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Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Score, the Key Stat, the Bottom Line: Flash Recharges the Diesel, Celtics Romp, Durant Gets Schooled by Nets

The return of Flash has helped to power up the previously sputtering Diesel; Dwyane Wade had his best game of the season and the extra attention he attracted helped Shaquille O'Neal have his best game of the season as the Miami Heat defeated the suddenly slumping Houston Rockets, 98-91. Meanwhile, the three-headed monster in Boston proved to be too much for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers and Kevin Durant continued to (mis)fire from all angles as Seattle lost yet another game. Here are quick takes on several of Friday night's games:

The Score: Miami 98, Houston 91

The Key Stat: Shaquille O'Neal set season-highs in points (26) and rebounds (14), while Dwyane Wade set a season-high in points (31).

The Bottom Line: No player, regardless of how great he is, can get the job done by himself at the NBA level; if he does not have adequate help then opposing teams will simply feed him a steady diet of traps and dare the other four players to beat them. Shaquille O'Neal's presence in the paint induced the Dallas Mavericks to double-team him in the 2006 NBA Finals, providing a lot of openings for Wade to attack single coverage. O'Neal is no longer the player that he used to be but he can still be dominant in short stretches. When he is on the court with the dynamic Wade the opposing team's defense is stretched to the breaking point. Wade made just five of his first 13 field goal attempts but he warmed to the task down the stretch, hitting six of his final 11 shots and scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter, including seven in the final 2:53 as the Heat closed the game out with a 10-5 run.

The Score: Boston 107, Lakers 94

The Key Stat: Boston center Kendrick Perkins scored 21 points on 8-10 shooting and posted a game-high +30 plus/minus rating; his L.A. counterpart Andrew Bynum scored just four points on 2-7 shooting.

The Bottom Line: The "Big Three" of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined to produce 59 points, 21 rebounds and 16 assists but the hidden reason behind Boston's early season success is great team defense; the Celtics held the Lakers to .422 shooting from the field and Boston ranks first in the league in this very important statistic. Prior to Friday, the Lakers ranked second in defensive field goal percentage but the Celtics shot .506 against them. Even a great night by Kobe Bryant would not likely be enough to overcome that kind of poor defense; Bryant had a slightly below average game by his lofty standards, scoring 28 points on 9-21 shooting, grabbing four rebounds and dishing off three assists.

The Score: New Jersey 98, Seattle 93

The Key Stat: Kevin Durant finished with 12 points on 4-12 shooting; he was also burned several times on defense by Vince Carter.

The Bottom Line: Durant shot his typically poor percentage but he did not jack up quite as many shots as he normally does and that is part of the reason that Seattle only lost by five instead of the nearly nine points that they have typically lost by this year. ESPN commentator Hubie Brown made some interesting observations about Durant during the game. Brown noted that Durant's 6-10 height should give him an advantage at shooting guard but because Durant has no back to the basket game that advantage is largely nullified; meanwhile, at the other end of the court Durant has to chase around smaller, quicker scorers on a nightly basis. Brown added that Durant must gain upper body strength and lower body bulk so that he can hold his ground on the block and finish strongly at the rim. Brown expects that Durant will eventually be a small forward.

When Dan Shulman said that Durant should be used to dealing with double-teams, Hubie Brown pointed out that at the high school and collegiate level Durant could simply elevate over inferior athletes; that is not an option in the NBA and Durant's decision making versus the trap is very poor precisely because he never has had to make such decisions previously. During the Heat-Rockets telecast, Jeff Van Gundy said that he had thought that Durant would be a better rebounder. I noticed these flaws in Durant's game during the summer league and cautioned even at that early stage that if Durant cannot rebound and pass effectively against fringe NBA players during the summer then he would struggle during the regular season--and this has come to pass exactly as I suggested, contrary to what so many "experts" have been saying for months now. During the halftime of the Heat-Rockets game, Bill Walton acknowledged what I have been stressing from the beginning--Durant has some nice tools but he has a lot of work to do mentally and physically to truly be a standout NBA player.

The Score: San Antonio 101, Memphis 88

The Key Stat: Tim Duncan (28 points on 14-17 shooting, nine rebounds) and the Spurs met little resistance in the paint, outrebounding the Grizzlies 48-39. The absence of second leading rebounder Darko Milicic did not help but Memphis has been outrebounded by nearly two rpg this season even though he has played in most of the games so far.

The Bottom Line: My initial preseason thought about the Grizzlies was that they would be much improved simply by virtue of having a healthy Pau Gasol for the whole season--then I saw how softly they played during the NBA Europe Live Tour and I revised my outlook for their prospects downward, which led one Memphis fan site to to award me its "first ever Overreaction Award." This loss dropped Memphis to 3-9. Maybe the Grizzlies will turn their season around but right now it seems like I can trade my "Overreaction Award" in for a "Nostradamus Prize." No hard feelings, guys; I wish the Grizzlies no ill well but I have to call them as I see them when it comes to analyzing games and making predictions. Unlike other commentators, I have neither a personal agenda nor am I part of a television network that must hype up certain players, teams and matchups.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:04 AM

12 comments

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12 Comments:

At Saturday, November 24, 2007 3:22:00 PM, Blogger Spartacus said...

David, as the author of the piece that gave your our prestigious award, let me say that we weren't disagreeing with your assessment of the team. In fact, two of our three bloggers predicted the Grizzlies would miss the playoffs and would struggle for the first portion of the season. Our award was given to you for your abrupt about-face after only a couple of preseason games. Glad to see that you took it in stride, as it was all in fun. Keep up the good work.

 
At Saturday, November 24, 2007 5:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

reggie
you a hundred percent right wade presence is helping shaq like shaq helped wade in 06 finals. shaq can still dominate small stretches but i dont know if he could get 26-14 every game or in alot of games this year he has played better lately though. the celtics is the best team in league and good defensive team the lakers had no shot in that game the big 3 too much for anybody kevin garnett is the man the bulls and lakers were dumb not to trade for him his presence mean so much he makes boston a championship team if they beat the spurs in finals people will say if kg got help younger he would of won more titles than duncan.

 
At Saturday, November 24, 2007 6:04:00 PM, Blogger awopbopaloobopalopbamboom said...

Okay, you were right about the grizzlies but i'm waitin for your coming out about the D of the Bucks...

 
At Sunday, November 25, 2007 12:43:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Spartacus:

What can I say? I was somewhat optimistic about the Grizzlies based on what I saw on paper (Gasol returning being the main factor) but as, Kenny Mayne sometimes says, games aren't played on paper, they are played inside television sets--and what I saw inside mine during the NBA Europe Live Tour was a soft Grizzlies team.

I realize my sudden turnabout leaves a funny impression but at least I got it right the second time :)

 
At Sunday, November 25, 2007 12:48:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

You seem anxious to move people ahead of Duncan--first Shaq (who Duncan has matched in championships won), now KG. Duncan has more impact in the paint than KG both as a low post scorer and as a shotblocker (I'll call it a draw on the glass). Even if KG wins a ring this year he does not move ahead of Duncan in career power forward rankings, in my opinion.

 
At Sunday, November 25, 2007 12:57:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Awopbop:

In my Eastern Conference preview I said that Mil does not rebound or defend well enough to make the playoffs this year. Right now Mil sits fourth in the East with a 7-4 record but the Bucks have 10 road games in December so we'll see where they are at a month from now.

They have a slightly negative point differential, which suggests that they are not as good as their record. They rank 16th in points allowed and 19th in defensive field goal percentage, so their defense is mediocre at best so far. The Bucks are eighth in rebounding differential, so I must say that they are a better rebounding team than I expected them to be. They don't have an exceptional rebounder but are doing a good job collectively on the glass.

 
At Sunday, November 25, 2007 5:42:00 AM, Blogger awopbopaloobopalopbamboom said...

Thanks for the answer ! That's true we have to wait this road trip in december before realizing how good can be this team... But you know before the tip off of the 2007 2008 season, each analyst ranked the bucks at the near end of the list without injuries of last year in their minds, so it was just something where i was dissapointed.

This slighty negative point differential was caused by the disastrous game at san antonio i think and i'm not too worried about that for the future.

In 11 games, they're outrebounded 8 or 9 times their opponents including Cavs, Mavs and there is two wins against bulls & raptors where they scored each less than 85 points - and it never happened the last season !

Just discovered your blog one month ago and i really love it ! The 1984 draft, aba vs nba, your thoughts about durant...

 
At Sunday, November 25, 2007 9:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Awopbop:

Glad to have you as a reader.

I can't speak for what other analysts said about the Bucks but my thought, in addition to the objections I previously mentioned, is that even though the Bucks may be better this year due to a healthier roster that other teams in the East (Boston, Orlando, Charlotte to name just three) also improved, meaning that Milwaukee could be better and yet not have a better record or make the playoffs.

 
At Monday, November 26, 2007 6:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

reggie

no no no david i know duncan has had better carreer than kg but he clearly had more help as well than kg. im saying if kg beat him in the finals people will say what if kg had the help duncan has always had he might have 4 or 5 rings as well.
for the last time shaq is better than duncan david

 
At Monday, November 26, 2007 7:22:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Duncan has had more help than KG but it is not clear to me (1) that Duncan would not have done better with KG's supporting cast than KG did (don't forget that KG missed the playoffs the past three years) and (2) that KG would have won four rings with Duncan's supporting cast.

Shaq was more dominant in his prime than Duncan but their overall accomplishments as winners (four championships each) are comparable. With one more ring, Duncan will set himself up to be remembered as the greatest individual winner of the post-MJ era.

 
At Tuesday, November 27, 2007 4:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

reggie

garnett could win with parker and ginobili you got me there i dont know if he could win 4 in 03 and 05 duncan was super dominant to get those didnt he have a quad double in game 6 vs jersey 03 finals. but kg at that time was dominant as well duncan could get kg team to the playofffs but kg made the playoffs 7 straight years before he finally got out in the eighth. it's always been a debate even though it has queited know since duncan got 4 rings now, but garnett got legit help and people are seeing how good he really is like myself i thought he was overated but too be fair he hasnt had the talent. yes duncan if he win 5 goes over shaq as indivuidual winner but shaq a better player than duncan to me and beat him when it counted

 
At Tuesday, November 27, 2007 5:45:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

I don't understand what you mean when you say that Shaq beat Duncan "when it counted." Don't all the playoff series and seasons "count"? I guess what you mean is that when Shaq was in his prime he beat Duncan--but a player's overall legacy is defined by his entire career.

 

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