TrueHoop: Eddie House
Trailing 103-102 with 22 seconds to play, LeBron James opted not to take an open three-pointer. Instead he passed the ball to his right where House was unguarded and drained a three to give Miami the lead for good. Give credit to James for not taking the three. While he shoots threes at a 35.7 percent clip, House is much better from behind the arc at 43.5 percent. (Before Sunday, House had missed both his three-point attempts this season when Miami was trailing by three points or fewer with less than 24 seconds to play.)
On Friday, House scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, and four of the Heat's final five points -- including two free throws with six seconds to play that put the Heat up 88-87, which was the final score.
James had 13 assists, one shy of his season high, and finished 7-of-14 from the floor against the Thunder. Sunday was the first time in James’ last eight games that he took fewer than 23 shots. Only once in his career has James taken at least 23 field goal attempts in eight straight games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The Heat now are 8-0 when Chris Bosh (8-of-13 vs Oklahoma City), James (7-of-14) and Dwyane Wade (13-of-22) all shoot at least 50 percent from the floor.
The Thunder struggled in their half-court offense, but that shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. The Heat entered the game holding opponents to 40.6 percent shooting in the half court, which ranks second in the NBA. The Thunder were shooting 43.5 percent in their half-court offense, but shot just 36.6 percent against the Heat.
In Sunday’s other marquee matchup, the Celtics shot 60.3 percent from the field in their 109-96 road win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Not only was that the fourth time this season that Boston shot at least 60 percent from the field (most in the NBA), but it was the highest field goal percentage by a Lakers opponent this season.
Despite having just one assist at halftime, Rajon Rondo finished with 16. It was his 11th 15-assist game of the season, only Steve Nash has more with 13 (entering his game Sunday against the Hornets). Rondo scored or assisted on 49 points, and 43 of them were in the second half.
The Lakers finished with a season-low 10 assists, including none from Kobe Bryant, who matched his season-high with 41 points. He’s the only player this season to score 40 in a game and not have an assist, and it was the third such game of his career. The 10 assists, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, are their fewest in a home game since Oct. 25, 1960. That was the Lakers' second home game after moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.
Bryant took 29 of the Lakers' 66 field goal attempts (43.9 percent) while he was on the floor. This was the 10th game this season that Bryant took more than 40 percent of the Lakers' shots while on the court. In those 10 games, the Lakers are 3-7. Los Angeles is much better when Bryant shoots a smaller percent of the team's shots while on the court. The Lakers are 23-5 when Bryant takes less than 35 percent of the team's shots when on the floor.
Forget about the hoopla in Miami, and let's talk about the basketball.
The basketball in Miami
The concentration of talent in Miami has created a dramatic storyline the NBA hasn't seen in years. In late October, the narrative will finally give way to live basketball, as the offseason machinations fade into the background. Fans and observers can debate whether a team of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami is healthy for the NBA, and the Heat's first final-possession scenario will likely launch silly arguments about who rightfully deserves to be called "the man" in Miami. Lost in the cacophony of hysteria is the single most fascinating question headed into the 2010-11 season: What will the Miami Heat's 94 or so possessions look like on a nightly basis? How will James play off Wade and vice versa? How do you defend a Wade-James pick-and-roll? Will we see a lineup of Eddie House, Wade, Miller, James and Bosh (talk about the end of positional orthodoxy!)? Will Bosh benefit from the disproportionate attention opposing defenses will have to devote to the perimeter? And how will Bosh handle the more workaday duties of being the big man down low? However you feel about what's transpired since the beginning of July, the experiment being assembled in Miami is a basketball lover's dream. If you find Miami's personnel unlikable, then root like hell for the opposing defense. Either way, you won't be disappointed.
The blueprint in Oklahoma City
The Thunder emerged last season as the most promising young outfit in the NBA. They finished with 50 wins and gave the Lakers their toughest Western Conference playoff series. Then, this offseason, they extended a max contract to Kevin Durant and fortified their bright young core by adding Morris Peterson, Daequan Cook and first-round draft pick Cole Aldrich. In some sense, general manager Sam Presti's decision to essentially stand pat might have been one of the the boldest move of the offseason. Many executives with a talented core and some money to spend would've committed to a high-dollar addition, but Presti stayed the course. He's banking that the maturation of Durant, Russell Westbrook, Jeff Green, James Harden and Serge Ibaka will continue and vault the Thunder over of the scrum in the Western Conference. Is he being realistic? Can the Thunder ride a frontcourt of Green, Nenad Krstic, Ibaka, Nick Collison and Aldrich into the ranks of the NBA elite? Can a team that sustained no major injuries last season decline to add a single major pieces and still pick up 5-10 wins? The answer to these questions will give us an idea of how much "upward trajectory" is worth in the NBA.
Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire: Beautiful while it lasted
The power of Nash
Amare Stoudemire provides us with one of the best controlled experiments in recent years.
Watching him run the pick-and-roll with Steve Nash in Phoenix for eight years, we grew to regard Stoudemire as one of the most prolific power forwards of his generation. In New York, Stoudemire will benefit from the presence of coach Mike D'Antoni, who conceived many of the schemes that enabled him to flourish, but will be without Nash for the first time since 2004. How will swapping out Raymond Felton for Nash affect Stoudemire's game? Back in Phoenix, a 36-year-old Nash will have to replicate what he did during his 2005-06 MVP season when Stoudemire missed virtually 79 games -- cobble together an offense with imperfect parts. How Stoudemire performs without Nash as his dance partner and how Phoenix fares with an offense that will be more reminiscent of their 2005-06 season -- when Nash maximized the versatility of Shawn Marion, Boris Diaw and Raja Bell -- will tell us a lot about Nash's enormous impact on the game he plays as beautifully as anyone.
The defense in Chicago
The Boston Celtics' return to the NBA's upper echelon was predicated first and foremost on their defense. They unleashed a pressurized force field designed and implemented by Tom Thibodeau, and ultimately adopted by other teams around the league, including the Los Angeles Lakers. This June, the Bulls tapped Thibodeau to fill their head coaching vacancy. He joins a Bulls team that put together a strong defensive season last season, finishing 10th in efficiency. Skeptics might look at Derrick Rose -- whose defensive instincts are a far cry from Rajon Rondo -- and Carlos Boozer and conclude that Thibodeau doesn't have the personnel to succeed the way he did in Boston. Yet in 2007, Thibodeau took a quintet that featured Ray Allen (who had a horrendous defensive reputation coming from Seattle), an undisciplined big man in Kendrick Perkins, a second-year point guard in Rajon Rondo who'd started only 25 games and made them one of the best defensive units in basketball. With Joakim Noah anchoring the interior, the lanky tandem of Luol Deng and Ronnie Brewer on the wings, Boozer's sharp basketball IQ and Rose's gifts, Thibodeau should have the tools to sculpt a top-5 defense. If the Bulls buy in, we'll have a better understanding whether Thibodeau's kind of tactical expertise is transferable -- and an inkling of just how dangerous the Bulls could be.
The reign in Los Angeles
A calm has set in over Los Angeles, where the Lakers went about their offseason business with all the fanfare of a routine annual checkup. While the rest of the basketball universe was focused in on LeBron James and south Florida, the Lakers quietly added veterans Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff and re-upped head coach Phil Jackson. Even when the Lakers were stringing together three consecutive titles at the beginning of the millennium, there was always a swirl of intrigue surrounding the club. That's no longer true, as the Lakers have assumed a posture of professional incumbency the league hasn't seen in quite some time. Will the Lakers ride the precision of their system, the collective experience and poise of their core and the natural attributes of their defense to a fourth straight Finals appearance? Barring serious injury, is there anything that can disrupt the Lakers' rhythm? Is a successful formula ever in danger of becoming predictable?
The patience in Portland
Before the Oklahoma City Thunder became next year's model, the Portland Trail Blazers were on the brink of creating something special. The sketch of a winner was stenciled on the Rose Garden floor -- an all-powerful wing primed to take big shots, a talented power forward oozing with finesse, a defensive and rebounding force in the middle and smart supporting players who embraced their roles. Injuries and disruption turned the 2009-10 campaign into a holding pattern, but the pieces are still in place for the Trail Blazers to achieve. Health remains a concern, as Greg Oden will try to return from a fractured left patella. But if the big man can log 2,000 minutes, Portland should be able to complement their Top-1o offense with the kind of dogged rebounding and efficient defense that made them a popular No. 2 pick headed into last season. The question those with an affection for Portland don't want to ask is, how bright is the team's future if he can't?
The possibility of youth
The appeal of the league's top-rated rookies runs much deeper than individual performance. Their presence can ripple beyond whatever spot on the floor they happen to occupy. Blake Griffin not only has the power to explode to the rim every time he touches the ball, but he also has the potential to transform Baron Davis into the joyful point guard the world fell in love with in the spring of 2007. John Wall's well-honed instincts won't just fill up the box score, but also could revive a fan base in Washington that was teased with meaningful basketball a few years ago, only to watch their franchise return to the wilderness. DeMarcus Cousins could become the Kings' more formidable presence in the frontcourt since Chris Webber left, but more important, he and Tyreke Evans have a chance to redefine what big-small combos can do in the rapidly changing pro game. "Upside" is a word thrown around a lot in June, but watching that potential unfold produces unique findings. And that's why we watch.
- The Rockets made out like bandits in yesterday's three-team trade with Sacramento and New York. Jason Friedman gets to the heart of what Daryl Morey & Company were able to accomplish: "In Martin, the Rockets have filled a glaring void at the 2-guard spot. And this isn’t simply some band-aid, stop-gap solution. Martin is one of the NBA’s most efficient scoring weapons, a player who drains 3s and draws fouls in bunches, which has allowed him to post a True Shooting Percentage above 60% for four consecutive seasons. In other words, he’s the perfect fit for a team which treats efficiency like it’s the Holy Grail ... Then there are those draft picks. Oh, those wonderful draft picks ... the Rockets now own a pair of first round picks in 2011 and 2012 which gives Morey more of an opportunity to weave his magic, be it through savvy selections or additional wheeling and dealing. We’re talking about laying down this franchise’s foundation of the future here, people; one which suddenly looks so very bright not just for the rest of this year and (especially) the next – but for the years to come as well."
- At Hardwood Paroxysm, Wyn Douglas takes a historical look at the success and failure of teams after the trade deadline. Also at Hardwood Paroxysm, Jared Wade isn't ready to bury Tracy McGrady just yet. He wonders if McGrady can revive his career as a Grant Hill-like facilitator, and runs through the list of other superstar journeymen who have played for multiple teams.
- Lots of fun with player comps in a two-parter from Neil Paine at Basketball Reference. Fascinating stuff: Paine's project makes Andrei Kirilenko the modern equivalent of Marques Johnson.
- At the deadline, the Chicago Bulls acquired four ... gremlins?
- Byron Scott and Mychal Thompson engaged in a real-life boxing match. There's some disagreement about which former Laker won on points. In the same interview, Scott says that the Clippers head coaching job is intriguing: "I do think the Clipper job is a pretty good job for me. They have got some young talent.Obviously they are going to have a lot of cap room and another lottery pick coming in."
- The worst thing about blogging the Cavs, according to John Krolik of Cavs: the Blog.
- Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company looks at Carmelo Anthony's big shot against LeBron James.
- Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns delves into the host of questions surrounding Amare Stoudemire's staying put in Phoenix.
- "Shake" -- not just a liquified dessert, but a way to measure a player's consistency.
- You know that remixed "Defense" NBA spot? The most amusing clip in the ad is the unintentional irony of Eddie House in the Celtics huddle yelling, "Keep playing defense!" House was dealt from Boston to New York yesterday. At Celtics Hub, Zach Lowe bids farewell to the C's inveterate shooter, focusing on his favorite House moment, which occurred in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
- Matthew Bunch of Hot Hot Hoops says sometimes the best move at the deadline is no move at all.
- The best thing about the Bucks' deal for John Salmons? Milwaukee hung onto its picks and got some draft considerations from Chicago.
- Knickerblogger draws up an extensive report card on New York's deadline moves.
But often, it's the penultimate possession that sets the stage for the dramatic finish. That was the case last night at Staples Center where the Clippers nipped the Celtics, 92-90.
Here's what transpires with the Clippers down 90-87 and about 25 seconds remaining in the game. The Clippers collect the rebound off a Ray Allen miss on the defensive end. Rather than call timeout, Baron Davis marches the ball down-court. Remember, the Clips need three to tie -- a 2-point basket still leaves them down a point. Watch Ray Allen and Eddie House, Boston's wing defenders, on the play, and pay particular attention to Rasual Butler in bottom right-hand corner of your screen.
The Celtics are usually an unfailingly smart defensive unit, which is why seeing both Allen and House leave Rasual Butler and Eric Gordon alone on the arc is so strange. Butler and Gordon are the Clippers most potent 3-point threats. Leaving either one of them open behind the line to collapse on a driving Baron Davis with 12 seconds left on the game clock doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Let's play out the counterfactual. Say Allen and House stay at home on the Clippers' snipers. Davis, who has beaten Rajon Rondo and Rasheed Wallace on the high screen from DeAndre Jordan, glides relatively untouched to the hoop. That's not something you want to see if you're Doc Rivers, but given the circumstances, you can tolerate it (In most cases, you'd play off Davis to induce a long 3-point attempt off the dribble). Your team still leads by one point with about 10 seconds left on the game clock. In that situation, the Celtics would take a timeout, and inbound the ball on their side of the floor to Allen, Wallace, House or Kevin Garnett, each of whom is an 80 percent free throw shooter. The Clippers would get the ball back, behind one (or more likely two) with about seven seconds. They'd still have an opportunity to win the game, but would have to do so under pressure.
Instead, the Celtics have the ball in a tied game with 8.5 seconds left. Rondo works in isolation against Davis. Despite Davis' best efforts to wall off the paint, Rondo gets about a step ahead of him at about 10 feet, then angles his way in from the left side of the lane. With that long, outstretched right arm, Rondo has a good look at the basket, and Davis hacks him with 1.0 left. Rondo, a 52.7 percent free throw shooter, misses both ends. The Clippers get a free look at a potential game-winner.
After Butler drains the 3-pointer, Rivers laces into House over on the sidelines, with House snapping back at him. In his post-game remarks, Rivers says, "We had a whole potpourri of mistakes we made down the stretch -- mental mistakes. It's nothing that anyone did, just us mentally. We talk about how the only opponent we have every night is ourselves and, tonight, we beat ourselves."
I'm not sure the Celtics could have done much more defensively on Davis' game-winner, but they'll definitely be looking at some film of Butler's game-tying bomb from long range.
Forget about Kobe -- the Nuggets have their hands full with the Lakers' seven-footers. Orlando needed to learn how to win -- it took them all of 72 hours. And Rick Sund deserves an "Atta Boy," in Atlanta.
Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company: "You can talk about Kobe Bryant all you want, the Nuggets biggest concern should be how they can handle [Andrew] Bynum and [Pau] Gasol. With the starters on the floor Kenyon Martin is going to have to guard one of them and he has a serious length disadvantage against both. Most likely Kenyon will be guarding Gasol and for all his defensive desire and talents he is in a big hole ... Pau can shoot his 15-18 foot set shot over Kenyon at will and when he goes into the post his jump hook will be impossible for Kenyon to stop. Nene is relatively better equipped to cover Bynum than Kenyon is for guarding Gasol, but Bynum still has a significant length and weight advantage over Nene. On the other hand, Nene has done a decent job against Gasol in the past so will Denver choose to stick Kenyon on Bynum and double the heck out of him should he get the ball in the post thus creating one major mismatch instead of two less than desirable matchups?"
Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub: "This Celtics team could not play championship-caliber defense consistently. Their defensive numbers slipped a bit against Chicago, a mediocre offensive team, and it was likely, if not inevitable, that Orlando was going to score on Boston at least once or twice in this series. And the Celtics could not rely on their offense and their three-point shooting to carry them, as they did against the Bulls. Orlando's defense was the best in the NBA this season by some metrics. The tendency will be to look for what the Celtics did wrong -- to ask why Doc Rivers waited so long to try a small lineup, to wonder why Ray Allen shot so poorly until Game 7, to ask why the Celtics defenders had so much trouble guarding Mickael Pietrus tonight, why Eddie House couldn't get free, and on and on and on. The reality is that Orlando is a very good basketball team that presents major match-up problems for Boston sans [Kevin] Garnett."
Bret LaGree of Hoopinion: "Considering both the ownership situation and his brief tenure I'm going to give Rick Sund the benefit of the doubt for the time being. I don't believe that's simply a matter of being fair. By signing Flip Murray and Maurice Evans for a combined $4 million he earned the benefit of the doubt. The veteran pair combined to ably back up three positions while helping to accelerate the team's transformation, one which started following last season's trade for Mike Bibby, from an offense incapable of making three-point shots into a more diverse and dangerous team to guard."
THE FINAL WORD
Cavs the Blog: John Krolik revisits the Cavs-Magic regular season matchups.
Orlando Magic Daily: Much respect for Mr. Paul Pierce.
Daily Thunder: Thabo Sefolosha -- the next Shane Battier?
(Photos by Noah Graham, Brian Babineau, Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Yao shuts down Dwight Howard. Alarmists in San Antonio want to shut down Tim Duncan. Can anyone shut down the Bulls at home?
Brody Rollins of Rockets Buzz: "Yao's like that shutdown corner, the one the announcers croon over on TV, but you just don't see it until it's already the third quarter and the quarterback hasn't even looked in his direction.
Normally, every game with Yao goes something like that, which is why I was ecstatic to see real competition come into Houston ([Greg] Oden on Tuesday was slightly more than underwhelming) ... Dwight Howard passed up the jumpshot ... took two steps toward Yao and spun baseline without drawing any contact, went up with his right hand and was completely smothered by Yao. The Great Wall was pumped, Howard was dejected, and the Magic guards stopped looking to get the ball in the post. And there it was, what every Magic fan fears, another night of Rashard [Lewis] drifting around the 3-point line and [Hedo] Turkoglu doing the same."
Graydon Gordian at 48 Minutes of Hell: "If we aren't winning a title this season, shut [Tim Duncan] down, reload during the offseason and make a push for a fifth banner in 2010. Superficially, this is what many would characterize as the realist's perspective. Rather than mince words, I'll be frank: I don't find that to be realistic ... I genuinely feel that perspective is based off of a characterization of basketball which fundamentally misunderstands the nature of on-court achievement, therefore rendering it meaningless.
...[F]or the first time in several years, day-to-day events seem out of control. Sitting Duncan for 25 games, the amount he would likely play from here on out if we were quickly dispatched by the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals (that's about what I consider our ceiling at this point), will not be decisive in dictating the future of this franchise. What it does is provide a false sense of control. Instead of battling through a difficult moment, we would be distracting ourselves from our own fear of demise by doing something extreme."
Bret LaGree of Hoopinion: "[Josh] Smith has made 7 of 12 three-point attempts over the last four games. That's 58.3%. Prior to the game in Philadelphia Smith had made 24.6% of his three-point attempts (69) on the season and 26% of his three-point attempts (453) for his career. It's obvious which is the smallest sample-size and I'm not advocating Josh Smith continue to attempt three three-pointers per game for the foreseeable future. I simply offer the reminder that improvements don't follow a fixed schedule. They can manifest themselves in April as easily as they can in September. Last night Hawks' fans got the best of both worlds: Smith's unexpected bounty from beyond the arc and a strong, successful drive to the basket on an important possession."
THE FINAL WORD
Celtics Hub: Eddie House's exploits from beyond the arc are the stuff of history.
By the Horns: Life is better in Chicago when squeaking by the Knicks at home isn't good enough.
Cavs the Blog: Phenomenal Tom Ziller/Free Darko-inspired positionality diagrams of the Cavs' principals.
(Photos by Bill Baptist, Garrett Ellwood, Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub: "Here's something that tells you all you need to know about this game, a loss ... in which the C's gave up a season-high 127 points to a mediocre team: When the Celtics absolutely had to get one rebound–when they were down 122-119 with 33 seconds left and Derrick Rose missed a jumper–Eddie House was left to box out Brad Miller.
... It is here that I could ask why Doc Rivers had taken Kendrick Perkins out of the game for this possession, leaving a super-small line-up of House-Pierce-Allen-Marbury-Rondo to get the essential stop. I could lament that the C's missed an opportunity to move a game ahead Orlando for the 'all-important' second seed. And I could criticize a truly bad defensive performance, full of slow rotations, missed assignments and poor decisions (hi, Mikki).
But, really, the line-up that was on the court at the end of the game (and for most of the fourth quarter) shows how meaningless this game is in the long run. It was fun to watch precisely because it was so gimmicky. If the Celtics go on to win the title this year, this game will merit one paragraph in the Globe and/or Herald quickie book chronicling the season–and only then to note Leon Powe's knee injury (update forthcoming). It is a game we will have long forgotten come the playoffs."
John Krolik of Cavs the Blog:"LeBron James is more messianic than you are. Not only did he completely dominate this game, but he did it against a defense that was well set up and ready to take away his bread and butter from him. The jumper was absolutely in full effect, and this is as good as you're going to see the inside/out game working from LeBron James ...
[I]n the final moments, he was more than a little clutch. That three in front of the Magic bench? I mean, what can I say? He was absolutely feeling it, if he misses we likely as not lose, and the degree of difficulty was through the roof. Absolutely amazing. And sealing it with a savvy pump-fake and foul draw and two clutch free throws instead of getting caught up in the moment and trying a fadeaway dagger? Fantastic ... This is maybe the most talented player ever to pick up a basketball on an absolute mission. Enjoy every game...
This is pretty much the game to show why Howard isn't quite on that MVP level yet (as I see it, tier one is LeBron, Kobe, CP3, and Wade) -- he was dominant defensively and pulling in rebounds, but after looking like a bona fide offensive force the last time we saw him and the last game he played, he was almost invisible on that end tonight, showing some nice hooks and even passes out of double-teams but ultimately only getting 13 points on 8 shots.
A lot of that isn't his fault -- this team loves the three-ball, and doesn't play as disciplined as it should. This is where going from a Jameer to a Skip really hurts you, even if Skip's drilling his shots."
(Photos by Gary Dineen, David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
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:
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."
John 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."
Graydon 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."
(Photos by Al Bello, David Liam Kyle, Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
Would Stephon Marbury fit into Boston's backcourt? Does Nate Robinson fit into Mike D'Antoni's vision? Wizznutzz doesn't worry about fitting in, period.
Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub: "The idea behind signing Marbury, I assume, is to have more offensive firepower on the bench. But where, exactly, does Marbury fit in with the second unit? If Doc sticks to the way he's been constructing line-ups so far this season, what you're really asking in the second question is this: Do you think Marbury is a better player than Eddie House? I say that because Doc essentially never plays a three-guard lineup or even a line-up with two small guards; Rondo and House, for instance, have been on the floor together for just 145 minutes this season.
So I don't think you can say, 'This is great, playing Stephon with the second unit frees up House to play shooting guard.' Because Doc has shown no indication he's willing to play two guys 6′2” or under at the same time, and I'm not sure he's willing to play a House-Marbury-Pierce/Ray combo during meaningful minutes.
It hurts the defense too much, especially against Cleveland, which rarely plays a small line-up. You can't just slide Marbury in for Tony Allen (who is 6′4” and a solid defender).
I just don't see how Marbury fits into the team - given the coaching staff's apparent preference for bigger guards - without severely cutting into House's minutes. Maybe Doc is willing to experiment with smaller line-ups or even play Marbury for Rondo alongside the other four starters in short stints. I ask you: Are you ready for that? Because I honestly don't know if I am."
Rob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: "For a long time, Nate Robinson has been a welcome diversion. Unfortunately, that's all. His success was always side by side with the prerequisite grain of salt as I looked for subtle ways to invalidate his glory. No more. I'm ready for the Nate Robinson revolution, and - friends, Romans, countrymen - I hope you'll join me for the ride.
The stigma of the short point guard is a painful one. No player faces a steeper hill, nay, mountain to climb to NBA competence. On top of that, there is no Myth of the Next Jordan/Kobe, or the next Maravich, or the next Garnett. There is the Mythology of the Little Man. If you can dunk, you are Spud Webb. If you can't, you are Earl Boykins. The confines of Nate Rob's world are bench sparkplug at best and sideshow at the most demeaning. If given the proper opportunity, he's ready to make that abnormally low glass ceiling obsolete...
If Steve Nash taught us anything in SSoL v1.0, it's that a stellar point guard's offensive skill can overcome defensive inferiority. When your defensive philosophy is predicated on making opponents take poorly planned shots after being lulled into a false sense of security and superiority and then run the ball down their throats, you're given such a luxury. I think that once 2010 comes around, Robinson should be that point guard. Last night, Nate put up 41 points on 18 shots…off the bench. He turned the ball over once in 36 minutes. He sealed the game with a nice, contested lay-up after a steal. His ability to put the ball in the damn hoop certainly trumps his limitations, and his weaknesses (FG%, turnovers) have dwindled with NBA experience.
He's not of the Nash mold. Not even close. There are games where he looks exclusively to shoot, and that's precisely why I want him in there kicking ass and taking names. The easier comparison is probably to Leandro Barbosa, but I think Nate's play is infinitely less trite. If Walsh and D'Antoni put together the type of team we know that they are capable of given their market and clout, Nate Robinson doesn't have to be Nash…or Barbosa. He's somewhere in between. Part of the beauty of SSoL is that it can turn rotation players and sixth men into juggernauts if they have the right skill set. Nate's got it. He doesn't have Nash's court vision or Barbosa's unbridled speed, but he can make plays for his teammates and he makes people look foolish with his quicks. If you put a playmaker beside him on the wing, that offense goes from 'fun' to 'deadly.' LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, even Joe Johnson. They would demand a subtle modification of D'Antoni's system, but the benefits could be enormous.
Why must a scoring point guard's works be invalidated by his height? ...It's hard out there for a point…so can't we remove the complications by letting a player play and dropping our notions of what a point guard should be and what he should look like."
Wizznutzz: "Everyone was anticipating the mega-trades, player moves that would realign the balance of power but lets face it this is what the NBA trade deadline turned into: a game called 'Osbournes' played by NBA GMs where they pretend Larry Hughes is a giant ham and they try and throw him over their neighbors fence when he's not looking. Whats astonishing about Larry Hughes (aka 'L-Boogie' aka 'Cold Mountain' aka 'His Majestys Secret Service' aka 'The Coy Mister') is not his game but the size of his dowry!
Larry's career has answered the question many league scouts had when he was first drafted and that question was: 'I wonder what would happen in we gave Victor Page 100 million dollars?'
There was even a crazy rumor that Cold Mountain would be coming back to the Verizon Center (home of the 'Unlimited Minutes' rookie plan!) But the Wizards and Ernie Grunfeld stayed put, hey if it aint broke why fix it! Even though they made no moves, The Big G said he got lots of calls all week from keen GMs. But it turned out they were mostly prank calls from John Nash posing as keen GMs begging for the contracts of Etan Thomas and Mike James."
THE FINAL WORD
Hornets247: Will the offseason be a horror flick for the Hornets?
Piston Powered: Is it time to sit Rodney Stuckey?
48 Minutes of Hell: Michael Finley -- fearless elder.
(Photos by Kent Horner, Chris McGrath, David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
Marc Stein reported today on rumblings that Stephon Marbury might get his ticket out of New York, en route to...Boston. There are still some hurdles:
The fact remains, though, that Marbury has to extricate himself from the Knicks before he can make any firm future plans. Media outlets in New York have reported in recent days that Knicks president Donnie Walsh is planning to seriously rekindle buyout talks now that the calendar has flipped to 2009, but one theory in circulation holds that the Knicks have dragged out Marbury's release this long in part because they don't want to see him wind up as a contributor in a championship race with a team from the same division...
In buyout negotiations to date, Marbury has refused to surrender more than $1 million of his $20.8 million salary and, at last report, was no longer offering to give back that much. The Knicks have reportedly asked Marbury to give up at least $3 million for the right to choose his next team, although they could be moved to lower those demands if a trade materializes that requires New York to open Marbury's roster spot.
Some reaction from around the web:
- Celticsblog judiciously lays out both the positives and negatives for Boston, and ultimately concludes that, though Marbury would certainly arrive with baggage, the downside is negligible when you look at the alternatives: "Given our limited options, Marbury might be the best option for giving this team a shot in the arm. Then again, it might also be a Plaxico Burress shot in the leg."
- Paul Flannery at WEEI reminds us that if Marbury hops on the bus, someone has to get off: "For starters, the Celtics will have to clear a roster spot. They are carrying the full allotment of 15 players, which means somebody would have to go, probably from among the Gabe Pruitt, Bill Walker, Sam Cassell trio. Pruitt has shown flashes and Danny Ainge is a fan, Walker has been learning his craft in the D-League, while Cassell has kept busy playing one-on-one with Brian Scalabrine and serving as a de-facto assistant coach."
- The New York Post's Marc Berman writes that Marbury is nowhere near New York or Boston right now: "Stephon Marbury is on a plane to Minnesota as we write to visit cousin Sebastian Telfair... Marbury was planning to check out Wolves-Warriors tonight and see Telfair vs. Jamal Crawford live, then head to Detroit for a business meeting."
- Brett Pollakoff at NBA Fanhouse deems Marbury a high risk-low reward maneuver for Boston: "As far as Marbury becoming any type of distraction though, there's little chance of that happening with alpha dogs Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce around. Still, there's a chance. Which means that this seems like an awfully big risk to take for a team that is the defending NBA champs and has only lost five of their first 33 games."
- Alan Hahn at Newsday's The Knicks Fix says that Marbury and Eddie House would have to work out their issues: "It's a curious fit for Marbury, who wouldn't get a lot of minutes behing Rondo and would have to contend with Eddie House for ticks at the two behind Ray Allen. Marbury and House have a private feud, which came public during a preseason game at the Garden in October. How does that get settled in the Boston locker room?"
- Marcel Mutoni spells out his hathos at SLAM: "The idea of Celtics fans gritting their teeth after being forced to accept Stephon Marbury as one of their own makes me very happy for some odd reason. But not quite as much as the possibility that Steph could somehow be involved in the title chase this season. Simply amazing."
"Kobe," says Celtic Coach Doc Rivers, "might be the best help defender since Pippen."
In the first quarter, that reality was a grave problem for the Celtics.
Rajon Rondo was not having his best night, and Kobe Bryant was leaving Rondo at will to harass other Celtics. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce did not enjoy the attention, and combined to shoot one of seven as the Lakers went up by 22.
It is hard to imagine a better recipe for the Lakers. So the Celtics changed the ingredients.
Rivers peered down his bench and called for #50.
Eddie House has been moving around the NBA for eight years. He has never been a pivotal part of a big-time team. Boston started the season with a depleted bench, and the reason House was available was because he had something of a reputation as a guy who believes every shot he takes is a good shot. He is not known as a passer. He's no threat to get a triple double, nor will he ever win defensive player of the year.
Left open, however, Eddie House can shoot. If he could hit a few shots, Kobe Bryant just might stay standing by House, insteading of ransacking the village known as the Celtics' offense.
When House first checked into the game, the script was scrambled. His defense was perfectly good. He was extremely active and gave up nothing easy. And he was more effective than Rondo had been initiating the offense.
But, House did not nail those open shots, sinking just one of four. He missed both of his open three-pointers in the first half.
How could this be? Eddie House was not himself. This was the big stage. All the world watching. A team down 18, needing inspired point guard play. Opportunity coarsed through his veins. And all the man needed to do was the thing that he was born to do.
So what did he do at halftime? "I had a masseuse kind of rub my shoulders at halftime, to just kind of loosen me up," he says. "My shoulders were a little tense. Just got a little rubdown, got relaxed, and then when I got the same shots that I had in the first half I knocked them down."
In warmups after halftime, he hit about 17-20 three-pointers. Things were looking up.
In the second half, he was left open for three-pointers twice, and nailed both. He also nailed the all-important 18-foot jumper with 4:07 left that gave Boston their first lead of the game, and big psychological lift.
Most importantly, in the second half, Bryant honored House as a shooter by staying near him, and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both capitalized by combining to shoot 8-14 in the second half, and the Celtics mounted their historic comeback.
During Eddie House's time on the floor, the Celtics outscored the Lakers by 20 points -- giving House the best +/- of any player in the game.
"If I was the coach of the Celtics," says ESPN's Dr. Jack Ramsay, "I'd give the game ball to Eddie House."
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)