TrueHoop: NBA

The Nets' history, as told from the sidelines

May, 14, 2014
May 14
10:15
AM ET
By Jake Appleman
Special to ESPN.com
Archive
Julius Erving Kevin Garnett and Jason KiddGetty Images
Drazen Petrovic had just poured in 44 points against the Houston Rockets in January 1993. Herb Turetzky, the Nets’ official scorer, told Petrovic to sign the sneakers he played in.

“Why, Herb?” Petrovic asked.

Turetzky conveyed the magnitude of the moment to the budding Croatian star: 44 points in an NBA game is a big deal. Petrovic noted that he had scored over a hundred points before in Europe.

Petrovic’s response is just one standout memory for Turetzky, part of a journey that began with the franchise’s first game as the New Jersey Americans at the Teaneck Armory in 1967. The Americans moved to Long Island the next year and became the Nets. Turetzky, a fresh-faced student from LIU who loved to keep score, followed along.

We asked Turetzky, who from his sideline seat has seen the Nets grow from ABA also-rans to NBA Eastern Conference contenders, for his most memorable moments in Nets history. These -- condensed for clarity -- are some of his responses:

On the Americans losing the franchise’s first playoff game via forfeit to the Kentucky Colonels, after the circus moved the game from Teaneck to an unusable court in Commack, Long Island:

“I remember seeing holes on the floor that my shoe could go through. There was separation between the boards, spots where the screws weren’t in. They weren’t ready for it. They tried to put it together in an emergency. I was on the phone for two hours trying to track down Louie [Carnesecca] at St. John’s, to see if they could get us in there to play the game. We just couldn’t find a way to put it together. Gene Rhodes was the coach of the Colonels and I’ll never forget: He said, ‘We’ve gotta win this game for those yahoos back at home.’”

On an ABA fight that involved coaches (Kevin Loughery and Al Bianchi) and players (including Julius Erving and Doug Moe):

“One time we played the Virginia Squires at Queensborough Community College. Preseason game. It escalated. They started getting in fights. Started spitting at each other. A brawl, they started throwing chairs. And Kevin and Bianchi ran out there like they were [playing] in the '50s in the NBA, going after each other. We had 11 technicals in that game and managed to finish it. Other than the Malice at the Palace, that was the biggest brawl I’ve ever seen at a pro game.”

On hard luck just before and after entering the NBA:

“We signed Tiny [Archibald] to complement Julius [Erving]. It was the ‘Dr. J and Tiny A Show.’ That was the [slogan] of the season. All of a sudden Julius gets sold. We come to the first national TV game of the season against Philadelphia; Tiny breaks his ankle. He’s out for the year. And now the ‘Dr. J and Tiny A Show’ became the ‘Super John and Larry Kenon Show.’”

On the unshakable confidence of “Super John” Williamson, whose 16 fourth-quarter points propelled the Nets to the final ABA title in 1976:

“He gave himself the nickname ‘Super John.’ When he was a rookie, Kevin [Loughery] signed him. He was an undrafted player out of New Mexico State. He bumped into Kevin at an airport and he told Kevin, ‘Sign me.’ We lost the first four games or so, and he went up to Kevin and he said, ‘Start me.’ And he did, and we started winning. He believed he was the best.”

On one of the negatives to playing games at Rutgers University from 1977-81:

“A lot of guys would get picked up on speeding tickets because the police were waiting because nobody else used those roads at night. They knew most people going were either coming or going from the ballgames.”

On the myriad and bizarre promotions he’s seen through the years:

“They were having a night at Rutgers for Rich Kelley [a 7-foot center]. And they made big growth charts: a full-size picture of Rich Kelley. The day they made the growth chart to give out, Rich Kelley got traded. We had a Frisbee promotion, where they gave Frisbees to people before the game. They were coming out of the stands. We had a giant pierogi night there. They had about a 50-foot pierogi on the floor. There were some very interesting things. At Nassau Coliseum, they gave out the promotional red, white and blue ABA basketballs one night. A nice touch for kids. Again, they gave them out before the game. They were all over the floor.”

On getting called out by a coach:

“There was one night, Lawrence Frank was coaching us, and I’d just been inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004. We were on the ride home from the game and Lawrence is on the radio and Jason [Kidd] might have had 27 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. On the radio [Frank] goes, ‘I don’t understand. If Herb Turetzky’s such a Hall of Fame scorekeeper, how come he couldn’t find another assist for Jason to get another triple-double tonight.’ I was embarrassed, but it was funny.”

On watching Shaquille O'Neal rip down a basket with his son David, then a ball boy, close by:

“He was sitting on the stanchion, to the right of the basket. When the stanchion started coming down, you see the pictures in the newspapers, you see David’s feet. Reebok put out an ad for the sneaker stores the following season showing that happening and you can see David right there in the picture. When that ad came out in the sneaker stores, I got a copy of it. Shaq autographed it, ‘Dave, stay away from the basket.’”

On the back-to-back NBA Finals teams in 2002 and 2003:

"It was electric. You had a team of deer running down the floor.”

On his wife, Jane, taking one for the team during a preseason game at Nassau Coliseum:

“We’re playing the Knicks. Jane was sitting right behind the bench in the front row. I’m sitting in center court. The ball goes loose, flying over the way LeBron [James] went into the fifth row the other night. Jim Chones [the team’s first-round pick at the time, in 1972-73] chased the ball and jumped over the Knicks’ bench, crashed into Jane, knocked her out cold. I’m sitting courtside. I look over to my left, and I see her down on the floor. We got a ballgame; I couldn’t leave. The ball was inbounded and we had to keep going.”

Jane Turetzky was revived and turned out to be OK that night.

“I have a love affair with him and he has the love affair with the game,” she said.

If the Nets force a Game 6 against Miami, Turetzky will be in his seat again, working his 1,269th straight game.

Jake Appleman is the author of “Brooklyn Bounce: The Highs and Lows of Nets Basketball's Historic First Season in the Borough.”

5 Notes to Know: 2013 NBA Draft

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
12:35
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
Archive
The 2013 NBA Draft begins Thursday night at 7 pm eastern at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY (Live on ESPN & WatchESPN). Let’s run through five notes to know before the action gets underway:

• The Cleveland Cavaliers have the first-overall pick for the fifth time in team history, tied with the Houston Rockets for most in the Common Draft Era (since 1966). It’s also the second time that the Cavs have held the No. 1 pick the last three years. The Elias Sports Bureau says they would be the fourth team to pick first overall twice in a three-year span, joining the Magic (1992 and 1993), the Rockets (1983 and 1984) and Trail Blazers (1972 and 1974).

• The Orlando Magic hold the second pick and they have had good luck with the organization’s five previous top-five selections. Three of them – Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Webber and Mike Miller – won Rookie of the Year, and three of them – O’Neal, Webber and Dwight Howard – have each been selected to at least five All-Star Games. Webber, of course, was selected first overall by the Magic in 1993 but traded to the Warriors on draft night.

• According to Elias, at least one son of a former NBA player has been selected in each of the last 11 drafts. Last year it was Austin Rivers, son of Doc, who was taken 10th overall by the Pelicans (then Hornets). Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr., son of Tim, is one player that would continue the streak should be selected in 2013.

• The Hawks, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, and Trail Blazers each have four selections in the 2013 draft, tied for most by any team. It’s the second straight year that Portland has four picks and it’s the third straight year with at least four picks for the Cavaliers. Conversely, the Warriors, Heat, and Raptors are the only three teams without a 2013 draft pick.

• Since the NBA draft lottery began in 1985, 13 of the 28 first-overall picks went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award, most recently Kyrie Irving for the Cavaliers in 2011-12. The last player selected first overall that won the Rookie of the Year Award and reached the postseason was Derrick Rose for the Bulls in 2008-09. The last player to do so and win a playoff series? Tim Duncan for the Spurs in 1997-98. Duncan is also the last player to win an NBA title with the team that selected him first overall.

Larkin most complete point guard in draft

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
11:38
AM ET
By Ryan Feldman & Jordan Sperber
ESPN.com

Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesFresh off a trip to the Sweet 16, Shane Larkin may be the draft's most complete point guard.
Who is the best point guard available in this year’s NBA Draft? After looking at Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams, C.J. McCollum and Shane Larkin, the numbers suggest it may be the player who's been flying under the radar.

Jump shots

McCollum played only 12 games last season before suffering a foot injury, but his field goal percentage and effective field goal percentage easily trumped those of Burke, Carter-Williams and Larkin. McCollum was especially effective on catch-and-shoot jumpers, on which he shot better than 60 percent.

Burke and Larkin both shot 41 percent on jumpers, while Carter-Williams has been criticized for his inconsistent jump shot. He made just 28 percent of his jumpers last season.

Finishing at the rim

McCollum was the most efficient of the group in terms of scoring around the basket on non-post-up plays. He shot 57 percent and scored 1.19 points per play. Larkin and Burke both shot just under 52 percent and scored 1.05 points per play.

Carter-Williams finished at the bottom of the pack, shooting just 49 percent at the rim.

Pick-and-rolls

On pick-and-roll plays including passes -- which takes into account each point guard’s scoring plays and the plays they created for their teammates -- Burke was the most efficient.

Larkin was the only Division I player who created more points on pick-and-roll plays than Burke, but Burke's efficiency was just part of the package he brought to the Michigan offense.

This past season, Burke posted an offensive rating (points produced per 100 possessions) of 121 while being used on 29 percent of Michigan's possessions while on the floor. This combination of volume and efficiency was the best by any Big Ten player over the last 10 seasons.

Defense

Carter-Williams struggled to score efficiently, ranking last in every offensive category compared with the other three point guards. But defensively, Carter-Williams ranks above the rest.

Carter-Williams held opponents to 15 percent shooting on isolation plays last season (4-26 FG) and limited opponents to 0.26 points per play, both of which ranked among the top 10 nationally (min. 30 plays).

None of the other point guards really compare to Carter-Williams in this regard. Larkin and Burke allowed 0.68 points per isolation play, while McCollum allowed 1.00 point per play.

Carter-Williams also has the slight edge over Larkin in defending pick-and-rolls (0.62 points per play vs 0.63 points per play), each allowing about six points every 10 plays. McCollum and Burke each allowed about seven points every 10 pick-and-roll plays.

Based on the numbers above, it's not surprising that Carter-Williams led the group in steal percentage, grabbing a steal nearly once every 20 plays. However, you can argue that his high rate may be due to Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense. McCollum had the lowest steal percentage of the foursome, slightly below Burke.

Conclusion

Burke finished in the bottom two in five of the seven categories. Carter-Williams was last in every offensive category, but first in all of the defensive categories. McCollum’s weakness is his defense, as he ranked in the bottom two in all three defensive categories.

Meanwhile, Larkin is the only one of the four point guard prospects not to finish last in any of the metrics used above. He actually finished in the top two in all seven categories, and as a result, the numbers suggest that he is the most well-rounded of the bunch.

McLemore tops 2013 draft class

June, 26, 2013
6/26/13
1:55
PM ET
By Ryan Feldman
ESPN.com
Archive

Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesBen McLemore's jump shot has drawn comparisons to Ray Allen.
Although opinions vary, advanced analytical data say the best prospect in this year’s NBA draft may be former Kansas Jayhawks guard Ben McLemore.

McLemore is efficient on both ends of the court and was extremely valuable to the Jayhawks last season. He led Division I freshmen in win shares -- a metric that estimates the number of wins contributed by a player due to his offense and defense.

Playmaking on offense

On offense, McLemore ranked seventh in points per play among the 220 players with at least 500 plays last season. Seth Curry was the only player invited to the 2013 draft combine who ranked higher.

Perhaps more impressive, McLemore’s 1.09 points per play was the highest average by a freshman with at least 500 plays since Michael Beasley and Kevin Love in 2007-08.

McLemore scored in a variety of ways at Kansas. He shot 48 percent on spot-up plays, 57 percent in transition and 60 percent in isolation.

His jump shot is perhaps his best attribute and one reason he's been compared to Ray Allen. McLemore shot 40 percent on jump shots last season, including 43 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers. Both stats ranked in the top 15 percentile last season.

Clutch-time performer

What about performing in clutch time? In the final five minutes of the second half and overtime with the score within five points, McLemore averaged 1.45 points per play, the most among all draft prospects with more than 10 plays, and shot 67 percent from the floor.

He most notably showed off his clutch shot-making ability in a game against Iowa State, when he made a game-tying 3-pointer to send the game into overtime and carried his team to a victory with 33 points on 10-of-12 shooting, including 6-for-6 on 3-point attempts.

Defense

Everyone knows about McLemore’s potential as a scoring guard, but there isn’t nearly as much talk about his defense.

Data from Synergy Sports Technology show that McLemore’s on-ball defense may have played a large part in Kansas leading the country in defensive field goal percentage last season.

Victor Oladipo is another shooting guard thought to be near the top of NBA draft boards, and although he is known as a ferocious defender, McLemore was the better on-ball defender last season, according to Synergy.

McLemore held opponents to 25 percent shooting as an on-ball defender, the lowest field goal percentage allowed among players who defended at least 250 plays last season. McLemore allowed 0.63 points per play compared with Oladipo’s 0.85.

McLemore also allowed fewer points per play on pick-and-rolls and defended jump shots better than Oladipo last season.

And finally, McLemore defended well in clutch time, holding opponents to 25 percent shooting, including 0-for-6 on 3-pointers.

So when looking at McLemore, remember that he's more than just a jump shooter. He displayed the entire package in his lone season in college.

NBA Draft: Which 'big' is best?

June, 25, 2013
6/25/13
10:48
AM ET
By Ryan Feldman
ESPN.com
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Getty ImagesAlex Len, Nerlens Noel and Anthony Bennett are three notable big men in this year's NBA draft.
Who’s the best big man in this year’s NBA Draft? The answer may surprise you.

Using advanced analytical data, let’s compare the top big man prospects that played college basketball last season: Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, Anthony Bennett, Steven Adams, Cody Zeller, Mason Plumlee, Kelly Olynyk, Gorgui Dieng, Jeff Withey and Tony Mitchell.

Jump shots

The best stretch big man appears to be Bennett, who led the top big men in jump shots made and effective field goal percentage (min. 15 attempts) –- a shooting percentage statistic that gives more value to three-pointers.

Bennett's 52.8 effective field goal percentage on jumpers was slightly better than Trey Burke and Allen Crabbe.

Dieng, who shot 50 percent on jumpers, is the darkhorse candidate for a stretch big man. Despite rumblings about his potential to knock down perimeter jumpers at the next level, Zeller was just 9-of-24 on jump shots last season (37.5%).

Len and Mitchell were at the bottom of the barrel, both shooting 28 percent. Noel attempted only three jump shots, although he did make two of them.

Finishing at the rim

Withey shot 79 percent around the basket on non-post-up plays, the highest percentage in the country (min. 100 attempts). Olynyk wasn’t too far behind at 70 percent.

Mitchell and Adams were the only two of the top big man prospects to shoot below 60 percent around the basket, as both were just over 56 percent.

Post-up plays

Olynyk was the most efficient post-up scorer last season, scoring 1.07 points per post-up while shooting 58 percent on those plays.

The only player other than Olynyk to shoot better than 50 percent in the post was Plumlee, who has improved in terms of points per play and field goal percentage on post-up plays in each college season.

Dieng was by far the least-efficient post-up scorer of the group. He shot 26.5 percent and scored 0.57 points per post-up play.

Post defense

Adams, Noel, Withey and Zeller all measured as outstanding post defenders last season. Each of them held opponents to 30 percent shooting or lower and fewer than 0.60 points per post-up play. Adams was the best of the group –- his opponents shot 25 percent and scored 0.46 points per play in the post.

Olynyk didn’t fare as well as the other big men defending the post. His opponents shot 48 percent and scored 0.92 points per post-up play –- twice as many points per play as Adams allowed.

Rebounds and blocks

Dieng measured as the best rebounding big man of the top prospects. He and Adams both grabbed more than 17 percent of available boards. The worst rebounder of the group was Mitchell (15%).

Withey and Noel both blocked more than 13 percent of their opponents’ field-goal attempts while they were on the court. Adams was the only other player above 10 percent. Bennett, Zeller and Plumlee were the only big men of the group below 5 percent.

Conclusion

Of the 10 big men evaluated using these metrics, Withey is the only one who didn’t rank in the bottom four of any of the six categories. Noel is the only one to rank in the top two of three different categories.

Perhaps surprisingly, the worst of the group were Len and Zeller. Len didn’t rank in the top four of any of the six categories, while Zeller ranked in the bottom three in four of the six categories.

Lakers' series loss is worst in team history

April, 29, 2013
4/29/13
2:00
PM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
Archive

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant and Pau Gasol wonder what could have been as time runs out on the Lakers' season.
How bad was it for the Los Angeles Lakers in their first-round series sweep?

Let us count the ways, with significant help from the Elias Sports Bureau.

• The San Antonio Spurs outscored the Lakers by 18.8 points per game in their four-game sweep. Elias tells us that is tied for the fourth-largest points per game differential in a best-of-seven series in NBA history and the worst by the Lakers in franchise history.

The biggest in any series was 25.3 points in a four-game sweep by the Orlando Magic over the Atlanta Hawks in the 2010 Eastern Conference semis.

• The Lakers have now lost six straight playoff games dating back to last season. That matches the longest playoff losing streak in franchise history. They previously lost six in a row from 1973 to 1974 and 1991 to 1992.

• Dating back to his stints with the Suns and Knicks, Mike D’Antoni is 1-14 in his last 15 playoff games as head coach. Elias says the only other coach in league history to lose 14 of 15 in the postseason is current NBA broadcaster Mike Fratello. His worst span was losing 16 of 17 from 1995 to 2006 while with the Cavaliers and Grizzlies.

• The Lakers lost the final two games of their series against the Spurs by 31 and 21 points, respectively. In doing so, they became just the second team in NBA history to lose consecutive home playoff games by at least 20 points, joining the Miami Heat who did so against the Hornets in the 2001 first round.

• Since the playoffs expanded to eight teams per conference in 1983-84, the Lakers are now 0-5 in playoff series as the 7 or 8 seed. It should come as little surprise that they struggled against the 2-seed Spurs as the Lakers went 4-14 during the regular season against the top five seeds in the Western Conference including a 1-2 mark against San Antonio.

• The Lakers’ stars struggled with injuries for much of the season and it all came to a head on April 12 when Kobe Bryant was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. When they did have Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard in the lineup together, they went 8-14 in 22 games.

• Additionally, the Lakers’ expected starting five of Nash, Bryant, Gasol, Howard and Metta World Peace played only 189 minutes and 11 seconds together - just 4.8 percent of the team's total minutes played during the regular season.

Efficiency lacking during recent Knicks skid

February, 27, 2013
2/27/13
12:52
PM ET
By Rachel Stern, ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesJason Kidd and the Knicks are scratching their heads after losing four of their last five games.
On February 2, the New York Knicks were in a virtual tie with the Miami Heat atop the Eastern Conference standings with a 30-15 record. What a difference a few weeks make.

Since then, the Knicks have gone 3-5 and lost four of their last five games. They have dropped to third place in the East, trailing the Pacers by one game and the Heat by seven games.

So what has gone wrong in the Big Apple?

INNEFFICIENT OFFENSE
For starters, the Knicks’ offense has been less efficient. It was averaging 109.0 points per 100 possessions through the first 45 games this season, but, since then, is scoring just 104.2 points per 100 possessions.

One reason why the Knicks’ offense has struggled is that they aren’t scoring as efficiently on catch-and-shoot opportunities. During their first 45 games, the Knicks ran catch-and-shoot plays 33 percent the time on offense and scored 1.14 points per play. Since then, the Knicks are spending about the same amount of time in this play type, but scoring only 0.94 points per play.

The drop in production could be due to the fact that teams are guarding the Knicks in this play type more often. The Knicks were unguarded on catch-and-shoot plays 62 percent of the time in their first 45 games but have been unguarded only 57 percent of the time since.

LIVE BY THE THREE…
No team relies on the three-ball more than the Knicks, and it has not been falling like it used to. They lead the league in percentage of points from three-point field goals this season at 32.5 percent. However, over the last eight games, that percentage has dropped about five percentage points.

The breaking point has been 35 percent. On the season, the Knicks are 27-7 when they shoot 35 percent or higher from three-point range as a team, compared to 6-13 when they shoot below 35 percent.

No player represents their struggles more than veteran point guard Jason Kidd. Through February 2, Kidd shot 40.4 percent from three-point range. That percentage has plummeted over the last eight games, as he is shooting just 15.2 percent during that span.

STOUDEMIRE’S STRUGGLES
Though Amar'e Stoudemire has looked increasingly effective on the offensive end since returning from his knee injury, he has hurt the Knicks defensively. Over the last eight games, the Knicks have allowed 115.8 points per 100 possessions with Stoudemire on the floor, compared to just 99.3 points per 100 possessions when he is on the bench.

That on-court defensive efficiency of 115.8 would be the most points per 100 possessions allowed by any team this season. His off-court efficiency (99.3) would put the Knicks among the league’s five best.

This trend does not bode well for the Knicks, as they get set to welcome the Golden State Warriors to town Wednesday night (8 ET on ESPN). The Warriors’ high-powered offense averages 104.1 points per 100 possessions this season, good enough for ninth in the league.

Celebrating the deadline difference makers

February, 20, 2013
2/20/13
9:11
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
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USA TODAY Sports
Pau Gasol (left), Kevin Garnett (center) and Josh Smith (right) are all rumored to be on the move.
One thing we know as the NBA's Thursday trade deadline approaches: trades will happen. At least one trade has been completed on the day of the deadline each year since 1987.

The last three years? At least eight deals went down on deadline day each season.

But we also know these players rarely go on to make an impact on the championship picture.

Only four players in NBA history were traded to teams where they played at least 20 minutes per game the rest of the season and went on to win an NBA title. Below is a look at those four deadline difference makers:

2003-04 Pistons (Rasheed Wallace)
On February 19, 2004, the Pistons acquired Rasheed Wallace from the Atlanta Hawks and Mike James from the Boston Celtics. Detroit was 34-22 at the time. After the trade, the Pistons went 20-6 the rest of the season, including two eight-game win streaks.

The Pistons were heavy underdogs in the Finals against the Lakers but would go on to win the series in five games.

1994-95 Rockets (Clyde Drexler)
On February 14, 1995, the Rockets acquired Clyde Drexler and forward Tracy Murray from the Portland Trail Blazers for veteran forward Otis Thorpe, a 1995 first-round draft choice and the draft rights to forward Marcelo Nicola. Houston was the defending champion and 30-17 at the time.

The Rockets were actually under .500 after the trade (17-18) and would enter the postseason as the No. 6 seed in the West. Houston survived scares in the first round against Utah (2-1 deficit) and against the Suns in the Conference Semifinals (3-1 deficit) before knocking off the Spurs in the Conference Finals. In all, Houston survived five elimination games before sweeping the Magic in the NBA Finals to become the lowest seeded team to win the NBA title since seeding began in 1984.

1988-89 Pistons (Mark Aguirre)
On February 15, 1989, the Pistons traded Adrian Dantley and a 1991 first-round pick to the Mavericks for Mark Aguirre. Aguirre scored 15.5 points per game for the Pistons, who were 32-13 prior to the trade, but a stunning 31-6 after it.

Detroit went 15-2 in the postseason with Aguirre starting all 17 games. The Pistons swept the Lakers in the 1989 Finals to win their first NBA championship.

1986-87 Lakers (Mychal Thompson)
On February 13, 1987, Mychal Thompson was traded by the Spurs to the Lakers for Frank Brickowski, Petur Gudmundsson, a 1987 first-round draft pick and a 1990 second-round draft pick.

The Lakers were 37-12 through February 13 and then went 28-5 the rest of the regular season. In the playoffs, they swept the SuperSonics in the Western Conference Finals and beat the Celtics 4-2 in the NBA Finals to win their fourth championship in eight seasons.

Wizards 'breaking' through with Wall

February, 8, 2013
2/08/13
9:19
AM ET
By Rachel Stern
ESPN Stats & Information
Archive

Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsThe return of John Wall has the Wizards playing more efficiently on both ends of the floor.
After missing the first 33 games with a knee injury, John Wall made his season debut Jan. 12 -- and since then things have been much different for the Washington Wizards. They are 8-7 since Wall’s return – three more wins than they had without him (5-28) – including wins against the Hawks, Nuggets, Bulls, Clippers and most recently, the Knicks.

So how has the former No. 1 draft pick helped change the Wizards? They’re shooting better from the floor, scoring more, allowing fewer points and sharing the ball more with Wall on the court.

The Wizards’ offensive efficiency, or points per 100 possessions, is 99.8 in the 15 games with Wall, compared to 93.1 in the 33 games without him. Their defensive efficiency, or points allowed per 100 possessions, is also down considerably since Wall’s return (see chart).

In the 33 games without Wall, the Wizards spent 12.5 percent of their plays in transition and averaged 15.6 transition points per game. Since Wall’s return, the team is in transition on 16.6 percent of their plays, averaging 18.6 points per game.

Though Wall is averaging about two fewer points this season than in his first two seasons in the league, he is sharing the ball more. Wall has assisted on 42.4 percent of his teammates’ field goals when he is on the court. That assist percentage is the highest of his career, and is the fifth highest percentage this season among players who have logged at least 250 minutes.

Can we expect more of the same on Friday? The numbers say yes. Wall has scored in double figures in four of five career meetings against the Nets and Brooklyn ranks in the bottom half of the league in both opponent field goal percentage (56.7) and points per game allowed (15.8) in transition this season.

--Statistical support for this story from NBA.com--

Rubio still lacks offensive efficiency

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
4:16
PM ET
By Ryan Feldman
ESPN.com
Archive

David Sherman/NBAE/Getty ImagesRicky Rubio is still suffering from many of the same weaknesses that plagued him last season.
The Minnesota Timberwolves host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night (9 ET on ESPN), and it appears that Ricky Rubio is finally recovered after suffering an ACL tear last March. But that doesn’t mean Rubio’s return has greatly benefited the Timberwolves.

The Timberwolves have a 2-8 record since Rubio returned to the starting lineup Jan. 17, but during that span he has posted solid numbers, with at least six assists in all but one start, including 14 assists Monday against Portland (tying a career high). He is averaging 8.1 points, 7.0 assists and 2.7 turnovers per game in those 10 games.

In his past five games, he’s been even better, averaging 11.2 points, 8.0 assists and 2.4 turnovers per game while shooting 46 percent (24 percent in the five games prior).

Although impressive, a deeper look into the numbers shows that Rubio is still suffering from the same weaknesses he had last season.

RUBIO HASN’T SCORED EFFICIENTLY

Rubio ranks last in the NBA in points per play among the 296 players with at least 150 offensive plays this season. He is shooting 32 percent, which also ranks last in that group. Rubio’s lack of scoring efficiency shouldn’t be a surprise, as he finished last in points per play last season among the 176 players with at least 500 plays.

Rubio’s midrange jumper is slightly improved. After shooting 33 percent on midrange shots (2-point shots outside the paint) last season, he’s up to 37 percent this season.

But he is still struggling to score at the rim and from beyond the arc. He is shooting 36 percent in the paint and is 1-for-16 on 3-point attempts this season.

The only player with as many attempts as Rubio and shooting worse from within eight feet this season is Austin Rivers of the Hornets.

Rubio is especially struggling to create his own offense off pick-and-roll plays. He has turned it over on 37 percent of pick-and-roll plays this season when he doesn’t pass the ball, which ranks last among the 113 players with at least 50 plays.

As a result, the Timberwolves have actually been more efficient offensively with Rubio on the bench. Over the past 10 games, they’re scoring seven more points per 100 possessions with Rubio off the court while shooting better and committing fewer turnovers than when he is on the floor.

WHERE RUBIO HELPS

Since he returned to the starting lineup, Rubio has helped the Timberwolves get more easy opportunities near the basket. In the past 10 games, 40 percent of Minnesota’s field goal attempts have come in the restricted area while Rubio is on the court. When he’s off the court, only 28 percent of their shots have been in the restricted area.

Rubio’s size and length also benefits the Timberwolves on the defensive end. With Rubio as a starter this season, Minnesota is allowing five fewer points per 100 possessions and forcing five more turnovers per 48 minutes with Rubio on the floor during that span.

The Timberwolves are playing without Kevin Love, who broke his hand in early January. But with or without Love, the Timberwolves’ success could depend largely on how much Rubio, and Minnesota, addresses his weaknesses moving forward.

Rodeo time for the Spurs

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
1:30
PM ET
By Gregg Found
ESPN.com
Archive
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
The Big 3 for the Spurs will be well-traveled the next few weeks.
Break out the cowboys hats and the...spurs…it’s the start of the San Antonio Spurs annual Rodeo Road Trip. And this one starts with the Spurs owning the best record in the NBA.

They won’t be back home for a game until February 27 -- meaning they’ll have 25 days in between home games.

A look at the NBA’s best team as they start their trip:

About those Spurs
The Spurs …

•  Are riding a 10-game win streak, their longest of the season.

• Are riding a 18-game home win streak, which they won’t get a chance to extend until February 27.

• Have the NBA’s best record by a 1 1/2-game margin over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

• Have the NBA’s best home record (22-2).

• Have the NBA’s best road record (16-9).

• Have a 20-1 record against sub-.500 teams (best in NBA); the only loss came at the New Orleans Hornets

• Are 29-1 when ahead at halftime this season (best in NBA).

Breaking down the road trip
The rodeo road trip features …

• Four games against teams with .500 or winning records and five games with sub-.500 teams.

• Four games against teams that would currently be in the postseason.

• Five teams in the Western Conference, four teams in the Eastern Conference.

• A visit through seven states (Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Illinois, Ohio, California, Arizona – not counting to/from Texas).

But the Spurs don’t mind
The Spurs have never had a losing record during a Rodeo Road Trip (which began in 2003).

They are 58-24 in those 82 games, a .707 winning percentage.

What does a .707 win percentage equate to? It would have been good enough for the third-best overall record in the West last season and second-best the season before.

Surviving Duncan’s Absence
The Spurs got a scare when Tim Duncan left Saturday’s game after getting his legs rolled up on.

As of now the injury has been called both a sprained right ankle and sprained left knee by the Spurs.

Duncan is enjoying a great season – he’ll make his 14th All-Star appearance (injury notwithstanding) after missing out last year. His PER of 24.8, if maintained, would be his highest in a season since the Spurs title-winning team of 2006-07.

But the Spurs have been fine in the few games he’s missed so far this season. They’re 5-1 in games without Duncan and 10-4 without him over the last two seasons.

If Duncan is out for a while, it will be a rarity for the reliable forward. He hasn’t missed 10 games or more since the 2004-05 season.

George on James is matchup to watch

February, 1, 2013
2/01/13
3:44
PM ET
By Ernest Tolden, ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com

Pat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsPaul George guarding LeBron James is a matchup to watch on Friday night.

The Indiana Pacers host the Miami Heat tonight at 7 ET on ESPN. Indiana has won 12 consecutive games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, their longest home win streak since winning 14 straight during the 2002-03 season.

The Pacers won the first meeting this season, holding the Heat to a season low in points in their 87-77 victory on January 8. Indiana has won each of the last two regular season meetings and with a win tonight, will have its first three-game regular-season win streak against the Heat since winning 12 straight from 2002-2005.

On the other end of the scorer's table, the Heat have won three of their last four road games after starting the season 8-9 away from American Airlines Arena. However, Miami is just 9-36 all-time on the road against the Pacers in the regular season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that .200 win percentage is their second-worst mark against a single opponent on the road in team history (2-22 at Spurs).

The key matchup to watch is when LeBron James is being defended by Paul George. James, the reigning league MVP, is posting career highs in both field goal percentage (54.8) and three-point field goal percentage (40.4).

Meanwhile, George has emerged as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. George, who was selected to his first All-Star team this season, is 11th in the NBA with 1.7 steals per game.

George has had a major impact on a Pacers’ defense that ranks first in defensive efficiency, allowing just 96.2 points per 100 possessions. According to Basketball Reference, George ranks second in the NBA with 3.5 defensive win shares, a metric that estimates the number of wins a player contributed to his team due to his defense.
Paul George
George

However, James had some success against George in their first meeting. With George as the primary defender on non-pick and roll plays, James scored 13 of his 22 points on 6-for-11 shooting.

On Friday, George should look to keep James around the perimeter and prevent him from attacking the basket. James, who averages an NBA-best 13.1 points in the paint per game, went just 2-for-6 on jump shots from outside the key when George was defending him on non-pick and roll plays in the first meeting. When he was able to get in the paint in those situations, he connected on four of his five attempts.

In terms of slowing James down, the breaking point for the Pacers has been the 27-point mark. James’ teams are 18-5 against Indiana in his career when he scores at least 27 points. They are just 9-9 when he fails to score at least 27 points including his 22-point effort in the Heat’s loss to the Pacers in January.

20-point streak ends for James in Heat loss

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
3:00
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
Archive
Following a pair of Dwyane Wade free throws, the Miami Heat led the Portland Trail Blazers by 12 with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter Thursday. Unfortunately for the Heat, the Blazers took control in those final eight minutes and hung on for a two-point win at the Rose Garden. The loss was the second straight and third in the last four games for Miami.

Miguel Cabrera
James
During that stretch to end the game, Portland outscored the Heat 24-10 despite almost identical shooting from the floor by hitting free throws and three-point shots. The Blazers went 11-for-15 on free throws and 3-for-4 on three-pointers during the run while Miami went 1-for-2 and 1-for-5 on those same shots, respectively. Among them was the potential game-winning three by Mario Chalmers that rimmed out as time expired.

But perhaps even more notable than the loss, LeBron James scored a season-low 15 points on just six field goals. The six made shots were the fewest he’s had in a game since March of last season.

Entering the night, James had reached the 20-point plateau in each of the 33 games he played this season, the longest streak by any player to start a season since George Gervin went 45-straight games in 1981-82 and the second-longest by any player since the 1976 merger.

What caused the run of 20-point performances to come to an end? Struggles in the half court. James scored just seven points on 2-for-11 shooting in half-court sets on Thursday (18.1 percent), both of which were season lows. James entered the night having scored over 20 points per game and was shooting 51.0 percent in the half court this season.

On the other end of the floor, the Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge and his 20 points and game-high 15 rebounds. It marked his fifth double-double over the last six games and his second “20-and-15" of the season.

Also chipping in for Portland was Nicolas Batum who scored a team-high 28 points. It was his sixth game of the year with least 25 points and with the win, the Blazers improved to 5-1 when he reaches the 25-point plateau this season.

Lin, Howard would be nice pick-and-roll duo

July, 18, 2012
7/18/12
3:02
PM ET
By Micah Adams, ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith Jeremy Lin now officially a member of the Rockets, is Dwight Howard next?
It’s official: Jeremy Lin is a Houston Rocket... but that doesn’t mean Rockets GM Daryl Morey is done wheeling and dealing. With Lin in the fold, how might he fit in a potential partnership with Houston’s other target, Dwight Howard?

THE PICK-AND-ROLL GAME

In addition to being a defensive force, Howard is the best pick-and-roll finisher in the NBA. He averaged 1.38 points per play as the roll man on pick-and-rolls last season, best in the league among players with at least 35 plays.

On the surface, it might not appear Lin would be the ideal pick-and-roll point guard to pair with Howard. On all of his passes out of the pick-and-roll, Lin ranked in just the 40th percentile in points per play.

However, when going exclusively to the roll man, Lin ranked in the 72nd percentile (fifth of 35 point guards with 100 plays). That compares favorably to both Howard’s current and preferred point guards.

Orlando’s Jameer Nelson ranked 15th among that group of 35 point guards while the Nets’ Deron Williams came in at just 29th on points per play generated on passes to the roll man.

PLAYING OFF THE BALL

What about Lin playing off of Howard?
Dwight Howard
Howard
Despite missing 12 games, Howard still led the NBA with 181 passes to spot-up shooters last season and commanded a hard double-team 5.8 percent of the time he posted up.

Only Andrew Bynum and LaMarcus Aldridge were doubled more frequently so the ability to spot up, spread the floor and punish teams for doubling Howard is important when playing alongside the big fella. Unfortunately, this is not an area in which Lin excels.

Lin shot just 32.0 percent from the 3-point line and ranked in the 55th percentile in spot-up situations (0.94 points per play) last season. He ranked in the 43rd percentile in catch-and-shoot situations (0.86 points per play).

AS A BALL-DOMINANT GUARD

One of the keys to Lin’s success with the Knicks last season was his freedom to make plays. Of the 148 guards with at least 500 minutes last season, Lin’s usage rate of 27.4 ranked 10th. Some players he outranked? Chris Paul, Brandon Jennings and John Wall.

For comparison’s sake, Nelson’s usage rate has been under 23.0 in each of the past six seasons and Lin’s usage rate last season (27.4) would be the second-highest ever among Howard’s backcourt teammates.

The highest rate posted by any guard teammate of Howard’s was 28.4 by Steve Francis during Howard’s rookie campaign in 2004-05.

Despite all the success, plenty of mistakes came along with the freedom Lin enjoyed in New York. Lin averaged 4.7 turnovers per game as a starter, last among the 39 players who made at least 20 starts at the point last season.

Thunder paint Spurs into corner in Game 3

June, 1, 2012
6/01/12
9:25
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
Archive

Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe Thunder excelled with Russell Westbrook (L) on the floor in Thursday's Game 3 win over the Spurs.
The San Antonio Spurs may have been due for a loss, but not this kind of loss.

The winners of 20 straight contests, San Antonio lost in grand fashion Thursday night to the Oklahoma City Thunder, falling 102-82. It was just the Spurs' third loss this season by 20 points or more, and it was their lowest offensive output in the playoffs.

The Thunder, who now trail 2-1 in the Western Conference Finals, dominated in virtually every way in Game 3, but their advantage in the paint proved to be the difference. Oklahoma City outscored the conference’s top seed 44-24 in the lane. Nearly half of the Thunder’s shots came in the painted area, and they made 52.4 percent of those attempts.

Inside of 5 feet, the Thunder not only excelled offensively but also locked down the opponent. They scored 38 points (19-33 FG) from that distance Thursday night, holding the Spurs to a playoff-low 22 points on 11-of-20 from the field.

Pressure defense was also a key for the Thunder. They had 14 steals, including six by G Thabo Sefolosha, and San Antonio finished with 21 turnovers. That is the most turnovers by the Spurs in a playoff game since 2007, when they committed 23 against the Jazz in a win.

Those turnovers allowed Oklahoma City to get out and run. The West’s second seed outscored the Spurs 23-9 in transition, converting 10 of their 14 field goal attempts. San Antonio managed only two buckets in transition.

In the half court, the Thunder were able to take away one of the Spurs’ main weapons: the pick-and-roll. San Antonio scored 30 points off pick-and-roll plays in each of the first two games of the series, but the team was held to only 12 points on such plays in Game 3.

Tim Duncan finished with 11 points on 5-of-15 shooting. He did set a milestone by passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most blocks in playoff history (478), but it comes with a caveat: Blocks were not an official stat until 1973-74, Abdul-Jabbar’s fifth NBA season.

The Thunder were able to triumph despite star G Russell Westbrook scoring just 10 points. Westbrook contributed nine assists and four steals, though, and Oklahoma City outscored the Spurs by 29 points when he was on the court. Westbrook averaged 22.0 points in losses in Games 1 and 2.

While Kevin Durant poured in 22, it was a pair of unlikely players that provided the punch for Oklahoma City. Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka combined for 33 points in Game 3; they had just 22 points total in the first two games of the series.

If the Thunder continue to control the interior and transition game, they could give the Spurs fits. Tonight’s effort proved that the Thunder are very much alive in this series.

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