TrueHoop: Brandon Bass
On Tuesday, New York will try and extend its win streak to five games against the Boston Celtics, who have lost four in a row.
The Celtics will be without Kevin Garnett for the next two weeks, and the Knicks could be without center Tyson Chandler. On defense, the Celtics have been more than 7.0 points per 100 possessions worse without Garnett; the Knicks have been slightly better without Chandler (+1.3 points per 100 possessions on defense when he’s off the court).
Although the Knicks, at least statistically, are better without Chandler, their interior defense has struggled without him. In the past six games -- all without Chandler -- the Knicks have allowed opponents to shoot 70.0 percent inside five feet. Before Chandler’s injury, the Knicks allowed opponents to shoot 60.3 percent on those attempts, which is slightly above league average.
Chandler’s absence could be even more beneficial to the Celtics because they are one of only five teams this season that has outscored the Knicks inside the paint. In two games against the Knicks, the Celtics have averaged 45.0 points in the paint -- and Chandler played at least 40 minutes in both games. The 45.0 points in the paint is Boston’s third-highest average against one opponent.
The Celtics obviously will miss Garnett on both ends of the floor. Specifically on offense, Garnett has been the Celtics go-to guy in pick-and-roll sets. Garnett has scored 217 points from pick-and-roll screeners, the eighth-most points in the NBA this season. A distant second on the Celtics is Brandon Bass with 82 points.
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesRick Carlisle: The pragmatist
Name: Rick Carlisle
Birthdate: October 27, 1959
Is he an emotional leader or a tactician?
A tactician. Carlisle inspires his team and staff with his deep knowledge of the game, not an emotional appeal. They know he’s passionate about winning and losing, but that’s conveyed through his intelligence and command, not huddle histrionics or heartfelt one-on-ones with players or coaches. Those who’ve worked with him, as well as colleagues around the league, marvel at Carlisle’s ability to manage the last five minutes of a basketball game.
Is he intense or a go along-get along type?
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the NBA who would characterize Carlisle as lighthearted. He’s very intense, but he also knows how to corral that sharpness and doesn’t coach angry.
Does he rely on systems, or does he coach ad hoc to his personnel?
Give Carlisle the pieces, and he’ll find something that works. In Detroit and Indiana, Carlisle’s teams were defined by their defense and were all about controlling the possession on offense. He succeeded with both Stackhouse-Atkins and Billups-Hamilton backcourts in Detroit, all four guards decidedly different in styles and strengths. In Indiana, Jermaine O’Neal got the ball on the left block, and Reggie Miller curled off single-singles, stacks and staggered screens. In Dallas, Carlisle went away from play-calling in favor of something that relied on more general principles -- and the instincts of Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki to put those principles into action. To the extent that there’s a commonality over the course of Carlisle's career, it’s “Find the right shot at the right time for the right guy.”
Does he share decision-making with star players, or is he the Decider?
Carlisle is the Decider, but he’s exceptionally good at giving his key players the sense that they own a piece of the enterprise. He takes in a lot of information -- from assistants, star players, owners, numbers guys and trainers -- and that knowledge will often guide his decisions. For instance, things weren’t so rosy in fall 2008 when the Mavericks came out of the gate 2-7. Kidd didn’t want every set being commandeered from the sideline and was pining for more freedom. Carlisle went into the lab with his staff, came up with the "push" offense, which gave Kidd the flexibility he needed, but still generated the right shot at the right time for the right guy. That often amounted to an early jump shot for Nowitzki in a prime spot.
Does he prefer the explosive scorer or the lockdown defender?
Carlisle has always appreciated who’s helping his team on the defensive end of the floor and feels confident he can find good shots for just about anyone -- even a defensive specialist like DeShawn Stevenson. In Indiana, Carlisle found plenty of minutes for Fred Jones, and in Dallas there has almost always been a Corey Brewer, James Singleton or Quinton Ross within close reach if needed for defensive duty. All that said, neither Corliss Williamson nor Jason Terry ever had to worry about losing minutes under Carlisle, who can recognize a well-tuned microwave when he sees one.
Does he prefer a set rotation, or is he more likely to use his personnel situationally?
Carlisle has no problem mixing things up when he identifies an opportunity. When his Pacers team needed to unclog the half court against the Pistons in a grueling conference final in 2004, Carlisle had Austin Croshere make his first start in two seasons to help the spacing. When his Mavericks team needed someone to attack the Heat’s defense off the dribble in the 2011 Finals, Carlisle inserted J.J. Barea into the starting lineup for the final three games of the series en route to an NBA championship. Throughout his tenure in Dallas, if a player has cracked the code in a regular-season game -- say Brandon Bass in a pick-and-roll with Barea -- Carlisle will gladly leave him out there to exploit an opponent’s defensive vulnerability.
Will he trust young players in big spots, or is he more inclined to use his veterans?
Again, Carlisle isn’t prone to personal bias. He wants the guy out there who can help him the most. The situation will dictate the personnel, regardless of a factor like age. In Indiana, the core apart from 38-year-old Reggie Miller was very young, and nobody used more possessions for him during his last season in Detroit than 24-year-old Rip Hamilton. Yet Dallas has largely been a veteran’s shop under Carlisle.
Are there any unique strategies that he particularly likes?
Carlisle might never fashion a trend in the NBA, but he’ll take a current one and perfect it.
The push offense isn’t so much an offensive system as it is solution to a problem. The 2008-09 Mavericks roster featured few players who could break a defense down with penetration and nobody who could be classified as a low-post threat. What Dallas had in spades were one- and two-dribble jump shooters and guys with astronomical basketball I.Q.s and other discernible skills like picking, diving and cutting. So Carlisle, with the aid of then-assistant coach Terry Stotts, devised a strategy to empower the team to find early high-percentage looks against an imbalanced defense.
As a general tactic, this wasn’t new -- several teams had abandoned structure for freedom, Mike D’Antoni’s Phoenix squads the best example. But unlike D’Antoni, Carlisle didn’t have a prober like Steve Nash, nor was his group in Dallas as speedy or stretchy. The Mavs couldn’t run and shoot with abandon, but Kidd could orchestrate an aggressive offense that knew how to sniff out those clean, early looks. That often meant getting wings and big men behind plays into random pick-and-rolls, or pinning Nowitzki’s man early, or hitting Terry on the secondary break for a trailing jumper, or finding Josh Howard (later Shawn Marion) underneath a defense that’s collapsed after an early drag screen.
Given his conventional playbook at his previous stops, this shift to a more free-flowing offense seemed like a departure for Carlisle. But in time, we learned that Carlisle didn’t coach a deliberate, half-court game in Detroit and Indiana because he had a predisposition for it. He drew it up that way because his rosters necessitated more structure. When the circumstances in Dallas revealed themselves and he realized Kidd wasn’t Jamaal Tinsley or Anthony Johnson, Carlisle deftly adjusted to the talent around him and created something special.
Defensively, the Mavericks adopted an inventive zone defense strategy devised by Dwane Casey. They were the rare team that was able to effectively zone up after misses, and would actually employ both zone and man-to-man schemes within a single possession.
What were his characteristics as a player?
A plodding but an intensely hard-working shooting guard who was always prepared and stayed in impeccable shape. Curiously, he tallied only 3.5 rebounds per 36 minutes for a total rebounding rate of 5.4 percent -- one of the lowest in history for a guard his size. By all accounts, this wasn’t for a lack of effort, but a lack of hops.
Which coaches did he play for?
Carlisle played for Pine Tree State lifer Skip Chappelle at the University of Maine before transferring to the University of Virginia, where Terry Holland was the head coach. During his three years with the Boston Celtics, Carlisle came off the bench for K.C. Jones. Rick Pitino had Carlisle for a single season in New York. Carlisle finished his career as a player with New Jersey for Bill Fitch, who eventually offered him his first job on an NBA staff.
What is his coaching pedigree?
After being waived by the Nets, Carlisle got his start breaking down film under Fitch. In 1994, Carlisle joined P.J. Carlesimo's staff in Portland, where he worked alongside the legendary Dick Harter, the man responsible for the Bad Boy Pistons’ “Jordan Rules” defensive strategy. Harter had a tremendous influence on Carlisle, who ultimately adopted many of Harter’s principles in Detroit and Indiana -- strong base defense without much switching, few double-teams, help and rotations only when necessary and, above all, physicality. In 1997, Carlisle joined the coaching staff of former teammate Larry Bird in Indiana. Again Carlisle found himself on staff with defensive guru Harter. When Bird left the sideline in 2000, Carlisle was passed over for Isiah Thomas, but was tapped by the Pistons for his first head coaching gig. After two seasons in Detroit, Carlisle moved on to Indiana for four seasons before landing in Dallas in 2008 after a one-year sabbatical.
If basketball didn't exist, what might he be doing?
Working as a clinical psychologist.
Possible players on the move
Garnett is an unrestricted free agent after making $21.2 million this season. He turned 36 last month, but was the key for the Celtics on both ends of the court this postseason.
In the 737 minutes he was on the court in the playoffs, the Celtics outscored opponents by 138 points. They were outscored by 118 points in the 238 minutes he was off the floor. That wasn’t a fluke, as the Celtics were +267 with Garnett on the floor during the regular season compared to -101 with him on the bench.
Allen is also an unrestricted free agent this summer and will turn 37 years old in July. He wasn’t as productive in the playoffs this year as he was the past four years. He averaged nearly 17 points in 39 minutes per game from 2008-11, but in 2012 those numbers declined by six points and five minutes.
Brandon Bass, who just finished his first season with the Celtics, has a $4 million player option for next season. Bass set career highs this season, averaging 32 minutes, 13 points and six rebounds per game.
Even if they have played their last game together, Paul Pierce, Garnett and Allen have already cemented their legacy in Boston. This is the fourth memorable era in Celtics history.
Red Auerbach failed to make the NBA Finals during his first six years as head coach of the Celtics, but Bill Russell’s arrival for the 1956-57 season was the beginning of one of the greatest dynasties in sports history. The Celtics went on to capture 11 championships during Russell’s 13-year career.
After Russell’s retirement in 1969, the Celtics missed the playoffs in 1970 and 1971, but it wasn’t long before they were back on top again.
John Havlicek, Dave Cowens, and Jo Jo White helped lead Boston to titles in 1974 and 1976. The Celtics also made it to the Conference Finals in 1972, 1973 and 1975.
Boston was eliminated in the Conference Semifinals in 1977 and missed the playoffs entirely the next two seasons, but Larry Bird landed in Boston for the 1979-80 season and the rest was history.
The Celtics made five NBA Finals appearances and won three titles during Bird’s 13-year career, which ended in 1992 with a 4-games-to-3 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Conference Semifinals.
After experiencing a 21-season championship drought, Pierce, Garnett, and Allen guided the Celtics to a title during their first season together in 2008.
Garnett missed the playoffs the following year due to injury and the Celtics lost in the Conference Semifinals, but Boston made it back to the Finals in 2010, falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in a hard-fought seven game series.
The Celtics couldn’t get by the Heat the last two seasons, losing in five games in the 2011 Conference Semifinals and coming up just short this year in the Conference Finals.
Bass finished with 27 points - 18 of them in the third quarter - in a performance that few could have predicted.
In fact, if his teammates say they've seen this before, they're lying. Entering the night, Bass had not been the Celtics' outright leading scorer in any of their 76 team games this season.
The Celtics had seven different leading scorers in a game this season, including Sasha Pavlovic and Jermaine O'Neal, but Bass wasn't one of them until this game.
He hardly needed any help in the third quarter, when he outscored the 76ers by himself, 18-16. Bass went a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the quarter and a near-perfect 6-for-7 from the field.
His 18 points in the quarter were the most he's ever scored in a quarter - regular season or postseason. His previous high was 16 points in the 2nd quarter against the Kings on Feb. 21, 2009.
The performance took some of the scoring load off the Celtics usual cast, and it came at a fortunate time as Ray Allen shot just 2-for-7 and Paul Pierce shot 3-for-7. The last time a Celtics player outside of their core four scored 25 points in a playoff game was when Eddie House went for 31 against the Magic in 2009.
Aside from Bass, the game shifted in the second half when the Celtics defense closed off the lane.
In the first half, the 76ers scored 24 points in the area within five feet of the hoop. It marked their most points within five feet in any half this postseason.
But in the second half the 76ers managed just 10 such points. They stopped going inside as much too - 31.4 percent of their field goal attempts came within five feet of the hoop. In the first half, it was 43 percent.
The win continued a trend of resiliency this postseason for the Boston Celtics - they're a perfect 4-0 this season in games following a loss. That trend might be a lot more comforting were it not matched by the 76ers, who are also 4-0 following a loss.
David Butler II/US PresswireRajon Rondo (right) has double-digit assists in each of his last three playoff games.
Rondo is the first player with at least 20 points and 16 assists with no more than one turnover in a playoff game since Tim Hardaway for the Golden State Warriors in 1991, who had 27 points, 20 assists and one turnover against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Rondo, Hardaway and Magic Johnson are the only players to accomplish this feat in the last 25 years.
In the last 25 seasons, a Boston Celtics player has had at least 16 assists in a playoff game eight times. Rondo has seven of those performances (Larry Bird had the other in 1990).
Rondo consistently gets it done in the playoffs. Among players in NBA history with fewer than three turnovers per game, only John Stockton (10.1) averages more assists per game than Rondo (8.6).
With Rondo on the court in the playoffs, the Celtics are 14 points better per 100 possessions than they are when Rondo is off the court.
Their offense is significantly better with Rondo, scoring 21 more points per 100 possessions. They're shooting 10 percentage points higher from the field and 13 percentage points higher on 3-point attempts, and they're averaging nine more assists with 5.5 fewer turnovers per 48 minutes with Rondo on the court.
A popular definition of a great point guard is one who makes his teammates better. There’s no better example of that in the playoffs than Rondo with Kevin Garnett. When Rondo is on the court in this series, Garnett is averaging eight more points per 48 minutes and shooting 25 percent better from the field.
Garnett, Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass are all scoring more, shooting better and have a better plus-minus when Rondo is on the court.
How important is a reliable point guard in the playoffs? Just ask the Bulls, who lost Derrick Rose to a torn ACL and went from an NBA title favorite to a First Round underdog.
Or how about the New York Knicks, who were outscored by a combined 60 points in their first three games against the Miami Heat before barely staying alive in Game 4?
Certainly, injuries to Jeremy Lin and Iman Shumpert have hurt the Knicks at point guard. No team has fewer assists (12.5) or more turnovers (19.5) per game in the playoffs than the Knicks. Their starting point guard, Baron Davis, who exited Game 4 with a dislocated patella, has 13 assists and 13 turnovers in the series. Every single other playoff team has at least one player with more assists per game in the playoffs than Davis, who leads the Knicks.
Still not sure how important strong point guard play is in the playoffs? Over the last three seasons, point guards with at least 12 assists are 19-6 in playoff games.
Miami's switching defense leverages the ability of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to defend multiple positions. Early in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night's game against the Celtics, Wade gets stuck defending Brandon Bass in the post, and rather than hold his ground, decides to play for the flop.
It's important to point out that Bass shouldn't be allowed to just bull through Wade. A shoulder to the chest should be an offensive foul. But that's not what happens here. In this case, Wade appears to play with the intent to flop at the earliest opportunity and goes down before the fight even really gets intense. When the flop fails, Wade still manages to show off his insane athleticism by popping up off the floor in time to contest the shot. Maybe that should have been Plan A.
Nice job by the official on the scene, who holds his whistle as Bass spins and knocks down the 12-footer.
When you see a flop that deserves proper recognition, send us a link to the video so we can consider it for Flop of the Night. Here's how to make your submission:
Rajon Rondo | Avery Bradley | Paul Pierce | Brandon Bass | Kevin Garnett
Minutes Played: 136
Offensive Rating: 108.2 points per 100 possessions
Defensive Rating: 81.0 points per 100 possessions
How it works offensively
In a move that's sparked debate, Doc Rivers assigned Ray Allen to the bench upon the shooting guard's return from injury. The absence of Allen from this unit makes this lineup a real departure from the C's 2008 and 2010 Finals runs, and the offense has a somewhat different look. With Avery Bradley in Allen's place, the Celtics lose a bit of their spacing, but their stretchy frontcourt of Kevin Garnett (now the nominal center) and Brandon Bass helps mitigate that.
Reggie Miller as the possible exception, nobody perfected the half-court sprint in the single-double quite like Allen, but you won't find Bradley running around screens. That feature is now property of the second unit. Yet this group still runs the Celtics' proficient series of rotating pick-and-rolls -- with Paul Pierce working one side of the floor and Rondo the other. Meanwhile, Bradley moves side to side off the ball to keep the help away.
Now in their fifth season together, Pierce and Garnett have become so smooth as a pick-and-roll tandem, like an old couple who finishes each other's sentences. Garnett still sets one of the best picks in the business, although Pierce's accuracy from midrange has fallen off this season, so moving to his left off a Garnett ball screen then shooting is no longer the best option in this sequence. If the defender actually manages to fight through that screen to Pierce, Garnett will get the pass. And if he doesn't have a clean shot off that pass, he'll quickly read the defense and find something else -- often a streaking Rondo or an open Bass along the weakside baseline.
Rondo approaches every possession in which he's the primary initiator as a scorched-earth attack. He's not without offensive liabilities, and his range continues to limit his options at times, but when he finds space to work and passing lanes to exploit, those deficiencies are no longer in play. He feeds Garnett almost flawlessly and knows when it's time to bail on the first option (say a pitch to Garnett) and adopt the second (maybe a kickout to Pierce, who has his feet set).
With his relentless penetration, Rondo is still pressuring defenses -- which often choose to help off Bradley. No matter, because Rondo can thread the needle to either Garnett or Bass, who situate themselves in that Luis Scola territory just above the baseline about 16 feet from the hoop. Garnett presents all kinds of problems. One of the best passing big men in the league, he's a savvy playmaker away from the basket. And defenders who traditionally help off the C's center now do so at their own peril.
The Celtics aren't a running team, but this lineup generates a healthy percentage of its points in transition (almost 1-in-5). When Rondo collects a defensive rebound, look out. Rondo can move coast to coast as well as any point guard in the league, and watch out for those trailers: Garnett (inside the arc), Pierce (outside the arc) and Bass (rim runs)!
What about Bradley? How is he getting his buckets? Not as a first option, as Allen frequently is, but by being crafty and finding space. Bradley made a pretty baseline cut from the left corner in the opening minutes of the second half against Miami recently, meeting Rondo at the hoop for the dish. Two minutes later? Same thing.
The Celtics’ offense during this regime has suffered from high turnover rates and, this season, an inability to get to the line consistently -- but not this group. All in all, this unit isn't the most highfalutin in the NBA, but of the Celtics' 10 most used lineups this season, they rank far and away as the most offensively efficient.
How it works defensively
The spirit of Tom Thibodeau lives on in Boston, where the Celtics rank No. 1 in defensive efficiency. They were stingy with Allen and Jermaine O'Neal, but with Bradley in the backcourt they're downright ridiculous. As a frame of reference, the Celtics give up a league-best 95.3 points per 100 possessions overall, but with this unit on the floor, that number drops to 81.0. There's a danger of small sample size theater with a lineup that's played only 136 minutes together, but the crazy thing is that the gaudy 81.0 number keeps dropping the more this unit jells.
As Allen's contract expires at the end of the season, it appears the Celtics have some premium insurance if they don't reel in a top free agent at the shooting guard position. Bradley will never be able to offer the offensive punch Allen gives to the Celtics' half-court offense, but he's quickly becoming one of the most aggressive young defenders in the league -- and he's only 21.
Did you see Bradley's block of Dwyane Wade two Sundays ago? Did you see him deny Wade on the perimeter and lock onto him off every screen and curl? Bradley's prowess as an on-ball defender also allows Rondo to play off the ball, where he can use his long branches to play passing lanes and do a little gambling. Those arms also make Rondo a stellar choice to be one of the two back-size zone defenders in Boston's overloaded defense. Because as important as it is for the C's to suffocate the ball handler and send that extra body to the strong side, it's the two defenders on the weak side who have a ton of responsibility -- as they usually have to cover three guys.
Every NBA big man under age 25 should have the video coordinator at his team's training facility make a feature-length DVD of Garnett's half-court defense. If you watch him closely, you won't see a lot of blocked shots or pickpocketing. His defensive game is an exercise in nuance. At 35, Garnett could probably defend a pick-and-roll with a blindfold on, and his most notable contributions are simply where he situates himself on the court in relation to the offense. Garnett's hyperawareness of what the offense is trying to accomplish on a given possession is remarkable. Watch several dozen defensive possessions with this lineup, and you'll never witness an error in judgment by Garnett. All the while, he's calling out instructions to his teammates and guiding Bass to the right spots.
Bass didn't arrive in Boston with the reputation as the league's most linear thinker on defense, but in the confines of the Celtics' system, he is doing fine. Bass might lack Garnett's assertiveness when he shows hard on a high pick-and-roll. He looks nervous, at times, when he's defending away from the ball and has to make a quick help decision, but he's making progress.
That's the thing about systems, Boston's in particular. Allen was regarded as a sieve when he came over from Seattle in 2007, but immediately adopted the principles that governed the Celtics' D. All over the league, we're seeing players with reputations as iffy defenders figuring things out in a smart system (see Marreese Speights in Memphis, Spencer Hawes in Philadelphia to name a couple). These guys may not be all-NBA defenders, but they limit their personal liabilities in a scheme that protects them from making mistakes.
That's the Boston way.
Statistical support for this story comes from NBA.com.
- From a discussion at Wages of Win about the salaries and earnings of NBA players: "That’s right; the lottery [not the NBA draft lottery] has produced almost twice as many millionaires in the last year as the NBA has in the last twenty years!"
- Zach Lowe of The Point Forward on the union's disclosure of some vivid details of Thursday's negotiations: "It was an extraordinary public accounting of a private negotiation, one clearly fueled by anger over the alleged misrepresentations Silver and Holt gave reporters a few minutes earlier. We have seen nothing quite like it so far in these talks. It is discouraging. And the anger matters. The two sides need to cool off now, and it is unclear when they will meet next."
- Belgrade is a basketball hotbed. When Serbia took on France in EuroBasket 2011, you could hear hoots, hollers and moans emanating from alleyways in the Serbian capital. Acie Law has joined Partizan Belgrade and has been blown away by fan passion: "I've never seen anything like it, you don't see fans like that in the United States."
- A nice story in the Sporting News about SEEDS Academy, Amadou Gallo Fall's basketball school in Senegal. The piece includes a clip of a documentary, "Elevate," by filmmaker Anne Buford -- San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford's sister.
- Rex Chapman on owner-player vengeance: "League owners possess much resolve. They've vowed athlete-payback 4ever. Branded into memory are their yrs of daily P.E. dodgeball beatings."
- One ancillary benefit of the lockout? Stars like Stephen Curry who traditionally deliver boilerplate quotes are now expressing their sincere opinions.
- Raja Bell to Dan Le Batard and Stugotz on 790 AM in Miami: "I feel like that is their target to shoot just below the bar, so it looks like they are negotiating and in fact there is not a real attempt to negotiate.”
- If you didn't catch HoopSpeak Live yesterday, you missed some compelling stuff from Bomani Jones and Larry Coon. Jones speaks about how $5 million players have $5 million dollar bills, while Coon revisits the contentious issues that are dividing the camps in the labor negotiations. Equally as entertaining, with a whole lot of whimsy, is Zach Harper, who stops by 48 Minutes of Hell's 4-Down Podcast.
- John Wall in a Dougie-off at a Reebok promotional event.
- LeBron James gets zinged on twentysomething dramedy "Happy Endings." (Hat Tip: Ball Don't Lie & Your Man Devine)
- Magic big man Brandon Bass tells Zach McCann that he's spending his time in Orlando working out with Jameer Nelson, Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson. On his to-do list? Extending his range beyond 18-20 feet.
- J.J. Hickson makes aliyah, as he signs with B'nai Hasharon in Israel, replacing Trevor Booker on the roster.
- Can you name all the D-League teams? You've got four minutes on the clock. Go.
- Metta World Peace would like some company. Via his Twitter feed: "It's not a weird question to ask where the fellas at. I can't entertain 100's of ladies alone. My party yesterday was all girls."
Bass scored a career-high 27 points, making his first 11 field goals before missing his final attempt of the game late in the fourth quarter.
Had Bass made his final field goal attempt, he would have broken the team record for most field goals made in a game without a miss. Dwight Howard went 11-for-11 last season at Houston.
From the Elias Sports Bureau: Bass is the first player who did not start a game to make his first 11 field goal attempts since Kelvin Cato did it for the Houston Rockets against the Boston Celtics on Dec. 18, 1999.
The most field goals made in a game this season without a miss is 10 by Pau Gasol (Nov. 21 vs Warriors) and Anderson Varejao (Nov. 5 at 76ers).
In the first half, Bass was perfect from both the floor (8-8) and free throw line (4-4).
From the Elias Sports Bureau: Bass is the first Magic player to go at least 8-8 from the field in the first half of a game since Howard went 10-10 against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 14, 2007.
The 11 field goals made were also a career high for Bass, who had never made more than nine in a game prior to Friday.
Matt McHale of By the Horns: "It's a bad sign when fans start longing for the halcyon days of the Michael Sweetney Era. And it's especially frustrating for Bulls fans, who had to deal with the loss of Ben Gordon while the league's rich got even richer: Boston got Rasheed Wallace, Cleveland got Shaq, L.A. got Ron Artest and San Antonio got Richard Jefferson ... It makes sense that the fans wanted to see a move. Something big, something juicy. But sometimes, staying the course might be the best plan of action. Or inaction, as the case may be. As things stand right now, the Bulls have a solid core of players -- a budding All-Star-in-the-making, a few savvy vets, some developing youngsters -- and enough expiring contracts to make a major move next summer or at the trade deadline. And Chicago will certainly be a much more attractive free agent destination if the Bulls can match last season's success than if they fell apart because [Carlos] Boozer took his usual 30-40 game vacation and our backcourt players broke down from playing too many minutes. Now, if the Jazz wanted to trade Boozer for some loose parts off the Bulls' scrap pile -- Tim Thomas, Jerome James, Anthony Roberson -- then let's get it done. And while we're dreaming, maybe they'll trade us Deron Williams for Brad Miller's expiring contract. But barring some mass hysteria and insanity in Utah, I guess Bulls fans will have to be satisfied with some incremental progress and hope for the future."
Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily: "The only real issue with signing Brandon Bass is that -- at least technically -- he plays the position where the Magic were the deepest before his arrival. Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson gave the Magic talent and depth at power forward, making it the only position with a legitimate starter and legitimate reserve (I'd count point guard as well, but that's arguable). When a team has eight players under contract, as the Magic did last week, an all-star and a promising rookie at one position feels like an overabundance of wealth. So, at the surface, bringing in another power forward doesn't make a whole lot of sense (especially a 6-foot-7 power forward who's seemingly too small to fill in as the team's primary backup center, even if the statistics say otherwise). But that doesn't mean it was a bad signing. I love the move - like most Magic fans do - especially for the relatively inexpensive price tag. For a 23-year-old who seeps potential and has already played meaningful minutes on an upper-echelon team, $18 million over four years is a great deal. Anytime you can attain a quality player for that kind of value, you do it."
Graydon Gordian of 48 Minutes of Hell: "I love watching [DeJuan] Blair work under the boards. He has a mature sense of spacing and soft, accurate hands. His rebounding was particularly notable on the offensive end, where he consistently turned misses by his teammates into open layups and trips to the line (where he went 5-6). As will be the case with during the regular season, Blair was by no means the tallest player on the floor. But he was the only player on either team whose rebounding count reached double digits. Blair's offensive contributions weren't limited to put-backs; he showed promising signs that a well-rounded offensive game may be in his future. On the first play we ran specifically to him, Blair turned and hit a smooth 12-footer. On the next play, he received the ball at almost the exact same spot and used his defenders over-adjustment to take him off the dribble and draw the foul. Blair's mechanics are a little loose, but the origins of a reliable offensive arsenal are there."
(Photos by Andrew D. Bernstein, Doug Pensinger, Noah Graham, Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
Denver's success is a triumph for knuckleheadism. Orlando's success can be traced to a willingness to adjust on the fly. And Dallas' success was pretty satisfying when you consider the alternatives.
Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company: "It cannot be overstated how well the Nuggets are playing in the playoffs. They never played this well for this long during the regular season. With there being so much pressure, both internally and externally, to get out of the first round I believe this team was really chomping at the bit for the playoffs to start from the time they acquired Chauncey [Billups]. George Karl said on multiple occasions that he thought Denver would explode once they made it past the first round. Well, he was absolutely right. The early success against the New Orleans Hornets has fired this team to an entirely different level of confidence. I lost track of how many times I heard analysts talk about how the Nuggets were a team comprised of knuckleheads. If you let knuckleheads taste success they become very dangerous just like in Bad News Bears."
Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm: "If you want to be effective in the playoffs, you have to be willing to make adjustments and not just stick with what brung you. All the guys are on your team for a reason. Even the scrubs. If something's working, stick with it. If it's not working, adjust and go to something else until you find what works. It would be easy for [Stan Van Gundy] to stick with Rafer Alston and not go to Anthony Johnson. But he's noticed Johnson provides them a change of pace guy. It would be easy to stick with [J.J.] Redick in the starting spot, since he played Ray Allen well. But he doesn't have the advantages that [Courtney] Lee has. If Lee starts to struggle, he can re-insert Redick. If [Hedo] Turkoglu is hot, let the Turkish Wonder roll. If he's struggling, turn to Mickael Pietrus. The key? Don't be afraid to make adjustments that don't jive with what your plan has been so far ... Conversely, you've got Mike Brown and Phil Jackson. The sum of their teams' parts is greater than that of their opponents. But when their opponents have forced them into matchup on matchup, it's been difficult for them. They still have the better team. But they're limited by their previous success into being unwilling to adjust. And they have to get beyond that if they want to make the Finals. Because they're not THAT much better than their opponents."
Rob Mahoney of Two Man Game: "The easiest way of finding joy in the Mavs' playoff defeat is to focus on their blatant defiance in the name of low expectations. Many projected the Mavs to fall out of the playoff race entirely at the hands of the Shaq-infused Suns. Neither Dallas nor Phoenix was burdened with particularly lofty hopes for the season, but within the twosome you can see a divergence: the Mavs certainly battled issues with consistency, but adversity was met with important plays and important wins. The Suns, by contrast, stumbled to the finish line when in need of a dead sprint. It's not quite the championship, but it's certainly a minor victory. The impacts of a veteran team missing the playoffs can be catastrophic, and are in an entirely different spectrum than a failure to advance beyond round X. The Mavs' brass is blessed in a way to have the choice of continuing to tweak or blow up the team, because missing out on the postseason could certainly have forced a few hands."
THE FINAL WORD
The Painted Area: Should the Cavs consider Hack-a-Howard?
Celtics Hub: Zach Lowe apologizes to Glen Davis for saying Big Baby can't finish at the basket.
Nets Are Scorching: Brandon Bass -- quality free agent.
(Photos by Noah Graham, Jesse D. Garrabrant, Doug Pensinger/NBAE via Getty Images)