20 Second Timeout is the place to find the best analysis and commentary about the NBA.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Freaky Friday: A Wild and Wacky Night in the NBA

The NBA took Thanksgiving off but resumed play with a vengeance on Friday. Here is a sampling of the night's great--and not so great--performances:

**Allen Iverson scored a season-high 46 points and added 10 assists in his return to action after missing two games because of dental surgery, leading Philadelphia to a 123-108 win over the Chicago Bulls.

**While Iverson played like an MVP, Chicago's high priced offseason acquisition Ben Wallace literally played like a zero--as in no rebounds in 20 minutes, the first time since February 17, 1999 that he failed to grab a single rebound in a game.

**Kobe Bryant scored 27 points in a 114-108 Lakers loss to the league-leading Jazz but his most spectacular moment happened at the defensive end of the court: Utah led 103-102 with less than four minutes left in the game when Jazz point guard Deron Williams soared to the hoop for an apparently uncontested fast break layup but Bryant flew in--seemingly from nowhere--and swatted the ball away cleanly with his left hand. The Lakers retrieved the miss and scored on their next possession to take a 104-103 lead. Bryant's never say die play is reminiscent of Michael Jordan's two-handed block of Ron Mercer to save a game against the Bulls during Jordan's comeback with the Wizards.

**LeBron James had 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists but the Cleveland Cavaliers completely collapsed in the second half versus the Indiana Pacers, squandering a 56-44 halftime lead to lose 97-87. The Cavaliers only scored nine points in the third quarter and Cleveland mostly ran the "Messiah" offense in the second half--give the ball to LeBron, stand around and hope that he creates a miracle. Indiana's problem for most of the night was an inability to make open shots, but when those shots started to go down Cleveland had no answer. Cleveland got just six points combined from starting guards Eric Snow and David Wesley and the Cavaliers cannot wait until Larry Hughes' sprained ankle heals enough to allow him to return to action. Jermaine O'Neal had 29 points, six rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots for the Pacers, Jamaal Tinsley contributed 19 points, six assists and five rebounds and reserve guard Sarunas Jasikevicius scored 15 points.

**Cleveland's stumble means that the Orlando Magic (9-4) now have the best record in the East. Orlando beat the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat (4-8), 107-104. Dwyane Wade had 33 points and 15 assists in a losing effort. Miami outscored Orlando by 14 when Wade was in the game but trailed 19-2 in the 5:18 that he sat out. The Heat opened the evening as the owners of a dubious triple crown, ranking last in the NBA in scoring, field goal percentage and point differential. Heat Coach Pat Riley started Dorell Wright and Jason Kapono in favor of Gary Payton and Antoine Walker; each Heat starter scored at least 12 points versus the Magic but Walker had only four and Payton none as the Heat reserves totaled just 10 points, no match for the 32 points provided by the Magic's bench. Grant Hill led Orlando with 24 points, while Dwight Howard had 23 points and 12 rebounds.

**Dirk Nowitzki scored 31 points and had 10 rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks beat the San Antonio Spurs 97-94. Tim Duncan had 29 points and six rebounds in defeat. Dallas has now won eight straight games after losing four in a row to start the season.

**Amare Stoudemire showed flashes of his pre-microfracure surgery explosiveness with 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots in a 99-93 Phoenix Suns win versus the New Jersey Nets. The Suns led by as many as 22 but New Jersey cut the margin to 96-93 before Phoenix held on to win. Marcus Williams keyed the Nets' comeback by scoring 21 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter. Remember, New Jersey acquired Williams with the 22nd pick in the 2006 draft; do you think Seattle (Saer Sene), Orlando (J.J. Redick)--and a few other teams--might want to redo the first round?

**Last but not least, Denver beat Golden State 140-129 in the highest scoring NBA game of the young 2007 season. Three players scored at least 30 points: Denver's J.R. Smith (31, including 4-8 three point shooting) and Carmelo Anthony (30, the eighth time in nine games that he scored at least 30 points) and Golden State's Andris Biedrins (31 on 14-17 field goal shooting). Anthony leads the NBA in scoring (30.9 ppg), just ahead of Iverson (30.4 ppg).

posted by David Friedman @ 1:36 AM

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

NBA Leaderboard Heading into Thanksgiving

As you settle in for some Thanksgiving turkey, feast your eyes on some of the individual and team leaders for the 2006-07 NBA season. If your favorite team or player is doing worse (or better) than you hoped/expected, just remember: there are about 70 more games to go.

Best Five Records
-------------------

1) Utah Jazz, 10-1
2) San Antonio Spurs, 10-2
3) L.A. Lakers, 8-3
4-7) Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, Houston Rockets, 8-4

This looks like that old children's quiz that begins "Which one of these doesn't belong in the picture?" If you are looking for last year's Finalists, Dallas is on the cusp (7-4), Miami is...not so much (4-7 and resembling the vessel in Micheal Ray Richardson's classic quote: "The ship be sinking." Even better was his reply to the question how far it could sink: "Sky's the limit.").

Top Five Scorers (and a few other notables...)
------------------

1) Carmelo Anthony, DEN 30.8 ppg
2) Michael Redd, MIL 29.5 ppg
3) Allen Iverson, PHI 28.7 ppg
4) Gilbert Arenas, WAS 28.5 ppg
5) Joe Johnson, ATL 28.0 ppg

8-9) LeBron James, CLE and Dwyane Wade, MIA 27.4 ppg

14) Kobe Bryant, LAL 24.0 ppg

LeBron and Wade will be in the top five by Christmas and Kobe will be in the top ten by that point, if not sooner.

Top Five Rebounders (and a few other notables)
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1) Dwight Howard, ORL 14.1 rpg
2) Chris Bosh, TOR 12.7 rpg
3) Carlos Boozer, UTA 12.6 rpg
4-5) Kevin Garnett, MIN and Emeka Okafor, CHA 12.0 rpg

7) Tim Duncan, SAS 11.4 rpg

11-12) Ben Wallace, CHI and Yao Ming, HOU 10.3 rpg

Howard seems poised to win the first of many rebounding titles. I don't think that Boozer will be number three by season's end. Ranking 11-12 is good for Yao, not so great for Big Ben.

Top Five Playmakers
----------------------

1) Steve Nash, PHX 11.4 apg
2) Chris Paul, NOK 9.4 apg
3) Andre Miller, DEN 9.0 apg
4) Deron Williams, UTA 8.9 apg
5) Jason Kidd, NJN 8.5 apg

Somebody please show this to Charles Barkley so he will stop saying that Andre Miller is not a point guard. "Starbury" ranks 27th, .1 apg ahead of noted playmaker Ricky Davis.

Note: All statistics are from NBA.com; some of the late Wednesday games are not included in these numbers.

posted by David Friedman @ 12:30 AM

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Kobe Wishes the Clippers a Happy Thanksgiving with his First 40 Point Game of the Season

There was a lot of preseason talk that the Clippers are L.A.'s best team but on Tuesday night the Lakers found a formula to silence such speculation: a lot of Kobe Bryant early plus a lot of Kobe Bryant late. Add that up and it equaled Bryant's first 40 point game of the season and a 105-101 Lakers win that vaulted them into first place in the Pacific Division. Bryant shot 12-23 from the field and 15-18 from the free throw line and had five rebounds, five assists, three steals and just one turnover. How close is he to being 100% in the wake of his offseason knee surgery? Pretty close, at least according to Bryant, who said after the game, "I'm back. I feel great." Lamar Odom had 18 points and six rebounds but shot just 6-18 from the field; Bryant's teammates made just 21 of their 66 field goal attempts. Elton Brand and Corey Maggette led the Clippers with 20 points each. Brand also had a game-high 15 rebounds. NBA TV broadcast the game, using the feed from the Lakers television network; Joel Meyers and Stu Lantz handled the call.

Odom opened the scoring in the first quarter with a drive past Chris Kaman, but most of the first quarter was the Kobe Bryant show. His first basket was a turnaround jumper over Quinton Ross, which he banked in while drawing a foul; the three point play put the Lakers ahead 7-2. Bryant hit his first three shots and the Lakers led 11-4. Andrew Bynum played good defense against Brand in the early going but went to the bench at the 8:28 mark after committing his second foul. Brand promptly scored seven points in the next 1:14 and the Clippers went ahead 15-11. Bryant pumped in 20 points in the first 12 minutes and the Lakers led 27-25 at the end of the first quarter. "Not good," said Lantz at that point, explaining that while fans enjoy seeing Bryant score a lot that the lack of balance is not good for the team. There is some validity to that way of thinking; on the other hand, Bryant shot a high percentage, scored most of his points in the paint and got to the free throw line. He exploited opportunities that the defense gave him as opposed to forcing up shots.

The Lakers gradually pulled away in the second quarter and took their biggest lead to that point when Luke Walton's three pointer put them up 38-29 with 7:29 remaining. Walton ranks among the NBA's three point field goal percentage leaders so far, which helps open driving lanes for Bryant and Odom. A few moments later, the Lakers' lead crawled to nine when Bryant scored an improbable reverse layup and made his free throw to complete the three point play.
"The inventor!" Lantz exclaimed when replays of Bryant's shot were shown--but before he had a chance to patent any more shots he picked up his third foul and went to the bench for the remainder of the half.

Lantz, who played for the Lakers in the 1970s, made some interesting observations throughout the game. At one point, he complimented Brand for his strong hands but said that no one's mitts compare to Elgin Baylor's: "Once Elgin got the ball in his hands, just forget it. You'd need a sledgehammer to get it out," recalled Lantz. At the 1:13 mark, Odom picked up his third foul literally seconds after Lantz wondered aloud if Lakers Coach Phil Jackson should take Odom out of the game to prevent just that from happening. "Sometimes you gamble and lose," Lantz commented.
The Clippers trimmed the margin to 51-48 by halftime. "They didn't finish the half the way that Phil Jackson would have liked, obviously, and I'm sure that he'll have some nice words of wisdom for them at halftime," Lantz said.

Brand had 14 points and seven rebounds at halftime. Bryant led the Lakers with 23 points, Kwame Brown contributed seven points and eight rebounds and Odom managed just four points, two rebounds and two assists. Hall of Famer and NBA TV analyst Gail Goodrich offered this halftime assessment of Bryant's play:
"He is letting the game come to him and not forcing it."

Odom opened the third quarter like he was determined to put his sluggish first half behind him, making a three pointer on the Lakers' first possession. A couple minutes later he drove to the hoop, got his shot blocked but recovered the ball and made a layup. The Lakers found their three point stroke in the third quarter, making all five of their attempts from downtown. Meanwhile, Sam Cassell, who shot just 2-8 from the field in the first half, made his first five shots of the third quarter and scored 11 points in a five minute stretch, keeping the Clippers within striking distance at 66-63. "Sam can play forever because he plays pretty close to the ground. His risk for injury is not as high as that of other players who just attack the rim," noted Lantz.

Bryant had three assists in the first five minutes of the third quarter but he didn't forget how to score. "He's been relentless in not settling for jumpers," Meyers exclaimed after Bryant drove to the hoop and drew Ross' fourth foul at the 3:25 mark. Bryant gave a warm greeting to former teammate Rick Fox, who was seated at courtside, before making both free throws to put the Lakers up 77-66. He already had 30 points. Odom scored 10 points in the third quarter and the Lakers led 83-74 going into the fourth quarter.

From time to time you will hear people suggest that the Lakers offense flows more smoothly when Bryant is not in the game. I have one question for these people: "Have you ever actually watched the Lakers play?" Jackson's normal rotation involves resting Bryant at the start of the fourth quarter so that Bryant will be fresh for the stretch run. With Bryant on the bench, Shaun Livingston scored seven quick points and the Clippers tied the game at 83. It took the Lakers three quarters to build a nine point lead and 3:16 to lose it while Bryant sat out.

Of course, Jackson is not the type of coach who rants and raves or calls timeouts. His reaction to the blown lead? He was so concerned that he was sitting on the bench laughing after one of the Lakers' miscues. The Lakers did not score a point in the fourth quarter until Bryant came back in the game and tied the score at 85 by making two free throws at the 5:38 mark. The teams traded baskets for the next few minutes. After Bryant's fadeaway jumper pulled the Lakers to within 89-88 at the 4:38 mark, Lantz said, "He's 80%. I wouldn't want to see him when he's fully recovered." Bryant scored his 37th point when he drove coast to coast, faked Livingston out of his shorts and sank a teardrop that gave the Lakers a 94-91 advantage. Bryant capped off a 10 point fourth quarter by making a jumper and splitting a pair of free throws in the last minute of the game.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:09 AM

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We Have a Winner in the 20 Second Timeout/Warner Brothers NBA DVDs Trivia Contest!

P. Talib, a regular 20 Second Timeout visitor who posts comments under the name "Illest," has won the 20 Second Timeout/Warner Brothers NBA DVDs Trivia Contest by correctly answering all four questions. He will receive the following DVDs: Miami Heat 2005-2006 Champions Special Edition, Greatest Moments in NBA History, Houston Rockets 1994 Champions: Clutch City and Detroit Pistons 1989 Champions: Motor City Madness. Here are the questions again, along with the correct answers and the places on 20 Second Timeout where each answer could be found:

1) Who is the youngest player to win an NBA or ABA scoring title? Answer: Spencer Haywood, who was 20 when he won the ABA scoring title in 1970. Bob McAdoo won the first of his three NBA scoring titles at age 22 in 1974. That information can be found in my HoopsHype article about Bob McAdoo, a link to which is posted on the right hand side of 20 Second Timeout:

http://www.hoopshype.com/articles/mcadoo_friedman.htm

Note: Max Zaslofsky won the 1947-48 scoring title at the age of 22 and was actually a little younger than McAdoo was when he won the 1974 scoring crown but Zaslofsky accomplished the feat in the Basketball Association of America, which combined with the National Basketball League to form the NBA in 1950.

2) Who scored the most points in the NBA in the 1980s? Answer: Alex English, as noted in my HoopsHype article about the silky smooth Denver Nuggets forward:

http://hoopshype.com/articles/english_friedman.htm

3) Which player holds the record for most points scored in his first road playoff game? Answer: LeBron James, as mentioned in this 20 Second Timeout post:

http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/2006/05/cavaliers-and-wizards-work-overtime-to.html


4) Which active NBA player has the most career 40-point games? Answer: "The Answer," Allen Iverson. I examined this topic in a ProBasketballNews.com article titled "Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson: MoreTop 40 Hits than Anyone on the Billboard charts":

http://www.probasketballnews.com/friedman_0314.html

posted by David Friedman @ 1:31 AM

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Test Your Knowledge of Basketball and Win a Warner Brothers NBA DVD!















Holiday shopping season is just around the corner, but you don't have to stand in line and fight the crowds to find the perfect gift for that NBA fan on your shopping list. Thanks to Warner Brothers Entertainment Group, I will award a total of four NBA DVDs to the winner(s) of the 20SecondTimeout Trivia Contest. Here are the four questions--be sure to read the Contest Rules listed below:

1) Who is the youngest player to win an NBA or ABA scoring title?

2) Who scored the most points in the NBA in the 1980s?

3) Which player holds the record for most points scored in his first road playoff game?

4) Which active NBA player has the most career 40-point games?

Hint: All four answers can be found somewhere in 20 Second Timeout.

Prizes (the front covers of each of these DVDs appear in this post):
  1. Miami Heat 2005-2006 Champions Special Edition
  2. Greatest Moments in NBA History
  3. Houston Rockets 1994 Champions: Clutch City
  4. Detroit Pistons 1989 Champions: Motor City Madness
Contest Rules:

1) Answers must be posted in the "comments" section of this post.

2) To win, your answer must include one of the following: your real name, your email address or the name of your blog/website (I can't mail a DVD to "anonymous").

3) Answers must include the question number followed by your answer.

4) The first person to post a correct answer to any question wins the DVD of his/her choice; the second person to post a correct answer to any of the remaining three questions can choose from the three remaining DVDs, etc. If you are the first to answer all four questions correctly, then you win all four DVDs.

5) Contest winners' names will be announced in the "comments" section of this post and in a separate, new post on 20 Second Timeout's main page; the contest winners will also be contacted via the email address or website information that they provide.

6) You don't have to list your DVD preference in your answer; if you win, I will let you know which choices remain when I contact you.

Note:

These four DVDs--plus DVDs about the NFL, NHL and college football--can be purchased at the Warner Brothers website:

www.probasketballdvd.com

posted by David Friedman @ 5:28 AM

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Call Them "Chicag" Because They Have No "O": Lakers Top Bulls, 82-72

Did the Chicago Bulls eat their Thanksgiving turkey early? Other than Andres Nocioni, the Bulls played offense on Sunday night as if they were in a tryptophan induced daze, shooting 27-80 from the field (.338) and losing 82-72 to the L.A. Lakers. Nocioni, who scored a career-high 30 points and made his first six three pointers, shot 11-22, meaning that the rest of the Bulls shot .276. The Lakers hardly burned up the nets (28-70, .400) but they ground out the victory to move to 7-3. Lamar Odom had 23 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. He shot 8-17 from the field and the only blemish on his performance were his seven turnovers. During the ESPN telecast, analyst Greg Anthony said that Odom and Dirk Nowitzki are the two most difficult matchups in the league; he stressed that they are not necessarily the two best players, but that they are extremely difficult to cover because of their size and mobility. Nowitzki has great three point shooting range, while Odom presents a challenge because he is left handed and has good ball handling skills. Kobe Bryant had 18 points, four rebounds and four assists but shot only 5-14 from the field. That kind of shooting has not been the norm for Bryant this year; ESPN ran a graphic showing the top players in the league in "offensive efficiency rating" (points divided by field goals attempted among those players averaging at least 15 ppg) and Bryant ranks third behind Dwight Howard and Kevin Martin.

Nocioni scored 14 points in the first quarter on 5-7 shooting, almost singlehandedly boosting the Bulls to a 21-19 lead by the end of the period; the rest of the Bulls shot 3-13. Bryant was content to move the ball around and hardly looked to shoot, missing his only two attempts.

Neither team scored until the 9:21 mark in the second quarter, when Maurice Evans' three pointer put the Lakers up 22-21. No one scored again until Bryant hit a jumper at the 7:33 mark. Chicago missed 13 straight shots and I was waiting for someone to shout, "Next basket wins." Then came a veritable flurry of points (well, sort of) that pushed the score to 38-35 L.A. at halftime. Young Lakers' center Andrew Bynum played very well in the first 24 minutes, producing seven points, six rebounds and four blocked shots. Later in the game, ESPN's Jim Gray reported that Bynum had candidly told him, "Last year I didn't know what I was doing and I was lost." Bynum's work ethic and determination to become a good player are very evident; he finished the game with 12 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. Odom had eight points, six rebounds and four assists in the first half, while Nocioni shot 0-3 in the second quarter and still had 14 points at halftime.

Smush Parker hit a three pointer to open the third quarter, putting the Lakers up 41-35 and then Bryant hit a short jumper from the post over Kirk Hinrich. The Lakers' 43-35 lead seemed pretty secure--until Nocioni started playing "Around the World" behind the three point line, canning three triples in a little over a minute to help the Bulls tie the score at 52. Odom closed out the quarter with five points in less than a minute to put the Lakers up 62-59 heading into the final period; first he grabbed a defensive rebound and went coast to coast, hitting a gorgeous layup in traffic, then he converted a three point play.

Nocioni tied the score at 62 with his sixth three pointer in six attempts but Chicago did not score for over four minutes after that; the Bulls made only four field goals in the entire fourth quarter. The Lakers extended the lead to 69-62 before Luol Deng ended the run with a free throw. Then the Bulls did not score for another two and a half minutes. Bryant electrified the home crowd with a steal and great pass to Kwame Brown, who delivered an emphatic dunk on Nocioni, who fouled him. Brown missed the free throw. Chicago trailed 74-63 after a Bryant jumper and Odom free throw but just when it seemed like the Bulls were dead Kirk Hinrich made two free throws, Nocioni hit a jumper and Ben Gordon sank a three pointer to cut the margin to 74-70. The Lakers closed out the game by playing good defense and making their free throws.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, who once coached the Bulls to six championships, offered this assessment of his old team: "You know they're driven. They'll push you to the extreme and they'll wear you out because they work so hard. They're a hard-achieving team, and sometimes there's more froth than substance -- sort of like a latte. There's not much there. I didn't mean that to be an insult, but they have trouble scoring."

posted by David Friedman @ 1:44 AM

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Pro Basketball's Greatest Ball Hawks

NBCSports.com has just published my article titled "Pro Basketball's Greatest Ball Hawks." It is currently being featured on their main NBA page, accompanied by photos of Julius Erving, Kevin Garnett and Hakeem Olajuwon.

"Pro Basketball's Greatest Ball Hawks" discusses the sport's most versatile defenders, members of the "100/100 Club": players who accumulated at least 100 steals and 100 blocked shots in the same season. Erving is the club's "founder" and "president," since he is the first player to officially accomplish the feat (the NBA did not record steals and blocked shots until 1973-74, one year after the rival ABA began tracking those numbers). He had 12 such seasons, tied with Olajuwon for the all-time record. Garnett, one of five players who had "100/100" seasons in 2005-06, has done this eight times, trailing only Erving and Olajuwon.

Here is a direct link to the article:

Pro Basketball's Greatest Ball Hawks

posted by David Friedman @ 2:32 PM

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