TrueHoop: Marco Belinelli
AP Photo/Julio CortezJoakim Noah came up huge for the Bulls as they eliminate the Nets in Game 7
The Brooklyn Nets failed in their attempt to become the ninth team in NBA history to win a series after falling behind three games to one. The Nets fall to 0-2 all-time in Game 7s and have not won a playoff series since 2007.
What went right for Bulls?
Joakim Noah talked the talk and then walked the walk. After Chicago’s Game 6 loss Noah said, “We're going to go into a hostile environment in Brooklyn and we're going to win."
Noah made certain of that with 24 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks. Considering his foot injury, it was a heroic and historic performance. Read on for more on where that stat line stands among the all-time greats below.
Noah had a series high 1.33 points per play and shot 71 percent from the field Saturday.
With Kirk Hinrich out, Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler came up big. Belinelli poured in a playoff career-high 24 points. Butler played the entire game and was stellar defensively – holding Deron Williams to 4-11 FG and Joe Johnson to 0-5 FG when they were matched up.
What went wrong for Nets?
The Nets never led in the game - trailing by as many as 17 points, but they were able to cut the deficit to single-digits for most of the last quarter-and-a-half.
Johnson’s struggles were part of the reason Brooklyn couldn’t complete the comeback. After an alley-oop dunk at the 6:37 mark in third, he missed his last seven shots of the game, six of them coming from beyond the arc.
Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Game
Noah became the first player with at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in a Game 7 win since Kevin Garnett in 2004. In fact since blocks became official in 1973-74 the only ones to reach those numbers in a Game 7 win besides Noah and Garnett are Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing and Elvin Hayes.
- J.A. Adande joined Baron Davis on the campus of UCLA, where the Cavs point guard will try to maintain a GPA, not a PER. At Hardwood Paroxysm, Holly MacKenzie shares a story about how, several seasons back, Davis blew her off in a locker room in Seattle, only to track her down later on in the tunnel to make amends: "[Davis] taught me a lesson: players can be cranky, and sometimes you’ll approach them after a bad loss or performance when they’re angry or bitter or caught up in something. But often times, how someone treats you on that single occasion isn’t a fair representation of who that person is."
- Davis coached LeBron James in a Drew League game on Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports: "[Drew League director Dino] Smiley said many fans tweeted and sent text messages about James’ arrival. 'Every edge' of the court in the tiny gym, Smiley said, was packed. Smiley said the gym doors were eventually closed shut during James’ game by law enforcement officers, who told fans if they left they couldn’t return"
- Thunderground Radio evaluates how Sam Presti fared in 2010-11. Was the Perkins-Green trade necessary? Can Reggie Jackson make an impact in the backcourt?
- Blake Griffin is a monster and, barring injury, projects to be a indomitable franchise player. For the Clippers, that's the easy part. The more elastic variable for the team is Eric Gordon. If the Clippers aren't able to land a marquee superstar, could they still be a force in the West with Gordon as their featured perimeter threat with Griffin down low, provided DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe continue to grow? Nick Flynt of ClipperBlog takes a look.
- What happened to the Trail Blazers after they broke up their Finals core in 1993? A retrospective from Blazers Edge.
- I'm a sucker for any basketball post that prominently features Bob Walk, who pitched for the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates. A pitcher named Walk would the equivalent of a hoopster named Travel. But the thrust of the Negative Dunkalectics' post by Chris George is not the dubiously-named Walk, but the playing career of Warriors head coach Mark Jackson: "Mark Jackson was a comparatively small and non-athletic man, largely informed by a street game, who managed to use a few moves over and over again to put up much better numbers than he 'should' have. The combination of the back down, the baby hook, the no-look passes, the teardrop, and the push shot made him one of the most frustrating point guards of his era, even if he never had the ability to be a true star."
- Jason Terry delivered the first pitch at Sunday's Texas Rangers game to Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler. Dirk Nowitzki via Twitter: "Was jet's first pitch at rangers game better than mine? Didn't anyone see it? Let me know."
- Who is Manuel Velez Pangilinan? He's the very wealthy, very influential guy behind the pair of exhibition games at Araneta Coliseum in Manila between a slew of NBA stars and standouts from the Philippine Basketball Association. The two games were standing room only and tickets on the secondary market ran as much as four times face value.
- The WNBA named its 15 best players ever. Ball in Europe follows with its 15 best Euroleague women players in history.
- Hakeem Olajuwon, Marco Belinelli and Hedo Turkoglu: Each initially excited Raps fans when he signed on the dotted line, only to fall way short of expectations. For good measure, five Raptors draft picks that raised eyebrows.
- Six years prior to putting on a Raptors jersey, Olajuwon logged 39 points and 17 rebounds in the Game 6 clincher of the 1995 Western Conference finals against the Spurs. NBA Off-Season presents another in their Lockout Classics series.
- If Kobe Bryant is Derek Jeter, then Derek Fisher is Jorge Posada. Does that make Robert Horry Scott Brosius?
- Look out, Monday. Wes Matthews is in mission mode.
- Kings big man Jason Thompson: "Congrats to the NFL on ending their Lockout....NOW its OUR TURN!!!!"
Dwyane Wade committed a season-high seven turnovers, and much of the credit goes to Marco Belinelli. The offseason acquisition forced five of Wade’s seven turnovers and did his best to keep Wade off the free throw line, where he scored 13 of his game-high 28 points.
The Heat still have not allowed 100 points in a game this season, but on Friday the New Orleans Hornets shot 49.4 percent from the floor and scored 50 of their 96 points in the paint. Both were season-highs against the Heat in their first six games.
The Heat have been at their best when they have been efficient in the half-court. In four wins, Miami has shot 47.9 percent from the floor and scored 87.8 points in its half-court offense. In two losses, the Heat have shot just 36.7 percent from the floor, scoring 71.0 points.
Emeka Okafor's 92.3 field goal percent (12-13 FG) is the highest in Hornets' franchise history for a player who took at least 13 shots.
Elsewhere in the NBA:
Anderson Varejao joins Zydrunas Ilgauskas (2007-08) as the second Cleveland Cavalier in the last 25 seasons to go 10-for-10 from the floor.
The Cavaliers have won eight straight road games against the Philadelphia 76ers. That's tied for the fourth-longest road win streak any team has ever had against the 76ers. However, that's not even the Cavs longest road win streak against Philadelphia. From 1991-97, Cleveland won 12 straight games in Philadelphia.
Dwight Howard (30 points, 16 rebounds) now has 23, 30-15 games since his rookie season in 2004-05. That's by far the most in the NBA during that span. Next on the list are Yao Ming and Zach Randolph, each with 12.
From the Elias Sports Bureau: With seven assists on Friday, John Wall has 38 in his first four games, only Oscar Robertson had more (40) in his first four games. However, Wall has committed 17 turnovers in the last two games after turning it over just three times in each of his first two games.
- J.A. Adande and Sam Smith offer two evocative impressions on Scottie Pippen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday.
- Albert Lyu of Think Blue Crew has put together a series of compelling work on the blocked shot. Today he unveils part three, which examines which types of shots are most and least commonly blocked. Here's an interesting finding: "19.73% of all generic layups were blocked in 2007-2010."
- Neil Paine of Basketball Reference's blog looks at how teams with unusually high turnover in personnel traditionally fare the next season. The post offers further evidence that watching the 1978-79 San Diego Clippers would've been a joyous ride.
- A fine, fine blog post from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Michael Cunningham after observing Larry Drew's assistant coach clinic. Not only did Cunningham get to watch Tyrone Hill play the role of Al Horford, but he witnessed a more fluid game plan than the one that the one Hawks fans were accustomed to: "For weeks L.D. has said his system would 'force the ball to move' and I get that now. Things happen so fast there’s not much opportunity for holding the ball. The screens and cuts happen quickly and if the first option is not there then the ball quickly swings the other way, leading to move movement. Not much possession time is spent on the one- or even two-man game. Each guy gets a chance to touch the ball at different spots on the floor. Decisions must be made quickly for things to flow correctly."
- Trey Kerby of Ball Don't Lie visits with Kevin Durant. The interview gets off to a fun start: " Trey Kerby: I know you're going to deny it, but ... Kevin Durant: Then why are you going to ask? Why you have to ask me this, Trey? (laughing)."
- The average ticket price for the Heat's home opener in Miami against Orlando? That will be $806 please. (Hat Tip: Magic Basketball) For the Bobcats home opener in Charlotte against Indiana on the same night, you can get into the lower corners for $51 per ticket.
- There's little discernible excitement for Derrick Favors outside of New Jersey and specific precincts in Atlanta, but I'm not sure why. As Devin Kharpertian demonstrates through video, Favors is an explosive force with a soft touch around the rim. 20 percent of Favors' field goals at Georgia Tech came on dunks which, when you consider the Jackets' guard play, is worth noting.
- Unlike Favors, Al Harrington is a known quantity, but his versatility still warrants examination. Fortunately, Jeremy Wagner has opened up the Roundball Mining Company Film Room for regular showings of Harrington's irregular game.
- Rahat Huq of Red94, Ryan Schwan of Hornets247, Jared Wade of 8 points, 9 seconds and Sebastian Pruiti of Nets Are Scorching gather around the virtual roundtable and discuss Wednesday's four-team trade. Huq has some interesting misgivings about Ariza's defense: "The issue of Ariza’s defense is a contentious one. His reputation precedes him, but his is a reckless, instinctual approach, garnering him gaudy steals totals but often leaving his teammates scrambling to rotate after blown coverage. Still, this manner can be conducive to forcing tempo if that’s your cup of tea."
- The Hornets have long needed some help on the wings. Here's a stat pack from Hornets247 on how Ariza and Marco Belinelli can help.
- Indy Cornrows breaks down Darren Collison's stellar rookie campaign.
- Jeff Skibiski of Forum Blue & Gold on Shannon Brown: "Shannon’s insatiable appetite for scintillating dunks and seemingly endless energy has been one of the most exciting facets of the Lakers’ past two title teams. In many ways, I think this is what ultimately hurt Shannon more than anything in his disappointing dunk contest appearance. Like Kobe, Brown is more a jaw-dropping in-game dunker, which in my opinion, is a much more valuable skill set to have than the creative costume faire we’ve see at the past few All-Star Weekends. After the viral 'Let Shannon Dunk' campaign, his lackluster performance in the dunk contest was definitely a lowlight of last season, but I don’t think it’s indicative of much of anything as far as his play with the Lakers is concerned."
- Roland Lazenby joins the Los Angeles Times' Lakers Roundtable to discuss Jerry West and the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team under coach Pete Newell.
- Zarar Siddiqi of Raptors Republic: "[I]t’s easier to be a defensive specialist than it is an offensive weapon, the latter requires a degree of tangible skill like shooting, dribbling, creativity and finishing whereas playing defense is more about effort. I’m not suggesting that playing defense doesn’t require skill, but it’s a skill that is born of effort (which Doc Rivers swears is a skill). Got that?"
- Nate Robinson's home court in Seattle.
- Brandon Rush and DeMar DeRozan: Two native Angelenos with two different ideas of go-to joints. Advantage Rush, not only for restaurant choice but his willingness to order breakfast food in the middle of the day.
Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images
Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu have the Raptors scoring buckets in bunches.
The hazards of small sample size theater run rampant during the opening weeks of any sports season. Look no further than the efficiency numbers of Paul Davis and Acie Law if you want an idea of how a tiny data set can skew results.
That being the case, it's hard to look at Toronto's top-ranked offense through nine games (113.7 points per 100 possessions) and not conclude that this season's Raptors squad is doing something right.
Raptors head coach Jay Triano cites the number of versatile playmakers as the pivotal factor for that gaudy offensive rating.
"So many of our guys are unselfish," Triano said. "They don't necessarily have to make plays for themselves. They make plays for their teammates."
Though Chris Bosh is unquestionably the Raptors' go-to guy, the team's reliance on mutual playmaking starts with Hedo Turkoglu. While many coaches would prefer to have the prototypically athletic small forward, Triano sees a wing like Turkoglu as the fulcrum of an offense predicated more on faciliation than on one-on-one slashing.
...Not that we should discount the prominence of one-on-one play in the Raptors' offense. Bosh has been destroying opposing big men, both in the post and off the dribble. But that dramatic improvement isn't merely the byproduct of adding off-season muscle or, dare we suggest, being in a contract year.
"When you have a guy who's 6-10, can dribble and create, it helps a lot," Bosh said. "[Turkoglu] is very unselfish. He has a knack for passing and finding me in good spots."
The Raptors' bigs have been running a dizzying array of pick-and-rolls that has been nearly impossible to defend. Turkoglu's exploits as the ball-handler in these situations are well-known to anyone who tuned into the 2009 postseason. Pairing him with forward-center Andrea Bargnani on a pick-and-pop is treacherous for the defense, because Bargnani has unlimited range along the perimeter. If you trap Turkoglu, a defender has to rotate onto Bargnani from the weak side. You can forget about sliding a defender up from the post, because Turkoglu is more than happy to find Bosh down on the block, where he's been lethal. Then there's the Turkoglu/Bosh pick-and-roll -- the kind of set that keeps defensive assistants up at night.
If this overall scheme sounds a bit familiar, that's because we've seen it before.
"It's really kind of similar to Orlando," Turkoglu said. "It's a little different because Bosh and Dwight [Howard] play different, and Andrea is bigger than Rashard, but we're getting the same kind of good offense."
It's not just the big men that enable Triano to execute his offensive plan.
"Jose [Calderon] shares the ball extremely well," Triano said. "Then when [Marco] Belinelli comes in, he does the same thing. So does Jarrett Jack."
Triano's second-favorite five-man unit includes both Calderon and Jack (both point guards), along with Turkoglu (who can be fairly characterized as a point forward). The offensive rating of that unit?
128.2 points per 100 possessions.
But herein lies the problem for the 5-4 Raptors. That same unit, offensive juggernaut that is, allows 136.8 points per 100 possessions. That's 2005-06 Seattle Supersonics bad.
After answering a question about his team's offensive prowess during his pre-game media availability Friday night in Los Angeles, Triano was then asked about his team's defensive struggles.
His tongue-in-cheek response? A repetition of his previous answer:
"We have a lot of guys who can make plays for one another," Triano joked.
Everyone had a good chuckle, but the Raps' defensive woes are no laughing matter.
"They're reading and reacting [on defense] rather than it becoming instinctive," Triano explained. "We're just a step slow right now. We've got guys holding inside a little bit and not spreading out of coverages. But it's a work in progress."
The Raptors currently rank 29th in defensive efficiency. Average those offensive and defensive ratings out and you've got a .500 ball club. But if Toronto can take a page from the old Phoenix Suns playbook and scoot that ranking up to the middle of the pack, they're likely to be a very interesting team after the All-Star break.
Are the Rockets peaking too soon? The Bulls' peaks and valleys are frustrating for their faithful. And Seth Davis is at the peak of his game. Take a peek at the TrueHoop Network:
Anup Shah of Rockets Buzz: "Remember what was going on with the Rockets a year ago at this time? Yao Ming was riding the sidelines and TMac pranced around like a God while the Rockets were in the midst of a 22-game win streak. They were working their way to the top spot in the Western Conference. Life was good in Houston.
And then the Celtics beat the Rockets. Ended their streak. And the Rockets slowly dropped to 4th in the West. People started doubting whether the team (or the streak for that matter) was legitimate. And when they fell in the first round to Utah, all those questions seemed to be answered.
This year, I'm left wondering if its the same deal. Last night, the Rockets topped the Raptors 107-97 and won their 10th straight home game. Carl Landry led the way with a career high 22 points and Luis Scola had 20 points and 16 boards (yet another double double for him). With the win and the Nuggets loss to the Pistons, the Rockets moved up to 3rd in the Western Conference. That being said, this is all too reminiscent of how well the team gelled right BEFORE the playoffs.
Are the Rockets peaking too early? Will they have the same fire left for the first round where it looks like they'll face Utah, Portland or New Orleans? How much different is it being without TMac this year than being without Yao last year? And the million dollar question: Will they get out of the first round?
It just scares me to declare this team a good team until they actually prove it when it matters."
Matt McHale of By the Horns: "Beat the Nuggets at the United Center, fall to the Pacers at Conseco Field House. Defeat the Magic at home, lose to the Nets and Wizards on the road. Overcome the Rockets in Chicago, get overrun by the Bobcats in Charlotte.
See a pattern here?
The Bulls have developed a tendency to rock it at home and then play poorly when away, and they were truly terrible in last night's 96-80 road loss to the Bobcats. They couldn't shoot (39 percent), couldn't defend (the 'Cats connected about 49 percent of their field goals), couldn't hold onto the ball (18 turnovers), and couldn't seem to grasp that they were facing a team that's suddenly competing for the same playoff spot they're looking up at with hungry eyes. Hungry when they're playing at home, that is.
Young teams struggle on the road. I get that. The Atlanta Hawks pull the same Jekyll and Hyde routine. But Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich are veterans now, and John Salmons and Brad Miller are 29 and 32, respectively. So we have guys who should know when it's time to play with a sense of urgency."
Rob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: "Nelson has tapped into the unconscious and utilized its most prized weaponry. Maybe that makes him both a visionary and completely bonkers. But don't pretend that the thought hasn't crossed your mind. When you see a team with Anthony Randolph, Anthony Morrow, Brandan Wright, and Marco Belinelli sitting around twiddling their thumbs, the natural instinct is to find a way to get them some playing time. One problem: Stephen Jackson, Jamal Crawford, and Corey Maggette are pretty well-paid and proven, veteran roadblocks.
I wouldn't say that Nelson's plan is 'crazy enough to work,' because what 'works' in the conventional sense and what 'works' in this type of framework aren't exactly similar. Nellie is sitting at the control panel and pressing buttons just to see if one of them causes the planet to explode. Why would it matter if he accidentally turns the fan on?
I doubt very much that there is some grandiose, progressive goal in mind. Nelson's just trying to appraise the assets he has in front of them. But the uproar over these arbitrary benchings tells me two things: One, that no other coach would do this, and two, that it was something that was on all of our minds anyway. In Randolph we trust."
THE FINAL WORD
Hoopinion: An insightful review of Seth Davis' new book on the 1979 NCAA Championship game.
Celtics Hub: The Celtics roster, mythologically speaking.
Valley of the Suns: Tempo, Tempo, Tempo.
(Photos by Bill Baptist, Brock Williams-Smith, Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)