Up against Goliath

Last week I played in a league game where our opponent was vastly superior to our team. Ok, to be fair, it was one or two guys on the team that were really good, and the rest of the guys were kind of just cleaning up their shit (getting loose balls, rebounds, hustle plays). We knew about their star two players before the game, and were trying to figure out how we could match up against them, when deep down I knew they were gonna rain buckets on us. Being one of the taller guys on the team, I was left guarding their PF/C and actually wanted to guard their main PG (who did all the scoring). Alas, my contributions defensively were box out down low and make sure their bigs didn’t eat our lunch.

When you know you’re already outmatched before the game, it totally dampens your mentality during the game. I used to think this way in the past, throwing in the towel before the ball was even tipped to start the first quarter. In the last year or so, I just shut out this belief and think as if both teams are on a level playing field, and that the other team is just as nervous about the match up as you are.

During the game, their point guard rained 5 or 6 three-pointers on us, had at least 8 assists for layups, and ran the fast break like it was the 100m dash. I learned a few things about my game as they took a 20-point lead going into the last 5 minutes of the game:

  • Regular moves become harder – When I’m up against good competition, I tend to scrutinize my moves a lot more. Making sure I don’t turn the ball over, making good passes, and driving to the hole. As we all know, basketball is a simple game of feel and instincts, and playing this way where you’re analyzing you’re every move is no good.
  • The backcourt is all about speed – Thinking back to all the tough teams I’ve played against, one of the biggest contributors to the loss is not having a solid backcourt, and this manifests itself through the speed of the guards. Then there’s a full-court press and the guards are having trouble bringing the ball past half court and turning the ball over leading to fast breaks, it’s one of the worst feelings when you’re already down court completely detached from the play.
  • Clutch shots – Juxtaposed with my first point, stiffer competition does breed more risk on my part, and I take shots and make moves I wouldn’t otherwise risk taking in a game I think is evenly matched. I guess when the odds are stacked against me, I think of it as taking a raise in poker or betting on games–the more you lay down, the higher expected return.

With 5 minutes left in the game, with the result pretty much decided, I sometimes asked myself why even bother running hard or trying to make a play? It would be so much easier to let the seconds tick by.

I crave these games. I need these games. These types of games, at ANY level, bring things out of you that you would never expect. You either show up to the challenge, or run away and accept the loss as if it were predestined from the beginning of the season. I love showing up and making a run in the last 5 minutes, where we won’t win but cut the lead down to 10, and keep Goliath on his toes.

We made a run.


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