Print and Go Back ESPN.com: TrueHoop [Print without images]

Thursday, March 5, 2009
The TrueHoop Network Shootaround


Business as usual for the Celtics and Cavs, as both clinch playoff berths. The Spurs fail to take care of business on the defensive end of the floor.  Russell Westbrook means business in the ROY race. The TrueHoop Network is open for business: 

Paul Pierce

Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub: "What do you do with a game like this? Do you praise the 72 percent true shooting mark or worry about the 62 percent true shooting mark the Celtics yielded to a mediocrity like the New Jersey Nets? Do you wring your hands over the slower-than-usual rotations and the open threes, or do you smile at yet another Paul Pierce performance you can add to the dozens and dozens he's piled up over 11 seasons (12-of 14 for 31 big points)? Or do you savor the thought of having Rajon Rondo on your team for the next 11 seasons?

There's a third option we'll call the My Dad Option, and that's to laugh at the idea of even caring about a regular-season NBA game -- let alone one in which a lineup of Eddie House, Bill Walker, Mikki Moore, Leon Powe and Stephon Marbury plays the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. For my sanity, I'm going to take that option (not really, of course) and assume that the Celtics will bring the defensive intensity and precision on Friday that were missing until the very end of the game tonight."

Delonte WestJohn Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "Delonte West absolutely gave the Milwaukee Bucks the howling fantods from the opening tip to the final whistle. He was absolutely everywhere on the court tonight, especially on the defensive end, where his eight steals were actually more impressive than they look on the stat sheet because of how little he was gambling. He was picking passes coming towards his man, stripping guys clean off the dribble, snatching a pass directly out of the air, everywhere. He was all around the ball with his energy, and his toughness had him coming up with it almost every time and pushing the break.

On offense, he was making the plays and working with the ball and making sure everything went smoothly and nobody was settling for contested jumpers, and was even working a very nice two-man game with Andy. The great thing was that he wasn't really even shooting the ball all that well and he still had this much of a positive impact on the game. If you don't love Delonte West, you are a bad man."

Jason KiddGraydon Gordian of 48 Minutes of Hell: "It is infrequent that I criticize Popovich's defensive decisions. Our defensive woes are most often the by-product of lack of effort, poor execution, or just plain inability. But tonight I felt Popovich made multiple tactical errors down the stretch.

The most notable of these errors was his decision to trap players (primarily Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki) who had control of the ball in the space from the top of the arc to the free throw line. Swift ball movement to the wings produced two common outcomes: A second pass to set up the corner three or successful penetration (sometimes by the wingman, sometimes by a third cutter). In some ways this flipped the strength of the Spurs' defense on its head: Our bread and butter is our interior and perimeter defense while we are often soft in the middle. This evening we allowed for easy penetration and open 3-pointers in order to protect against the mid-range jumper."

THE FINAL WORD
Raptors Republic: A taxonomy of the Raptors' defensive woes.
Daily Thunder: Russell Westbrook, trending upward. 
The Painted Area: Go Lord Jeffs!

(Photos by Al Bello, David Liam Kyle, Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)