Familiar Foes

Darius Soriano —  January 26, 2011

It’s been said that familarity breeds contempt.

In personal relationships this idiom is often used to explain how people grow tired of/lose respect for those that they live with and/or work. How those every day interactions lead to getting too familiar with a person’s faults or those traits that ultimately become annoying.

However, when applying this to basketball I often think of a different type of contempt – the kind that leads wanting to demolish those foes that you’ve gone to battle against countless times year after year. I also think of the confidence that comes from the results of those match ups and started to think about the Lakers.

Ultimately, this led me to look at the Lakers schedule and examine their recent results with one eye, while looking to their future games with the other. What I found is that the Lakers have actually been quite good at vanquishing familiar foes and/or seeking revenge against those teams that have defeated them at earlier points in the season.

Take for example the Utah Jazz in last night’s game. The Lakers have faced the Jazz countless times over the years (after all, they play in the same conference and face off at least 3 times each regular season). But beyond the matchups in regular season, these teams have also matched up in the last 3 playoffs. Each time the Lakers have laid them to waste and each time their confidence grew (in successive years, the Lakers dispatched them in less games than the playoffs prior – needing 6 games in ’08, 5 in ’09, and sweeping last spring). Plus, when looking to earlier this season, the Jazz are a team that has handed the Lakers one of their 13 losses. Surely that defeat was also on the mind of the Lakers as they downed the Jazz last night.

Keeping with the theme of in-season redemption, there have been other examples of the Lakers seeking revenge against those teams that have beaten them earlier the current campaign. When the Lakers played the Pacers for the 2nd time this year, they clearly wanted payback (and delivered it handily). After losing to the Suns and Nuggets in back to back contests in early November, the Lakers handed them defeats in rematches this month with the most recent Denver game fresh on all our minds (those teams also fall into the playoff foe category as they’ve both been post-season opponents in the past several years).  We’ll see if this trend continues when the Lakers face the Spurs next week and the Mavs in March. Will the want of revenge play a part in those games? (I think it will.)

This concept does go both ways, though. The Bulls, Bucks, Clippers, and Grizzlies all fell to  the Lakers before taking revenge in their next match ups with the defending champs.

And the greatest of all motivation (a Finals defeat) will surely be on the mind of the Celtics when they vist Staples on Sunday. These teams certainly have a historical rivalry that pushes these games to another level, but the recent match ups and familiarity of the teams will also play its part in ratcheting up the contempt and the desire to win these contests.

I bring all this up because here at FB&G we consistently focus on the X’s and O’s and what schematic adjustments will be needed in order to claim a win. But coaches will often turn to motivational tactics beyond what can be drawn up on a greaseboard to prepare them to play a particular opponent. Especially when the foe in the other jersey is a familiar one.

Darius Soriano

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