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Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Score, the Key Stat, the Bottom Line: The Heat is Off, Durant Sizzles and the Knicks Play Better Without "Starbury"

In Miami, 4-11 is not the number you call for information but the record of the city's pro basketball team. At this rate, the Heat will be dialing 911 before long. While Shaquille O'Neal sails off into the sunset of his career, young Kevin Durant authored the best performance of his rookie season, scoring 35 points as the Sonics beat the Pacers 95-93 to claim their first home win of the season. Everyone is calling for Isiah Thomas' head but, as I've said all along, if Thomas would give "Starbury" the ax then he could prevent the blade from coming down on his own neck. Let's take a closer look at three of Friday night's games:

The Score: Boston 95, Miami 85

The Key Stat: Dwyane Wade scored 10 points, shooting 2-11 from the field and 6-11 on his free throws. He had five rebounds, one assist and six turnovers.

The Bottom Line: The return of Dwyane Wade has hardly solved all of the Miami Heat's problems. For one thing, Wade is not yet playing at the level that he was before he got hurt last season. Another issue is Pat Riley's "subtraction by addition" offseason acquisitions of Ricky Davis and Smush Parker; Davis has no interest in playing any defense and did not contribute much offensively versus the Celtics (six points on 1-6 field goal shooting), while Parker has been playing terribly (.315 field goal percentage) and, to top it off, is dealing with some legal problems as well. Riley's latest move is to bench Davis and point guard Jason Williams in favor of Penny Hardaway and Chris Quinn. ESPN's Stephen A. Smith reported that Shaquille O'Neal had cross words with Riley at a recent practice--O'Neal had little interest in being in shape when he was young and that has not changed with age--but, of course, Smith downplayed the significance of this because any suggestion that O'Neal is not dedicated or challenges his coaches simply does not fit into any storyline that the mainstream media wants to tell. As for the winners, Ray Allen (3-17) and Paul Pierce (7-18) had poor shooting nights from the field but they shot a combined 18-20 from the free throw line as Boston made 16 more free throws than Miami.

The Score: Seattle 95, Indiana 93

The Key Stat: Kevin Durant scored 35 points on 12-20 field goal shooting and posted a game-high +13 plus/minus rating. He had seven turnovers and only two assists but he scored six points in the final minute of the game--all on free throws--to preserve the win.

The Bottom Line: In his previous game, Durant showed some signs of being willing and able to take over down the stretch. It will be interesting to see how teams defend him from now on in such situations. In order to be consistently successful, Durant will have to improve his field goal percentage and demonstrate a more well rounded game than he has so far; this performance is a good start.

The Score: New York 91, Milwaukee 88

The Key Stat: New York trailed 65-52 with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter when Stephon Marbury left the game due to a shoulder injury; Fred Jones took his place and delivered 10 points and two assists in 17:45 of playing time as the Knicks outscored the Bucks 39-23 to claim the win.

The Bottom Line: Is it too extreme to blame one player for the Knicks' troubles? Perhaps, but I'm not saying that Marbury is the only problem; what I am saying is that I can't picture him being part of the solution. The pattern during his career is crystal clear: teams get worse when he arrives and they get better when he leaves. Some would say that Marbury is the most talented player on the team but that may be part of the problem; maybe nobody on the team is willing to stand up to him and/or maybe Marbury does not respect any of his teammates enough to listen. Whatever the case, the point guard handles the ball on nearly every offensive possession and is the front line of the defense and Marbury is simply not someone you can trust with either responsibility.

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:55 AM

16 comments

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16 Comments:

At Saturday, December 01, 2007 9:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

reggie

the heat are done we all know this now shaq is not as good as in the past. celtics is the team right now nobody in the east is going to beat the celts in the playoffs cleaveland lebron has too play out of his mind for real i dont know if he could do it 4 out of 7 gmaes. detroit is old and not going to get it done they need larry brown flip is a eastren conference finlas coach he cant get to the finals. nets PLEASE. chicago is all ready done they are the best team undisputed barring injury to garnett they win the east.

 
At Saturday, December 01, 2007 10:56:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

Deron Wms outplayed Kobe & utah humiliated LAL

according to Sports Illstated preview issue, KG chose to not come to LA due to Kobe's trade demand

face it... Kobe is equally culpable for the exact criticisms you put on marbury

 
At Sunday, December 02, 2007 12:46:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Alternaviews:

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

1) Deron Williams outplayed Derek Fisher and various other point guards; Kobe rarely guarded him. The Lakers' defensive problem in this game, as correctly noted by Hubie Brown, was a complete inability to defend in the paint. Utah scored a staggering amount of points in the paint. If you watched the game then you noticed that Kobe almost singlehandedly kept the Lakers in the game for a stretch.

2) You have completely misrepresented KG's position. KG wanted to play with Kobe but when Kobe pointed out how poorly the Lakers are managed then KG decided that he did not want to go from one mismanaged situation in Minnesota to another one in L.A. His reservations had nothing to do with playing with Kobe and everything to do with the very reasons that Kobe wants to be traded.

3) Every team that Marbury leaves gets better and every team he goes to gets worse. Kobe has only played for one team, so we can't make a comparison on that basis. However, Kobe was the leading playmaker on three championship teams and is a perennial All-NBA and All-Defensive Team member. You cannot possibly actually believe that there is any valid comparison between Kobe's impact on a team and Marbury's. Many members of the media suggested that Kobe would be a distraction to the Lakers this season and/or that he would not play hard. Both of those scurrilous ideas have been thoroughly refuted already. If you read my story about the Lakers-Pacers game then you know that Kobe is mentoring Bynum the way that Shaq should have mentored Kobe years ago: by making the youngster feel included in the group and by giving him advice to help him play better.

 
At Sunday, December 02, 2007 12:52:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

If LeBron could lead the Cavs past Detroit's All-Star packed team in last year's playoffs then why can't he lead Cleveland past Boston in this year's playoffs? Boston's group has much less of a playoff resume than Detroit's nucleus.

 
At Sunday, December 02, 2007 9:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

reggie

our you kidding me pierce allen garnett vs hamilton billups wallace prince garnett is better than wallace and prince and pierce way better than hamilton and allen better than billups, they got 3 super stars not all stars thats why they wont beat them meaning the cavs what? detroit aint no boston.pierce and garnett and allen have plenty of playoff experience.

 
At Monday, December 03, 2007 1:33:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Which team wins a playoff series is not decided by simply matching up individual players on paper; what matters is which team plays together more cohesively, particularly on defense. Detroit's nucleus has been making it to the Eastern Conference Finals for several seasons but an inexperienced Cavs team with only one All-Star--albeit a very, very good one--beat the Pistons. We all understand that Boston has a talented "big three" but none of those guys has even made it to the Finals once. I'm not yet convinced that they will just waltz through the playoffs.

By the way, I'm also not convinced that the individual Det-Bos matchups are as lopsided as you suggest. Yes, KG is better than Sheed but Sheed always plays tough against KG, Duncan and other top players and he has enough length and athletic ability to hold his own against KG. Pierce is a better player than Prince but Prince does an excellent job of holding top scorers below their averages. As for Ray Allen, you have to look at it as Allen and Rondo versus Rip and Billups. Obviously, Billups has a huge edge over Rondo. I'd call Allen versus Rip a draw; Rip could put up a higher scoring average than he does if he played on a team that had fewer scoring threats.

 
At Monday, December 03, 2007 7:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

reggie

the celtics have played great defense so far i dont see that changeing. they havent made iot to the finals becuase they teams sucked previously badly. them together is a diffrent now david and detroit cnat score like them and they played better d than detroit so far, they may not waltz through but they will beat everybody cleveland included, they have 3 guys to one.

and garnett is way better than sheed what does sheed hell play him togh garnett still gets his numbers. pierce better than pierceclearly and garnett is better than pierce and sheed put together pierce better than hamilton and ray allen better than billups they are 3 superstars vs 4 good players i take 3 superstars all day.

 
At Monday, December 03, 2007 7:54:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Detroit beat the Lakers' two superstars in the 2004 Finals. This is a different Detroit team minus Larry Brown and Ben Wallace. All I'm saying is that I am not convinced that Boston is just going to cruise to the NBA Finals. Cleveland and Detroit are two teams that could definitely beat Boston in a seven game series by the time the playoffs roll around; I chose that phrasing carefully, because Boston is obviously rolling right now but I expect Cleveland to be healthy and in prime form by playoff time.

You are missing the point by breaking the matchups down individually. We're not talking about MVP voting or who will make the All-NBA Team. The only relevant question in this particular discussion is which team would win a seven game playoff series. Garnett, Pierce and Allen have much less playoff success on their resumes than the Pistons do on theirs.

 
At Tuesday, December 04, 2007 12:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

reggie

yeah he that was 4 years ago and because the lakers had desention and kobe and the lakers didnt give the ball to shaq enough he shot 30% in the finals and shaq like 60%. but the celtics have 3 guys still legit right now i dont see cleveland beating them when they will have homecourt and will not lose too many at home, the other playoffs success they have had individually is irrelevant they were all on bad teams when had any help all made it to conference finals 02 01 and 04. they will not lose if healthy to none in the east detroit and cleveland time has passed for now.

 
At Tuesday, December 04, 2007 2:52:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

You are contradicting yourself; you say that the lack of playoff success of KG, Pierce and Allen is not relevant but you blame Kobe for not winning anything since the Shaq trade. It should be obvious that Kobe is not playing on a championship level team now. KG, Pierce and Allen each played on very good teams that did not make it to the Finals but when Kobe was on very good teams he played a vital role in winning three championships. The Celtics' big three each have put up big numbers during their careers but they have never won anything. That does not mean that they can't/won't win this year but they are not some kind of mortal lock to win.

I thought that you are a big LeBron guy. Could you see Cleveland beating Detroit four straight times last season? Why can't Cleveland win one game in Boston? The Cavs already beat Boston once this year with a healthy LeBron.

As for the 2004 Finals, you are just parroting the mainstream media's take on what happened. In the only game that the Lakers won, Kobe had a game-high 33 points (plus seven assists) and made the key plays down the stretch. The reality is that the two main reasons that the Lakers lost are the Karl Malone injury and Gary Payton's inability to guard anybody. The veterans from the previous championship teams actually met with Phil Jackson and begged him to bench Payton and rely on them but guys like Rick Fox and Derek Fisher were too banged up to play extended minutes. Walton averaged 4.5 apg, Payton averaged 4.4 apg and Kobe averaged 4.4 apg in the series and the Lakers actually had more assists than the Pistons. However, Detroit outrebounded L.A. decisively (that would be on Shaq and the injured Malone/his replacements, not Kobe). It is also worth noting that the last three times that Shaq has lost in the playoffs (04, 05, 07; he obviously won a title in 06) the center on the other team was Ben Wallace.

 
At Tuesday, December 04, 2007 10:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

reggie

it is not relevant because they were on teams that were not very good, kobe on a better team then them and garnett won 50 games 3 times allen got to the second round with seattle a couple years ago and pierce got to conference finals. and kobe played with shaq in his prime on those championship teams. kobe get me 50 wins and get out the first round 1 time please.

i am a big lebron guy of course but he cant win it on his own. he doesnt have enough around him to beat the celtics if they play this well. maybe but he has to play four game 5 or like he did with the 38 points earlier.

shaq was dominant still kobe should of passed more with other lakers as well. they couldnt stop shaq in that series and kobe shot 35% in that series and got d up by prince. he and the lakers cost them by not passing to shaq. wallace is a great reboundeer he no shaq last year his team was better lakers lost it in 04 and 05 they got lucky wade was a little banged up and in 06 shaq beat him.

 
At Wednesday, December 05, 2007 6:07:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

When KG won 50 games he had two other All-Stars (Cassell and Sprewell) just like he does now. Give Kobe two other All-Stars--heck, give him one other All-Star--and the Lakers will win 50 games; they were on course to do so even with the spare parts they currently have until the whole frontcourt got hurt. Allen was also paired with other All-Stars. Swap KG for Kobe and the Lakers would be no better than they have been--probably worse, in fact, because KG cannot go out and get 50 or 60 points and just win a game. Swap Pierce or Allen for Kobe and the Lakers miss the playoffs the past two years.

The Pistons front and backed Shaq with the two Wallaces; he shot a high percentage when he got the ball but it was not so easy to get it to him. Even so, with a healthy Malone they probably win the title. Don't forget that Fisher got hurt in the previous series and he normally was a clutch player for the Lakers at that time.

I like how anything that goes against your theories is either ignored (KG's All-Star teammates in Minn.) or dismissed as "luck." For instance, why isn't it "bad luck" for Kobe that so many players got hurt after the Lakers got off to a great start last season and were heading toward the fourth seed? Why is Shaq losing to Ben Wallace "bad luck" due to Miami having injuries but the Lakers' injuries are somehow Kobe's fault?

 
At Thursday, December 06, 2007 12:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

reggie

garnett won 50 games 3 times before that with bad teams. they didnt get out the first round but he still got 50 wins with a team probably worst then kobe got now 1999-2000 2001-2002 2002-2003 they played dallas portland and the lakers all clearly better teams. not to say kg is better than kobe i dont think so but he has won more games on worser teams than kobe. and without him boston isnt relevent he is the leader that makes that go.
i know he better than pierce and allen as well my point is even they won 50 games and got out the first round unlike kobe.

they could of got shaq the ball kobe was not passing or any other laker wasnt passing they should of forced the ball to shaq then he was too dominant not to get the ball enough lakers were always better when they went through shaq first and kobe second.

and when garnett won those games he had no help david nice try to say im kobe hateing everything im saying is fact i aint got nuthing agisnt kobe my thing is make players better and he should if he is as good as you and everybody cliam he would do that. and the injuries last year was an excuse he falied lamar and walton and others were playing when they were loseing all those games.

 
At Thursday, December 06, 2007 8:23:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

The 2000 Minn. team had Terrell Brandon, a two-time All-Star who Sports Illustrated once called the best point guard in the NBA; I don't necessarily agree with that but he was a legit All-Star level player. That alone puts Minn. ahead of any of the post-Shaq Laker teams that have had no All-Stars other than Kobe. The rest of the starting lineup was rookie Wally Szczebiak, Malik Sealy and Joe Smith, with Anthony Peeler coming off the bench. All of those guys played at least 71 games and three of them played all 82. The Lakers' top seven players in minutes last season were Kobe, Smush, Odom, Walton, Evans, Bynum and Cook. Odom missed 26 games, Walton missed 22 games and Cook missed 17 games. Odom played in a lot of games when he was at less than full strength and he had to have surgery as soon as the season was over. Even with both squads at full strength, I'd take the 2000 Minn. supporting cast over 2007 LAL; considering the Lakers' injuries, it's not even close. Then throw in the fact that even at the start of the season the Lakers were already scrambling because Kwame, Mihm and Radmanovic were supposed to be part of the eight man rotation--Mihm missed the whole season, Kwame missed half of the season and Radmanovic missed 26 games. I already discussed the Lakers' record without the injured players in a previous comment, so I don't know why you persist in saying that the Lakers started losing when everyone was healthy. You have three obsessions:

(1) The Lakers lost when their roster was complete (FALSE)

(2) Kobe's shooting percentage in a small number of his 40 point games (Who cares?)

(3) Kobe allegedly quit in game seven of the 2006 playoffs (refuted here numerous times; Kobe and LeBron did the same thing in the first halves of their game sevens and the same thing in the third quarters of their game sevens. If one of them quit then they both quit. Of course, neither one quit; they reacted to what the defense gave them, their team's game plan and which of their teammates were open).

In 2002, Wally was an All-Star and Minn. still had Brandon. After Brandon got hurt, Chauncey Billups became the starter. Peeler and Smith were still there and Nesterovic was good enough to later be the starting center on a Spurs championship team. No question that supporting cast is better than what Kobe has now.

In 2003, they lost Billups and Brandon but added Troy Hudson, Kendall Gill and Rod Strickland (for part of the season). That group also was a better supporting cast than what Kobe has now.

How's this: instead of comparing Kobe's supporting cast to what Garnett used to have, look at the rosters of last year's Western Conference playoff teams and tell me which Lakers other than Kobe would crack the eight man rotation on any of those teams? Some of the teams that did not make the playoffs had better rosters than the Lakers but the Lakers finished with a better record because Kobe carried them in the second half of the season.

It's just funny that you would even try to make the case that KG is in any way a better winner than Kobe when KG has spent an entire career losing in the first round while Kobe was a vital member of three championship teams.

How many All-Stars did Pierce and Allen have alongside them when they got out of the first round? How many point guards did they have who are as bad as Smush Parker? How many injuries to key players did those teams suffer? KG, Pierce and Allen did not even make the playoffs last year, so what are you talking about? KG has missed the playoffs for three straight years. Can you even picture a scenario in which that happens to Kobe?

So you think that in the 2004 Finals the Lakers should have passed the ball to Shaq every time even if Sheed was in front and Ben was in back and someone else was wide open? You also don't think that getting outrebounded by a huge margin was a problem. What about Payton getting undressed by whoever he guarded, a situation that was so bad that the Lakers vets called a team meeting with Jackson during the Finals to plead with him to take Payton out of the starting lineup?

 
At Thursday, December 06, 2007 10:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

reggie

the 2000 wolve 2002 and 2003 were no better than the lakers are now terrell brandon lol anthony peeler wally scerbiak? odom as as scerbiak and better than peeler as well, brandon was good at one point but he is not a great player at all bottom line both kg and kobe didnt have one great player on there roster and kg went farther than kobe has kobe never one 50 games in a season kg 3 times scerbiak and peeler are just average players how screbiak doing in seattle? he was a guy who average 18ppg odom average 17ppg last year. they did lose when the roster was complete in the second half of the season when they lost the 7 staight games and they went 9-24 after starting 33-18 odom was hurt some when they were 33-18 so the injuries was a excuse they won games without odom in the first 51 games, and he played last 31 he got hurt the 21st game of the season david i remeber look it up walton and him were out there when they were loseing down the stretch. kwame brown dont mean much?

kobe gave up in the phoenix game he took 3 shots in the second half james took 9 shots in the second half why would james quit in a game they were in it to the end? just cause he had 3 shots in the third quarter and kobe had 2 they were both playing the same james was in a winnable game kobe team was down big so kobe should of been way more aggressive then james was. and james was more aggressive then him in the fourth quarter anyway and kobe team was down 30 and he played 7 minutes of the quarter one shot he didnt give effort he quit david and you said why should he play hard down 30 making excuse for him to quit like everything he does.

rasho nesterevic avg 8 and 11 ppg the 2 years in minnesota kwame gie the lakers 8 and the lakers have 4 guys avg 10ppg now. plus nestrovic avg 4ppg now peeler avg 9 and 7.7 the two years they won 50 games alot of help? joe smith 7.7 ppg in 03 10ppg in 02 come on he was a big help? kobe ahs 4 guys now had odm and walton they had better numbers than all those guys garnett had no help on those teams.

shaq was not always front and backed every play if you watched the series they were plenty of times to get him the ball when they didnt you ffed the big guy not shoot 37% AND JACK SHOTS like kobe did in that series.

 
At Thursday, December 06, 2007 11:23:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Reggie:

Player Efficiency Rating is not the be-all and end-all but it is pointless for us to just go back and forth saying who had the worst supporting cast. Just for fun, let's look at the PER ratings for the top players on the 2000 TWolves and the 2007 Lakers:

PG: Brandon (20.8) > Smush (11.6)
SG: Kobe (26.1) > Sealy (14.4)
SF: Wally (15.4) > Walton (14.7)
PF: KG (23.6) > Odom (16.1)
C: Bynum (15.4) > Rasho (11.0)

Minn. has a huge advantage at PG. SF is basically a wash but keep in mind that Walton missed 22 games, so some of those starting minutes went to Maurice Evans (12.1); when you take that into account, Minn. has the advantage there also. Bynum graded out better than Rasho but Bynum, due to conditioning issues and lack of experience, faded badly in the second half of the season, precisely when the Lakers started losing more. Of course, Kobe wins his matchup, as does KG.

Bottom line: Minn. had better talent around KG, plus their players were healthier than the Lakers' players were.

I've gone over the Lakers' injury situation before; the bottom line is that you don't know what you are talking about. For the last time, during the Lakers' seven game losing streak in March (March 2-15), Odom and Walton missed the first six games. Kwame was just back from his injury and was basically useless and Bynum had run out of gas (fewer than 10 points in five of the seven games, fewer than 10 rebounds in all seven--and he played heavy minutes in most of those games).

Let me get this straight: Kobe, a three-time NBA champion, scores 50 points in game six, then has 23 points in the first half but his team is down by double-digits. So, all of a sudden, for no reason, he just quits? What kind of sense does that make? The Lakers were losing despite all of Kobe's game seven scoring, so in the early minutes of the third quarter they tried to reestablish the "Inside Man" strategy that worked earlier in the series. Did you happen to notice how many layups Odom, Kwame and the other Lakers missed in game seven? Odom went 5-14, Kwame went 2-10, Smush went 4-13 and Cook went 4-11. A team cannot overcome that many subpar performances--and shooting percentage is only half the story, because none of those guys played any defense, either (Phx shot .610 from the field). Now, if Kobe shot a lot and the Lakers lost then you would say he shot too much--but when Kobe tries to get his teammates involved and they choke, you say he quit. You want to know the truth? His teammates quit, from the start of the game. They did not play hard and their defense was terrible. That is the reality.

As for your recitation of everyone's scoring averages, you are once again missing the point: Minn. was a better than average defensive team, while the Lakers were one of the worst defensive teams in the league.

All you ever look at is ppg and shooting percentages. What about the Lakers' problems on defense and on the glass in the 2004 Finals? Shaq is 1-3 versus Ben Wallace in playoff series and Kobe was only there for the first one, so your analysis has some holes in it.

It is so tiresome to hear over and over "Kobe quit" and "Kobe jacks up shots." I have addressed and refuted both of those assertions multiple times and I really am not interested in reading or responding to any more comments along those lines. You obviously are not interested in letting the facts get in the way of your opinion. That's your prerogative, but I have more than given you a say here on those subjects.

 

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