TrueHoop: Draymond Green

Bogut-less in April

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
10:54
AM ET
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
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Andrew BogutRocky Widner/Getty ImagesWith Andrew Bogut sidelined, the Warriors will need to alter their approach in the playoffs.
Warriors fans will grouse about what could have been against the Spurs last season in the Western Conference finals, but in reality, Golden State had no shot of winning that series. It wasn’t just because the Spurs were great, which they were and continue to be. It was because Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry were spent.

After the series was finished, both gingerly limped to their exit interviews. They had been pushing through searing foot ailments, buying breaks from the pain with injections. The end brought more relief than regret because there was little else to give. The end also brought hope, because imagine what this team could be at full health. Curry and Bogut might have walked like old men sauntering off into the sunset, but their pain-stricken accomplishments promised new beginnings.

Now we’ll never really know what this team could have been, as Bogut will be sidelined indefinitely. His ribs suffered the effects of what may as well have been the chestburster scene from "Alien." We might have an idea based on what transpired this season, but with Bogut out, we won’t see a fully realized Warriors squad in the playoff crucible. That’s a shame.

This isn’t like the time David Lee got injured in last year's playoffs. Carl Landry was a capable Lee understudy, and the Nuggets couldn’t punish Golden State for going small. The outlook is a lot bleaker this time around, especially if the Warriors face the Clippers.

DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin already had the ability to crush Golden State on the boards before Bogut went down. Now Golden State will be relying on Jermaine O’Neal, a solid backup but also someone who jumps once in the time it takes Blake Griffin to jump twice.

Matchups aside, it’s difficult to replace someone with a fair claim to “best defensive player in the conference.” O’Neal can replace some of that rim protection, but it won’t really be the same. Bogut is a bit of a contradiction because his fragility belies an intimidating presence on the court. He’s a confrontational shot-blocker, often latching an offhand paw on his opponent while spiking the shot back from where it came. His offense might be even scarier, as he sets the kinds of screens that would get him fined by Roger Goodell.

Bogut will do anything to win, personifying team play with his defense, passing and willingness to take on physical contact. But he doesn’t exactly fit the bill of “team guy” in sense of office politics. The Aussie is a bit of a loner in this setting, and he’s blunt with assessments of teammates.

In February, Bogut had a bizarre clash with coach Mark Jackson over whether the center had injured himself sleeping. While Bogut never openly criticized Jackson after the oustings of assistant coaches, his “He’s the coach. He makes the decisions. We’re not silly enough to believe anything else” comments didn’t exactly mirror teammates’ glowing praise of their embattled leader.

Now that embattled leader, someone who evangelizes on the benefits of off-court harmony, is tasked with proving that togetherness can compensate for the loss of a 7-foot mercenary. Jackson has an exceedingly tough job, but there are ways in which Golden State could pull off the improbable.

In yet another playoffs, the Warriors must shrink themselves in pursuit of an upset. Small ball worked against the Mavs in 2007 and against the Nuggets in 2013. The future looks grim in 2014, but at least there’s a general precedent for success. Here’s the blueprint for an upset.

Lee in his old Knicks role
[+] EnlargeDavid Lee and Stephen Curry
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe pressure is on David Lee and Stephen Curry to step up in Andrew Bogut's absence.

Lee, the occasional fall guy for GSW shortcomings, gets an increased role doing what he does best: slipping screens and diving to the rim as a small-ball center. This ultimately isn’t a sustainable way to go long term, but such lineups can put up points in the right situations. If Lee is healed coming off this latest back injury, expect him to perform well offensively in the playoffs.

More Draymond Green

Draymond Green should see more time, especially at the 4 spot. Jackson has already said that he likes the Lee at center, Green at power forward lineup and that he will use it in the playoffs. This look makes for an intriguing playoff experiment, especially if Andre Iguodala plays within it. Green and Iguodala have comprised a vicious defensive one-two punch this season. Can they do it with almost no rim protection in the background? The Lee-Green-Iguodala-Klay Thompson-Curry lineup held opponents to a stingy 89.2 points per 100 possessions over the 105 minutes they shared.

Jermaine O’Neal as Bogut facsimile

It’s the backup’s time to shine. O’Neal is Bogut’s opposite in terms of locker-room demeanor -- hand him a mike and he could be mistaken for Jackson’s agent. Now he has the chance to step up for his coach in a huge way.

The Warriors need O’Neal to be a hero, but to pull it off, he must cool it with the hero ball. O’Neal’s 2001 isolation post-ups are fine when he’s sharing the floor with Marreese Speights and Jordan Crawford. When he’s getting minutes with Curry, he needs to be more of a screener, less of a scorer. O’Neal doesn’t screen as severely as Bogut, preferring to evade contact and dive toward the rim. For the Warriors to score at a series-winning pace, they have to adjust O’Neal’s role.

Defensively, O’Neal is just fine. He’s not quite Bogut with the rim protection, but he’s not far off.

One big to rule them all

I’ve long been a proponent of “Bogut, plus shooters,” but the truth is that Golden State’s one-big lineups seem to thrive no matter who the big guy is -- as long as it isn’t Speights, I should say. It might be tempting for Jackson to use two traditional bigs against lineups of size, but Golden State cannot pull off an upset as a conventional, weaker version of itself. To win, the Warriors need to stretch and prod the opposition’s traditional approach.

Stephen Curry needs to do cool dribbling stuff and hit ridiculous shots

Duh.

It’s unfortunate we’ll never get to see that battered 2013 playoff team realize its potential in the 2014 playoffs. That hope is dead. In its place, the possibility remains that Golden State can once again shock the world. It’s unlikely, but it’s probably no more unlikely than Bogut finishing a season wire to wire.

Defensive value becoming harder to ignore

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
9:35
AM ET
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
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Andre IguodalaRocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesAndre Iguodala is used to being overlooked, but new metrics will make it tough to do so any longer.
What will happen when defense finally matters to basketball fans as much as offense does?

If we’re ever getting there, real plus-minus (RPM) and its defensive component (DRPM) make for a step in that direction. ESPN’s latest tool seeks to isolate a team’s performance when a player is in the game, placing equal value on offense and defense. This approach can lead to results that challenge what is “known” about a league that most view with an offensive gaze.

Andrew Bogut was once asked about SportVU’s player tracking technology, specifically how the defensive metrics showed Bogut to be a great rim protector. "I don't need to check that to know that," he joked. We might want to celebrate great defensive players with numbers that reflect their skill, but it’s hard to tell a great defensive player anything about his defense. Top defenders boast perceptive court awareness -- the ones I’ve talked to largely assume they have it all figured out anyway. You have a new stat? Cool. I see where everyone’s going on the floor like a casino camera.

Defensive specialists like Bogut have been long resigned to how much of their work gets ignored. It’s not about the credit. It’s about doing the job, helping the team and making a handsome living off the teams that value stopping the opposition. Credit and validation do not come with this gig. To quote “Mad Men,” “That’s what the money is for.”

So you’ll excuse wry, crusty Andre Iguodala if he views his impressive RPM with some suspicion. Asked about his top ranking among wing defenders, Iguodala replied, “They say numbers never lie. I’m the opposite of that; I think numbers always lie.”

Iguodala has, on occasion, mentioned the lack of credit he’s gotten for a career so focused on the defensive end. His contract in Philadelphia was the source of derision, despite his immense impact on defense.

Fans and even the stats themselves tend to obsess over who has the rock. "The stat sheet is geared more toward the ball and where the ball's at,” Iguodala says. “I'm more how the ball's being defended or how the ball's being impacted on the defensive end." Apparently we sports fans aren’t so different from the dogs we own: Show us a bouncing ball and we’ll be transfixed into noticing little else.

Iguodala, like Bogut, has expressed resignation when speaking of what gets ignored. He’s been in this game a long time, and ignoring being ignored has become almost a badge of honor.

He tells people not to call him “Iggy,” even if it’s an easy nickname that plays well in 140 characters. On that particular medium, Iguodala is cryptically vague. He intentionally cuts out the context when tweeting, becoming inscrutable to a vast majority of his followers. Sometimes it’s a Vine or a funny story that inspires Iguodala to broadcast unexplained phrases. “A word pops up in my head, and then I tweet it. No one has a clue what I’m talking about,” he says while laughing. “Some people figure it out though. Some people are pretty good.”

[+] EnlargeIguodala/Green
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesReal plus-minus is a big fan of impact defenders like the Dubs' Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.
"I'm not really an attention whore. I don't always like doing media," Iguodala says while smirking to attendant media. "When you're younger, you're in the league first five or six years, you want the attention. You want to be known as this or that."

Draymond Green, Golden State’s young defensive ace, was more receptive to the new stat. He is second in defense among wings in RPM, behind Iguodala. Golden State’s video guys showed the stat to Draymond. Then he checked Twitter and saw a lot of fans praising him on his high ranking.

“I’m definitely happy to see it,” Green says. “A lot of times, [defense is] overlooked.”

New defensive stats are coming at just the right time for guys like Green. Building a defensive reputation isn’t easy. It’s nice to have stats on your side at the beginning of a career. It’s ammo in the arsenal of the agent, fan or TV pundit who wishes to defend your honor.

Iguodala lacked that kind of tangible defense early in his career. In 2012, Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, “For 8 years, Philadelphia fans have been trying to form a relationship with 76ers forward Andre Iguodala. For the most part, it’s been like trying to grab a fistful of water.”

While Iguodala is suspicious of the numbers, he sees the value in what they might accomplish. “As a player, the whole analytics thing, you take the analytical side and the player's side, and there's that fence. And there's kind of a rift between the two. And I think for the game to evolve to become what everybody wants it to become, there has to be some kind of resolve between the two."

If the stats credit winning basketball, they just might help fans understand an NBA player’s job. If the stats credit winning basketball, they might just help people appreciate what they’re seeing.

The book on Mark Jackson

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
12:33
PM ET
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
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Mark Jackson
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesMark Jackson: The lay preacher.

Name: Mark Jackson

Birthdate: April 1, 1965

Is he an emotional leader or a tactician?
Outwardly, he’s an emotional leader, and it’s how he sold himself upon arrival. In last year’s playoffs, a camera captured Jackson telling his team, “I love you.”

Jackson preaches, quite literally. The ordained pastor uses religion in the locker room to connect with his players, and isn’t averse to thanking God for his team’s success.

He also sells confidence. You could even call Jackson a swaggering braggart. He’s positive where other coaches are negative, often talking up his team’s abilities in the hope that messaging will elevate internal expectations.

Jackson isn’t opposed to sly tactics, though. He likes to employ the unexpected trick, like guarding an inbounds pass with Andrew Bogut while zoning up the 3-point line, or calling a sideline buzzer-beater shot for Andre Iguodala as the opposition focuses on Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Is he intense or a go along-get along type?
Somewhere in between, as he’s transitioning from the latter to the former. Though habitually sanguine in the appraisal of his team, something has soured of late. He’s been quite frustrated and quite critical of his bench players this season. They aren’t playing well and Jackson is tiring of their lack of production. He’s calling them out publicly.

No matter how viciously Jackson skewers his team, it’ll stay rated-PG. He insists that he hasn’t cursed in over a decade.

Does he rely on systems, or does he coach ad hoc to his personnel?
It’s been ad hoc and the results have rewarded that flexibility. Here’s one example. The Jackson Warriors began with a defensive scheme that included big men who hedged high on pick and rolls. Eventually, the coaching staff decided that David Lee and Andrew Bogut were too slow for such a system. Golden State has played competent defense ever since they adopted a new scheme, one that's predicated on the big men slinking back towards the paint.


Does he share decision-making with star players, or is he The Decider?
He is more the Decider, in part because so many of his players are young. This may change as his guys get veteran experience.

For instance, to hear Curry tell it, he'd prefer guarding the other team's primary ball handler. Jackson overrides that preference and hides Curry on the opposition's worst offensive perimeter player. Though a superstar, Curry's opinion generally doesn't dictate what the team does. After years spent as a "coach on the floor" kind of point guard, Jackson remains in control of his team's in-game approach.

Does he prefer the explosive scorer or the lockdown defender?
Here’s one way to answer that question: David Lee’s playing time has never been in jeopardy.

Does he prefer a set rotation, or is he more likely to use his personnel situationally?
He’s preferred a set rotation, but such preferences are often undone by the reality of running an injury prone team. Also, the recent Golden State bench woes have forced Jackson to scramble for answers. It’s easier to embrace a set rotation when you can rely on bench stalwarts like Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack. Expect more mixing and matching from Jackson in 2013-14.

Will he trust young players in big spots, or is he more inclined to use his veterans?
He trusts young players more than any other coach, perhaps. He started rookies Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli last season. Draymond Green, whom Jackson effusively praises, received a lot more playing time than your typical second-round rookie. So long as the young player is practicing well, he’s afforded the larger stage.

Is he an advanced stats guy?
Yes, but reputedly by accident. Jackson won’t admit to letting analytics dictate his actions, but his actions often agree with the stats. He likes leaving players in the game after they’ve incurred foul “trouble.” He likes when his players fire up 3-pointers immediately off offensive rebounds. He sometimes lets his team run the final play without a timeout to guide them. If Jackson comes about these sound decisions by accident, it may be because bad coaching decisions skew fearful, and Jackson isn’t a fearful coach.

Are there any unique strategies that he particularly likes?
The Warriors run a lot of floppy action (two guards crisscrossing under the basket, off the ball) to get into their sets. Jackson ran this as an Indiana point guard and he’s made good use of it in Oakland. Curry and Thompson race through the kinds of staggered screens the Pacers once deployed to spring Reggie Miller, whom Jackson remains close friends with.

Golden State has adopted an action called “the split game” where they often force defenses to make a quick decision between guarding a cutting Iguodala or guarding Curry as he pops out for a 3-pointer. They also love to free Curry for semi transition 3-pointers with screens above the arc. The most eye-catching Warriors play is “Elevator Doors,” where Curry or Thompson race between two Warriors bigs as they converge to create a massive two-man screen.

Golden State’s execution is more unusual than the particular play calls they use. It’s upside-down world, where big men can push fast breaks and shooting guards regularly punish defenders in the post. The latter strategy is designed to hurt teams that guard Curry with someone other than their smallest player.

What were his characteristics as a player?
Jackson’s stocky frame did not belong in the NBA. He excelled due to vision, guile and a bruising post game. Though a pious man, he would wildly celebrate his successes. Jackson’s celebration of choice was the loose shimmy, which you’ll occasionally see Curry break out as an homage.

Which coaches did he play for?
Rick Pitino, Pat Riley, Larry Brown, Larry Bird, and Jeff Van Gundy are the heavy hitters. He also had an ill-fated stint under Jerry Sloan that ended amid a lot of speculation over whether Jackson turned the team against John Stockton.

What is his coaching pedigree?
Nothing, nothing at all.

If basketball didn't exist, what might he be doing?
He’s already an ordained pastor. Should Jackson leave coaching in the near future, expect him to mix that with his old announcing job.


The spirit of the 1984 Bill James Baseball Abstract was summoned for this project.

The Warriors are a defensive juggernaut

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
10:28
AM ET
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
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Go ahead, laugh at the headline. It sounds ridiculous on its face, given that the last time Golden State finished better than 10th in defensive rating was 35 seasons ago. One could argue that Jimmy Carter’s presidency bookmarks the latest instance of a “good” Warriors defense.

Maybe it's not the past that makes you laugh. Maybe it’s that All-Star David Lee and superstar Stephen Curry have suffered noted defensive struggles. Maybe it’s that the Warriors recently played a hyped, nationally televised game wherein the Clippers scored 126 points.

It all hides what’s probably the greatest collection of defensive talent out West. Through five games, the Warriors rank behind only Indiana in defensive efficiency. Their rating would probably be better if not for a slew of comically sloppy turnovers that became Blake Griffin dunks last Thursday. It’s just five games, yes. But don’t be shocked if this trend holds over the entire 82-game slate.

It starts with Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut, both elite defensive players at their respective positions. Building a bad defense that involves Bogut and Iguodala would probably take more effort than building a good one. So long as both are healthy, the Warriors' defense should be healthy.

Iguodala shores up the exterior and Bogut protects the rim. The shooting guard works in the shadows and margins of the Warriors' perimeter D. A fan might not notice how he’s shading an offensive player a certain direction, or how he’s swiveling through a screen. Defense is a percentage battle, and Iguodala is looking to play the probabilities over time. Over the course of 40-plus minutes, process trumps results for him. Such efforts rarely get widespread praise, but they do result in team success. The last time an Iguodala squad performed better on defense with Iguodala off the court was 2006-07.

In contrast to Iguodala’s style, Bogut is a pronounced defensive presence. Your eye is drawn to the rim, where the Golden State center often blows up the play with no regard for human foul trouble. He’s a confrontational defender, occasionally prone to latching one mitt on a driving player as the other hand chops at the ball like an overhead smash. Bogut is healthy again (for now), looking svelte compared to last season and, frankly, appearing to be the dominant defender Milwaukee never would have traded back in 2010.

On the perimeter, Klay Thompson mirrors some of Bogut’s aggression. Though Thompson sometimes suffers lapses in concentration off the ball, he’s a physical, dogged man-to-man defender. Both he and Iguodala can guard anyone from point guards to small forwards. Their skill and versatility spares Curry a lot of tough matchups and a lot of foul trouble.

Marreese Speights aside, the bench is stacked with plus defensive players. It’s nearly the only thing Jermaine O’Neal can do well at this juncture of his career. Defensively, Harrison Barnes looks like the next Iguodala, only taller. Draymond Green is a large and mobile wing. Toney Douglas gave Stephen Curry fits before finally joining the Warriors. Kent Bazemore is an athletic shooting guard whose wingspan stretches wider than Kevin Love’s.

Given the Warriors' embarrassment of defensive riches, defining the team defense by citing the shortcomings of Stephen Curry and David Lee doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’d be analogous to defining their thrilling “Splash Brothers” offensive attack by Bogut’s hopeful hook shots or Iguodala’s midrange misses.

Also, Lee's and Curry’s deficiencies will likely be mitigated by help from their teammates and by time in this particular defensive system. Lee’s inability to hedge high on screens used to kill the Keith Smart Warriors. Mark Jackson’s system eases the pain by calling on Lee to sink back from screens as Curry chases his man around the obstruction. Neither player is anything special at corralling offensive attackers, but the style shift has delivered results.

The change helped vault Golden State from 27th in defensive efficiency in 2011-12 to 13th last season. This happened largely without an injured Bogut’s help and before Iguodala arrived in Oakland.

These are not Don Nelson’s Warriors. It’s comforting to believe that team cultures have continuity across generations, but times do eventually change -- even for a franchise as stubborn as old Nellie was.

It’s a bit confusing because these Warriors are running up and down the court, launching 3s and thrilling fans. You’d assume a devil’s bargain where such an offense can’t come with a strong defensive foundation. You’d be wrong, though. If the Warriors aren’t good defensively this season, it should come as a shock. For once.

TrueHoop TV: Draymond Green, Part 2

July, 19, 2013
7/19/13
12:12
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
When the Golden State Warriors closed out the Denver Nuggets in Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs this spring, the team’s post-game celebration was a testimony to its togetherness. Mark Jackson delivered one of his signature benedictions to teamwork, then gave forward Draymond Green the cue to initiate the group prayer as the team huddled tightly, arms raised like a campfire stack.

Green led the prayer with great command. His invocation thanked “father lord” for the blessings bestowed upon the team and asked that the lord continue to bless the Warriors, watch over them and allow them to bond together. Green then concluded the prayer with, “In Jesus’ name, I pray.”

Broadcasted live on national television, the unbridled expression of faith in a specific god was jarring. For anyone who's ever found himself in such a circle but who doesn't believe in that particular god -- or any god -- the experience can be uncomfortable.

Do you participate out of deference to the majority? Stay silent and meditate about something else until it's over? Quietly excuse yourself from the circle? Do you bring your uneasiness to the attention of a coach, supervisor, camp counselor but risk disrupting the cohesion the team, staff or cabin has established?

These are tough questions, especially when there's a sense these rituals are positive, team-building exercises for most. But there are also good reasons we reserve faith for private moments in a civil society. Plurality comes with a price, even if it feels right to praise a higher power at a moment of collective celebration. That's not a statement of political correctness, but a commitment to the idea that great teamwork is about inclusiveness above all else, that units function best when everyone feels like they have a stake in the mission.

Could Green make this accommodation if he was asked? I'd been wanting to find out since May.

Meeting Green in person is an altogether pleasant encounter. He's inordinately grateful for the opportunities he's enjoyed in basketball. Where there's often a chip on a second-rounder's shoulder, Green carries a humble confidence. He loves his job, loves his teammates, his coaches and even loves the chance to share those impressions with strangers and sincerely wants those strangers to feel comfortable.

Green graciously agreed to sit down and discuss the importance of vocalizing his faith in the locker room, and the implications of those declarations.
 
video

TrueHoop TV: Draymond Green, Part 1

July, 19, 2013
7/19/13
11:30
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
video

Wednesday Bullets

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
5:22
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
  • From Pablo S. Torre's ESPN The Magazine feature on Kyrie Irving, what every eager young basketball player should have in the drawers of his nightstand: pork rinds and Sour Patch Kids.
  • At BallerBall, an expanded visual of Russell Westbrook's legs at a 105-degree angle as he launched Oklahoma City's final field goal attempt -- the most controversial shot of Christmas.
  • Royce Young of Daily Thunder tackles the prickly question of Kendrick Perkins' usefulness and wonders why Kevin Martin and not Thabo Sefolosha was on the floor for a crucial defensive possession in the game's closing seconds that resulted in an easy bucket for Chris Bosh.
  • A video roundup of the notable Christmas Day commercial spots featuring big-name NBA players.
  • How many minutes should an NBA coach play a raw, young player? That's one of the most contentious debates in the NBA, and it's one that can drive a wedge between a head coach and management, a fan base and its team, young guys and oldsters in a locker room. Andre Drummond has put up solid numbers per minute in Detroit, but he's not seeing all that many minutes.
  • Seth Rosenthal of Posting and Toasting implores Raymond Felton, who has only seven functional fingers, to take a night off: "At last, we may have found the injury threshold at which Raymond achieves self awareness. Yes, Ray. Take the night off. Take a couple if you have to. I don't know why having sore, lifeless hands emboldens Felton to attempt MORE feats of dexterity (now attempting 19 shots per game in December after 14.2 per game in November), but it's really not helping matters."
  • Andrew Han of ClipperBlog factored the decision-making judgment of Caron Butler: "Midway through the third quarter, on a secondary break, Caron Butler pulled up for a wide-open 3-pointer. Open as far as the eye can see. So open, in fact, that when he elevated, Iguodala (who was 10 feet away) simply turned around to seek out the impending rebound. But Butler didn’t shoot it. He dished it to an equally wide-open Willie Green for a corner-3, who promptly drained it. I mention it because I wondered why Butler passed on his shot; he’s been an effective 3-point shooter this season. And so I checked the stats: Caron Butler: 37.8% 3PT% from above-the-break-3. Willie Green: 48.3% 3PT% from the corner-3. They were similarly wide open, but Butler understood that the corner-3 is a higher percentage shot, and a much higher one for Willie Green. You play the hand you’re dealt. And while, to others, it seems like you’re on a hot streak, it’s all about counting the odds."
  • Jamal Crawford with a move Billy Crystal calls "Shabbat Shalom" ... even on a Tuesday night.
  • Keith Smart cast his lot with DeMarcus Cousins last season, a gambit that's become a lot more dicey for the Kings' head coach in his second season with the organization.
  • Warriors rookie Draymond Green can't shoot, lacks a natural position even by the more fluid definitions of today's NBA and is putting up some ugly numbers. So how come the Warriors are inordinately better when he's on the floor?
  • Something to contemplate as the Hornets get ready for the return of Eric Gordon -- he's a sturdy, efficient defender.
  • The Washington Wizards don't do much of anything right, but as Jordan Khan of Bullets Forever illustrates, they sort of know how to press.
  • Kendall Marshall celebrates the miracle of touchpads.

Warriors finding success in clutch time

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
12:11
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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The Warriors were hitting from inside and outside against the Heat.

Who would have thought at this point in the season that we'd be writing about the composure under pressure by the Golden State Warriors?

But this team merits mention after continuing its road success under arduous circumstances.

So here are five stats to know from the Warriors’ stunning win over the Miami Heat.

1. The Warriors are hot. They’ve won five straight games to start this road trip, all against Eastern Conference opponents. It’s the first time they’ve won the first five games of a road trip since 1978.

2. Mark Jackson’s team is 7-1 in games decided by five points or less this season. The Warriors went 8-14 in those games last season, in Jackson’s first season as head coach.

3. This was the first game in Draymond Green’s 22-game career in which he made a go-ahead shot in the fourth quarter. His basket on a backdoor cut continued a trend for the Warriors that has been key to their success.

Golden State is 19-for-26 this season on shots taken from within five feet and the score within five points in the fourth quarter or overtime (known as “clutch time.”). That shooting percentage ranks third-best in the NBA.

The Warriors have been much more poised this season than last (as the chart on the right notes) in late/close situations … at least so far. Last season, they shot just 52 percent on shots inside five feet in those instances (fourth-worst in the league).

4. Forward David Lee had his fifth straight game with 20 points and at least 10 rebounds. That ties LeBron James for the longest such streak in the NBA this season.

5. James had his 20th straight game scoring at least 20 points, extending the longest such streak to start a season in his career.

But in the five games in which James has scored 30 or more (as he did on Wednesday), the Heat are 2-3. In the losses to the Warriors, Clippers, and Knicks, James’ teammates are shooting 42 percent from the field.

James missed a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer. He’s now 3-for-14 on game-tying or go-ahead shot attempts in the final 24 seconds of regulation or overtime with the Heat.

Statistical support from NBA.com was used in this article

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