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Monday, March 27, 2006

Kidd Can Still Play

Steve Nash and Chauncey Billups have been considered top MVP candidates all season, while Jason Kidd did not make the All-Star team for the second year in a row--but Kidd's performances against Billups and Nash the past two days remind everyone that he is still an elite level player (if I had a vote I would select Kobe Bryant as MVP, but that is a discussion for another day).

On Sunday, the Nets defeated the Detroit Pistons, owners of the best record in the NBA, 79-74, Detroit's first loss at home in a non-overtime game since March 28, 2005. Kidd had 7 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocked shots, outplaying Billups--holding him scoreless for the first three quarters--and controlling the tempo of the game throughout; Kidd's ability to get defensive rebounds speeds up New Jersey's attack, because he does not have to wait for an outlet pass to start a fast break.

It is difficult to imagine a tougher back to back sequence then playing the run and gun Phoenix Suns right after battling the physical, gritty Pistons. The Nets not only rose to the challenge, they annihilated the Suns 110-72 on Monday. Kidd had 9 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists in only 27 minutes versus the Suns, while holding Nash to 0 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds in 26 minutes. I wonder when is the last time that a reigning MVP played more than half of a game and did not score? Kidd did not shoot well in either game, but his passing, rebounding and defense dominated the flow of both games. Kidd held Billups and Nash scoreless in seven of eight quarters--and some of Billups' points actually came in transition when he was picked up by Vince Carter.

It's not like Kidd just started playing well these past two games. He ranks first in the league in triple doubles (6), fifth in apg (8.5), sixth in spg (1.9) and 19th in defensive rebounds per game (6.2, an amazing number for a 6-4 point guard). Kidd is averaging 14.0 ppg, 8.5 apg and 7.3 rpg, very close to his career averages in these categories (14.7, 9.2 and 6.5 respectively) and comparable to his production in seasons for which he earned All-NBA recognition.

The Nets' perimeter trio of Kidd, Carter and Richard Jefferson is as good as any in the NBA and if Nenad Krstic continues to provide a solid contribution in the middle then New Jersey will be a very dangerous playoff team. New Jersey has won nine games in a row, the longest current streak in the league, and will soon clinch the Atlantic Division title and the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

posted by David Friedman @ 11:17 PM



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