Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

November 19, 2008

Chapel Hill, Boulder, and the Space Between

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 12:51 pm

I know I was supposed to watch North CarolinaKentucky last night and I tried. Truly I did. But the game was eerily reminiscent of what happened the last time I watched the Heels, only this time it was Carolina that sprinted out to a huge lead, just like Kansas did against them in the Final Four last April, and then coasted rather desultorily across the 40th minute for the 77-58 win. In those first eight minutes Ty Lawson looked as fast as ever, Deon Thompson looked more confident than I remember, Ed Davis looked impressive, and the team as a whole made me glad I’m on the record as saying they could conceivably win a national championship even without Tyler Hansbrough.

Still, my attention wandered after those first eight minutes. Playing on their home court, Oklahoma got by Davidson 82-78. The foci of hype and anticipation were understandably Blake Griffin (21 boards) and Stephen Curry (44 points on 29 shots). But I additionally found myself watching Sooner freshman Willie Warren, who looked, for the first time, like a player who merits the advance praise that he’s received.

Of course, merely having the ability to flip from North Carolina-Kentucky to Oklahoma-Davidson in mid-November would have to be termed a luxury. (Thanks, ESPN.) So why did I end my evening thinking about…Colorado? Well, for starters last night the Buffs lost at home in OT to Montana State, 85-82.

We know CU’s Jeff Bzdelik can coach. What’s more he’s shown a rare fondness for switching styles, having presided at the helm of both the go-go Denver Nuggets and no-go (but, of course, insanely efficient) Air Force. Last night, though, Bzdelik’s experience wasn’t enough. Bobby Howard came off the bench for the Bobcats and hit 5-of-7 threes. Colorado lost at home to an opponent that’s without three of the top four scorers from a team that went 7-9 in the Big Sky last year.

And I thought to myself: The non-KU Big 12 North right now seems like the coaching profession’s equivalent of a land war in Asia, humbling all who dare to enter.  

BONUS didactic harangue! It is now November 2008. Basketball Prospectus has been around for, what, 13 months? We’ve been called “indispensable” by the New York Times. (Albeit by a part of the Times that yesterday announced it has ceased to exist–no cause and effect, I swear!) So surely there is no longer any earthly reason for a national write-up on the Carolina-Kentucky game to fret in Roy Williams‘ direction that, sans Hansbrough, the Wildcats “outrebounded the Tar Heels (34-31).” In fact it was North Carolina that dominated the boards last night, getting to 36 percent of their own misses and 70 percent of the Wildcats’. The fact that UK coughed up the ball on an astonishing 38 percent of their possessions, however, meant there were simply way fewer Wildcat misses to rebound. Meanwhile the Heels were combining low-turnover ball with surprisingly meh shooting, resulting in plenty of chances for Kentucky to record defensive boards.

Pretty straightforward, yes? Now, picture me choking on a half-eaten radish in war-ravaged Georgia circa 1865, backlit in dramatic silhouette: As God is my witness, I will kill this “rebounding margin” cognitive fungus as dead as Marley’s ghost. It is worse than meaningless. In certain cases, such as this one, it is in fact the precise belligerent opposite of long-neglected hoops reality.   

November 18, 2008

Daily Ten: Sunday and Monday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 5:59 pm

Gotta keep it short today because of the unceasingly finite nature of time, at least as it applies to one individual’s existence.

Nov. 16 & Nov. 17 (12.0% of season complete, 148/1230 games)

SUNDAY’S GAMES

No.  Player, team         gRATE
1.  nowitzki,dirk_dal      11.1
2.  nash,steve_phx         10.7
3.  salmons,john_sac        8.9
4.  singleton,james_dal     8.8
5.  humphries,kris_tor      8.5
6.  kleiza,linas_den        7.6
7.  solomon,willie_tor      7.4
8.  bonner,matt_sas         7.2
9.  billups,chauncey_den    6.9
10. pietrus,mickael_orl     6.7

MONDAY’S GAMES

No.  Player, team         gRATE
1.  knight,brevin_uta       7.9
2.  nash,steve_phx          7.8
3.  kirilenko,andrei_uta    7.4
4.  durant,kevin_okc        7.1
5.  kaman,chris_lac         6.4
6.  duncan,tim_sas          6.0
7.  scola,luis_hou          5.3
8.  alston,rafer_hou        5.2
9.  finley,michael_sas      3.7
10. ming,yao_hou            3.2

Explanation of gRATE here:

Tonight’s games

+18 chi @ lal, 10:30 p.m. EST [ lal by 19 ]
+10 tor @ orl,  7:00 p.m. EST [ orl by 10 ]
+ 9 atl @ ind,  7:00 p.m. EST [ ind by  2 ]
+ 6 nyk @ bos,  7:30 p.m. EST [ bos by  9 ]
+ 6 cle @ njn,  7:30 p.m. EST [ cle by  9 ]
- 1 mil @ den,  9:00 p.m. EST [ den by  8 ]
- 3 por @ gsw, 10:30 p.m. EST [ gsw by  2 ]
- 4 mia @ was,  7:00 p.m. EST [ mia by 12 ]
- 8 dal @ cha,  7:00 p.m. EST [ cha by  2 ]
-12 sac @ mem,  8:00 p.m. EST [ mem by  6 ]

Notes: Games listed in order of quality, as determined by the sum of each team’s efficiency ratio. NBAPET projected winner and margin of victory is listed in brackets.

Questions or comments?

Reveling in 23 Hours of Hoops

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 1:06 pm

I said this in passing yesterday but it bears repeating: ESPN has done a truly sublime thing with this “First Annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon,” otherwise known as “23 hours of hoops.” College basketball is still in search of its proper annual commencement. Technically, of course, the commencement this year was Georgia Southern vs. Houston, a game played in a 95 percent empty Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Call this 23-hour thing the season’s effective commencement, then, one vastly superior to the technical one. My indefatigable colleague and two-sport wunderkind Joe Sheehan has already offered his contemporaneous thoughts on MemphisUMass. (The new-era Tiger D looks alive and well. Offense? Stay tuned. Note for example that Tyreke Evans had pretty much the prototypical inefficient but intriguing debut for a Very Highly Touted Freshman. It took Evans no fewer than 17 shots and six turnovers to get to 19 points.) Allow me then to just add a few thoughts on the extreme nightcap, St. Mary’sFresno State, more specifically on a certain Australian therein….

When ESPN’s studio “A” team (two Davises, Bilas, Phelps, and now Bob Knight) visits Chapel Hill for North CarolinaKentucky pre-game hype and uses the occasion to, of all things, wonder aloud “Who is the next Stephen Curry?” I imagine that, somewhere out there on the road, mid-major caliph Kyle Whelliston must be reeling in Fred Sanford-like shock. What was being asked in the Dean Dome, in effect, was, “Who is the next version of the SoCon’s best player?” As it happens the answer proffered was that in fact a WCC player, one Patrick Mills, is the next Curry, at which point I suppose Kyle fell into a delighted coma.

I rise merely to suggest that the comparison is, in November 2008, unfair to both players. True, both are outstanding backcourt performers who made 54 percent of their twos last year while playing featured roles. Nevertheless, the comparison’s unfair to Curry because Mills is not yet even in the same zip code, qualitatively speaking. Curry carried his team’s offense last year and made 44 percent of his threes while taking unbelievably good care of the ball. Mills played a significantly smaller role in his offense while making 32 percent of his threes and taking pretty good care of the ball. And anyway the comparison is unfair to Mills as well: Curry, after all, truly became awed-hush “Stephen Curry” in the March of his second season. Mills, in the November of his second season, has a ways to go to get there.

As it happens, the Gaels didn’t need Mills to be Curry early this morning, as they notched a somewhat underwhelming 99-85 win at home over a painfully young Fresno State team. (Indeed this game would have been uncomfortably close had the Bulldogs not shot a mere 56 percent on their numerous free throws. Not an auspicious start for St. Mary’s, considering their opponent harbored genuine trepidation going into their first exhibition game against NAIA foe Fresno Pacific.)

Last thought for now. Fran Fraschilla nailed it on his call of OklahomaMississippi Valley State last night: what in the world were the powers that be at the NIT Season Tip-Off thinking when they seeded Boston College ahead of Davidson? It’s much worse than malpractice in the field of hoops analysis–it’s bad promotion. Who would draw a larger gate at the Garden: Stephen Curry or the precociously young and rebuilding Eagles? Alas, the epic Blake Griffin-Curry tilt will occur tonight in Norman, Oklahoma, of all places, at 9:30 ET. If the Heels and Wildcats aren’t keeping your interest, tune in.

The Overnight Shift

Filed under: Uncategorized — jsheehan @ 1:47 am

3:47 a.m. ET: Boy, I want to make it…it isn’t helping that neither of these two games has been close. The Gaels have stopped short of running the Bulldogs out of the gym, largely due to occasional defensive lapses in which they allow seven quick points. Essentially, they can name the score because they shot the lights out in the first half. Down the road, they’re going to need to play on both ends of the floor.

The next game is interesting in that I don’t think any team has ever been asked to make a 2 a.m. start. That’s what the game will be for Idaho State, which hails from the Mountain Time Zone, and will be closing the first leg of the marathon by playing at 11 p.m. HST. That can’t be easy.

I mentioned earlier that Hawaii isn’t very good. At least they scheduled for it, with something out of the Boeheim Collection: just one nonconference road game, a trip to Illinois next month. Fuel costs were cited as a reason, but you can also point to a team that will be hard-pressed to avoid 20 losses in a better WAC even with their soft, home-heavy schedule.

This may be the last post of the night, so let me get this in here. If Kentucky got run out of the gym by VMI–and they did for much of the game–what exactly will North Carolina do to them? No, the world doesn’t really work that way, but given that Kentucky looked completely shocked by the Keydets’ pace, and that Carolina plays just a tick slower with, um, somewhat better players, you wonder if the signature game of the marathon is going to be about as competitive as the first two have been. 

2:17 a.m. ET: That wasn’t very impressive, unless you’re the coach of a team in Conference USA. The Memphis Tigers showed themselves to be long, fast, and completely terrified of shooting from anywhere outside the lane. It wasn’t just their poor percentages–28/57 on twos, 2/19 on threes–but their approach when UMass packed the lane and conceded not just threes, but long twos. They looked tentative and confused, and continued to make reckless charges into the lane. Against a team with a better halfcourt defense–this is not Massachusetts’ forte–they might not have scored 70 points, much less 80.

So the game plan for beating has to be pretty basic: 1) forget the offensive boards. Four guys get back at the first shot. Memphis needs runouts, because their halfcourt offense is not that good. 2) Pack the lane. Play the tightest 2-3 zone extant, completely conceding the three-point line and even out to about 18 feet. Make Memphis shoot jumpers, lots of them, to beat you. 3) No layups. Foul shooters in the lane like it’s a 1983 Celtics/Sixers. The Tigers went 18/23 from the line last night, so this may end up being a mistake, but make them prove it.

Memphis is a tournament team, but a first-weekend one. They lack the scorers in the halfcourt they had a year ago, and that’s the difference between the Final Four and the Final 32.

St. Mary’s is going to beat a rebuilding Fresno State pretty badly. Then Idaho State will give Hawaii a better game than you’d expect. The Rainbows or Warriors or whatever they are now aren’t a very good team this year, especially at the defensive end.

12:30 a.m. ET: How powerful is ESPN?

ESPN can get three schools to schedule games at 11 p.m. local time so that they can have a day of basketball, a Tip-Off Marathon that will extend midnight Tuesday to past midnight Wednesday. They have to fudge the “marathon” a bit–no one could be found to play from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. ET, so that’ll be a studio package–but Penn and Drexel pick it up again in the morning.

Right now, Memphis and UMass are playing…well, about how you’d expect a bunch of college students to play an early-season game in a late-night time slot. It’s sloppy and energetic, with a streetball feel that is enhanced by the fact that both these teams play pressure defense and the dribble-drive-motion offense. UMass even has the scheme’s architect, Vance Walberg, on staff as an assistant. Eight minutes in, the most impressive part of the game is Memphis’ athleticism on defense. They aren’t going to shoot well–the Minutemen are conceding everything on the outside–so they’ll have to turn defense into offense or get UMass into a man-to-man to pull away in this one. They sure can check people, though.

I’ll check in throughout the night as we go from Memphis to Moraga to Manoa, beneficiaries of ESPN’s strength. Hey, I’m a hoops junkie and an insomniac, so I love my enabler.

 

November 17, 2008

What New Three-Point Line?

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 12:22 pm

The college basketball season is all of seven days old and already it’s clear that the new three-point line, discussed for years and anticipated keenly heading into this season, is effectively imperceptible in real time. Consider….

  • VMI wins at Kentucky, 111-103, devoting a robust but not freakish 43 percent of their shot attempts to threes.
  • Rhode Island scares the heck out of Duke before losing 82-79 in Cameron Indoor. Though URI devoted but a paltry 26 percent of their shots to threes, they in fact pushed the Devils to the limit by making a freakish 71 percent of said threes.
  • Butler opens the season by winning at Drake, 58-48, in a matchup of two teams exemplifying to the utmost the term “perimeter-oriented mid-major Bulldogs.” The two squads of Bulldogs combined to attempt 45 percent of their shots from beyond the arc.

In other words, we can still encounter teams shooting a lot of threes or even, more importantly, making a high percentage of threes. True, we may yet find at the end of the year that the percentage of attempts launched from three-point land has in fact declined a little. (We here at Basketball Prospectus will keep you posted.) But a slight dip here after years of increasingly three-happy games would merely return us to, say, 2006, not 1996.

The key number here is 35. Despite ritual protestations that threes had become “too easy,” the truth is that for the last 15 years three-point accuracy in D-I had effectively stabilized right at 35 percent. Meanwhile the frequency of threes was on track to intersect with that same number: had the line not been moved a foot further out it’s likely that, for the first time, at least 35 percent of field goal attempts would have been threes this year. (My redoubtable colleague Ken Pomeroy has a nifty graphic illustrating all of the above on page 3 of our College Basketball Prospectus 2008-2009. Buy it today!) Moving the line out a foot, then, can be seen as a sound tweak, nothing more.

I like sound tweaks. They move the sport forward. When John Wooden played at Purdue, each made field goal resulted in an ensuing jump-ball at center court. (Not many “points in transition” back then.) Moving the three-point line around or “opening” (kind of) the season with 23 hours of ESPN’d hoops or using raised floors in football venues–bring it all on. One of the aspects of college hoops that I appreciate most is its manifest comfort with this kind of ameliorative pragmatism. Where college football fans scream like personal injury lawyers with each and every (seemingly annual) minute futzing over the clock rules, college hoops has a long history of happily wreaking havoc on its fundamentals and minutiae in equal measure: instituting shot clocks and three-point shots, expanding tournament brackets (the President-elect doesn’t have to intervene in our sport to give its season its only rational conclusion), allowing dunks, banning mid-air timeouts, and all the while becoming more popular. Moving the three-point line out a foot thus might be more important for the continuing reformist spirit it bespeaks than for its actual impact. 

November 16, 2008

Daily Ten: Saturday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 1:08 pm

There were only two interconference games last night. Both of them were won by the East — Philadelphia over Oklahoma City and Cleveland over Utah.

Talk in the preseason was that the East was catching up with the West and I’ve heard several game broadcasters observe that the West doesn’t seem to be as strong this season. How do those statements hold up under scrutiny?

Year E W Pct
2004 154 266 .367
2005 194 256 .431
2006 198 252 .440
2007 193 257 .429
2008 192 258 .427
2009 31 13 .705

Yes, it’s way too early to jump to conclusions. I haven’t taken the slightest effort to put these numbers into context. For example, I don’t have any idea if the West has simply played a disproportionate number of East opponents on the road. Nevertheless, such strong early percentages suggest something seems to be afoot. We’ll watch this trend for a while longer. Then the question becomes obvious. Why?

Nov. 15 (11.3% of season complete, 139/1230 games)

PLAYER, TEAM gRATE
1. pierce,paul_bos 17.4
2. harris,devin_njn 13.5
3. james,lebron_cle 11.7
4. miller,andre_phi 10.5
5. rose,derrick_chi 9.8
6. bogut,andrew_mil 9.8
7. iguodala,andre_phi 8.8
8. jackson,stephen_gsw 8.4
9. camby,marcus_lac 7.5
10. allen,ray_bos 7.3

Explanation of gRATE here:

Center court

This space is normally reserved for casting a little light on one of the Daily Ten, but today I’m going to depart from that practice to acknowledge the extraordinary effort of a player that didn’t quite make the cut.

Golden State’s Don Nelson has long been known for throwing some strange lineups out on the floor and making them work. All season, with Baron Davis now a Clipper and Monta Ellis laid up because of Mopedgate, Golden State has struggled with point guard play. So Nellie apparently has decided to simply not play a point guard.

Yesterday afternoon in LA, Nelson started four players (Corey Maggette, Stephen Jackson, Kelanna Azubuike and Anthony Morrow) whose natural position is arguably shooting guard. No point guard? Pretend the position doesn’t exist!

Against the Clippers, Nelson’s wacky combo scored 121 points on 97 possessions and shot an eFG of 55 percent. Jackson did most of the playmaking, handing out 10 assists. But the story of the day was Morrow, an undrafted and unheralded rookie out of Georgia Tech.

In his first career start and, in fact, in his first extended playing time in an NBA game, Morrow scored 37 points on 15-of-20 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds, posting a gRATE of 6.5. Morrow had been averaging more than 23 points per 40 minutes in very limited action. That number is now up to 29.2.

In the news

  • I understand and even appreciate the notion of hometeam broadcasters. I even encourage a bit of rah-rah rooting for the home team. However, I have to say that I get awfully tired of hearing these impartial observers prattle on and on about poor officiating, almost invariably for no good reason, unable to see past their biased point of view. The worst offender by far is Boston’s Tommy Heinsohn. According to Tommy — who I otherwise cherish as an NBA icon — the Celtics haven’t committed a foul or a violation of any sort since he was drafted as a player in 1956. At least Tommy can set that aside and get excited about his team. I can’t say the same about Milwaukee’s Jon McGlocklin, who played for the Bucks during the salad days of Lew Alcindor. McGlocklin gets so disturbed about ‘bad’ calls that he ruins the broadcast, as he did last night when Kevin Garnett and Andrew Bogut got into a minor scuffle. The result of the incident was a standard-issue double technical. However, Bogut had been T’d up earlier in the game and thus was ejected from the game. Bad break for the Bucks, but let it go, Jon. Your whining detracted from a truly great NBA game. You’re doing our listeners a disservice. I felt sorry for veteran play-by-play guy Jim Paschke, who kept trying to turn the page.
  • In general, it bothers me when deep teams play a slow pace, but the Rockets have really provoked that peeve during their last two games. On Friday, against a battered San Antonio team, Houston was drawn into a 77-75 snoozer that saw only 80 possessions per team. This despite Rick Adelman starting human flash Aaron Brooks at point guard. Then, last night, Houston and New Orleans locked up in an 81-possession game. Despite solid depth, the Rockets may not have the personnel to be up-tempo as a rule, but with Brooks in the lineup, you’ve got to play to his strengths. Nevertheless, it begs the question, one which I’ve never seen studied: Is it easier to dictate tempo for a fast-paced team or a slow-down squad?
  • Speaking of Brooks, his two-game trial run as the starting point guard during Rafer Alston‘s suspension was an abject failure. Brooks had gRATEs of -5.2 and -5.5, respectively. He was outplayed by San Antonio rookie George Hill on Friday. Against Chris Paul on Saturday, Brooks got into foul trouble and never was a factor.

Tonight’s games

  • 8 mia @ tor, 1:00 p.m. EST [ mia by 5 ]
  • 7 det @ phx, 8:00 p.m. EST [ phx by 3 ]
  • 4 orl @ cha, 5:30 p.m. EST [ orl by 9 ]
  • -4 dal @ nyk, 6:00 p.m. EST [ nyk by 9 ]
  • -7 min @ den, 8:00 p.m. EST [ den by 12 ]
  • -10 sas @ sac, 9:00 p.m. EST [ sas by 1 ]

Notes: Games listed in order of quality, as determined by the sum of each team’s efficiency ratio. NBAPET projected winner and margin of victory is listed in brackets.

Questions or comments?

November 15, 2008

Daily Ten: Friday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 11:40 am

The Celtics have been playing with fire lately, overcoming big deficits against Toronto and Atlanta to stay perfect at home. Against Denver on Friday, Boston’s offensive problems finally burned them. The Celtics put up 85 points on 87 possessions against the Nuggets, sinking their offensive efficiency to 102.4, 27th in the league, and dropped a nine-point decision at the Garden.

The Denver-Boston game was the first game of a national doubleheader on ESPN that was a nice showcase for the league. In the second game, the Pistons handed the Lakers their first loss of the season. Detroit has already won five road games this season and ranks third in the NBA in offensive efficiency (112.4).

The big winner in the doubleheader was the Nuggets, however. Denver is improved on defense, as the national guys kept informing us, even though we know they weren’t as bad as all that last year. The Nuggets rank seventh in the league in defensive efficiency and are 3-3 on the road.

Nov. 14 (10.7% of season complete, 131/1230 games)

PLAYER, TEAM gRATE
1. prince,tayshaun_det 11.6
2. paul,chris_nwo 11.1
3. murray,ronald_atl 10.6
4. lopez,brook_njn 10.6
5. boozer,carlos_uta 9.9
6. wade,dwyane_mia 9.8
7. crawford,jamal_nyk 9.6
8. iverson,allen_det 8.9
9. mbah_a_moute,luc_mil 8.8
10. harris,devin_njn 8.1

Explanation of gRATE here:

Center court

There’s an interesting dynamic taking shape with the Pistons’ first unit. Tayshaun Prince has taken over much of the play-making duties on the offensive end in what amounts to a point forward role. Meanwhile, Detroit coach Michael Curry has inserted Kwame Brown into the starting lineup in what was essentially, at one time, Ben Wallace‘s job. He’s also shortened the rotation, which may catch up with the veteran squad in the long run, but in any event, Detroit is 3-0 on its swing out west.

In the news

  • The Nets started rookie Brook Lopez in place of injured center Josh Boone and had to be encouraged by the results. Lopez scored 25 points, nabbed nine boards and blocked four shots in New Jersey’s win over Atlanta.
  • Speaking of the the Hawks, Atlanta’s formerly sound perimeter defense was thrashed by the dribble-drive antics of the Nets’ Devin Harris and Vince Carter, who combined for 56 points and 24-of-28 free-throw shooting.
  • The Jazz lost at Charlotte, its third bad loss in a week. The combined record of the three teams Utah has lost to is 10-14.
  • Milwaukee got another strong game from Luc Mbah a Moute, who butted heads with fellow rookie Darrell Arthur of Memphis. Mbah a Moute had 19 points and 17 rebounds in 44 minutes and limited Arthur to 2 points and 2 boards in 23 minutes. Milwaukee outrebounded Memphis 62-36, beating the Grizzlies in overtime. The Bucks are 5-5 on the season, a mark which includes three road wins.

Tonight’s games

  • 13 uta @ cle, 7:30 p.m. EST [ cle by 6 ]
  • 5 ind @ chi, 8:30 p.m. EST [ ind by 2 ]
  • 5 nwo @ hou, 8:30 p.m. EST [ hou by 2 ]
  • 3 bos @ mil, 8:30 p.m. EST [ bos by 5 ]
  • 2 njn @ atl, 7:00 p.m. EST [ atl by 18 ]
  • -9 por @ min, 8:00 p.m. EST [ por by 3 ]
  • -11 okc @ phi, 7:00 p.m. EST [ phi by 15 ]
  • -20 gsw @ lac, 3:30 p.m. EST [ gsw by 8 ]

Notes: Games listed in order of quality, as determined by the sum of each team’s efficiency ratio. NBAPET projected winner and margin of victory is listed in brackets.

Questions or comments?

Kentucky Falls to VMI’s Stun and Gun

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 12:40 am

Last November in his second game as head coach of Kentucky, Billy Gillispie watched his team take the floor in Rupp Arena against a Big South team (Gardner-Webb). Two hours later he headed to the locker room at the short end of an 84-68 final score.

Mark it as progress, then, that last night the Wildcats lost at home to this year’s Big South representative (VMI) by just eight points, 111-103. The Keydets did what they do: they pushed the pace. It’s not that they “ran,” really. True fast breaks were in short supply. Rather, Duggar Baucom‘s team took the seven-seconds-or-less approach and shot the rock after one or, at most, two passes. As a result there were no fewer than 93 possessions in this 40-minute game.

This tactic needs a name. For example it’s different than North Carolina‘s accelerated pace. I propose to call it stun and gun. These teams don’t beat the defense down the floor. True, the play-by-play has no shortage of VMI “LAYUP”s but that’s misleading: these were actually contested shots, albeit ones launched from in close, most often by Travis Holmes (30 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field). VMI also shoots a lot of threes, of course (14-of-31), but Kentucky was plainly stunned at how quickly the Keydets did so within each possession. 

For the Wildcats the surprising aspect of the evening is not simply that they lost, but rather that they lost even though they led 97-95 after having trailed by 23 in the second half. With five minutes left in the game, VMI looked spent and Kentucky was scoring virtually at will. From that point on, however, the Cats recorded as many turnovers as made field goals. Indeed, for the evening Gillispie’s team gave the ball away on 27 percent of their trips. That was the only way a team that was making an inconceivable 64 percent of their twos and rebounding an inconceivable 51 percent of their misses could conceivably lose.

Lose they did. 

November 14, 2008

Greg Oden, What a Bust!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 11:51 pm

[Presumably the first in a continuing series.]

11 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, 3-3 shooting, no turnovers in 24 minutes tonight at New Orleans.

Daily Ten: Thursday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 6:28 pm

The Mavericks have some serious problems.

Dallas fell to 2-6 on Thursday, blowing an early 21-3 lead against the Bulls, eventually losing 98-91. Dallas is 0-3 at home and has played a below-average overall schedule, so that hardly explains the Mavericks’ slow start. Under new coach Rick Carlisle, the Mavs rank 22nd in offensive efficiency and 22nd in defensive efficiency.

On the offensive end, Dallas is a stagnant quagmire, especially in halfcourt sets as Carlisle tries to overlay his template onto his veteran squad. Dallas rarely runs the pick-and-roll, which has been a bread-and-butter play for the franchise ever since Dirk Nowitzki ascended to stardom. Still, though, it’s a new system and Dallas has too much offensive talent–you would think–to continue to struggle for points.

I’m not sure the defensive problems are as easily repaired. The problem against the Bulls was that the wing defenders, especially Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, didn’t have the legs to slow down the dribble penetration of Ben Gordon, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, nor could they stay with their Chicago counterparts in the transition game. After that early surge, Thursday’s game basically turned into a layup drill for the Bulls. Gordon continued his great start with a 35-point outing.

Nov. 13 (9.7% of season complete, 119/1230 games)

PLAYER, TEAM gRATE
1. dampier,erick_dal 11.9
2. gordon,ben_chi 9.9
3. smith,jr_den 8.2
4. hamilton,richard_det 8.2
5. billups,chauncey_den 7.6
6. gibson,daniel_cle 6.7
7. wallace,ben_cle 5.9
8. biedrins,andris_gsw 5.1
9. varejao,anderson_cle 4.9
10. james,lebron_cle 4.0

Explanation of gRATE here:

Center court

The Nuggets had to be encouraged by J.R. Smith‘s solid performance in Cleveland on Thursday. Smith scored 18 points on 11 FTA in his best performance of the season. Smith had shot a combined 13-of-46 over his previous five games, including 3-of-21 on three-pointers. Even after his 7-of-11 performance against the Cavs, Smith is shooting a meager 40% from the field.

In the news

  • A blurb in TrueHoop brought my attention to the fact that Yao Ming has had 17 shots blocked already this season. Blocks against isn’t something I really ever paid attention to until nba.com started including the data in their box scores. So while I track it now, I still don’t know what to make of the stat, other than a higher proportion of blocked shots are one big guy swatting another than I would have thought. Yao’s 17 rejections-against are the most in the NBA but his percentage of shots blocked is only the 10th-highest. Leading the league is DeSagana Diop, who has had five of his 20 FGAs sent back.
  • The fallout from the Suns-Rockets skirmish has resulted in a one-game suspension for Steve Nash while main offenders Rafer Alston and Matt Barnes got two games each. The Rockets play San Antonio tonight and New Orleans tomorrow. The suspension of Alston should boost Aaron Brooks into Houston’s starting lineup and we’ll see how Brooks can do in extended minutes with the Rockets’ first unit, where he’s going to have to be more of a playmaker than a shooter.
  • Possible contrast to Michael Curry‘s game-management style as opposed to Flip Saunders: Detroit’s four starters other than Kwame Brown logged 39+ minutes at Golden State last night, including 43 minutes for Allen Iverson and 46 for Tayshaun Prince. It’s just one game, but let’s keep an eye on this. The Pistons’ bench was a team strength last season.
  • Pomeroy stats favorite Richard Hendrix has been assigned to the D-league by Golden State. Hendrix has not appeared in a game for the Warriors after averaging 20.8 rebounds per 48 minutes during the preseason.

Tonight’s games

  • 23 det @ lal, 10:30 p.m. EST [ lal by 18 ]
  • 7 phi @ ind, 7:00 p.m. EST [ ind by 10 ]
  • 7 den @ bos, 8:00 p.m. EST [ bos by 10 ]
  • 4 orl @ dal, 8:30 p.m. EST [ orl by 11 ]
  • 2 atl @ njn, 7:30 p.m. EST [ atl by 16 ]
  • 2 por @ nwo, 8:00 p.m. EST [ nwo by 7 ]
  • 0 uta @ cha, 7:00 p.m. EST [ uta by 12 ]
  • -1 hou @ sas, 8:30 p.m. EST [ hou by 3 ]
  • -2 was @ mia, 7:30 p.m. EST [ mia by 18 ]
  • -4 phx @ sac, 10:00 p.m. EST [ phx by 7 ]
  • -8 mil @ mem, 8:00 p.m. EST [ mem by 2 ]
  • -12 okc @ nyk, 7:30 p.m. EST [ nyk by 15 ]

Notes: Games listed in order of quality, as determined by the sum of each team’s efficiency ratio. NBAPET projected winner and margin of victory is listed in brackets.

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