Great Players Can Never Play in Fear of TurnoversThe Phoenix Suns beat the Chicago Bulls 112-102 in fairly routine fashion: they pushed the ball up the court, they made a lot of three pointers (10), they built a big lead (15 points), they squandered the entire lead in the second half and then they put the Bulls away with a barrage of jumpers and backdoor cuts. The Suns are a hard team to handle in the regular season, particularly in Phoenix; the Bulls outrebounded them by seven and still lost by 10 points. The eternal question is can the Suns beat the Spurs in a seven game series and the answer so far has been, "No." Leandro Barbosa had a game-high 25 points, while Grant Hill scored a season-high 24 points and Shawn Marion had 21 points and nine rebounds. Steve Nash shot just 3-11 from the field but finished with 10 points, 15 assists and four steals. Ben Gordon led Chicago with 24 points.
Chicago is a very puzzling team this year because the Bulls play well in stretches and then go through periods in which they look completely clueless. Anyone who thinks that Kobe Bryant could not help this team is delusional--the Bulls go through major scoring droughts in nearly every game and he would be the perfect antidote to that, not to mention the fact that his defense would also make the Bulls much better. The problem for the Bulls now is that the Lakers' bench has played very well in the early part of the season, so Bryant is not likely to accept a trade to a team that plays as lethargically as Chicago does. I still think that there is too much talent on this Bulls team to play like this all season but I am less convinced of that now than I was a week ago. Ben Wallace has clearly aged, while Luol Deng and Ben Gordon may be preoccupied with their contract situations.
This game had a real air of inevitability about it: the Suns' running game wears down most teams during the regular season and the Bulls hardly seem like a mentally strong enough group to overcome that kind of pressure right now. The most interesting thing about this contest is something that TNT's Doug Collins said late in the game after Nash threw the ball away. Referring to Nash and New Jersey's Jason Kidd, Collins declared, "There are two point guards in the league who never fear a turnover...They're going to thread the needle and trust their teammates. They never fear the consequences of a mistake, especially under pressure." This dovetails with my view that it is not a big deal if a great player--particularly one who handles the ball a lot--averages three or four turnovers a game. Obviously, careless turnovers should be minimized and throwing the ball away in a crucial late game situation is bad but the point is that players who are responsible for creating a sizable portion of their team's offense will inevitably have a few turnovers. What you don't want is to have a player who has few ballhandling duties but commits several turnovers a game; if one player handles the ball most of the time and commits three to four turnovers a game it is likely that the rest of the team will commit very few turnovers, so the team total will fall within acceptable levels. Does anyone think that Kidd or Nash hurt their teams by committing too many turnovers? There may be one or two games a year in which they have eight or 10 turnovers--but those games are more than offset by their positive contributions in most other games.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:58 AM