Pop Quiz: Who is the NBA's leader in corner-3 accuracy (minimum of 30 attempts)? (A) Paul George (B) Ray Allen (C) Wes Matthews (D) Shane Battier (E) Klay Thompson. You'll find the correct answer is at the bottom of the post.
Jordan Heimer of ClipperBlog and The Clippers Podcast on Blake Griffin, Season Three: "After routinely being described last year as a WWE heel, Griffin has hugely reduced his expressive commentary, limiting his smirks, stare downs and incredulous hand gestures. He seems more content to let his game speak for him; even when calls don’t go his way, it no longer seems to distract him the way it did in the past. Tonight, after Shannon Brown sent him sprawling into the baseline photographers on the fast break, Blake skipped the scowling, untangled himself quickly and sank both free-throws."
Noam Schiller of Magic Basketball on Tracy McGrady's historic 2002-03 season: "The man was the beginning, middle and end of everything the Magic did. The raw numbers (32.3 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, and 5.5 assists per game) and the advanced stats (a PER of 30.3, one of just 8 players to cross the 30 threshold, and a True Shooting percentage of 56.4 percent) are mind-blowing even without the YouTube archives. It had to be watched to be believed. He was a unique combination of other-worldly athleticism and every single skill the basketball court offers."
The Nets' offense reside in the top half of the league, but they're not maximizing their potential. Deron Williams says the absence of a coherent system like the one he ran in Utah is a factor. Rob Mahoney of The Point Forward: "Some initial success (and an early run to an 11-4 record) helped disguise the stagnation of Avery Johnson’s offense, but so far Brooklyn has lived and died by the limits of isolation basketball. Whether enabling center Brook Lopez in the post or guard Joe Johnson on the wing, the Nets’ sets have been rudimentary and clear in their intention: Players like Williams get the ball to a specific place with few programmed alternatives, and a shot attempt is manufactured from that player leveraging some perceived advantage in a one-on-one matchup. That approach has helped Lopez post a career high in field-goal percentage and points per minute, but also worn on the patience of a point guard accustomed to the continuity in movement of the flex offense. But couched in Williams’ quote-slinging is another complicating factor: The max-contract point guard tabbed to usher in a new era of Nets basketball is having essentially the worst season of his eight-year career."
Populating a roster with good guys, as the Wizards did this past offseason, doesn't guarantee harmony. Here's what Nene told NBA.com's David Aldridge: "When you play with confidence, and you're together, it's different ... You feel, you know your teammates know you, and you give your best. But right here, right now, it's the opposite. Total opposite ... Because people have no respect for the game ... They think this opportunity's nothing right now. That's the problem with the young guys. They don't take advantage of being in the NBA, the best basketball in the world. A lot of young guys want to be in their position. But right here, I don't think they realize that."
Avery Bradley is close to returning for the Celtics. Romy Nehme of 2 Girls, 1 Ball writes a paean to Bradley at Celtics Hub: "As Bradley’s return draws near(er), it’s funny to think about how the size of his body of work and impact seem somewhat incongruous; it also bears reminding fans that his surge from irrelevancy wasn’t some time lapse chronicling a player’s evolution over a year. It unfolded in real time, in little time, and documented a progression no one saw coming. At least I didn’t. It transformed Bradley from a specialist into someone who was now making roaming defenders pay with baseline cuts, fulfilling Rondo’s longings for an up-tempo companion and nailing corner 3s like he was #20."
Jason Gallagher of BallerBall polled NBA players over Twitter about their favorite Christmas movies. The results, with a little bit of vacillation from Corey Maggette.
On the agenda forseveralNBAplayers on Christmas Eve? Go-Go inspired D.C. rapper Wale's newly released mixtape, "Folarin."
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images The Celtics and 76ers meet in a winner-take-all Game 7 in Boston on Saturday night.
The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics continue their storied playoff rivalry as they meet Saturday night (ABC, 8 ET) in Boston for the seventh all-time Game 7 between these franchises.
The Celtics own a 4-2 advantage in the previous six matchups, but the 76ers won the most recent game three decades ago in the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals.
Game 7 Stats To Know History appears to be on the Celtics’ side as they are 17-4 all-time at home in Game 7s. They did lose their last such game in 2009 against the Orlando Magic, but they have never lost consecutive Game 7s at home. The Celtics are also 20-7 overall in Game 7s, the most such wins and second-best record in NBA history (min. five games).
The 76ers, on the other hand, are just 1-7 all-time on the road in Game 7s and haven’t played one since 1986. The franchise is 6-8 overall in Game 7s; the eight losses are tied for the most in NBA history.
Celtics Keys to the Game The Celtics have yet to lose back-to-back games this postseason, having won all four contests following a loss. However, the Celts have not fared well trying to close out a series since the "Big 3" was formed entering the 2007-08 season. They are 10-13 in potential series clinchers (1-2 this postseason).
Highest Plus/Minus Celtics This Postseason
>>highest among all players
Kevin Garnett’s jump-shooting has kept the Celtics in this series. Garnett has made 26-of-55 (47 percent) jump shots from 15 feet and beyond. The rest of the Celtics have combined to shoot 30 percent from that distance this series.
The absence of Avery Bradley, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on Friday, is significant for the Celtics, as it takes away their best five-man lineup this postseason.
When Bradley, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Garnett have been on the court together, the Celtics have outscored opponents by 53 points. Their next-best lineup has outscored opponents by only 18 points.
76ers Keys to the Game Philadelphia is looking to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2001 and is trying to become the first No. 8 seed to reach the conference finals since the Knicks in the lockout-shortened 1999 season.
Most Wins By 8 Seed Single Postseason Since 1983-84
L, NBA Finals
L, Conf Semis
L, Conf Semis
>> Source: Elias Sports Bureau
However, they will need to overcome history in order to make it to the next round.
The 76ers have lost each of the last 13 best-of-seven series in which they have trailed 3-2. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the longest such streak in NBA history.
One of the deciding factors in this series has been the 76ers' ability to establish the pick and roll. In their three wins, they’re averaging 11 points running the pick and roll. In their three losses, they’re averaging eight points on 29 percent shooting.
Offense has been an issue in the playoffs for the 76ers, who are scoring 86.6 points per game, the fewest among remaining teams. The 76ers haven’t scored more than 92 points in their last 10 games, the longest single postseason streak of its kind since the Pistons in 2006 (11 games).
David Butler II/US PresswireRajon Rondo (right) has double-digit assists in each of his last three playoff games.
Rajon Rondo is making it clear how important point guard play is in the NBA playoffs.
20 PTS, 16 AST, FEWER THAN 2 TO IN PLAYOFF GAME LAST 25 SEASONS
Rondo is the first player with at least 20 points and 16 assists with no more than one turnover in a playoff game since Tim Hardaway for the Golden State Warriors in 1991, who had 27 points, 20 assists and one turnover against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Rondo, Hardaway and Magic Johnson are the only players to accomplish this feat in the last 25 years.
In the last 25 seasons, a Boston Celtics player has had at least 16 assists in a playoff game eight times. Rondo has seven of those performances (Larry Bird had the other in 1990).
Rondo consistently gets it done in the playoffs. Among players in NBA history with fewer than three turnovers per game, only John Stockton (10.1) averages more assists per game than Rondo (8.6).
With Rondo on the court in the playoffs, the Celtics are 14 points better per 100 possessions than they are when Rondo is off the court.
CELTICS WITH RAJON RONDO ON/OFF COURT 2012 PLAYOFFS
+/- per 100 poss
Pts per 100 poss
3-pt FG pct
Their offense is significantly better with Rondo, scoring 21 more points per 100 possessions. They're shooting 10 percentage points higher from the field and 13 percentage points higher on 3-point attempts, and they're averaging nine more assists with 5.5 fewer turnovers per 48 minutes with Rondo on the court.
A popular definition of a great point guard is one who makes his teammates better. There’s no better example of that in the playoffs than Rondo with Kevin Garnett. When Rondo is on the court in this series, Garnett is averaging eight more points per 48 minutes and shooting 25 percent better from the field.
Garnett, Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass are all scoring more, shooting better and have a better plus-minus when Rondo is on the court.
How important is a reliable point guard in the playoffs? Just ask the Bulls, who lost Derrick Rose to a torn ACL and went from an NBA title favorite to a First Round underdog.
Or how about the New York Knicks, who were outscored by a combined 60 points in their first three games against the Miami Heat before barely staying alive in Game 4?
Certainly, injuries to Jeremy Lin and Iman Shumpert have hurt the Knicks at point guard. No team has fewer assists (12.5) or more turnovers (19.5) per game in the playoffs than the Knicks. Their starting point guard, Baron Davis, who exited Game 4 with a dislocated patella, has 13 assists and 13 turnovers in the series. Every single other playoff team has at least one player with more assists per game in the playoffs than Davis, who leads the Knicks.
Still not sure how important strong point guard play is in the playoffs? Over the last three seasons, point guards with at least 12 assists are 19-6 in playoff games.
Rajon Rondo | Avery Bradley | Paul Pierce | Brandon Bass | Kevin Garnett Minutes Played: 136
Offensive Rating: 108.2 points per 100 possessions
Defensive Rating: 81.0 points per 100 possessions
How it works offensively In a move that's sparked debate, Doc Rivers assigned Ray Allen to the bench upon the shooting guard's return from injury. The absence of Allen from this unit makes this lineup a real departure from the C's 2008 and 2010 Finals runs, and the offense has a somewhat different look. With Avery Bradley in Allen's place, the Celtics lose a bit of their spacing, but their stretchy frontcourt of Kevin Garnett (now the nominal center) and Brandon Bass helps mitigate that.
Reggie Miller as the possible exception, nobody perfected the half-court sprint in the single-double quite like Allen, but you won't find Bradley running around screens. That feature is now property of the second unit. Yet this group still runs the Celtics' proficient series of rotating pick-and-rolls -- with Paul Pierce working one side of the floor and Rondo the other. Meanwhile, Bradley moves side to side off the ball to keep the help away.
Now in their fifth season together, Pierce and Garnett have become so smooth as a pick-and-roll tandem, like an old couple who finishes each other's sentences. Garnett still sets one of the best picks in the business, although Pierce's accuracy from midrange has fallen off this season, so moving to his left off a Garnett ball screen then shooting is no longer the best option in this sequence. If the defender actually manages to fight through that screen to Pierce, Garnett will get the pass. And if he doesn't have a clean shot off that pass, he'll quickly read the defense and find something else -- often a streaking Rondo or an open Bass along the weakside baseline.
Rondo approaches every possession in which he's the primary initiator as a scorched-earth attack. He's not without offensive liabilities, and his range continues to limit his options at times, but when he finds space to work and passing lanes to exploit, those deficiencies are no longer in play. He feeds Garnett almost flawlessly and knows when it's time to bail on the first option (say a pitch to Garnett) and adopt the second (maybe a kickout to Pierce, who has his feet set).
With his relentless penetration, Rondo is still pressuring defenses -- which often choose to help off Bradley. No matter, because Rondo can thread the needle to either Garnett or Bass, who situate themselves in that Luis Scola territory just above the baseline about 16 feet from the hoop. Garnett presents all kinds of problems. One of the best passing big men in the league, he's a savvy playmaker away from the basket. And defenders who traditionally help off the C's center now do so at their own peril.
The Celtics aren't a running team, but this lineup generates a healthy percentage of its points in transition (almost 1-in-5). When Rondo collects a defensive rebound, look out. Rondo can move coast to coast as well as any point guard in the league, and watch out for those trailers: Garnett (inside the arc), Pierce (outside the arc) and Bass (rim runs)!
What about Bradley? How is he getting his buckets? Not as a first option, as Allen frequently is, but by being crafty and finding space. Bradley made a pretty baseline cut from the left corner in the opening minutes of the second half against Miami recently, meeting Rondo at the hoop for the dish. Two minutes later? Same thing.
The Celtics’ offense during this regime has suffered from high turnover rates and, this season, an inability to get to the line consistently -- but not this group. All in all, this unit isn't the most highfalutin in the NBA, but of the Celtics' 10 most used lineups this season, they rank far and away as the most offensively efficient.
How it works defensively The spirit of Tom Thibodeau lives on in Boston, where the Celtics rank No. 1 in defensive efficiency. They were stingy with Allen and Jermaine O'Neal, but with Bradley in the backcourt they're downright ridiculous. As a frame of reference, the Celtics give up a league-best 95.3 points per 100 possessions overall, but with this unit on the floor, that number drops to 81.0. There's a danger of small sample size theater with a lineup that's played only 136 minutes together, but the crazy thing is that the gaudy 81.0 number keeps dropping the more this unit jells.
As Allen's contract expires at the end of the season, it appears the Celtics have some premium insurance if they don't reel in a top free agent at the shooting guard position. Bradley will never be able to offer the offensive punch Allen gives to the Celtics' half-court offense, but he's quickly becoming one of the most aggressive young defenders in the league -- and he's only 21.
Did you see Bradley's block of Dwyane Wade two Sundays ago? Did you see him deny Wade on the perimeter and lock onto him off every screen and curl? Bradley's prowess as an on-ball defender also allows Rondo to play off the ball, where he can use his long branches to play passing lanes and do a little gambling. Those arms also make Rondo a stellar choice to be one of the two back-size zone defenders in Boston's overloaded defense. Because as important as it is for the C's to suffocate the ball handler and send that extra body to the strong side, it's the two defenders on the weak side who have a ton of responsibility -- as they usually have to cover three guys.
Every NBA big man under age 25 should have the video coordinator at his team's training facility make a feature-length DVD of Garnett's half-court defense. If you watch him closely, you won't see a lot of blocked shots or pickpocketing. His defensive game is an exercise in nuance. At 35, Garnett could probably defend a pick-and-roll with a blindfold on, and his most notable contributions are simply where he situates himself on the court in relation to the offense. Garnett's hyperawareness of what the offense is trying to accomplish on a given possession is remarkable. Watch several dozen defensive possessions with this lineup, and you'll never witness an error in judgment by Garnett. All the while, he's calling out instructions to his teammates and guiding Bass to the right spots.
Bass didn't arrive in Boston with the reputation as the league's most linear thinker on defense, but in the confines of the Celtics' system, he is doing fine. Bass might lack Garnett's assertiveness when he shows hard on a high pick-and-roll. He looks nervous, at times, when he's defending away from the ball and has to make a quick help decision, but he's making progress.
That's the thing about systems, Boston's in particular. Allen was regarded as a sieve when he came over from Seattle in 2007, but immediately adopted the principles that governed the Celtics' D. All over the league, we're seeing players with reputations as iffy defenders figuring things out in a smart system (see Marreese Speights in Memphis, Spencer Hawes in Philadelphia to name a couple). These guys may not be all-NBA defenders, but they limit their personal liabilities in a scheme that protects them from making mistakes.
That's the Boston way.
Statistical support for this story comes from NBA.com.