Stats & Info: NBA

Top stats to know: NBA Draft reaction

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27
11:29
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Getty ImagesAndrew Wiggins (center), Dante Exum (left) and Julius Randle all found NBA homes Thursday night.
After Andrew Wiggins joined Anthony Bennett in Cleveland (both the only Canadian-born players to be drafted first overall), the 2014 NBA Draft was only getting started.

Here's a look at some of the top stats and storylines from one of the most anticipated NBA Drafts in league history.

Parker, Embiid fill out Top 3

With Wiggins off the board, the Milwaukee Bucks selected Jabari Parker second overall. Parker was part of an elite group of freshmen to dominate both inside and out in college during the last 15 seasons.

The Philadelphia 76ers chose Joel Embiid with the third pick, giving Kansas as many top-three picks in this draft as it had in the rest of the common draft era combined (Danny Manning and Raef LaFrentz).

When healthy, Embiid, along with last year's lottery pick Nerlens Noel, should help a Sixers team that ranked 28th in the NBA in rebounding percentage last season. In his freshman season, Embiid led all Big-7 players with a 20.5 rebounding percentage.

Randle continues Kentucky tradition

From one storied program to another, former Kentucky standout Julius Randle was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers with the seventh pick in the first round.

After the Lakers finished last in the NBA in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentages, Randle will be expected to duplicate his double-double dominance from Day One.

Only Michael Beasley recorded more double-doubles in a freshman season than Julius Randle did last year.

Vonleh, McDermott stand out for Midwest

Noah Vonleh went to the Charlotte Hornets with the ninth selection. Vonleh led the Big Ten in field goal percentage (50 percent) on catch-and-shoot plays, ahead of Michigan's Nik Stauskas (minimum 25 plays).

This was the first time Indiana had top-10 picks in consecutive drafts since 1976-77.

Doug McDermott, who became the first Creighton player selected in the first round since Benoit Benjamin in 1985, continued the lottery legacy of Wooden Award winners.

Since 2005, every Wooden Award winner has been a lottery pick. The last winner to not go in the lottery was Jameer Nelson, who was drafted 20th overall in 2004.

UCLA trio pulls a first since 1979

The UCLA Bruins had three players selected in the first round of the NBA Draft for the first time since 1979.

Freshman point guard Zach LaVine was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the 13th pick. The Memphis Grizzlies turned some eyes by selecting Bruins shooting guard Jordan Adams with the 22nd selection. And sophomore point guard Kyle Anderson sealed the deal when he went to the San Antonio Spurs with the final pick of the first round.

Anderson is one of three players in the last 30 seasons to average at least 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists in a season , joining Memphis State's Anfernee Hardaway (1992-93) and Ohio State's Evan Turner (2009-10).

Top stats to know: NBA Draft

June, 26, 2014
Jun 26
11:42
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The 2014 NBA Draft is loaded with talent. Here is everything you need to know about the top prospects.

Joel Embiid, Center, Kansas

Embiid averaged 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds in 2013-14. His accolades included AP 2nd Team All-America, Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, 2nd Team All-Big 12, Big 12 All-Defensive and All-Newcomer Team.

Embiid's 72 blocked shots were a Kansas freshman record. He shot 55 percent on post-ups this season, the highest percentage in the Big 12 (minimum 50 plays). Embiid also shot 93 percent on offensive rebound put-back attempts, the highest percentage in the nation (minimum 25 plays).

Jabari Parker, Forward, Duke

Parker averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds in 2013-14. His accolades included AP 1st Team All-American and ACC Rookie of the Year.

Parker became the first Duke freshman to lead team in scoring (19.1) and rebounding (8.7). He is also the fifth Duke freshman to enter the NBA Draft, joining Corey Maggette (1999), Luol Deng (2004), Kyrie Irving (2011) and Austin Rivers (2012).

Only two freshmen besides Parker in the last 15 seasons averaged at least 19 points and 8 rebounds per game while shooting 35 percent on 3-pointers (Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley).

Andrew Wiggins, Guard, Kansas

Wiggins averaged 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in 2013-14. He won Big 12 Freshman of the Year and made the 1st Team All-Big 12.

Wiggins scored on 69 percent of his transition plays, the highest percentage in the Big 12 (minimum 50 plays).

Noah Vonleh, Forward, Indiana

Vonleh, Big Ten Freshman of the Year, averaged 11.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in 2013-14. He led the Big Ten in rebounding (9.0) and also paced the conference in field goal percentage (50 percent) on catch-and-shoot jumpers (minimum 25 plays).

Julius Randle, Forward, Kentucky

Randle, the SEC Freshman of the Year, made the 2014 Final Four All-Tournament team. He also set Kentucky single-season freshmen records in rebounds (417), double-doubles (24) and made free throws (204).

Randle began his career with seven straight double-doubles, tying Jim Andrews' school record for consecutive double-doubles to start a season (set in 1971-72). He led all players in double-doubles in 2013-14 with 24, the second-most by a freshman in D-I history.

Danté Exum, Guard, Australia

Exum can become the fourth Australian-born player to be selected in the top 7 during the Common Draft Era (since 1966), including two with the No. 1 overall pick. He can become the fourth point guard ever to be drafted in the top 10 after not attending an American college.

Marcus Smart, Guard, Oklahoma State

Smart led Oklahoma State in scoring (18.0), assists (4.8) and steals (2.9). He made two All-Big 12 Defensive teams (2012-13, 2013-14) and ranked third in the nation in steals per game (2.9) and seventh in steal percentage (5.0).

Aaron Gordon, Forward, Arizona

Gordon, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, averaged 12.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in 2013-14. He set the Arizona freshman record for rebounds (303) and an Arizona NCAA Tournament record with 18 rebounds vs Wisconsin in the Elite Eight.

As the primary defender last season, Gordon allowed 0.71 points per play, fifth best in the nation (min 300 plays).

Doug McDermott, Forward, Creighton

McDermott was named an AP 1st-Team All-American 3 times, becoming the 11th player all-time to accomplish that feat. He led nation in points (934) and points (26.7) as a senior.

McDermott is one of three players in NCAA history to score at least 3,000 points and grab 1,000 rebounds (Lionel Simmons and Harry Kelly).

Nik Stauskas, Guard, Michigan

Stauskas averaged 17.5 points and 3.3 assists on his way to being named Big Ten Player of the Year and 1st Team All-Big Ten.

Stauskas is one of three players ever to make at least 80 3-pointers and shoot 44 percent on 3-pointers as a freshman and a sophomore. He shot 53 percent on spot-up plays last season, second-best in Division I (minimum 100 plays).

Cavs are worst drafting team in NBA

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20
2:16
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David Richard/USA TODAY SportsAnthony Bennett is the latest top pick who is under performing for the Cleveland Cavaliers
For the second straight year and third time in four years, the Cleveland Cavaliers have the No. 1 pick -- all since losing LeBron James in 2010.

In seven seasons with James, the Cavs won 60.8 percent of their games, made five playoff appearances and won 42 playoff games. The Cavs have not made the playoffs since James left and they have won 31.1 percent of their games, the lowest win percentage in the NBA during that time.

Their lack of success on the court over the last four seasons could be attributed to a lack of success in the NBA Draft.

Over the last 10 NBA Drafts -- since they drafted James -- the Cavaliers are statistically the worst drafting team in the NBA.

The Cavaliers average draft pick is 2.4 win shares per season worse than the average win shares for that draft slot, among top-20 picks. Win shares are an estimate of the number of wins a player contributes to his team due to his offense and defense.

For example, the Cavaliers drafted Luke Jackson with the 10th pick in 2004. He produced a total of 0.2 win shares in four seasons for an average of 0.05 per season. The average No. 10 pick over the last 10 drafts has produced 3.95 win shares per season, for a difference of -3.9.

Only two of the Cavaliers' seven top-20 picks since 2004 have produced more win shares than the average for their draft position -- J.J. Hickson and Tristan Thompson. The other five -- Jackson, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett and Sergey Karasev -- have performed below expectations in terms of win shares.

Since 1985, Bennett had the fewest win shares of any No. 1 pick in their rookie season, -0.4, which was slightly worse than Michael Olowokandi during his rookie campaign.

Best drafting teams

On the other end of the spectrum, the Indiana Pacers have been the most successful team in the NBA Draft over the last 10 years, followed by the Thunder/SuperSonics franchise. The Pacers successes include Paul George and Danny Granger, while the Thunder/SuperSonics successes include Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

Why Cavs should pick Jabari Parker

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20
10:55
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US PresswireJoel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins are expected to be early picks in the 2014 NBA Draft.
By jumping from the ninth spot to first in the NBA Draft Lottery, the Cavaliers expect to get a better player who makes a long-term impact. But how big of a difference is that eight-spot jump?

The Cavs gained 1.6 expected wins per season based on historical win shares at the first pick compared to the ninth pick.


Expected wins: prorated version of win shares for a season. It measures the win shares a player would be expected to produce if he played 36 minutes per game for 75 games.

Jabari Parker averaged 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game during the 2013-14 season at Duke, earning the USBWA National Freshman of the Year Award and becoming a consensus first-Team All-American.

If the Cavaliers’ goal is to win now to fight for a playoff berth, retain Kyrie Irving and vie for elite free agents, Parker’s offensive polish makes him a safe pick.

Parker: Complete offensive package

Parker and Andrew Wiggins were focal points of their respective team’s offense, but Parker was more successful. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Parker ranked sixth among major conference players (AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC) with 16.1 half-court points per game.

Despite being a freshman, Parker was one of five players in major conferences to have at least 600 plays. The other players on the list – Doug McDermott, T.J. Warren, Bryce Cotton and Shabazz Napier – were members of the All-American team or earned their conference’s Player of the Year Award.

One knock on Wiggins’ game has been his lack of aggression in attacking the hoop. Parker demonstrated his offensive tenacity by attempting 94 more shots in the paint than Wiggins this past season.

The Cavaliers were one of the worst teams in the paint during the regular season, shooting 51 percent (league average: 54 percent).

Moreover, the Cavaliers averaged six post-up points per game during the regular season, 26th in the league according to Synergy Sports Technology, shooting 43 percent on such plays. Parker averaged 3.6 post-up points per game, shooting 55 percent on such shots. His post-up efficiency was as good as Joel Embiid’s, who also shot 55 percent on post-up plays.

Although Wiggins is being labeled a perimeter player, Parker shot better outside the paint this season, including from 3-point range. Parker made 36 percent of his shots from outside the paint compared to 33 percent for Wiggins.

Perhaps history is on Parker’s side as well. Duke wing draftees have averaged 116 more games than Kansas wing draftees since the merger (since 1976).

Spurs advance to NBA Finals

June, 1, 2014
Jun 1
1:04
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Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)Gregg Popovich (left) and Tim Duncan (right) advanced to the NBA Finals for the sixth time.
Game 6 was different than any other contest in the 2014 Western Conference Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. After the first five games were decided by an average margin of 20.4 points per game, Game 6 was decided in overtime. After 23 lead changes and ties over the first five games, Game 6 featured 31 lead changes and ties. And that was just the beginning.

Spurs share the ball well, Thunder do not
The Spurs won the game by sharing the basketball, while the Thunder got 95 percent of their points from four players: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka. Only five players scored for the Thunder in Game 6, and those players attempted 78 of the team's 82 field goals. All 11 players who logged time for the Spurs in Game 6 shot the ball, and all but one scored.

San Antonio scored 51 bench points compared to just 5 for Oklahoma City, with the 46-point bench differential setting the mark for the largest in any game this season (regular season and playoffs).

A breakdown of each team’s half-court offense illustrates the offensive contrast. The Spurs had 288 passes on 105 half-court plays, while the Thunder had 137 on 100 half-court plays. One one hand, the 1.4 passes per play for the Thunder in Game 6 was their lowest of the series. On the other hand, the 2.7 passes per play for the Spurs was just above their average (2.5). Oklahoma City had 62 plays with one or fewer passes, while San Antonio had 31.

Thunder duo still dynamic
Lost in the shadow of defeat was a tremendous scoring effort from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Both scored at least 30 points in the same game for the eighth time in their postseason careers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that surpasses Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal for the second-most such games by a pair of teammates in NBA playoff history.

Westbrook had another stellar game in his own right. For the second time this postseason, Westbrook posted at least 30 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals in the same game, joining Michael Jordan as the only players with multiple 30-5-5-5 games in a single postseason. Jordan did so twice, in both 1989 (4) and 1990 (3).

Spurs reach NBA Finals
For the first time in franchise history, the Spurs will make back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals. This marks the sixth NBA Finals appearance in franchise history, all of which have come in the Tim Duncan-Gregg Popovich era.

Lurking in the NBA Finals are familiar foes in the Miami Heat, who defeated the Spurs in the 2013 NBA Finals in seven games. This marks the first NBA Finals rematch since the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz met in consecutive Finals in 1997 and 1998.

San Antonio displayed great resilience, becoming the first team since 1988-89 Pistons to make it back to the NBA Finals after losing a Game 7 in the Finals the prior year. Spurs fans are hoping they emulate the success of the Bad Boys, as the Pistons won the 1989 Finals after suffering that Game 7 defeat in 1988.

Keys to victory: Nets 104, Heat 90

May, 11, 2014
May 11
12:23
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Behind a strong effort from their offense, the Brooklyn Nets bounced back in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to hand the Miami Heat their first loss this postseason, 104-90.

Deron Williams recovered from his scoreless outing in Game 2 with 9 points and 11 assists, his first double digit assist game of this postseason. Joe Johnson scored 19 points and Paul Pierce 14.

The Heat had not faced a fourth-quarter deficit in the 2014 playoffs and their first postseason loss since Game 5 of last year's NBA Finals. The loss matches the Heat's fifth biggest postseason loss in the Big-3 era (since 2010-11).

The Nets are now 2-10 all-time against Miami in the playoffs. The Heat had been an unsolvable riddle for the Nets before snapping a six-game playoff losing streak versus them.

James quiet after big first quarter
LeBron James scored 28 points for the Heat, his most in a game this series. He scored 16 points in the first quarter but had 12 the rest of the game. A key difference was his inability to make jump shots.

He was 4-of-5 shooting when Paul Pierce guarded him in the first quarter.

The rest of the series, James is 4-of-11 against Pierce, including 0-of-2 in the last three quarters of Game 3.

Nets strong from three-point line

The Nets were 15-25 from the three-point line (60 percent from deep), their most makes in a playoff game in 25 seasons. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the fifth time in NBA playoff history that a team has taken at least 25 three pointers and made 60 percent or more.

In Game 3, the Nets had 10 uncontested jump shots (47 total jumpers) and made eight (all assisted).

Heat struggle in the paint

Miami scored a postseason-low 26 points in the paint in Game 3. They had 43 PPG in the paint during the first two games of the series.

Top stats to know: Raptors at Nets

May, 2, 2014
May 2
1:56
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Credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan DenetteDeMar DeRozan and the Raptors take on the Nets in Game 6 Friday night

The Brooklyn Nets will try to avoid elimination at home Friday night against the Toronto Raptors on ESPN2.

Here are the top stats to know for each team heading into Game 6.

Nets
The Nets are 0-4 all-time as an NBA franchise in best-of-7 series when trailing 3-2.

They are trying to be the first Eastern Conference 6-seed to beat a 3-seed since the Nets beat the Raptors in the 2007 first round. Current Nets head coach Jason Kidd averaged a triple-double in that series with 14 PPG, 10 RPG and 13.2 APG.

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have 277 games worth of playoff experience while the entire Raptors roster has just 202. The Nets duo has combined for 5,467 points in their postseason careers, more than four and a half times that of the Raptors roster (1,208).

Experience isn’t everything in this series, however. The Nets were outscored by 31 points in 24 minutes with Pierce on the court in Game 5, his worst plus-minus in any game since May 10, 2008, against the Cavaliers.

Deron Williams is averaging 23.0 points and 1.5 turnovers per game in the two Nets victories. In their three losses Williams is averaging 12.7 points and 3.7 turnovers per game.

Raptors
The Raptors are seeking their second playoff series win in franchise history. They defeated the New York Knicks in the first round in 2001. The Raptors’ 13 year drought is tied for the 2nd-longest active drought in the NBA. Only the Trail Blazers have gone longer without a playoff series win (14 years).

Kyle Lowry scored 17 of his career playoff high 36 points when guarded by Williams in Game 5. Lowry is now averaging 21.8 points per game in the series, five more points per game than Williams.

DeMar DeRozan registered his 4th straight 20-point playoff game in Game 5, the 2nd-longest streak in Raptors history behind (Vince Carter's 8.

Should the Raptors win this series, they will face the Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Raptors are 0-14 against the Heat in the James-Wade-Bosh era (start of the 2010-11 season).

Next Level nuggets from Saturday

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
1:36
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It was a wild opening to the NBA playoffs. Three of the four games were won by road teams, just the second time in NBA history that three road teams won Game 1 of the First Round on the first day of the postseason. It also happened in 1996.

Playoff games are all about matchups. Here are the biggest ones from the four Saturday games.

Nets 94, Raptors 87

Paul Pierce
Pierce
The story of this game was Paul Pierce, who scored nine of his 15 points in the 4th quarter. Seven of those nine points were scored when Patrick Patterson was the primary defender.

DeMar DeRozan, however, had a much more disappointing day. He was 3-for-13 from the floor, including 1-for-9 on jump shots.

DeRozan averaged 9.6 points per game on jump shots during the regular season, tied for seventh best in the NBA..

Warriors 109, Clippers 105

Chris Paul scored 28 points Saturday, but struggled with Klay Thompson as his primary defender. Paul missed his first eight shots when guarded by Thompson, who also forced three of his six turnovers.

But Doc Rivers and the Clippers shouldn't want Paul to score that much. They now have seven wins and five losses this season when Paul scores 25 points or more. They're 37-12 when Paul scores fewer than 25.

Hawks 101, Pacers 93

Jeff Teague helped to snap the Hawks eight-game road playoff losing streak, scoring 28 points, a new playoff career high. 78 percent of his field goal attempts came on drives, and he scored 20 points on those shots (including free throws).

Teague averaged just 5.6 points per game on drives during the regular season.

Roy Hibbert, however, continued to struggle. Hibbert was 4-for-9 from the floor Saturday and has not made a shot outside the paint since April 4.

In his first 77 games this season, he shot 40 percent on such shots.

Thunder 100, Grizzlies 86

Kevin Durant
Durant
Kevin Durant had 33 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. That makes nine straight postseason games where Durant had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, tied for the fourth-longest streak in NBA history.

The only Grizzlies player that could contain Durant Saturday was Tony Allen. He held Durant to 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting (36 percent) Saturday, but Durant scored 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting (73 percent) against everyone else.

But we all knew Durant is good and would be tough to stop. What we didn't know was how bad the Grizzlies would be outside of the paint.

Memphis missed its first 18 shots from outside the paint Saturday before hitting their last attempt of the second quarter. The Thunder outscored the Grizzlies 23-3 outside the paint in the first half, making up most of Memphis' 22-point halftime deficit.

Two of the West's best face off in L.A.

April, 9, 2014
Apr 9
2:56
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Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty ImagesKevin Durant's streak might be over, but he will look to get the best of the Clippers Wednesday night.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will be in L.A. to face the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. These teams have been two of the NBA's best this season, but lately they have been heading in different directions.

The Clippers are 18-3 over their past 21 games, outscoring opponents by 10.6 points per game. Oklahoma City, on the other hand, entered the All-Star break at 43-12 but is 13-9 since.

The Thunder have lost three of their past four road games, whereas the Clippers have won nine of their past 10 home games.

The streak is over, but still much to be done
Kevin Durant’s streak of scoring at least 25 points ended Tuesday night against the Sacramento Kings. The 41-game streak is the third-longest single-season streak in NBA history.

But there is still plenty for Durant to accomplish this season.

He is averaging 32.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists. Durant is seeking to become the fourth player in NBA history to average at least 32 points, 7 boards and 5 assists in a single season.

Leading Carmelo Anthony by 4.5 points per game, Durant is a virtual lock to become the fifth player in NBA history to win at least four scoring titles. His per-game lead over Anthony would be the third-largest gap between first and second in scoring average dating to 1969-70.

A new vibe in L.A.
The Clippers’ first season in Los Angeles was 1984-85. From that point through the 2010-11 season, they posted a .349 win percentage -- worst in the league during that span.

Since trading for Chris Paul, they have won nearly 67 percent of their games, the fourth-best mark in the NBA. And this season is no different.

Last year, the Clippers set a franchise record with 56 wins. They are at 55 wins with four games to play this season.

Thunder cooling off?
A main reason for the drop-off from the Thunder's pre-All-Star pace has been Oklahoma City's defensive struggles.

The Thunder allowed 99.3 points per 100 possessions before the break (third best), but have yielded 104.6 since (14th). Opponents are cashing in at the 3-point line, making 9.7 per game on an efficient 39.5 percent shooting, both of which rank second highest in the league during that span.

In losses, the defense has failed Oklahoma City even more. The Thunder are allowing 116.2 points per game in losses since the All-Star break.

Tuesday night, the Thunder beat the Kings, but that doesn't necessarily bode well for them. Oklahoma City is 7-6 on zero days' rest this season.

Series matchup
The Clippers are 2-1 against the Thunder this season, but Durant has had his way with L.A.

Durant is averaging 34.3 points and 9.3 assists in the three games against the Clippers this season. He has scored 30 or more points in five of the past six meetings between the teams.

Lakers show Thunder 18-point lead not safe

March, 9, 2014
Mar 9
8:49
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Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty ImagesJodie Meeks scored a career-high 42 points against the Thunder on Sunday in Los Angeles.
For the first time in nearly two years, the Oklahoma City Thunder wasted an 18-point lead.

Behind Jodie Meeks’ career-high 42 points, the Los Angeles Lakers dug out of a big first-half hole and beat the Thunder 114-110 on Sunday. The last time the Thunder had squandered an 18-point lead was April 22, 2012 – also against the Lakers, also in Los Angeles.

After Oklahoma City took a 46-28 lead with 7:39 left in the second quarter, the Lakers went on a 59-31 run through the end of the third quarter.

Quiet triple-double
Conspicuous by his absence during the Lakers’ run was Kevin Durant. He was 2-of-5 shooting for seven points from the Thunder’s high-water mark to the end of the third quarter, which ended with the Lakers leading 87-75.

Still, Durant finished with 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. It was his third triple-double this season, which equals the number he had in his first six seasons combined.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the first time that the team with a conference’s worst record beat the team with that conference’s best record in March or later since April 18, 2001. In that instance, the Chicago Bulls (14-67) defeated the Philadelphia 76ers (56-25) in the final game of the season. NBA MVP Allen Iverson did not play.

Meeks in great company
The Lakers scored 15 points in transition – all by Meeks, who averaged 4.5 transition points entering the game. Meeks (11-of-18 from the field, 14-of-14 from the free-throw line) is the fourth Lakers player since the merger (1976-77) to score 40 or more points while shooting at least 10 free throws without a miss. The others are Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The Thunder entered Sunday’s game shooting 42.3 percent in isolation situations, the third-best percentage in the NBA. On Sunday, the Thunder struggled in isolation, shooting 14 percent (1-of-7).

The Thunder hadn't allowed a 40-point scorer in the first 61 games of the season. In the last two games, Gerald Green of Phoenix and Meeks each topped 40. The last time the Thunder/SuperSonics franchise allowed 40 points to players in back-to-back games was December 2000: Antawn Jamison of Golden State (51) and Jerry Stackhouse of Detroit (41).

James Harden struggles mightily vs Pacers

March, 6, 2014
Mar 6
2:43
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James Harden is averaging just 17.0 PPG against the Pacers since becoming a Rocket.

Friday night at 9:30 ET on ESPN the Pacers will be in Houston to face the Rockets. Houston is 0-3 against Indiana since James Harden arrived in Houston last season. The biggest reason for the Rockets goose egg is how Indiana has bottled up Harden.

Harden is averaging just 17.0 points on 24.6 percent shooting in three games against the Pacers over that span (tied for his lowest scoring average against any team – Clippers).

Harden totaled just 12 points on 3-of-14 shooting in the only meeting between these teams this season back on December 20th in Indiana.

Paul George suffocating defense
Paul George has guarded Harden on over 60 percent of his shot attempts in those three games.

Harden is 9-of-35 shooting (26 percent) against George, and six of those makes have come with the help of a screen as the pick-and-roll ball handler.

Roy Hibbert protecting the rim
Harden is scoring just 3.3 paint points per game against the Pacers, compared with 8.5 against all other teams. He’s shooting 5-of-19 inside the paint against Indiana.

The defensive presence of Roy Hibbert is one reason why Harden can’t convert in the paint. His average shot distance (15 feet, six inches) is also two feet further out against the Pacers compared with other teams.

According to player track data on NBA.com, opponents are shooting 41.7 percent at the rim when Hibbert is on the court. That mark is best among the 57 players whose opponents record at least 5 field goal attempts per game at the rim.

Pacers transition defense
Harden has led the NBA in transition points in each of the last two seasons, averaging 7.2 transition points per game.

The Pacers have allowed the fewest transition points per game in the NBA over that span, and have not let Harden get going with easy baskets.

He’s averaging 3.3 transition points per game against the Pacers, on 4-of-11 shooting in three games.

How Curry has been so effective

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
12:57
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Kyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsStephen Curry is having a career season for the Warriors.
With Chris Paul possibly out through the All-Star break, Stephen Curry is making the argument to be the Western Conference’s starting point guard. He will lead the Golden State Warriors against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night at 10:30 ET on ESPN.

Curry is averaging career highs in points (23.0), assists (9.3), rebounds (4.6), steals (1.9) and player efficiency rating (21.85). His points and assists per game averages put him in the top 10 of both categories, the only player to do so this season.

The last player to average at least 23 points and 9 assists per game for a season was the Warriors’ Tim Hardaway in the 1991-92 season.

Curry creates for teammates
Curry has emerged as one of the league’s top passers, ranking in the top five of most passing categories. He’s averaging a career-high 9.3 assists per game, second to Chris Paul’s 11.2.

According to NBA.com’s player tracking, Curry has created an average of 20.8 points off assists per game this season, second to Paul’s 25.3.

Curry has at least 10 assists in 16 games this season, which has already surpassed his previous career high (15). That is ranked second in the NBA this season, as Paul has recorded at least 10 assists in 25 games.

Curry has the green light
Curry is eighth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 23.0 points per game, with 66 percent of his points coming from jump shots (10-plus feet). He relies heavily on his pull-up jumper, taking 10.4 such shots per game, the most in the league. No one averages more made pull-up jumpers (any jump shot outside 10 feet where a player takes at least a dribble before shooting) this season than Curry (4.2).

Warriors’ offense sputters without Curry
With Curry on the bench, the Warriors are 23.3 points worse on offense per 100 possessions, which is the highest differential in the league (minimum 500 minutes played).

Golden State's effective field goal percentage, which adjusts for the fact a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal, is 11 percentage points better with Curry on the floor than when he is on the bench.

Gasol's stingy defense earns award

April, 24, 2013
4/24/13
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Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Gasol earned his first Defensive Player of the Year award by anchoring the NBA’s stingiest defense.
Since the 1982-83 season, when the first Defensive Player of the Year award was given, a power forward or a center has won it 22 of the 30 times.

Marc Gasol will be the 23rd this season as he accepts the award for the first time in his career, becoming the second first-time winner in as many years. Last season New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler was the recipient of the award for the first time.

Since 1996-97, Gasol is tied for the fourth-highest defensive efficiency among Defensive Player of the Year award winners.

Gasol averaged 1.7 blocks and 1.0 steals for Memphis, which allowed 97.4 points per 100 possessions this season, second only to the Indiana Pacers (96.6 points per 100 possessions).

The Grizzlies’ defensive efficiency was 95.4 with Gasol on the court. However, with him on the bench, that number jumped to 102.2.


The anchor

With Gasol on the court, teams turned the ball over against the Grizzlies 17.3 percent of the time, a rate that would have led the NBA (the Clippers' 17.2 percent led the league this season). However, with him off the court, that percentage dropped to 15.8 percent, which would've ranked 12th.

His impact on the defensive end extends to turning turnovers into points, as well. With Gasol on the court, Memphis averaged 18 points per game off turnovers, which would've ranked fourth in the NBA. But with him off the court, the team averaged 15.5 points, which would've rank 20th.

Defense wins games

According to basketball-reference.com, Gasol had 5.4 defensive win shares this season, which was second in the NBA behind Paul George. Defensive win shares are an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player due to his defense.

Gasol’s defensive efficiency of 95.4 points per 100 possessions allowed was third in the NBA (minimum 2,000 minutes, 126 players). Teammates Tony Allen (94.3) and Mike Conley (95.1) were first and second, respectively.

The second half of the season was when Gasol really earned the honor. Gasol’s defensive efficiency after the All-Star break was 92.1, which was best in the NBA.

On the ball

As an on-ball defender, Gasol led the NBA with his 0.76 points per play allowed per game (minimum 800 plays, 55 players). Players turned the ball over an average of 14.5 times per game when covered by Gasol, sixth best in the league.

George on James is matchup to watch

February, 1, 2013
2/01/13
3:42
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Pat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsPaul George guarding LeBron James is a matchup to watch on Friday night.

The Indiana Pacers host the Miami Heat tonight at 7 ET on ESPN. Indiana has won 12 consecutive games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, their longest home win streak since winning 14 straight during the 2002-03 season.

The Pacers won the first meeting this season, holding the Heat to a season low in points in their 87-77 victory on January 8. Indiana has won each of the last two regular season meetings and with a win tonight, will have its first three-game regular-season win streak against the Heat since winning 12 straight from 2002-2005.

On the other end of the scorer's table, the Heat have won three of their last four road games after starting the season 8-9 away from American Airlines Arena. However, Miami is just 9-36 all-time on the road against the Pacers in the regular season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that .200 win percentage is their second-worst mark against a single opponent on the road in team history (2-22 at Spurs).

The key matchup to watch is when LeBron James is being defended by Paul George. James, the reigning league MVP, is posting career highs in both field goal percentage (54.8) and three-point field goal percentage (40.4).

Meanwhile, George has emerged as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. George, who was selected to his first All-Star team this season, is 11th in the NBA with 1.7 steals per game.

George has had a major impact on a Pacers’ defense that ranks first in defensive efficiency, allowing just 96.2 points per 100 possessions. According to Basketball Reference, George ranks second in the NBA with 3.5 defensive win shares, a metric that estimates the number of wins a player contributed to his team due to his defense.
Paul George
George

However, James had some success against George in their first meeting. With George as the primary defender on non-pick and roll plays, James scored 13 of his 22 points on 6-for-11 shooting.

On Friday, George should look to keep James around the perimeter and prevent him from attacking the basket. James, who averages an NBA-best 13.1 points in the paint per game, went just 2-for-6 on jump shots from outside the key when George was defending him on non-pick and roll plays in the first meeting. When he was able to get in the paint in those situations, he connected on four of his five attempts.

In terms of slowing James down, the breaking point for the Pacers has been the 27-point mark. James’ teams are 18-5 against Indiana in his career when he scores at least 27 points. They are just 9-9 when he fails to score at least 27 points including his 22-point effort in the Heat’s loss to the Pacers in January.

20-point streak ends for James in Heat loss

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
3:00
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Following a pair of Dwyane Wade free throws, the Miami Heat led the Portland Trail Blazers by 12 with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter Thursday. Unfortunately for the Heat, the Blazers took control in those final eight minutes and hung on for a two-point win at the Rose Garden. The loss was the second straight and third in the last four games for Miami.

Miguel Cabrera
James
During that stretch to end the game, Portland outscored the Heat 24-10 despite almost identical shooting from the floor by hitting free throws and three-point shots. The Blazers went 11-for-15 on free throws and 3-for-4 on three-pointers during the run while Miami went 1-for-2 and 1-for-5 on those same shots, respectively. Among them was the potential game-winning three by Mario Chalmers that rimmed out as time expired.

But perhaps even more notable than the loss, LeBron James scored a season-low 15 points on just six field goals. The six made shots were the fewest he’s had in a game since March of last season.

Entering the night, James had reached the 20-point plateau in each of the 33 games he played this season, the longest streak by any player to start a season since George Gervin went 45-straight games in 1981-82 and the second-longest by any player since the 1976 merger.

What caused the run of 20-point performances to come to an end? Struggles in the half court. James scored just seven points on 2-for-11 shooting in half-court sets on Thursday (18.1 percent), both of which were season lows. James entered the night having scored over 20 points per game and was shooting 51.0 percent in the half court this season.

On the other end of the floor, the Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge and his 20 points and game-high 15 rebounds. It marked his fifth double-double over the last six games and his second “20-and-15" of the season.

Also chipping in for Portland was Nicolas Batum who scored a team-high 28 points. It was his sixth game of the year with least 25 points and with the win, the Blazers improved to 5-1 when he reaches the 25-point plateau this season.

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