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Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Score, the Key Stat, the Bottom Line: Carmelo Anthony is on Fire and Kobe Bryant is the Best Nine Fingered Player in the World

In this "better late than never" edition of "The Score, The Key Stat, The Bottom Line," we will discuss some of the action from Thursday and Friday, including Carmelo Anthony's career game, Kobe Bryant playing with one hand (or at least one finger) tied behind his back, playing uptempo ball against Golden State and Jason Kidd's triple doubles.

The Score: Denver 111, Washington 100

The Key Stat: Carmelo Anthony scored a career-high 49 points on blistering 19-25 field goal shooting. In the first 15 minutes of the game, Anthony shot 11-12 from the field and outscored Washington 26-22.

The Bottom Line: Anthony is something to behold as a scorer. He is a master of several different fakes, his ballhandling skills are good, he is strong and he is a deadly shooter inside of 20 feet. Of course, in this game it helped that he was going against Washington's kiddie corps instead of injured All-Star Caron Butler; the Wizards have done just fine this season without Gilbert Arenas but they are 1-5 in games that Butler has missed.

During the ESPN telecast, Hubie Brown asked a significant question about Denver's high scoring duo of Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson: "How many points are they giving up at the other end of the court against the plus-.500 teams?" That said, Brown noted that Iverson's body of work is incredible, particularly in terms of his career scoring total, his high number of free throw attempts per game and the staggering amount of minutes he has played (and continues to play). I've said it before and I'll say it again: Iverson is the most amazing athlete I have ever seen perform in person. He is not the greatest basketball player I have ever seen--although he is obviously a great player--but for someone who is barely 6-0, 170 to do what he does is simply remarkable. Anthony stole the show with his scoring and shooting but Iverson made his presence felt, too: 18 points on 7-9 shooting, 11 assists, four rebounds.

The Score: L.A. Lakers 117, Orlando 113

The Key Stat: Great players have the ability to play hurt and to adjust their games to compensate for their injuries. Kobe Bryant's dislocated pinkie finger on his shooting hand affected his shooting touch initially but he has worked his way through this problem without missing any games and against Orlando he led the Lakers with 36 points and 10 rebounds, adding six assists.

The Bottom Line: Bryant threw down some vintage dunks in this game but his impact went well beyond both the stat sheet and the highlight reel. Bill Walton said that Bryant's performance versus Orlando was "a defensive lockdown of epic proportions...Kobe Bryant was Bill Russell and Hakeem Olajuwon combined down the stretch on the defensive end." OK, that is a bit of Waltonesque hyperbole but Bryant did come up big at both ends of the court in a road game against one of the better Eastern Conference teams. This epic road trip was supposed to be the death of the Lakers sans Andrew Bynum but Bryant has made sure that won't be the case. Of course, in recent games he has received help from newly acquired former All-Star Pau Gasol, who had 30 points and nine rebounds in this game, shooting 12-15 from the field. Teams have to choose now whether to double team Kobe or double team Gasol but both players are great passers in addition to being accomplished scorers, so whoever is open will get--and make--the shot.

The Score: Chicago 114, Golden State 108

The Key Stat: Chicago shot .561 from the field and 5-9 (.555) from three point range, while Golden State shot .432 from the field and 7-28 (.250) from three point range.

The Bottom Line: Golden State Coach Don Nelson wants his team to play at a fast pace but I have mentioned on several occasions that teams should not be afraid to run right back at the Warriors. Golden State is not a great defensive team--particularly in transition--but they have a lot of quick athletes who can be pesky in the halfcourt, getting deflections and steals. It is much easier to score on Golden State in transition than to engage in "trench warfare" in the halfcourt. When the Warriors get the ball they will almost always go quickly and shoot the first open shot, whether or not it is a good one. Teams that run right back at them can trade made layups for missed three pointers (just look at the field goal percentages cited above). The Bulls raced out to a 32-18 first quarter lead and TNT's Mike Fratello noted, "Part of it is they are doing so well at the offensive end there are no easy baskets for Golden State." If the Dallas Mavericks would have done that consistently they would would have beaten the Warriors in last year's playoffs.

Chris Webber was a non-factor while playing less than 13 minutes in the first game of his second stint with the Warriors (four points, two assists, one rebound). Like Phoenix adding Shaq, the Warriors signed Webber because they realized that they have to have at least one legit big guy roaming the paint. The Warriors are truly becoming "Suns lite," with Baron Davis and Webber serving as the ersatz Steve Nash and Shaquille O'Neal.

The Score: New Jersey 104, Charlotte 90

The Key Stat: Jason Kidd notched the 99th triple double of his career (19 points, 13 assists, 11 rebounds). He leads the NBA with 12 triple doubles this season.

The Bottom Line: Kidd has caught some flak because he has made it clear that he wants to be traded but no one can say that he is giving less than 100% effort when he is on the court. The soon to be 35 year old is averaging 11.3 ppg, 10.3 apg and 8.1 rpg. His field goal shooting is not great but it never has been--and his percentages from three point range (.355) and the free throw line (.811) are both better than his career norms. The reality is that if the financial end can be worked out in terms of matching contracts then it does make sense for the Nets to part ways with Kidd. New Jersey is not a contending team and could use some fresh blood to rebuild, while Kidd still has more than enough game left to really help a good team.

Quote of the Week:

During TNT's broadcast of Thursday's Chicago-Golden State game, the subject of Chris Webber's return to the Warriors for a second go around with Coach Don Nelson led Reggie Miller to ask Mike Fratello about any players he coached on two separate occasions. Apparently, this brought back some very bad memories for the Czar of the Telestrator, who declared, "I only had Bonzi (Wells) one time--and that was enough." Miller said that he hoped Wells was not watching the telecast but Fratello did not back down, saying that he hoped and thought that Wells was indeed watching the game.

Quote of the Week, Part II:

Bill Walton offered these words of wisdom right after Anthony told Ric Bucher at halftime of the Nuggets-Wizards game that no one can guard him one on one: "Nice bit of humility in the halftime interview by Carmelo Anthony. Denver--capable but inconsistent, dangerous but not elite--for a team that leads the NBA in excuses, they're not going anywhere until Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson begin playing just a nominal bit of contain defense." Walton gets carried away sometimes but those seven words--"capable but inconsistent, dangerous but not elite"--are a perfect description of the Nuggets.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:22 AM

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2 Comments:

At Sunday, February 10, 2008 8:41:00 PM, Anonymous engin said...

I really appreciated Kobe's effort against Magic but there were some moments he performed one-on-one's, which i disliked.Besides,that Magic comeback in the 4th quarter seemed to be another "early relaxation can cause a defeat" game,but fortunately we could handle this(the most recent close game Lakers got away with a win was against Sonics).At the end of the matches,Kobe and Gasol can play more pick-and-rolls in my opinion.What do you think?
As for Carmelo,i think him along with Kobe and Rip Hamilton is the best midrange shooters in the league.Another question: Considering the fact that he hit 11 game winners last season,can we say that he is as good a clutch player as Kobe(and Lebron this year) is?

 
At Monday, February 11, 2008 5:03:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Engin:

The Lakers have had some problems closing out games this year but that just makes what Kobe is able to do in such situations all the more valuable. He sets the tone for the team and can stabilize some of the younger players and help them learn how to be champions.

The pick and roll play with Kobe and Gasol will undoubtedly become a deadly part of the Lakers' arsenal but it is not necessarily always the best late game option; that depends a bit on the time remaining and the score. For instance, if the Lakers are trailing with little time left, a pick and roll play is not ideal because the other team will blitz (double team) Kobe and there won't be enough time to feed Gasol the ball. In time/score situations when blitzing is not good then the pick and roll play should be very effective.

Kobe and LeBron have shown that they can have an impact on playoff games and playoff series. Melo has yet to do that, so I cannot rate him as their equal in terms of being a clutch player.

 

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