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?
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)
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.
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.