Stats & Info: Chris Paul

Clippers, Paul face unique offseason

May, 16, 2014
May 16
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Richard Rowe/NBAE via Getty ImagesChris Paul and the Clippers have never made a Conference Finals.
Thursday night the Los Angeles Clippers were eliminated by the Thunder. In nine career seasons, Chris Paul has never made a Conference Finals. It will be a unique offseason for Paul and the entire team dealing with uncertainty in regards to the owner of the franchise.

The good news is that their talented nucleus is already signed through next season.

CP3 Heads Home Early
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Chris Paul’s seven All-Star appearances are tied for the fifth-most all-time for any player before appearing in their first Conference Finals.

Chris Paul has often been compared to some of the great point guards in NBA history. However his playoff track record doesn’t add up.

He has a postseason win percentage of .415 (22 wins, 31 losses). That number is significantly lower than Hall of Fame point guards Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson and John Stockton.

Speaking of great point guards, Paul is also one of seven players in NBA history to have 6,000 assists through their first nine seasons, according to Elias. Of those players, Paul is the only one not to reach the Conference Finals over that time span.

Looking Forward to Next Season
The current nucleus of the Clippers will still be under contract in the 2014-15 season.

Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick and Matt Barnes were the five-man unit that played the most minutes together for the Clippers in the postseason. All five of them will be back next season (barring a trade).

Looking towards free agency, the Clippers have $66.3 million dollars worth of guaranteed contracts on the books next season. Darren Collison, Danny Granger and Glen Davis all have player options while Ryan Hollins and Hedo Turkoglu are unrestricted free agents.

With the luxury tax projected to climb to $77 million next season, the Clippers best free agency tool this offseason will likely be the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (can sign any free agent to a contract with a starting salary up to $5.3M)

Upcoming Draft Picks
The Clippers currently hold only the 28th overall draft pick in the 2014 draft, as their second round pick was traded to the San Antonio Spurs. Also, their 2015 first round draft pick will be sent to the Boston Celtics as compensation for acquiring Doc Rivers.

The Clippers in this draft may want to emulate the Spurs, who took Tony Parker in 2001 and Tiago Splitter in 2007 with the 28th pick. Some other notable players drafted 28th overall are Norris Cole, Leandro Barbosa, Ian Mahinmi and Greivis Vasquez.

Keys to victory: Thunder 105, Clippers 104

May, 14, 2014
May 14
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With each game in this series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers, the storylines get more and more remarkable.

This time, it was the Thunder’s turn. They capped their comeback win with a 17-3 game-ending run, scoring those points on nine memorable possessions.

There was controversy with regards to questions about the officiating, but it was an amazing triumph for the Thunder nonetheless.

How the heck did that happen?
What were the keys to the Thunder’s comeback?

Kevin Durant scored 10 of his 27 points in the final four minutes and had as many field goals (3) on five shots as he did on the 17 shots he attempted in the first 44 minutes of the game.

Five of the Clippers' six field goal attempts in the last four minutes were pull-up jump shots. They were 1 of 5 on such shots, which led to long rebounds.

Seven of Thunder's 17 points in the last four minutes came in transition, five of which came straight from Clippers' misses on pull-up jumpers.

Chris Paul turned the ball over five times in the game, including twice in the final 13 seconds. In 138 minutes in clutch time this season (less than five minutes left, and the score within five points), Paul turned the ball over only seven times.

Westbrook’s big game
Russell Westbrook finished with 38 points, his most in a game this postseason, including three free throws in the final seconds to put the Thunder ahead.

That Westbrook made all three was not that surprising. Westbrook is an 85 percent free-throw shooter in clutch-time situatons.
Up until the four minute mark of the fourth quarter, Westbrook had scored 18 of Thunder's 36 points in the second half. He was especially aggressive when guarded by Paul. Westbrook drove four times against Paul and scored on every one of his drives.

Of Westbrook’s 18 points during that time, 12 came when he did not defer to his teammates. He had nine possessions in which he initiated and finished the offense, compared to six possessions where there were passes involved in the play.

Overall, he was 7 of 12 in what we’ll call "one-man offense" compared to 4 of 11 playing within "team offense."

Keys to victory: Thunder 118, Clippers 112

May, 10, 2014
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For the third straight time in the series, the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers both topped 100 points, as the Thunder won 118-112 in Los Angeles.

The Thunder did something Friday that they had never done as a franchise. They won Game 3 on the road when the series was tied at a game apiece. They had lost the four previous times they played such a game.

Durant, Thunder dominant inside
Kevin Durant scored 30 points for the seventh time in this year’s playoffs. That’s as many as any other two players combined.

He was successful close to the basket on Friday, scoring 20 points from 10 feet and in, breaking his previous playoff high of 18 such points. He had only scored 12 such points in the first two games of the series.

Durant wasn’t the only player who was successful close to the basket. The Thunder scored a postseason high 52 points in the paint, outscoring the Clippers in the paint for the second straight game.

Russell Westbrook fell two rebounds short of recording his second straight triple-double, but he did reach double digits in assists in back-to-back playoff games for the first time in his career.

Paul comes up big in losing effort
In a losing effort, Chris Paul scored 21 points and handed out 16 assists without recording a turnover.

In the last 25 years, only two players have had 20 points, 15 assists and zero turnovers in a playoff game -- Magic Johnson in 1991 and Chris Paul twice (tonight and in 2008 against the Dallas Mavericks).

The only players to have more assists without a turnover in the playoffs in that span are Rajon Rondo (19 in 2009) and Magic Johnson (17 in 1991).

Looking ahead to Sunday
The Thunder are 1-0 when leading a best-of-7 series two games to one. The Clippers have lost all four series that the have trailed two games to one.

Keys to victory: Clippers 122, Thunder 105

May, 6, 2014
May 6
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The Los Angeles Clippers had a surprisingly easy night in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Clippers snapped the Thunder’s six-game winning streak in Game 1s played at home with an easy win.

Difference-Maker: Chris Paul
Clippers point guard Chris Paul had arguably the best game of his NBA career, making 12 of 14 shots, including a career high eight three-pointers (he’d never made more than five in any game.

He finished with 32 points and 10 assists.

Paul is the first player to have 30 points, 10 assists and shoot 75 percent or better from the field in a playoff game since Michael Jordan for the Chicago Bulls in 1991.

Paul made pull-up jump shots against eight different Thunder defenders in the game.

Paul went 51 for 156 from three-point range in his first 53 games of the season. In the last 17, he is 52 for 102.

Durant and Westbrook can’t get it done
Kevin Durant scored 25 points for the Thunder, but the team was outscored by 26 points with him on the floor. The minus-26 was a career postseason worst for him.

Including playoffs, Durant has had a plus/minus of minus-10 or worse 109 times in his career, and the Thunder have lost every single one of those games.

Russell Westbrook finished with 29 points, but they were of little impact.
The Thunder are 0-4 this postseason when Westbrook scores more than 27 points (4-0 with 27 or fewer points).

Thunder don’t play their best defense
The Clippers shot 55 percent in the half court in Game 1. The Thunder held opponents to 43 percent shooting in half court situations during the regular season, fourth best in the NBA.

A rare matchup of point guards

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsThe Warriors-Clippers series could be decided at the point guard spot.
The NBA playoffs kick off Saturday afternoon and one of the more intriguing first round matchups will take place in Los Angeles.

The Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers have already exchanged pre-series barbs making it clear the two teams are not fond of one another. But this series should be just as entertaining on the court, as it features two of the league’s best point guards – Chris Paul and Stephen Curry.

Elite point guards
Paul and Curry both averaged at least 19 points and eight assists per game this season.

The last time two point guards faced off in the playoffs with such averages? The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that it was in 1991.

That would be Magic Johnson and Tim Hardaway. The two faced off in the 1991 Western Conference Semifinals, with the Lakers winning the series four games to one.

And the point guards did not disappoint. In game two of that series, the Warriors won 125-124 with Hardaway totaling 28 points, 14 assists and eight steals. Johnson? Well he put up 44 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists in the loss.

Postseason form
Curry and Paul have stepped their games up during the playoffs.

Last postseason, Curry averaged 23.4 points per game and 8.1 assists, while making 3.5 three-pointers per game. That is the third-highest single postseason average all-time (minimum five games in that postseason).

Most memorable was Curry’s 44-point, 11-assist performance in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Spurs last season.

Paul, on the other hand, is one of two players all-time with averages of 20 points and nine assists per game in the playoffs (Deron Williams).

Inside the matchup
There are a few key spots in which this matchup could be determined.

Curry averages an NBA-high 10.3 pull-up shots per game, shooting 43.6 percent on such shots according to NBA.com player tracking.

Turnovers, however, have been an issue for Curry. He was tied for the league-lead, averaging 3.8 turnovers per game this season. That bodes well for Paul, as he led the NBA averaging 2.5 steals per game. In fact, during their first meeting this season, Curry committed 11 turnovers and Paul had six steals.

This season Paul averaged an NBA-best 8.8 points per game as the pick-and-roll ball handler. That could be a way in which Paul could exploit Curry’s defense. For example, in Game 5 of the 2013 Western Conference semifinals, the Spurs made 11-of-16 shots and scored 30 points when Curry was the on-ball defender.

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

April, 9, 2014
Apr 9
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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.

Top things to know: Clippers at Thunder

February, 23, 2014
Feb 23
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Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesBlake Griffin's improved jump shot is helping him put together the best offensive season of his career.
The Los Angeles Clippers visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday (ABC, 1 p.m. ET). Here are the top things you need to know.

Blake Griffin has posted a higher scoring average than Kevin Durant this month, averaging 33.9 PPG in February to Durant’s 32.5 (only Kevin Love is averaging more than Griffin this month).

In fact, his scoring average has improved each month this season, from 21.5 PPG in October/November. Griffin has scored nine straight 25-point games, the longest such streak of his career.

Overshadowed by Durant and LeBron James, Griffin is quietly having an MVP-caliber season and has become more than just a dunker. One of the primary reasons is his improved jump shot.

Season series
Durant is averaging 30.5 points, 9.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds in two games against the Clippers this season. He’s averaging 32.6 points over his last five games against the Clippers.

• Westbrook is averaging 15.5 points on 38.7 percent shooting against the Clippers this season.

• Serge Ibaka is averaging 15.0 points on 14-of-16 shooting against the Clippers this season. But he’s totaled only 3.5 rebounds in those games, down from his season average of 8.7.

• Griffin is averaging 24.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists against the Thunder this season.

• Chris Paul is averaging 15.5 points and 14.0 assists against OKC this season.

Season notes
Both teams are in the top 11 in points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, but the Thunder have been the much better rebounding team.

• Durant has scored 25 points in 21 straight games, the second-longest streak of his career (29 straight in 2009-10).

• DeAndre Jordan is posting career highs in points (9.9), rebounds (14.0) and blocks (2.4) this season. He’s recorded double-digit rebounds in 33 of his past 34 games.

• Jamal Crawford is averaging 23.6 points over his last 16 games, nearly a seven-point increase over his scoring average through the first 40 games of the season.

Point guard battle
The Thunder welcomed Russell Westbrook back to the lineup on Thursday. They’re 22-8 (.733) without him and 21-5 with him (.808) this season. The Clippers, on the other hand, have a lower win percentage with Chris Paul in the lineup (.632) than without him (.684).

Paul is 10-7 in his career against Westbrook, and he’s gotten the better of him statistically, averaging more points and assists and fewer turnovers in head-to-head meetings.

Rolling Thunder
At 43-13, OKC has a league-best .768 win percentage. The only season the franchise posted a better mark came in 1995-96, when the Seattle SuperSonics had a .780 win percentage.

• The Thunder posted a .732 win percentage last season. Should they increase their win percentage again this season, it would be the sixth consecutive season they have done so. The Timberwolves hold the NBA record for most consecutive seasons with a win percentage increase (six seasons spanning 1991-92 through 1997-98, but their highest during that span was .549).

Paul George for MVP? The numbers say yes

December, 11, 2013
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Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesPaul George has established himself as an MVP candidate.
Is Paul George a legitimate contender for MVP?

After the Pacers' victory over the Heat on Tuesday, led by George -– who is averaging nearly 25 points for the 19-3 Pacers –- it seems appropriate now to make the argument for George over LeBron James and other top candidates.

Valuable asset
George is having the best season of his career and plays for the team with the best record in the NBA. With George on the court, the Pacers score 17 more points per 100 possessions and are 25 points better overall per 100 possessions than they are with George on the bench.

Let's compare George's value to the Pacers with the other top early-season candidates:

• The Miami Heat are actually 10 points per 100 possessions worse with LeBron on the court.

• The Oklahoma City Thunder are only two points per 100 possessions better with Kevin Durant on the court.

• The Los Angeles Clippers are three points per 100 possessions better with Chris Paul on the court.

• The Houston Rockets are three points per 100 possessions better with James Harden on the court.

George scores 25 percent of the Pacers' points and leads the NBA in defensive win shares for the second straight season. He is tied for second with Durant with 4.4 win shares overall, behind LeBron's 4.5. Win shares are an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player on offense and defense.

Coming through in the clutch
George has been dominant in the fourth quarter all season, which was evident when he scored 17 of his career-high 43 points against the Portland Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter on Dec. 2.

George leads the NBA in fourth-quarter plus-minus and offensive rating (minimum 150 minutes played).

In the fourth quarter, the Pacers are 31 points better per 100 possessions with George on the court, including 20 points better per 100 possessions on the offensive end.

The NBA MVP award has been given to the player on a team that finished with the best record 58 percent of the time since 1990 and in four of the past five seasons. If George continues to lead the Pacers to a No. 1 seed, he could become the first Pacers player to win the NBA MVP award.

Jrue Holiday emerging as elite point guard

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
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Mark L. Baer/US PresswireJrue Holiday (left) and the 76ers will face Rajon Rondo (right) and the Celtics on ESPN Friday night.
Jrue Holiday might be ready to insert his name into the list of elite point guards in the NBA.

Holiday, who will lead the Philadelphia 76ers into their division matchup with the Boston Celtics on Friday (ESPN, 7 ET) is averaging career highs in points per game (18.2), assists per game (9.3) and player efficiency rating (18.5) this season.

If he keeps up this pace of 18 points and nine assists per game, he would be one of four players since 2000 to have those averages along with Chris Paul, Steve Nash and Deron Williams.

Even though Holiday is leading the NBA in turnovers with more than four per game, the 76ers as a team have the second-lowest turnover percentage (12.6). With a career-high usage rate percentage of 26, the turnovers are expected to be high. At his current averages, Holiday would join Hall of Famers Isiah Thomas (1986-87) and Magic Johnson (1988-89) as the only players with 18 points, nine assists and four turnovers per game for a season.

No team is dependent on one player to create their offense as much as the 76ers are on Holiday. He has been responsible for 43 percent of his team’s total points this season, which leads the NBA. The “points responsible for” statistic includes offense generated from assists and points scored.

Holiday also leads the NBA in efficiency on isolation plays with a points-per-play average of 1.17 (minimum 30 plays), up from .89 last season.

Holiday is creating high-percentage opportunities for himself and his teammates. Last season he had a 47 effective field goal percentage (gives extra weight to 3-pointers) on isolation plays. This season he’s at 59 percent.

The pick-and-roll is a big part of every point guard’s repertoire to go along with isolations. Holiday is no different, as 59 percent of his offense either comes from the pick-and-roll or isolations, compared to last season when 46 percent of his offense came from those plays.

With high usage rate in those play types Holiday has made drastic improvement in his shooting percentage from 42 percent last season to 46 this season on pick-and-rolls and isolations.

The 76ers are 10-8 without a single former All-Star active on their roster. Key offseason acquisition Andrew Bynum is still not healthy enough to suit up. However, Holiday almost singlehandedly has kept the 76ers in the playoff hunt.

It will be interesting to see how Holiday fares with a national audience against a superstar point guard, Rajon Rondo, who is also top five in points responsible for and leads the league in assists at nearly 13 per game.

Kobe or Kyrie? Who wins one-on-one?

July, 13, 2012
7/13/12
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Getty ImagesKyrie Irving challenged Kobe Bryant after a Team USA practice to a game of one-on-one.
Who would win a one-on-one matchup? Kobe Bryant or Kyrie Irving?

Irving challenged Bryant to a one-on-one game with the loser donating $50,000 to charity.

In order to analyze this hypothetical matchup, let's take a look at how each player performed last season on various play types that represent pure one-on-one situations using Synergy Sports Technology.

SINGLE-COVERED ISOLATION PLAYS

OFFENSE

The majority of a one-on-one matchup between two guards would likely be comprised of single-covered isolation plays.

Irving scored the second-most points per play on single-covered isolation plays last season of the 63 players with at least 100 plays, trailing only Chris Paul. Of those same 63 players, Kobe ranked 21st. Irving shot 49 percent, while Bryant shot 38 percent.

DEFENSE

On defense, it's a different story.

Of the 99 players to defend at least 75 single-covered isolation plays last season, Kyrie allowed the third-most points per play. Only Steve Blake and Dorell Wright were worse. Of those same 99 players, Bryant ranked 24th. Kyrie allowed opponents to go to the free throw line 15 percent of the time, the sixth-highest percentage, while Kobe only sent opponents to the charity stripe on six percent of those plays, the 10th-lowest percentage.

SINGLE-COVERED POST-UP PLAYS

OFFENSE

Irving only had nine single-covered post-up plays last season, but he was very effective on those nine plays, shooting 5-of-9 (55.6 percent) with no turnovers or free throws.

Although a small sample size, Irving's 1.11 points per play on single-covered post-up plays was better than Bryant's 0.94.

Of the 225 players with at least nine single-covered post-up plays last season, Irving scored the sixth-most points per play, while Bryant ranked 53rd.

Kobe’s most effective post-up move is facing up from the right block. Of the 31 players with at least 20 of those plays, Bryant had by far the most points per play (1.46) and highest field-goal percentage (71).

DEFENSE

Neither player spent much time defending single-covered post-up plays, but when they did, Kobe was more effective. He held opponents to 28 percent shooting and the ninth-fewest points per play of the 265 players to defend at least 25 single-covered post-up plays.

Of those same 265 players, Kyrie ranked 63rd in points per play allowed. He held opponents to 38 percent shooting. Irving's strength defending those plays was the ability to not commit fouls. His opponents only reached the free throw line on five percent of those plays, the 13th-lowest percentage. Kobe's opponents got to the free throw line 15 percent of the time, which ranked 189th.

JUMPERS OFF THE DRIBBLE

OFFENSE

Kobe gets the edge in jumpers off the dribble. He shot 40 percent, which ranked 26th of the 95 players with at least 100 jumpers off the dribble last season, while Irving shot 35.3 percent, which ranked 62nd. In effective field-goal percentage, which factors in 3-pointers as well, it's a little closer. Kobe was 41 percent (ranked 42nd), while Kyrie was 40 percent (52nd).

DEFENSE

Kobe held opponents to 33 percent shooting on jumpers off the dribble last season, the 24th-lowest percentage of the 157 players to defend at least 100 jumpers off the dribble. Irving's opponents shot 42.2 percent, which ranked 133rd.

2012 Team USA: Better than Dream Team?

July, 12, 2012
7/12/12
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US PresswireWould the current U.S. Olympic team have a chance against the Dream Team?
Kobe Bryant believes the 2012 U.S. Olympic team would beat the 1992 Olympic team. Is he correct?

According to AccuScore, which ran 10,000 computer simulations, the 1992 team would win 53.1 percent of the time and by an average margin of one point per game.

No one will ever know the true answer, but let's take a look at the Next Level analytical facts about the rosters at each point of their careers to help make the case either way.

REBOUNDING AND DEFENSE

Much has been made about the current team’s weak frontcourt. The 1992 team had four players who grabbed at least 15 percent of available rebounds in 1991-92 (Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, David Robinson). The current team has three players at that rebound rate last season (Tyson Chandler, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love).

The 1992 team had two players (Ewing, Robinson) who blocked at least 5 percent of the shot attempts they faced in 1991-92. No 2012 player had a block percentage higher than 3.4 last season (Chandler).

SHOOTING

Four current members had a true shooting percentage (a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account 2-pointers, 3-pointers and free throws) of at least 60 last season (Chandler, Kevin Durant, James Harden, LeBron James). Chandler (70.8 in 2011-12) led the NBA each of the past two seasons. Only one of the 1992 members had a 60 true shooting percentage (Barkley), although three others fell just short of that threshold in 1991-92 (Malone, Robinson, John Stockton).

PASSING

Five Dream Team members assisted on at least 25 percent of their teammates’ field goals in 1991-92 (Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Stockton), plus Magic Johnson had a 49.3 assist percentage in his most recent NBA season (1990-91). LeBron, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams had a 25 assist percentage or better last season, but none were as high as Stockton (53.7), who was in the midst of leading the league in assist percentage for 10 straight seasons.

AGE, EXPERIENCE AND CHAMPIONSHIPS

The 1992 team was about 2½ years older on average (28.8-26.2). Other than Bird and Magic, every Dream Team member was 30 years old or younger. Every member of the current team is 29 or younger, other than Kobe, who is 33.

But the NBA experience level is about the same. The 1992 team had, on average, 7.3 years of experience per player. This year’s team has 7.1.

As far as NBA titles, give the edge to the 1992 team. Its players had a combined 12 championships as they entered the Olympics -- five by Magic, three by Bird and two each from Jordan and Pippen.

The 2012 version has seven championships among them, carried by Kobe’s five. LeBron and Chandler each have one. The current team has members of each of the past four NBA champions, while the 1992 team had members of the then-past two champions.

PLAYER VALUE/EFFICIENCY

Using average win shares per 48 minutes in their previous NBA seasons, (including Magic’s 1990-91 season and not including Christian Laettner), the 1992 squad’s average is higher by 9 percent (.215-.198). Prefer player efficiency rating to win shares? The Dream Team’s PER was 3 percent higher (23.8-23.0).

IN THEIR PRIME?

Other than Laettner, all 11 Dream Team members are Hall of Famers. And only two could be considered in the twilight of their careers. Bird had just finished his last NBA season, while Magic had retired the previous year, although he made a brief comeback in 1995-96. As for this edition, one could make the case that all but the 33-year-old Kobe on the roster could appear on another Olympic team again.

The 2012 team gets under way with an exhibition game Thursday against the Dominican Republic on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET. Only time will tell whether this team is the modern-day Dream Team.

James and Durant deliver differently

June, 12, 2012
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Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesJames attacked the basket far more than Durant, but Durant owned the perimeter this season.
Three-time NBA MVP LeBron James and three-time defending scoring champion Kevin Durant will go head-to-head in the NBA Finals (ABC and ESPN3, 9 ET), making it the 12th time in NBA Finals history that a matchup involved players who finished 1-2 in the MVP voting for that season.

James leads the Miami Heat into the Finals for the second consecutive season, making it his third-career Finals appearance overall. Durant will make his first-career Finals appearance, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to the franchise’s first championship round since they were the Seattle SuperSonics in 1996.

As dynamic as these two prolific scorers are, they record their points in different ways. Let’s take a look at the breakdown of each player’s strengths and the history of the matchup.

Easy Baskets

During the regular season, James attacked the basket more than Durant. Among the 1,683 total points James scored, 37.4 percent occurred within five feet of the basket. Only 24.1 percent of Durant’s baskets were scored within that range.

Inside the paint, James was one of the league’s leaders. He recorded 12.2 points per game in the paint, the fourth-highest average among all players this season.

Perimeter Shooting

On the perimeter, Durant has the edge. Of his NBA-high 1,850 total points, 43.4 percent of Durant’s points were scored outside of the paint. By comparison, James only recorded 31.9 percent of his points from outside that area.

Also, Durant is the better pure shooter. From 15 feet and beyond, Durant connected on 42.5 percent of his field goals, trailing only Dirk Nowitzki (44.8) and Chris Paul (42.6) among players that ranked in the top 20 in scoring during the regular season.

The Real Help

James might play alongside former Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, but Durant has benefited the most from his team’s point guard play. Overall, 48.1 percent of Durant’s field goals were assisted during the regular season, compared to just 37.4 percent of James’ field goals.

Much of that was a result of Durant playing alongside All-Star guard Russell Westbrook. Although Westbrook isn’t viewed much as a distributor, he assisted on 171 of Durant’s field goals, the third-most assists by one player on a single teammate’s field goals in the NBA this season. Only Steve Nash (217 to Marcin Gortat) and Chris Paul (187 to Blake Griffin) assisted more of a teammate’s field goals.

History Dominated by James

Game 1 will be the 10th meeting between James and Durant, with the previous nine coming in the regular season. Durant holds the scoring edge with a 27.3 points average, but James has been more efficient from the field shooting 49.7 percent. Overall, James has dominated the most important category, winning seven of the nine meetings. The Heat and Thunder split the 2011-12 regular season series 1-1.

Grizzlies dominate stats, but not series

May, 11, 2012
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The Memphis Grizzlies face elimination Friday (ESPN, 9 ET) in Game 6 of their NBA playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers, but the Grizzlies might be convinced that they’re the better team and should force this series back to Memphis for a Game 7.

The Grizzlies have outscored L.A. 478-465, and the Clippers have been in the lead only 82 of the 254 total minutes in this series.

And that was before injuries to Clippers stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul made them game-time decisions for this matchup.

Even if they play, Griffin’s sprained left knee and Paul’s right hip flexor could limit their minutes and impact, and the Clippers don’t fare well without them. The Clippers’ points per 100 possessions this season, playoffs included, show a stark difference in performance (see chart) when these two aren’t on the floor for Los Angeles.



The Grizzlies’ problems in this series were evident on the scoreboard -- they were winning the first three quarters by a 74.4-66.2 average margin, but they couldn’t close out those games and found themselves in a 3-1 hole.

The Grizzlies found their solution in Game 5 and when big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol came alive. After averaging a combined 23 points in the first four games, Randolph and Gasol combined for 42 on Wednesday.

But above all else, whether Los Angeles can extend their home postseason win streak to five and advance to the next round probably comes down to how much Griffin and Paul can contribute.

When they’re both on the court, the Clippers dominate to the tune of a plus-303 point differential. With only one of their two stars playing, they were 29 points better than their opponents. And when neither was on the court, they were 149 points short of their opponents.
Stats & Info insights into this morning's top sports stories

1. SPURS FINISH OFF SWEEP: The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Utah Jazz, 87-81, finishing a four-game sweep to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals. This was the Spurs sixth postseason sweep since Tim Duncan was a rookie in the 1997-98 season. According to Elias, that ranks second in the NBA. Only the Los Angeles Lakers, with seven, have more over the last 15 seasons.

2. PAUL & GRIFFIN LEAD CLIPPERS TO VICTORY: The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies, 101-97 in overtime, to take a 3-1 series lead. According to Elias, the Clippers became the first NBA team to have a pair of players (Chris Paul, Blake Griffin), with at least 25 points and at least seven assists in a playoff game since they did it themselves back on May 14, 2006 (Elton Brand had 30 and eight and Sam Cassell had 28 and nine in a victory over the Phoenix Suns).

3. RANGERS EARN HISTORIC WIN: The New York Rangers defeated the Washington Capitals, 3-2 in overtime to take a 3-2 series lead. That win would not have been possible if Brad Richards hadn’t tied the game with seven seconds left in regulation. According to Elias, this is the first NHL postseason to have three games feature game-tying goals in the final 15 seconds of regulation. The first-two games in the Phoenix Coyotes - Chicago Blackhawks series also had such goals.

4. COYOTES IN UNCHARTED TERRITORY: The Coyotes defeated the Nashville Predators, 2-1, to win the Western Conference Semifinals in five games. The Coyotes advanced to their first Conference Finals since joining the NHL in 1979-80. Prior to joining the NHL, the franchise (then known as the Winnipeg Jets) reached the WHA (Avco Cup) Finals five times in seven seasons.

5. WEAVER PERFECT 5-0: Jered Weaver allowed one earned run in six innings, as the Los Angeles Angels defeated the Minnesota Twins, 8-3. For the third time, Weaver has started a season 5-0. According to Elias, he joined Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and Christy Mathewson as the only pitchers to start 5-0 in three seasons.

6. RED HOT ROOKIE: The Boston Red Sox defeated the Kansas City Royals, 11-5 to snap a five-game losing streak. Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks remained hot, going 3 for 5, with two home runs and five RBI. According to Elias, he tied the MLB record for most RBI (nine) in a player’s first four games to start career.

Anticipated seasons by "other" teams

December, 21, 2011
12/21/11
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Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith Blake Griffin and Chris Paul leading the way, hopes are high for the Clippers
It was a tale of two offseasons for the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers. While Chris Paul joined Blake Griffin in what promises to be one of the most electric duos in the NBA, the Lakers traded away Lamar Odom and failed in bids to acquire either Paul and/or Dwight Howard.

Given the sudden relevance of the Clippers and the notion that the Lakers could be slipping, it’s worth asking if the Clippers – often perceived to be “the other team in L.A.” – have completely closed the gap between themselves and their Staples Center co-tenants.

Los Angeles has been a two-team NBA city for 27 seasons. Since the Clippers moved from San Diego to Los Angeles prior to the 1984-85 season, they have had a better record than the Lakers just four times. Might 2011-12 be the fifth?

Here are some other anticipated seasons by often overshadowed “other" teams:

“Other” team: New York Mets
Overshadowed by: New York Yankees
Anticipated Season: 2005

Prior the 2005 season, the Mets went on a free agent splurge session by spending over $170 million dollars for Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez. The Mets were full of promise - Jose Reyes and David Wright were on the upswing, Mike Piazza was still an All-Star and Willie Randolph was brought in to replace Art Howe. The Mets failed to live up to the hype however, winning 83 games and missing the playoffs (although they did make it to the NLCS the following season).

“Other” team: Manchester City
Overshadowed by: Manchester United
Anticipated season: 2009-10

Forever in the shadow of Manchester United, Man City began to emerge as a major player in the summer of 2008 when they acquired Brazilian striker Robinho from Real Madrid for a $50.5 million transfer fee, which at the time was the fourth-most expensive transfer of all-time. As it turns out, they were just getting warmed up. The next summer they took spending to an unprecedented level, parting with more than $150 million dollars to bring in Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry, Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure among others. City went on to finish fifth in 2009-10, narrowly missing out on qualifying for the UEFA Champions League (and finishing behind Manchester United).


“Other” team: USC men’s basketball
Overshadowed by: UCLA
Anticipated season: 2000-01

Long in the shadow of UCLA, USC entered the 2000-01 season with high hopes. The Trojans were ranked 23rd in the preseason AP Poll, the first time since 1978-79 that they entered a season ranked in the preseason. Although USC lost both of its games against UCLA, it did manage to make it deeper into the NCAA Tournament. Both teams lost to eventual national champion Duke, with UCLA falling in the Sweet 16 and USC bowing out in the Elite 8.

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