Kings’ Davion Mitchell details differences in regular season, playoffs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
The upstart Kings got a crash course in NBA playoff basketball in April after snapping their 16-year postseason drought.
Playoff basketball is completely different than regular season NBA basketball. Games are officiated differently. Strategic adjustments are so vital that they can swing a series. The intensity on both ends of the court ratchets up.
Kings guard Davion Mitchell got his first taste of NBA playoff basketball in his second season, and he noticed the differences right away.
“Defensively, refs tend to let things go by a little bit and it makes it better for me because I’m a physical defender,” Mitchell told Deuce Mason and Morgan Ragan on the “Deuce and Mo Podcast” this week. “So the ticky-tack fouls, they’re not really calling that because … they’re just not calling that and I think that’s what makes it fun because it’s actually … I feel it’s more real basketball a little bit. Because there are so many people in the league who are good at drawing fouls.
“If they called it the same way in the regular season in the playoffs, I think the playoffs wouldn’t even be fun. It wouldn’t be fun because there’d be so many free throws. It’s a completely different ball game. Not even close. To a point where one side is college basketball and one side is NBA. That’s the comparison I’m looking at. They call so many ticky-tack fouls in the regular season and then we get to the playoffs and it’s like, when someone throws their head and tries to shoot the ball, they look crazy because they aren’t calling it. I think defensively, that’s the difference.”
Mitchell, nicknamed “Off Night” because of his tenacious defense, played heavy minutes in the first five games of the Kings’ first-round series against the Warriors. During that span, he averaged 8.8 points on 46 percent shooting while recording 10 assists and four steals.
But in Games 6 and 7, the Kings’ coaching staff went away from Mitchell, using him for a grand total of 19:24 over the two games.
“Offensively, it’s just harder to score,” Mitchell told Mason and Ragan. “You’ve got to beat them four times and it’s harder to score. Game 1, Game 2, like, all right, you’re trying to get comfortable, trying to figure out what their gameplan is and after that, it’s a battle. Whoever makes the most shots, whoever has the best creators, whoever gets more stops.
“Also offensively, what Steve Kerr did to us, I think he changed the gameplan a lot. He realized that they were really good in Game 1, Game 2, with [Domantas] Sabonis and [Harrison Barnes], because Sabonis wasn’t really shooting the three really well. So he ended up changing the gameplan and went smaller and made us run more and it kind of tired out Sabonis a little bit.
“And that’s why Mike Brown made changes and he made Trey [Lyles] the five and made it hard for them to guard because now they can’t really play in the drop. They’ve got to switch because Trey hit shots. The gameplanning throughout the whole series was the best part of it and that’s the big difference.”
While the series result wasn’t what Mitchell and the Kings wanted or expected, he will never forget what it was like moments before Game 1.
“Man, when I first went out there, it kind of gave me chills because there were so many people,” Mitchell told Mason and Ragan. “Everyone was so crazy. That was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been. I wasn’t even playing yet. It was like the game was about to happen. Everyone was expecting us to win. There’s so many people, we kind of have to win. You can’t let them down, so that was my mindset.
“It was a fun game, a fun experience. I think every game was like that in the playoffs. It wasn’t even Game 1. It was all the way to Game 6, Game 7. I feel like the Warriors place wasn’t as loud as ours but when we played at home, it was electric for sure. And we’ve got to keep doing it, we’ve got to keep running it back every year.”
The Kings appear to have the foundation laid for many playoff runs to come. But as they learned the hard way, once you get to the party, the dancing is the hardest part.