, dropping dimes like a young Magic Johnson, making a defensive play!
It seems clear now what went down in Houston. Morey acquired Shved earlier in the season, realized that he had the Russian James Harden on his hands, and was faced with a dilemma. You can't have two James Hardens on the same team, after all. So he did what any forward-thinking GM would do -- he sent Shved to the one team that could derail San Antonio's late-season run. It almost makes too much sense!
Now the Spurs are facing an 0-1 series deficit against a frisky LA Clippers squad with something to prove, while the Rockets lord over the desiccated stiffs over in Dallas. I'm not saying this is entirely due to Alexey Shved...maybe just 95 percent, give or take.
You're welcome, Rockets. Now give us Pablo back!