Sixers 106, Knicks 96

Well, there goes the optimism. The Knicks lost at home to the Sixers, 106 to 96. New York played poorly down the stretch, allowing a 94-93 lead with 4:32 left turn into a 102-94 deficit in two minutes. A defensive lapse by Toney Douglas, going under the screen to allow a three pointer, earned the wrath of Mike D’Antoni. Although the team’s failure to make baskets is what ultimately sunk them. New York had an eFG of 41.8%, including going a pitiful 3 of 19 from three point land. The team’s worst shooters were Felton (2-11, 7pts) and Chandler (4-14, 11pts). It was an unfortunate loss, because the team held a lead for most of the third quarter until a minute left, when Philly tied it at 78.

If the Knicks are to look on the bright side, Landry Fields played exceptionally well. He was one of only two Knicks (Mozgov +8) who had a positive plus/minus (+15). In only 20 minutes, Fields contributed with scoring, rebounding, passing and defense (8 pts on 5 shots, 5 reb, 2 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk). Although Douglas made that critical gaff and missed all 4 attempts from downtown, he still managed 17 points on 13 shots and had 3 more steals. Gallo had 15 points on 11 shots, and did adequately on the glass (6 reb).

Ultimately this could be a costly loss, not just because they lost a winnable game. In the East, Philadelphia might be one of the teams that will be competing with New York for a playoff spot. Allowing them to win in the Garden could haunt them in April.

Liked it? Take a second to support Mike Kurylo on Patreon!

Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

58 thoughts to “Sixers 106, Knicks 96”

  1. Yes Landry played well. I have noticed that his minutes are a bit down as MD works in more time for the reserves. Mozgov actually looked pretty good in spurts. The lack of a true reserve point was a problem. TD does a number of things well, but his running of the offense isnt great. He really looked for his own shot today and seemed to want to shoot his way out of the funk. Half court offense is really bad when the dep shots don’t fall.

    Stoudemire has been active but I have not seen the above-the-rim player I thought we were getting. He struggled to finish around the basket as I thought he might against the active Sixer front line. He couldnt convert on two layup and1s. Then missed 1 free throw on each of those. What could have been six points ended up as two. Every team lays one of these. We just laid them on the Bulls and Wizards.

    When this team realizes that it can’t take a game off, then the optimism can stick around.

  2. The Boston game was a road game against an elite team. The Knicks should and will lose almost all of those games. They lost it.

    The Bulls game was a road game against a good team and the Blazers game was a home game against a very good team. The Knicks will lose most of those games. They went 1-1.

    The Raptors, Wizards and Sixers games were home games against middling to bad teams. The Knicks should win most of those games. They went 2-1.

    They have played like exactly the team that they are relative to their schedule; maybe even a bit better since they split the Blazers and Bulls games and their wins have generally been more decisive than their losses. If you thought this was a team who would have a win total in the low 40’s and get one of the last two playoff spots, then there is absolutely no reason for alarm. Crappy losses like this happen even to very good teams (which the Knicks are not) and pretty good teams (which the Knicks still probably are).

  3. A frustrating loss, but not one to panic over. The Knicks did a solid job rebounding (49-45 overall advantage, 14-8 in offensive rebounds), got to the line exactly a often as the Sixers (both teams were 25 for 35) and also equaled the Sixers in both assists and turnovers. The problem was the shots simply didn’t fall.

    Wilson Chandler is now shooting 27% from 3 point land… Maybe he shouldn’t be taking five of those per game.

  4. Kevin,

    Agree, no reason for alarm. Solid enough start.

    Frank O.,

    Here’s my issue with what I understand to be your concept of “situational defense.” What makes one possession more important than another? Maybe your lead has been cut from 10 to 5, so you call it a big “situation.” However, if you had just gotten stops on the last 5 pts scored or scored more pts yourself, that’s not a big situation. If you give up 2 pts there, score 2, then stop them next time… It’s even better than if you stop them there, miss, then give up pts next possession. It all comes down to pts per possession.

  5. I love Tony Douglas just like everybody else but man he really hasnt improved at all in terms of his “PG” play. I dont know how many times today he missed wide open teammates and whenever he runs a pnr he strictly looks just to score. Plus that fastbreak he messed up big time when he committed a charge was pretty awful too.

    Gonna be an interesting week coming up. Knicks play in Milwaukee then at home vs Golden St in a back-to-back then over the weekend are in Minny then host Houston on Sunday. Considering the following week the Knicks are on a west-coast trip and play 4 games in 5 days the Knicks hopefully will find a way to win 3 out of 4 this week but I think realistically every week just hope for them to play .500.

    One final thing the Knicks have to become a good home team again. I mean even bad teams finish at or even above .500 yet the Knicks havent finished over .500 at home since the 2004-2005 season which was the 3rd consecutive season of finishing over .500 at home despite not having a winning record in any of those season. Losing at home to teams like the Sixers has to stop for them to finally have a winning record and become a legit playoff team.

  6. Disappointing, but there are signs of better days to come. One thing that makes me happy is that this team finally seems to have an obvious and somewhat settled rotation. Fields fits as a glue starter. WC makes sense as a bench scorer. TD is the kind of bench player who can stay in or not, depending on how he’s going. Walker is the shooter spark, and Moz over Turiaf is sensible too. The only puzzle piece that is hard to figure is Randolph. He was okay today, but he clearly needs a ton of seasoning before he can be counted on.

    After so many seasons of guess-the-starter (remember Larry Brown’s policy of starting players who were in their home towns?), I think D’Antoni might have a plan in place that can work.

  7. Ted Nelson: Kevin,Agree, no reason for alarm. Solid enough start.Frank O.,
    Here’s my issue with what I understand to be your concept of “situational defense.” What makes one possession more important than another? Maybe your lead has been cut from 10 to 5, so you call it a big “situation.” However, if you had just gotten stops on the last 5 pts scored or scored more pts yourself, that’s not a big situation. If you give up 2 pts there, score 2, then stop them next time… It’s even better than if you stop them there, miss, then give up pts next possession. It all comes down to pts per possession.  

    Here’s the thing, I understand the idea that every possession is important. On paper, one can argue that every possession is equal, but in the emotional flow of a game, baseball, football, basketball, or soccer, not every moment is equal to another. I’m sure you have felt this in your life, whether you played organized sports or pick up. It happens, true as your mother’s love.
    Now, when another team gets hot, their emotions are tuned, they’re feeling psychologically focused, very in sync, it’s easy to lose control of the game. Super Bowls are famous for this. Emotions run so high that once one team gets up on another, it most typically becomes a blow out.
    Basketball games are like that. Basketball seasons are like that. Teams don’t grind every play. Even great teams don’t grind every play. They grind more than most teams.
    But special teams know when to step up and get pressure at the right time. That doesn’t mean they don’t play hard every play, but not all plays are equal.
    The Knicks have shown an ability to make important defensive plays when their offense has failed. The Knicks are 3-3, but they have been in every game. Every game was decided by a possession or two, despite the fact that the games they lost they shot atrociously.
    What I like is when they have needed stops, they have fought for stops. For this franchise, that is progress, important progress.
    Now they’re still too new, too young and, perhaps, not yet talented enough to win more than they lose.
    But I think it is unrealistic to expect a team to keep the same intensity for every minute of an 82 game season.

    Points per possession is a good measure, but it only represents an aggregation of the emotional ebb and flow of a game. Better teams get more defensive stops than the other team. Now, you argue that better teams score more points than their opponents, which also is true.

    But it almost never happens that a high octane offensive teams, which plays poor defense, wins championships. Indeed, the Suns are a case in point, as were the Sac Kings from back when Vladi and Webber still played.
    Same can be said about the San Diego Chargers. Unbelievable offense. But they never win a championship. Even back with Dan Fouts. The Colts didn’t win it until they got a defense that complement their offense.
    The Knicks were a great defensive team in the Ewing era, but they never quite had enough O. People always remember what great scorers Jordan and Pippen were, but they fail to recall how stifling the Bulls defense could be when they needed it. Indeed, they were kings of situational defense. The Lakers were the same. Very good offense, but when they need defense, they have some of the best around.

    So, while statistically, your argument may seem sound, it doesn’t take into account the emotional aspect, the psychological toll, that comes from long games and long seasons. Players focus their energy when the most need it.
    Under point per possession the first shot of the game is as important as the last, the first stop equal to the last. But what if the last stop occurred with .3 second left and you rejected your opponent’s shot inside the paint?

  8. What I take away from this game is a team that couldn’t hit the side of a barn from three still managed to keep the game close and actually could/should have won in spite of their shooting woes.
    Indeed, they also missed a ton of FTs.
    So, they were having a bad game. Still, they managed to keep composure and compete end to end.
    I think in this case, D’Antoni may be responsible for the loss.
    Chandler was terribly cold. Why not let Fields take on a bigger role? I question some of the substitutions. Now, I don’t know basketball like D’antoni. He has insight I lack. But he’s got Fields and Walker on the bench, when the knicks had other guys who were struggling.

    But regardless, because I may not know jack about what I’m talking about, the Knicks clearly competed. They made mistakes, but they played tough D, learned a few lessons about challenging shots and drawn fouls, and they’ll be the better for it.
    Six games in and the Knicks have been in every game.

    And it doesn’t feel hollow, as it felt last year, or any other time over the past 10 years when they played a while of solid ball.

    I take that as progress, IMHO

  9. Frank,

    Seriously, read up on possession basketball. This isn’t some wacky concept. This is what John Wooden taught. Pretty decent basketball coach. It is a mathematical fact.

    Let me try again. Why is that “key” possession any more important than the one right before it? The other team is on a 10-0 run… why is that? Because you didn’t make any plays on either side of the ball for several possessions. Say you had a 12 pt lead at the beginning of that stretch. Now it’s 2. You get a block or steal or the other team just misses a shot. According to you that’s a “key situation” or “situational defense”… But if you had just made a play on the last possession when it was an 8-0 run… or after the first possession where it was a 2-0 run… or any point in between… or on the next play when it’s a tie game… or hadn’t missed that shot in the 1st Q… all those would have been just as key. It’s BS to say *that one possession* where it was a 10-0 run was more important than the rest. It wasn’t. All the points counted the same. If you had stepped up earlier, you wouldn’t have needed to step up later. Great teams don’t necessarily win a lot of close games. They tend to win a lot of blow-outs.

    Again, momentum turns with one play. It’s not a real thing. From a fan’s perspective, maybe, but if you’re on the court you just have to play good basketball.

    Frank O.: Every game was decided by a possession or two, despite the fact that the games they lost they shot atrociously.

    What does that have to do with “situational defense???????” The points per possession the Knicks scored was close the ppp they gave up. That’s why the games finished close.

    Frank O.: What I like is when they have needed stops, they have fought for stops.

    You need a stop every time the other team has the ball. You only get to a point where you “need a stop” because you have failed to get stops and haven’t scored enough on your own possessions. If you had gotten stops on previous possessions, you wouldn’t need a stop now. So, why aren’t those possessions as important? Stops on them would have left you in the exact same place…

    Frank O.: Points per possession is a good measure, but it only represents an aggregation of the emotional ebb and flow of a game.

    No. It has nothing to do with emotion. The team that won scored more points per possession. The team that lost scored fewer. That is a fact. There’s no debate. Doesn’t matter if it was in the 1st Q, 2nd Q, 3rd, 4th… Doesn’t matter. You score more points per possession than the other team and you win. That is not a concept. That is a truth of the game of basketball. I’m not saying emotion doesn’t exist or something. Clearly it does. However. the team that wins in basketball scored more ppp than the opponent. I don’t see how you can disagree if you understand the concept. If you don’t make any stops of score any points, yes, you will score less ppp than the opponent.

    Frank O.: But it almost never happens that a high octane offensive teams, which plays poor defense, wins championships.

    You don’t seem to understand the concepts of points per possession, offensive rating, and defensive rating… I never said defense wasn’t important. Defense is reflected in your opponent’s points per possession. Take the Suns from last season. They were the best offense in the league. Most ppp. However, they were one of the worst defenses in the NBA. Allowed a lot of ppp.
    The Lakers were not as good offensively as the Suns. They were 11th in the NBA. However, they were 4th defensively. They were a better overall team, because they were both able to keep their opponent from scoring a lot of ppp, and able to score a lot of ppp on their own. The Suns could score it, but they gave it right back on the other end… Is this making sense to you?

    Frank O.: So, while statistically, your argument may seem sound, it doesn’t take into account the emotional aspect, the psychological toll, that comes from long games and long seasons.

    What???????????????????????????????? What?????????????????????? No. No. No. No. No. Statistically the Knicks offense in the 90s wasn’t good. Statistically the Colts defenses and Chargers defenses weren’t good. There are two parts of basketball: offense and defense. When you are on offense, you try to put the ball in the basket. The instant your offensive possession ends, your defensive possession begins. Winning requires that you score more points per possession than the other team. This requires both scoring points on your possessions, and keeping the other team from scoring on their possessions.

  10. Ted Nelson: Why is that “key” possession any more important than the one right before it? The other team is on a 10-0 run… why is that? Because you didn’t make any plays on either side of the ball for several possessions.  

    Either that, or it’s because the refs like to let the losing team go on runs to make the game closer. Then the “key” possession is the one where self determination kicks in again :)

  11. @ Frank O

    “On paper, one can argue that every possession is equal, but in the emotional flow of a game, baseball, football, basketball, or soccer, not every moment is equal to another.”

    Very true. Anyone who has competed at any level knows that. It is one thing to make a free throw at the begining of the game. It’s another to make the same free throw for the NBA title with the game tied at 99 and 0.1 seconds on the clock.

    I think Ted will not admit it because he is too immersed into all sorts of ‘statistical debauchery’. He is a true “measurebator”.

    ;-)

  12. Irvin,

    You are joining an ongoing conversation with no context. Frank was not originally referring to last second or clutch play, and therefore your comment is irrelevant. His point as I understand it is that there are certain “key possessions” in a game that are more important and that the importance of those possessions is predetermined. Not just towards the end of a game, but when the other team is on a run and closing the lead. You need a stop on that possession, but if you play lax D and give up points on previous possessions no biggie. He has refused to provide much explanation of what he means, but this is what I have taken it to mean based on the context of his comments.

    Thanks for assuming I’ve never competed for anything, though!

    Billy Beane was not a first round pick by the Mets before he became the poster child for sabermetric (disregard the history books that have him in the 1983 1st round or any accounts from Mets management that they would have taken him over Strawberry if he hadn’t been committed to Stanford… huge conspiracy). John Wooden’s teams never competed for anything. Nor did Dean Smith’s. These guy’s understanding of points per possession was just because they were “measurebators.” They were not HOF coaches…

  13. Ted, so you are saying that these two situations have an equal impact? Correct me if I’m wrong…:
    1) Player X hits a three pointer at the beginning of the second quarter to put his team up five. His team is up by one at halftime.
    2) Player Y hits a three pointer at the buzzer of the second half to put his team up one.

    I don’t buy it. Certain baskets are more disheartening to opponents and more uplifting to teammates. If you have a lead at halftime, it’s comforting, encouraging. If that lead is snatched away at the last second, it’s frustrating, and that frustration can carry over into the second half. If the halftime score is 52-51, the losing team’s players are not going to think back to a shot that happened nearly a quarter earlier. They are more likely to instead focus rationally on the state of the game: we are down one. We make a few more plays, raise the intensity, and we can win this.

    The problem is that fans and players often raise the narrative of the game over the game itself. If you only make good decisions in the fourth quarter, or when the other team is on a run, or if you only play to make the highlight reel demoralizing dunk or steal, you’re missing the smaller stuff. You might even opt to try for the spectacular when a simpler play with a higher likelihood of success is available. The players who play like this often get the accolades of the fans who don’t know any better. There are many players, however, who play with intensity and smarts but also raise their games to another level when they sense an opportunity to demoralize an opponent or when they sense their teammates are discouraged. But I do think it’s fair to argue that, in general, fans and players tend to overvalue the “situational plays” and undervalue consistency and efficiency.

    That doesn’t mean, however, that those situational plays don’t matter. Players are not robots. Tensions raise and flag throughout the game, and if your team comes out on top in those most tense moments, it’s going to affect players’ mental states and have more of an impact on the game.

  14. latke: Correct me if I’m wrong…:
    1) Player X hits a three pointer at the beginning of the second quarter to put his team up five. His team is up by one at halftime.
    2) Player Y hits a three pointer at the buzzer of the second half to put his team up one.

    I have not actually said that. This conversation started talking about situational defense as it relates to runs. Irvin came out of nowhere with the buzzer beaters.

    Obviously the buzzer beater seals a victory. By the same token a shot or stop that mathematically eliminates the other team would be big… can’t score x points in y sec/min… of course, you could maybe have sealed it on the last possession or the next possession (not next in buzzer beater situations obviously).
    However, the team that won still had more points per possession than the team that lost. So, if all the baskets and stops made by the team up till that point don’t happen, they are never in position to win the game with that 3. If they make more baskets and stops earlier they don’t need that last second shot because it’s an easy win.

    latke: Certain baskets are more disheartening to opponents and more uplifting to teammates. If you have a lead at halftime, it’s comforting, encouraging. If that lead is snatched away at the last second, it’s frustrating, and that frustration can carry over into the second half.

    Oh, suck it up cupcake… :) Losing the lead at halftime can also motivate you and make you realize you need to step it up in the 2nd half. If you’re a weak minded team/player that gives up when you’re losing, that’s on you. The Ricky Davis’ of the NBA tend to find their way out of the league (unless Isiah gives them a huge, long-term, guaranteed contract).

    latke: If the halftime score is 52-51, the losing team’s players are not going to think back to a shot that happened nearly a quarter earlier.

    Who cares? Wilson Chandler, for example, is clearly not thinking he’s a bad 3P shooter when he’s out there. Doesn’t mean it’s not true… Players are also probably not calculating their TS% or reb% as they run up and down the court or at commercial breaks… Doesn’t mean it’s not a good way to look at/analyze the game.

    I never said you should harp on missed shots, though, quite the opposite: every possession is important. What you have to do is try to score on your possessions and stop them on their possessions… pretty simple.

    latke: The problem is that fans and players often raise the narrative of the game over the game itself. If you only make good decisions in the fourth quarter, or when the other team is on a run, or if you only play to make the highlight reel demoralizing dunk or steal, you’re missing the smaller stuff.

    I agree. Fans certainly do this (as do players as analysts).

    latke: That doesn’t mean, however, that those situational plays don’t matter.

    I think that over enough time the players who are the best overall will also be the best in those moments. You may have some exceptions, but by-and-large I think that will be the trend. LeBron is the best in “clutch situations” and he’s also the best overall. Derek Fisher, for example, is known as a “clutch shooter”… However, he’s also a 40% 3P shooter most of his seasons with the Lakers (37.5% overall). He’s a good 3P shooter, he makes open 3P shots in the clutch… Not really a surprise. As you say, I think people just assign more weight to those because subjectively they stick out in the memory, and because the Lakers are not going to be blown out many nights and have been in a ton of nationally televised games and playoff series over Fisher’s tenure. For another example, if Dwight Howard blocks a shot to end a run you might call it “situational defense” but he’s Dwight Howard… he’s going to block some shots.

  15. Ted Nelson: For another example, if Dwight Howard blocks a shot to end a run you might call it “situational defense” but he’s Dwight Howard… he’s going to block some shots.  

    On the other hand you might say that David Lee, Al Harrington, Eddy Curry almost never blocked a shot to play “situational D”… But those guys almost never blocked a shot period.

  16. Basically, my point is that the Knicks play better “situational defense” this season because they are a better defensive team. They have better defensive players. They play better defense in every situation. Not just certain “key situations.”

  17. Ted Nelson: Irvin,
    His point as I understand it is that there are certain “key possessions” in a game that are more important and that the importance of those possessions is predetermined. Not just towards the end of a game, but when the other team is on a run and closing the lead. You need a stop on that possession, but if you play lax D and give up points on previous possessions no biggie. He has refused to provide much explanation of what he means, but this is what I have taken it to mean based on the context of his comments.  

    Couldn’t one say that there are “key games” in the course of a season? Games where teams exert a little more effort than they normally would in the course of an 82 game season? Like say, nationally televised games, games against division rivals, games against former teammates? And that there are, vice-versa, games that teams exert less effort in? Games like 1 pm tip-offs, back end of a back to back, road games out west?

    I think that there is an ebb-and-flow to a season which is, to a degree, reflected in a similar “character arc” of a single game. Some possessions are harder fought than others. An offense will go into attack mode, and a defense needs to counter it sooner rather than later.

    Ted is absolutely right, of course, that in the end of both a game and a season, all that really matters is points and win totals respectively. But the way that these totals are arrived at carry a significance that I don’t think should be dismissed. It’s easier to quantify the big games that make a season (wins vs. opponents with better records, wins vs. opponents competing for the same playoff spot, road wins) than it is to quantify the big possessions of a single game because the box-score doesn’t account for them. But I think they are there, and that is, at the core, what makes sports fun. (I haven’t been able to watch any of the games yet this season, but I have followed some of them on my iphone in real time and watching numbers go up on a screen simply isn’t as fun as watching the game and appreciating the character of it).

  18. Ted Nelson: Basically, my point is that the Knicks play better “situational defense” this season because they are a better defensive team. They have better defensive players. They play better defense in every situation. Not just certain “key situations.”  (Quote)

    Hey Ted.
    Sorry, I didn’t get back to this yesterday, but got caught up in family stuff.

    You know, it’s funny. I have seen on this blog folks get derided, myself included, for commenting on a game they have not actually seen, but have examined the stat sheets.
    I think people have a right to suggest if you haven’t actually seen a game it’s hard to know exactly what happened, or how it happened.

    You mentioned that I hadn’t posed the example of a shot at the outset v. a shot at the end. But at the end of my too-long note, I wrote:
    Under point per possession the first shot of the game is as important as the last, the first stop equal to the last. But what if the last stop occurred with .3 second left and you rejected your opponent’s shot inside the paint?

    In points per possession, the basket at the beginning is as important as baskets at the end. It is true that the buckets are weighted the same. But if it were just that, you divorce yourself from the weight of the moment, and, indeed, the weight of the moment is felt by all players.
    Some players are immensely overpowered by those moments. Bill Buckner committed a most famous error under durress in game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Yet in 1986, his fielding percentage was 99. He led the league in assists that year at first and ranked third for errors there that year. Everything in his career to that point indicated it was a sure out.

    Reggie Jackson in 1977 hit a home run about 5 percent of the time he was at the plate (32/606). In the World Series against the Dodgers that year he hit a homer 25 percent of the time (5/20). Indeed, Jackson’s slugging percentage was significantly higher in playoff baseball than it was over the course of his 21 seasons. (.527 v. .490)
    In neither the Buckner case nor the Jackson case did their performances match their statistical norm. There are dozens of other moments like that. It’s why we all find sport so enjoyable to play and to watch.

    In fact, 2 points are two points whether you score them at the outset, before half or at the end, which would indicate that teams should treat every possession like gold, and yet coaches and players are far less troubled by errors early in the game v. errors at the end.
    Now why is that, if in fact statistical norms say all possessions are equal?
    Well, because time as well as emotion are factors in weighing importance. A blown possession in the beginning still leaves you time to overcome it, it also is less likely to wear on youpsychologically for the same reason. A blown possession at the end means less, if any, time remains to overcome it and it can have a crushing impact on a team’s psyche.
    Yet, you are right, the possession still carries the same value on a score sheet, despite the fact that your posts get more intensely disappointed toward the end of a game because you too recognize time is running out.

    My point is that there are turning point moments in a game, where a team gets a key stop. The 76ers had a few at the end of the game, that meant the difference between winning and losing, even though they had blown a number of defensive assignments throughout the early parts of the game.
    The Knicks in past seasons have not shown the resilience to overcome the surge of another team.
    I recall Turiaf’s comment after one game when he was asked why the Knicks let a 16 point lead slip away. He smiled and said in effect, “this is the NBA. They have good players. They were going to make a run.”
    It is preordain that people try, often, unevenly.
    That’s my only contention. There are moments in games where in the past the Knicks would be overcome by the other team’s momentum.
    This year, we have not seen that happen. Now, sure, the Knicks defense is better this year, but it isn’t great, as you have pointed out. But there have been times, like when they blew a 16 point lead, where they could have rolled over and given up.
    Yet they fought back and won.
    I think I am being very clear about my point.
    I understand statistically 1 point is one point regardless of when it is scored. The teams that use their possessions most effectively, win.
    Sure.

    But these are not predictable robots we’re talking about. They do think in terms of moments. It is unfortunately why so many Knicks Sunday afternoon were trying to take it upon themselves – not as a team – to will the Knicks back into the lead…and why they ultimately failed.

    Indeed, I acknowledge you are correct that the most efficient team wins in the end. But once the game starts, emotion has everything to do about it.

    You know, I work on national security issues. Generals often speak in terms of paradigms and metrics, force structures and dynamics.
    But that is only in preparation.
    When they go to war, every general knows they have a plan that is as good as the first few hours of engagement. Then it is all about the “fog of war.” What that means is there are so many variables that come into play once a war has begun it is virtually impossible to foresee an exact outcome. Oh, sure, when using overwhelming force, one generally knows an outcome, but one cannot fathom the costs.
    I think a basketball game is not unlike that.
    Coaches can pore over points per possession, measure the relative efficiency of players, mull the schemes they will use, the weaknesses of the opponent, as well as their strengths. Then it’s all about measures and countermeasures, adaptability and flexibility and there is a huge psychological element, whether it is warfare or basketball.
    Crushing the will of the opponent often plays into a game.

    I think on some level we are speaking past each other…we have that tendency. :)
    I think we largely agree. But you just wrote, “They play better defense in every situation. Not just certain “key situations.”
    That’s just false.
    For example, it might be better to challenge shots, but is it statistically better that when they challenge those shots that they get called for fouls as often as they did again the 76ers?
    If the team fails to get a stop, they fail to get a stop. That can’t be any better or worse than when the Knicks failed to get a stop last year, can it?

    Have they improved defensively as a team? Yes. Are they better on every possession, sadly, no.
    But have they been better more often on D? Yes.
    Are stops in certain moments more important than others? I would argue yes. You would argue no. Statistically, I concede you would be correct.
    But in reality, I say you’re incorrect because emotion is not quantifiable, and yet it plays such a huge role in certain “situations” and hence the outcome of games.

    Pardon the lengthy post. I didn’t have time for a shorter one. :)

  19. Z: Couldn’t one say that there are “key games” in the course of a season? Games where teams exert a little more effort than they normally would in the course of an 82 game season? Like say, nationally televised games, games against division rivals, games against former teammates? And that there are, vice-versa, games that teams exert less effort in? Games like 1 pm tip-offs, back end of a back to back, road games out west? I think that there is an ebb-and-flow to a season which is, to a degree, reflected in a similar “character arc” of a single game. Some possessions are harder fought than others. An offense will go into attack mode, and a defense needs to counter it sooner rather than later.Ted is absolutely right, of course, that in the end of both a game and a season, all that really matters is points and win totals respectively. But the way that these totals are arrived at carry a significance that I don’t think should be dismissed. It’s easier to quantify the big games that make a season (wins vs. opponents with better records, wins vs. opponents competing for the same playoff spot, road wins) than it is to quantify the big possessions of a single game because the box-score doesn’t account for them. But I think they are there, and that is, at the core, what makes sports fun. (I haven’t been able to watch any of the games yet this season, but I have followed some of them on my iphone in real time and watching numbers go up on a screen simply isn’t as fun as watching the game and appreciating the character of it).  (Quote)

    I agree. Most concisely put.

  20. One last thought:
    statistics are gathered after something has occurred. The assumption is those statistics may be used to project likely outcomes.
    Fortunately, the best statistical models fail to correctly predict outcomes often enough that sports is still fun.
    :)

    This all reminds me of Seldon’s Plan from Isaac Asimov. The scifi analysis, statistical in nature, was said to work only for large numbers of persons, using their proclivities to predict the eventual downfall of a regime. :)

  21. Z,

    It’s complex stuff and obviously I don’t know the exact answers.

    However, I don’t think you go into any game or possession saying, this is an easy one let’s just not give 100%. (At least meaningful ones… if you’ve clinched a victory or playoff spot, different story.) In hindsight we might be able to say, “wow they were really focused in that one” or “they really didn’t have it.” Of course, that’s fairly objective. A few lucky shots fall or don’t fall for either team and our subjective analysis might be off. (You run the perfect play on one possession and a great shooter just misses the wide-open 3. You run a crappy play in another and someone hits a behind the back 30 foot shot with 3 defenders on them… Were you “more dialed in” during the 1st or 2nd possession?)

    Anyway, point I’m trying to make is that I don’t think there are predetermined games or possessions that are more intense, except maybe end of game possessions and end of season games. In hindsight I don’t see any point in assigning subjective importance when objectively all the games/possessions were of equal value. Maybe you were “more intense” one poss/game, but that doesn’t make that poss/game more important than the ones around it.

    Z: It’s easier to quantify the big games that make a season (wins vs. opponents with better records, wins vs. opponents competing for the same playoff spot, road wins)

    But those are only big games in hindsight. Because A. you won them and B. all the other games in the season put them in a position of importance. If you’re last season’s Nets, you might beat a division rival or contender… but all your other losses make that irrelevant.

    Z: But I think they are there

    Again, those possessions and games are meaningful in hindsight. If that three had been made the possession before or you won the game that you lost the night before… their meaning changes completely. If you don’t win/score/stop the opponent… you don’t look back and remember those possessions in all likelihood. Certainly not in the same way. And in hindsight why blame that miss instead of the one before it or the myriad of other outcomes in a game/season? You can always look back at any game and point to dozens of things you could have done better, especially a close game.

    Z: watching numbers go up on a screen simply isn’t as fun as watching the game and appreciating the character of it

    I agree that watching is infinitely better. The box score isn’t even a perfect image of what happened, and of course the experience and excitement of watching is way better. I don’t think, though, that means you should analyze the games you do watch in any less rational a way. Just because you saw someone make a shot that impacted the game doesn’t mean you should decide it was more important than the last play where someone missed a shot. Or the previous 47 minutes of play that put the teams in that situation to begin with.

    As an example: let’s say you are convinced Derek Fisher and Robert Horry in their primes were more “clutch” than LeBron and C-Webb in their primes, say. Does that mean if you’re starting a team from scratch you take Fisher and Horry over LeBron and Webber? It shouldn’t because LeBron and Webber are going to get you into a lot more clutch situations with their first 47 minutes of play than Fisher and Horry. See how that also applies to possessions? The Knicks were the 27th defense last season, through 6 games they are the 8th defense this season. It’s not just their “situational D”… it’s their overall D.

  22. Bad loss, but it’s not the end of the world. But this is the second game in this very young season that the knicks lost a game they should have won.

    Why did they lose? In both losses they were up significantly late in the game. Part of this I blame is on Dantoni. His job is to make them confident and mentally tough enough to bring home the win. Plus, he needs to be more demanding about sloppy play and good fundamentals. Better ball movement and better shot selection are imperative. For his part I’ll say that they had a chance to win every game this season. That’s something that the team can build on. Also, they give a great effort and they don’t stop fighting back.
    As for they players, themselves. I think they’ll all, for the most part, trying to find out how they fit in on this team. Even they’re best player, Amare, has not found his “A” game yet. Let’s face it, it was easier for him to be good in Phoenix (see Steve Nash). Which brings up Felton. It’s his job to run this team. Every point guard can do it on certain nights. He needs to be the floor general and put on a good show every night. His job is to make it easy for Amare, and everybody else to score. Check it out. If we had a great point guard, Amare would be getting the ball moving to the basket – that’s his game. Galo would be getting a ton of open three’s. TD too, but i’m not sure I want him taking them. Turiaf’s job is to be Charles Oakly – tough and strong around the basket. WC is a good solid player that can be contributing more by shooting less. The team has potential. Let’s see if D’antoni can bring it together.

  23. Frank O.: I think people have a right to suggest if you haven’t actually seen a game it’s hard to know exactly what happened, or how it happened.

    Yes, because the box score is an incomplete picture. That doesn’t mean just because you watched the game you should analyze it in a less rational way. You just have more information.

    Frank O.: In points per possession, the basket at the beginning is as important as baskets at the end.

    I don’t really understand why you look at ppp as some kind of a worldview. It’s just a stat that captures the outcome of possessions. It does not explain why the outcome was what it was. There is just no argument that the team that scores more ppp wins the game. It’s not as straight-forward, but the team with a larger differential between ppp scored and allowed is usually going to win more games on a season. This is not where the discussion lies.

    My argument is that one possession is not more important than another. Not in foresight anyway, and I don’t see the value is subjectively assigning value in hindsight (“this was where they won the game”… but guess what… if they’d done better on the previous possessions they’d have already won and if they’d have already lost… that’s the crux of it). As I have said countless times now, you miss a few shots then you make one. Why is the make more important than all the misses? If you had made some of the misses the make would have been less important. If you had stopped the other team more, the make would have been less important.

    Frank O.: Some players are immensely overpowered by those moments.

    What proof do you have of this, though? That the moment caused those performances? Buckner did make errors that season. Jackson and other HR hitters do have multiple HR games in completely meaningless games at the beginning of the season.

    Anyway, those are singular examples. One Bill Buckner play doesn’t create a rule that every possession in a basketball game or every plate appearance in a baseball game doesn’t hold equal theoretical importance. They all do. The pitcher might be “more intense” against the heart of your line-up… doesn’t mean it’s any less of a win if you’re 7-9 hitters beat him.

    Frank O.: It’s why we all find sport so enjoyable to play and to watch.

    No, that’s not why I find them so enjoyable.

    Frank O.: which would indicate that teams should treat every possession like gold

    They should and the great ones do. This is not some crazy stuff I made up. John Wooden wasn’t a bad coach… This was his philosophy. Possessions. This is reportedly how he coached. Yes, John Wooden. Yes, one of the most respected coaches of all-time.

    Just because players and coaches do something doesn’t make it right. I think you will find the Scott Skiles’ and Tom Coughlin’s of the world barking at their players for any error.

    Frank O.: Yet, you are right, the possession still carries the same value on a score sheet

    NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It carries the same value in reality. If they hadn’t made that error early, the error late would be less important. I agree about time to overcome something, but that doesn’t make one possession any more important.

    Frank O.: My point is that there are turning point moments in a game, where a team gets a key stop.

    I don’t know what to say anymore. They are only turning points because you assign them that value. THEY ARE NOT MORE IMPORTANT POSSESSIONS. Again, if you had gotten a stop on the last possession, that one would be the new turning point and not the one you are pointing to. Momentum swings with one play. Every possession is an independent event. Yes, a steal and fast break gives you a much different possession than a make and rebound. Over the course of a game, though, every possession is important.

    Frank O.: The 76ers had a few at the end of the game

    TD and Gallo missed uncontested mid-range shots. They missed some very makable 3s. Amare missed 2 FTAs. That had little to do with “stops” by the Sixers. They gave up some very good looks and the Knicks failed to capitalize.

    Frank O.: There are moments in games where in the past the Knicks would be overcome by the other team’s momentum.

    This is a much better team. Last season’s group was as bad defensively as any team in the NBA. This season’s is top 10 so far. It’s not momentum. It’s skill, performance, execution. They are better defensively overall, not just in certain possessions. If you really don’t think this is a much better defensive team than last season and just that they step up at opportune times, our conversation is over. There’s nothing to talk about.

    Frank O.: But once the game starts, emotion has everything to do about it.

    No. Performance has everything to do “about it.” You might be in a crap mood and still hit your shots. You might be in a great mood and miss the potential game winner. Emotion is not something you can use to predict outcomes. Performance is.

    They are not robots, but there’s no rule that when you’re confident you hit your shots, for example. A HOF player REALLY thinks this is the case–Clyde–but that doesn’t make it true. WC is very confident in his 3-pt shot… it’s still awful.

    All your war examples mean nothing to this discussion. I’m not saying people don’t have to react. I’m not saying people are robots. I’m saying one possession is no more important than another. It’s a theoretical concept. All the quotes from all the people in the world doesn’t answer it. You say Turiaf, I say Wooden. Neither one proves anything. You have never addressed my recurring example: you miss 5 shots in a row, you make the 6th. Why is the 6th you made any more important than the 5 you missed? If you make all 5 of those, the 6th is rendered irrelevant (assuming at the time of the 6th it’s the end of a close game).

    Frank O.: there is a huge psychological element, whether it is warfare or basketball.
    Crushing the will of the opponent often plays into a game.

    That doesn’t make one possession more important than another.

    Frank O.: “They play better defense in every situation. Not just certain “key situations.”
    That’s just false.

    You are missing my point, because you then go on to make the exact same point I am making:

    Frank O.: Have they improved defensively as a team? Yes. Are they better on every possession, sadly, no.
    But have they been better more often on D? Yes.

    I am saying that on the average possession they are better. Their worst possession is not better than last season’s best. If you line up their best with last season’s best and on down the line, you are going to get a much better result this season. Much better. They are not just a better team in certain “clutch or key” situations. They are a better defensive team overall.

    It’s the same thing as saying LeBron is a better scorer than Ben Wallace because he scores more game winning baskets. No! He is just a much better scorer overall. That doesn’t mean you compare LeBron’s misses to Big Ben’s uncontested slam dunks and say LeBron is only better in certain situations. You’d take LeBron shooting 10 out of 10 times going into a possession. You’d take the 10-11 Knicks’ D over the 09-10 D 10 out of 10 too.

    Frank O.: But in reality, I say you’re incorrect because emotion is not quantifiable, and yet it plays such a huge role in certain “situations” and hence the outcome of games.

    In reality Knicks 10-11 opponents are going to score less on the average possession. Not just the ones you decide after you’ve already seen what happened were “important.”

  24. Frank O., my response is awaiting moderation.

    Frank O.: statistics are gathered after something has occurred.

    You “key possessions” are also gathered after something has occurred. That is 100000000000000% my point. They did something good or bad, so you decided that was key to the outcome of the game. If they had done something differently on previous possessions or subsequent ones or that very possession, it would no longer be “key” in your own estimation. If Gallo hits that 3 and the Knicks still lose by 7, that’s no longer key to the outcome of the game… for example. But because he missed and they lost, you probably think it was key. The team that wins scores more points per possession on average. Doesn’t matter when, where, or how those points come. You could win the 1st Q by 40 pts making all half-court shots and then lose the next 3 by 13 a piece and win by 1. You could be down 20 at half time and still come back to win by 1. Doesn’t matter when the points are scored.

  25. Ted Nelson: Just because you saw someone make a shot that impacted the game doesn’t mean you should decide it was more important than the last play where someone missed a shot. Or the previous 47 minutes of play that put the teams in that situation to begin with.

    But you’d have to agree that there are plays that have an emotional impact that can often have a carry-over effect onto the next play (or several plays). Team y gives up an and 1 dunk off of a trap and then team x gets more aggressive and team y more tentative and turns it over again- that and 1 would have had more of an impact than just hitting an open three.

    It would be interesting to run the numbers on certain kinds of plays- the trap I mentioned (or breaking a trap for an and 1), hitting a three with one second left on the shot clock in fourth quarter, etc… and see what kind of carry over impact those plays have statistically- If you hit a three late in the shot clock in the fourth does it have more of an impact than a three hit earlier in the clock (or earlier in the game)? I’ve seen enough teams head into a time-out with slumped shoulders after giving up those kind of shots to think that there has to be some kind of statistical advantage gained by hitting those “backbreaker” shots.

  26. Frank O.: One last thought:
    statistics are gathered after something has occurred. The assumption is those statistics may be used to project likely outcomes.
    Fortunately, the best statistical models fail to correctly predict outcomes often enough that sports is still fun.
    e. :)  

    Ahhh, there’s still something to be said about being human.

  27. I think another flawed assumption (in addition to the ones opposing Ted’s well-articulated and accurate argument) is that the very best basketball players in the world would be plagued by the psychological hangups that less-skilled players would be.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29#Sports

    The reason that these players (most of them, at least) make it to the NBA is because they are relatively impervious to feelings of self-doubt and worry. LeBron’s nail-biting may suggest that he’s nervous, but that’s only a perceived attribute: statistically, he produces more wins for his teams than anyone in the league, and his “clutch” statistics are out of this world. In my view, it’s much more likely that clutch is a made-up term by people who don’t experience flow, and assign their own experience of self-doubt to players who perform with great skill in moments of great pressure.

  28. “Frank O., my response is awaiting moderation.”
    Ted, you’re so kind.

    You know, you remind me of the professor who tells his students, “If you go exactly half the distance to the wall, over and over again, you will never hit the wall. That’s infinity.”
    But the student walks up to the wall and taps the wall with his Thomas Hobbesian boot.

    This is just me saying I recognize your point, but I also cannot deny the existence of key turning points, when situational defense is applied, which stops momentum and creates new momentum that alters game dynamics.

    You are choosing to quantify victory in one way. I am choosing to quantify….actually, all I was saying was that I believe in the concept of situational defense, key moments when a team applies special attention to get a stop in important moments in a game. You’ve made it your mission to refute the concept.
    So be it.

  29. nicos,

    My longer response has not been posted yet because it’s too long. I get into more details there, and also ramble on and probably repeat myself a good deal.

    nicos: But you’d have to agree that there are plays that have an emotional impact that can often have a carry-over effect onto the next play (or several plays).

    My point is that you only say this based on what happened. A team can emotionally respond to an event any way it chooses. And, to be honest, I don’t really care. I care how they respond performance wise. You hit a “demoralizing” 3 and I run down the court and hit my own shot. That 3 wasn’t so demoralizing, was it? If I miss that shot, it’s pretty much impossible to say whether it’s because I was demoralized, unlucky, took a bad shot… you would be speculating and to a large extent even I would be speculating about why I made or missed the shot. It’s a convenient explanation to say I was demoralized, but even if I’m a great 3-pt shooter I’m going to miss 6 out of 10 on a regular basis.

    As THCJ says, these are all pro athletes. Some are mentally tougher than others, sure, but at the end of the day talent and work ethic tend to win out. Part of talent is mental as is part of work ethic, and that does show up statistically. I can’t quantify it, but it’s an input.

    nicos: Team y gives up an and 1 dunk off of a trap and then team x gets more aggressive and team y more tentative and turns it over again

    Or team y sucks it up. Or team x gets aggressive and commits an offensive foul. I don’t think you’re going to find trends that hitting certain types of shots lead to certain results on the next possessions consistently. There are too many factors. We might be totally demoralized and I might get lucky and hit a prayer shot I barely even tried on. We might be totally un-demoralized and the best shooter is still going to miss a whole lot of their shots.

    Some of it is just random when you look at a small sample (one game, for example, or ESPECIALLY one possession). Sabermetrics provide a lot of examples of this in baseball. Basically, without getting too far off track, my whole point here is that a random string of luck can lead to your results. Two pitchers come into two equally and very important innings. The first guy gives up 4 straight singles on bloopers and dribblers that make it through the infield. He allows a run while striking out the side. The other pitcher retires the side on three pitches, but all 3 are hit on a rope right at someone. Who pitched better? Or one offense spreads 10 hits across 9 innings and scores none while the other has 4 hits that come right in a row and wins 1-0. If these results–10 hits v. 4 hits–are truly indicative of each team’s hitting and pitching talent, the 10 hit team will probably win more often than not over a long enough sample.
    Relevant point is that a random string of misses or hits is possible in basketball.

    nicos: It would be interesting to run the numbers on certain kinds of plays- the trap I mentioned (or breaking a trap for an and 1), hitting a three with one second left on the shot clock in fourth quarter, etc… and see what kind of carry over impact those plays have statistically-

    Would be interesting to see… I don’t think it will have any impact, though, if you carry out the experiment scientifically.

    nicos: I’ve seen enough teams head into a time-out with slumped shoulders after giving up those kind of shots to think that there has to be some kind of statistical advantage gained by hitting those “backbreaker” shots.  

    Again, we can’t rely on our eyes. I’ve seen players respond to the same situation with different performances often enough to say there is a lot of doubt about what you’re saying, but if neither of us quantify it… who cares? You say “I’ve seen this” and I say “I saw this.” No one can win. So, I agree on the need to quantify these things. And we have to do it as scientifically and objectively as possible.

  30. The Honorable Cock Jowles: I think another flawed assumption (in addition to the ones opposing Ted’s well-articulated and accurate argument) is that the very best basketball players in the world would be plagued by the psychological hangups that less-skilled players would be.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29#SportsThe reason that these players (most of them, at least) make it to the NBA is because they are relatively impervious to feelings of self-doubt and worry. LeBron’s nail-biting may suggest that he’s nervous, but that’s only a perceived attribute: statistically, he produces more wins for his teams than anyone in the league, and his “clutch” statistics are out of this world. In my view, it’s much more likely that clutch is a made-up term by people who don’t experience flow, and assign their own experience of self-doubt to players who perform with great skill in moments of great pressure.  (Quote)

    HCJ
    Ted created a different premise and made and argument. His premise was statistically based, and I never challenged its validity.
    My comments about situational defense were based on my observations of important moments in games where momentum shifted as a result of a key defensive stop.

    Anyone can make a valid point when conforming the premise to the point one wants to make. He was talking about points per possession.
    I argue the sky is blue. Why is it blue? Because blue light from the sun strikes the air molecules and scatters and our eyes see blue.
    A correct and well articulated point…but it has nothing to do with points per possession.

    An extreme example, I admit, but just trying to illustrate a point. I notice the Knicks defense tightening in moments when the game is turning against them, whereas earlier their defense had been somewhat flaccid, resisting the momentum against them and swinging it in their favor.
    That was my core point that Ted has chosen to pick nits with.

    He contends that every defensive moment is the same. They could be the same, but they are not.

  31. Frank O.: which stops momentum and creates new momentum that alters game dynamics.

    But my point is that these things are random. And we randomly assign them based on outcomes.

    Example: Clyde, like most announcers, is always talking about “momentum.” A team is on a run so they “have the momentum.” Sometimes right when he says that they have the momentum the other team hits a shot, gets a stop, hits a shot, get’s a stop… Now, suddenly, they have the momentum. In another case the exact same teams might be playing, the exact same run might occur, and the “momentum” team might continue to hit shots while the “non-momentum” team continues to miss shots. The momentum stays the same.

    Was there more momentum in one situation? Or was it just a random string of events?

    Over time, the better team will win more games. The better defense will get more stops in “key situations.” The worse defense will get less.

    Frank O.: key moments when a team applies special attention to get a stop in important moments in a game.

    You have yet to address my main question about how this whole discussion started:

    Situation: Team X was up by 12 pts. Team Y goes on a 10-0 run. Team X is now up by 2 points. Now, after allowing 5 straight made 2 pts baskets, Team X blocks a shot and recovers the ball.
    Question: Which bear is better… No kidding (Office reference): Why was that possession more key than if they had blocked a shot on one of the previous 5 makes? Or if they had made all their shots, too, to make it a 10-12 run (they make 2 3 point plays)?
    My answer: It is only key after the fact because of how things played out. Going into each of those possessions, each “situation” was equally key. IMO you are talking about “key plays” not “key situations.” Big difference.

  32. Frank O.: Anyone can make a valid point when conforming the premise to the point one wants to make.

    I don’t think I did that. I used PPP to make my point. It was not my point. See the last part of comment 30. I am trying to directly address your premise. I never intended to change the premise, though I may have gotten side tracked at times… as did the whole conversation.

    I don’t know if I have failed to explain my argument or you have not understood/ignored it. I don’t think I can say it any clearer than at the end of #30.

  33. Basketball is a very fluid, interactive game that statistics cannot fully comprehend. Perhaps, in baseball, which is a much more static sport, stats become much more relevant. Hoops is much more dimensional, with an almost infinite number of ways to contribute. Sure, FG%, points, assists, rebounds are indicators, but what about the boxout, the unselfish pass, the diving for loose balls, the smart foul, the stupid foul, the selfish attitude, the depth of bench to practice against, the coaching….there’s just so much that determines the outcome that looking at a stat sheet will never tell you. A strategy predicated too much on statistics just won’t work.

  34. My answer: It is only key after the fact because of how things played out. Going into each of those possessions, each “situation” was equally key. IMO you are talking about “key plays” not “key situations.” Big difference. Ted Nelson

    Personally, I think you’re making distinctions without much difference.

    The situation is Team X gave up a 10 point run. It needed to find a way to stem the tide before it overwhelmed them. Indeed, the team as a whole recognizes at once in harmony – this happens, I know it because I’ve felt it – that it requires a tightened defensive effort to meet the situation, or the coach has called for a specific type of defense. The defense forces the offense into a tough shot. A player makes a play.

    As an observer, I cannot tell you how they feel and Jowles may be right that we all project certain emotions into the play. But having played in some of the situations, at a low level, obviously, there is a recognition that something has gone wrong. Some teams meet the challenge and impose their will.
    The other night you could see the Wizards wilting as the Knicks kept coming in waves. Hard fouls, blocked shots. At some point, Washington was water beating against a rock.

    I see better now what you are getting at, but the difference you are drawing between a key play v. a key situation seems rather small to me.

  35. Ted Nelson: I don’t think I did that. I used PPP to make my point. It was not my point. See the last part of comment 30. I am trying to directly address your premise. I never intended to change the premise, though I may have gotten side tracked at times… as did the whole conversation. I don’t know if I have failed to explain my argument or you have not understood/ignored it. I don’t think I can say it any clearer than at the end of #30.  (Quote)

    see 33

  36. hoolahoop: Basketball is a very fluid, interactive game that statistics cannot fully comprehend. Perhaps, in baseball, which is a much more static sport, stats become much more relevant. Hoops is much more dimensional, with an almost infinite number of ways to contribute. Sure, FG%, points, assists, rebounds are indicators, but what about the boxout, the unselfish pass, the diving for loose balls, the smart foul, the stupid foul, the selfish attitude, the depth of bench to practice against, the coaching….there’s just so much that determines the outcome that looking at a stat sheet will never tell you. A strategy predicated too much on statistics just won’t work.  (Quote)

    My understanding of this, and I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong, is that in basketball because there is a great deal of stuff that makes it difficult to quantify performance (see defense statistical assessments…oh wait, don’t bother, they mostly suck), so it simply isn’t used.
    Or if it is used it it arbitrarily weighted in the formula based on the proclivities of the dude building the formula…
    Just watch the debates between those who like WoW v. PER…or neither.

  37. Frank O.: I know it because I’ve felt it – that it requires a tightened defensive effort to meet the situation, or the coach has called for a specific type of defense. The defense forces the offense into a tough shot. A player makes a play.

    But, again, A. Why didn’t they do this previously? B. How do you know they started to concentrate more on that play and didn’t just get lucky and/or make a spectacular play? You might concentrate your damnedest, and MJ still makes a shot. Or even some scrubs makes a shot. Or instead of going up for the shot you block, the player head fakes and draws a foul on you… On the other hand, you might be totally “demoralized” and the other team just misses a point-blank shot.

    Frank O.: Wizards wilting as the Knicks kept coming in waves. Hard fouls, blocked shots. At some point, Washington was water beating against a rock.

    Because the Knicks are a better team. If those teams play 100 games in the states they were at that time, the Knicks will win the majority of them. If those teams play 10,000 possessions, the Knicks will score more PPP than the Wizards. I don’t see why you have to resort to “situational D” when you can simply point to overall D. The Knicks are (hopefully) a good team, the Wiz are (in all likelihood) a bad team. The 10-11 Knicks’ D is like 99% likely to be significantly better than the 09-10 Knicks’ D overall. Not just in key spots. That will manifest itself in what you have deemed “key spots” but also just overall on the average possession. They will (I really hope) allow less PPP from their opponent overall that last season.

    Last season the Knicks were a bad defense. Therefore, they didn’t get stops in key situations. David Lee or Al Harrington could try as hard as they want to come up with a block or even a stop in a key possession or any other possession and it’s just never going to happen with the same frequency as, say Turiaf. Just like Ben Wallace can try his hardest to score on a given possession and the results will be a whole lot worse than the average possession used by a good or even decent or even pretty bad scorer.

    Frank O.: But having played in some of the situations, at a low level, obviously, there is a recognition that something has gone wrong. Some teams meet the challenge and impose their will.

    One can argue that you are “projecting” certain rationalizations even when you’re playing. One can also argue that if two teams try equally had, in the same mental state to “impose their will” and one is the 10-11 Lakers while the other is the 09-10 Nets… the more talented team will impose their will a whole lot more often. That while there may be a mental/psych aspect, there is a huge talent aspect. This, IMO, is the case with the 09-10 v. 10-11 Knicks Ds.

    Frank O.: I see better now what you are getting at, but the difference you are drawing between a key play v. a key situation seems rather small to me.  

    The play is key to the outcome after the fact, but it could have happened in a number of situations. This is less true at the very end of a game, I would guess (though I think that’s above my level of comprehension). Seems like what you say about having less time to affect the outcome makes a lot of sense. If you are down by 20 with 1 minutes left, for example, you are not winning that game. Down 20 in the 1st Q, you’re still in it theoretically.

  38. Amen.

    hoolahoop: Basketball is a very fluid, interactive game that statistics cannot fully comprehend. Perhaps, in baseball, which is a much more static sport, stats become much more relevant. Hoops is much more dimensional, with an almost infinite number of ways to contribute. Sure, FG%, points, assists, rebounds are indicators, but what about the boxout, the unselfish pass, the diving for loose balls, the smart foul, the stupid foul, the selfish attitude, the depth of bench to practice against, the coaching….there’s just so much that determines the outcome that looking at a stat sheet will never tell you. A strategy predicated too much on statistics just won’t work.  (Quote)

  39. Sigh…nobody responded to this point in the last thread, so I’ll try again…

    I am concerned that Turiaf is “fool’s gold.” [Despite his overall good play as measured by stats] he made several bonehead plays down the stretch in this game and vs. Portland. He touches the ball too much in situations where we need offense [probably because he gets left open?] I undertand he blocks shots, but if he is going to commit dumb fouls and turnovers in critical situations, we don’t need him out there [in crunch time.]

    In a way, he reminds me of Jared Jeffries, in terms of having some important talents but will be more of a liability than an asset in crunch time.

  40. hoolahoop,

    Basically, just because something is difficult to explain doesn’t mean you should just give up. If you can explain X% of it with a high degree of certainty, that’s usually better than 0%.

    For starters, I think your simplification of baseball being static and basketball being dynamic is too simple. Baseball stats are probably more advanced, but they still can’t get to all the “whys.” It measures primarily the results. Baseball *might* (I haven’t looked into it) be more static than basketball, but I wouldn’t call it static. Baseball is the game of moving men around bases offensively and trying to prevent men from moving around bases defensively. Basketball is the game of putting the ball in a hole and stopping it on defense. Just like the box score isn’t going to tell you Toney Douglas made a steal because he studied tape, it’s not going to tell you A-Rod (random example, no idea about his prep for games specifically) knew a fastball was coming because he studied tape. Some of the points you make about practicing, etc. are as true is baseball as basketball.

    The nice thing about NBA stats v. MLB stats is that they stay really constant. There is, possibly, less luck involved. There is fluctuation in player stats, definitely, but a lot less than in baseball according to everything I’ve read from people who have quantified it (I haven’t).

    Anyway, point is that we can’t (and/or don’t take the time to) quantify everything, but that doesn’t mean the stats we have are irrelevant. We try to quantify the major outcomes (points, change of possession, etc.). Since these outcomes tend to remain constant, we assume that a lot of the small things that contribute to them remain constant (and we can observe a lot of the small things, but should try to do it on a more scientific basis than: I saw this, it’s true… coaches see more of the players and can test their hypotheses more than fans…). +/- is complicated, but that’s what is tries to do is measure the small things that result in points/stops. Stats aren’t a substitute for watching games, but a complement to watching.

  41. Z-man: In a way, he reminds me of Jared Jeffries, in terms of having some important talents but will be more of a liability than an asset in crunch time.  

    I think Turiaf *is* playing out of his head and very unlikely to play to this level all season. Just look at his historical #s. However, he is also a lot better than Jared Jeffries. Jeffries has almost no strengths and his weaknesses are much more pronounced than Turiafs. The comparison, IMO, is extreme and a poor one.

    As far as whether he should play in clutch time, it’s all relative. Who plays instead of him? If you don’t want to go small are Timo and AR *less* “boneheaded” than Turiaf??? I’d say more. Maybe in time they develop into superior players than Turiaf, but right now? I don’t trust either to be at all consistent. So, IMO, your choice is Turiaf or a small line-up. I could argue either way and could probably say it will depend on match-ups. As much as people are digging the defense, though, taking the QB out of your defense will probably hurt you in late game situations. When the situation dictates, D’Antoni could alternate offense-defense at stoppages late in games.

  42. Ted- Would you consider Chandler’s poor play in the 4th quarter this year and last “situational”? Clearly for him, a shot in the first quarter isn’t the same as a shot in the fourth. I thought (and please correct me if I’m wrong because I’m no Wooden expert) that Wooden’s point with ppp was that great teams play with the same intensity / attention to execution on every possession regardless of game’s circumstances- score, time left, etc… But I think there’s the tacit assumption that bad/mediocre teams D’ONT play the same way every possession- they let the emotions of game dictate their play and I’d have to guess that would somehow show up statistically the same way it shows up in Chandler’s play.
    Maybe it comes down a kind of semantic argument- Is Chandler missing shots in the 4th because he’s just not that good or is he just not that good because he’s missing shots in the 4th?

  43. Z-man: Sigh…nobody responded to this point in the last thread, so I’ll try again…I am concerned that Turiaf is “fool’s gold.” [Despite his overall good play as measured by stats] he made several bonehead plays down the stretch in this game and vs. Portland. He touches the ball too much in situations where we need offense [probably because he gets left open?] I undertand he blocks shots, but if he is going to commit dumb fouls and turnovers in critical situations, we don’t need him out there [in crunch time.]In a way, he reminds me of Jared Jeffries, in terms of having some important talents but will be more of a liability than an asset in crunch time.  

    I haven’t seen any of his regular season games yet, so I’ll defer to others, but this is what was written about Turiaf by the guy who writes the Warriors blog:

    “I’ll miss the energy, character, charitable efforts, and fun attitude. I won’t miss the poor rebounding, poor shooting, and overall poor defense (simply trying to block everything in sight does not make for good D).”

    http://www.goldenstateofmind.com/2010/9/26/1711258/gsoms-2010-2011-golden-state-warriors-preview-a-new-beginning-but-is

  44. I know it’s risky for D’Antoni, but I would like to see Fields more involved at the end of games. He’s playing excellent ball and has both the i.q. and defensive toughness needed to close out games. Felton has played well, but he’s not nearly as good in the half court as he is on the break.
    Therefore I’d like to see a lineup more like Felton, Douglas, Fields, Gallo, Amar’e at the end. Fields can clearly score (Pac 10 scoring leader) and he does all of the other little things (pick and roll, solid shooter, off-ball movement) that would make him the most ideal Knick to distribute the ball out of an iso inside the arc on possessions where we need the right halfcourt decision.
    I would put him at sf so he would be able to get to the rim easier against a forward instead of a guard, and putting him on the floor with TD and Gallo gives him 2 great shooters to kick out to. And of course he can feed Amar’e at the rim. Or else take a shot inside the arc or go to the hoop. If you want more defense/shotblocking instead of 3pt shooting, you can use that lineup with Turiaf/AR/Mosgov instead of Gallo.

  45. Nicos,

    Interesting questions, I don’t know.

    I’d say it’s a different sort of “situational” than one possession being more important than the next. Perhaps you can study ppp by Q and say defense literally is more clamped down in the 4th (I have no idea if someone has done this, but I sort of figure if someone published a study showing conclusively or close that team play better D in the 4th someone on this site would have brought it up by now… maybe not). This doesn’t mean one possession is a keyer situation than another right before or after it.

    Just my gut feeling, but WC seems to be taking worse shots in the 4th. I don’t know, though. Packing in the defense takes away his biggest strength as a slasher. Generally, I’d rather see might trying to move off the ball and get the ball with a head of steam in some space then stand around on the perimeter and “create.”

  46. ess-dog,

    I don’t really want to isolate Fields…

    As much as I like Fields I would not assume that because someone led a weak Pac-10 in scoring, they are capable of being a go-to first option in the NBA as a rookie. Very few players let alone rookies are capable of that. He hasn’t shown that ability in any situation consistently yet. Maybe he can, but I’ll let D’Antoni figure that out as he’s actually seen him practice dozens of times and try things we haven’t seen him try.
    His strength at this point is mostly moving off the ball and making good quick decisions with the ball. I don’t want to see him sacrifice that to start playing crappy iso basketball. Just move the ball and work as an offense to get good shots. I think the Knicks seem to do this better with Fields in there, so that’s the role I want him to stick to even as he maybe expands it. I’m just not into this idea that holding the ball and doing everything yourself makes you the man. If you are the man, then you can do that. If you’re not the man, don’t try. Very few players are the man to that extent. The rest should play team basketball.

    I’m not saying your line-up is any worse than any other, and offensively might be one of the best possible, but defensively it’s not one of the strongest the Knicks could put out there. I’d like something like that out there for stretches, too. AR could also sub in for TD/Felton. I’d really like to see him with two smart, team players like Fields/Gallo and a primary scorer like Amare. Also maybe spend more time with Felton and less with Douglas. The units he’s been out there with are just lost in the half court. Maybe their defense and transition makes up for it… I’m not sure.

  47. Ted,
    I disagree that Jeffries had almost no strength, he was a versatile defender and was effective on top of a zone. That said, I only meant that when Turiaf is out there when games are on the line, and you don’t want to give Amar’e or Chandler the ball and tell them to create at all costs, invariably the ball winds up in Turiaf’s hands and something bad is likely to happen. On defense, I have seen him(as Z pointed out) try to block everything in sight and instead of using his length to force a tough shot, bail a guy out with 2 FTs by being overly aggressive. Obviously he is still better than Mozgov (hopefully not for long) but I think he is seriously flawed in these regards.

    I also don’t really consider Amar’e, Gallo, Chandler, Fields/Douglas and Felton/Douglas a “small” line-up. Certainly smaller than when one of the 7-footers are out there, but I think the trade-off of having Turiaf’s size in there is pretty significant, especially when he sends guys to the line.

    The bottom line is, I really like what I see from him as a reserve, but I don’t see him as a starting…or finishing…center on a winning team.

  48. Ted, Frank et al.

    This conversation is why this blog is the best read in sports. Thanks. And I love the dynamic of numbers versus emotional narrative that this particular conversation brings up. It’s at the core of what this blog is about.

    I have a couple of, hopefully, relevant thoughts. One is, that as a basketball player (not what I really do) I have no head. Someone says boo and I miss. As a musician (what I do), it’s not that I don’t feel nervous, or my hands don’t shake, or that all situations are equal. It’s that, though I realize the weight of the moment, I can play anyway. I am skilled enough where my human emotions don’t effect the outcome. In basketball anything throws me off because my more modest skill level doesn’t allow me to compensate

    I think these players feel emotions that we all do and sometimes those emotions do effect outcomes. I think the greater degree of skill a player has the less his emotions effect his performances and that great players are so masterful that their performance increases in “key” situations. Their superior control over their emotions, based on their confidence in their level of play, enable them to grow more confident because they know that their opponent is shrinking. Thus, the Michael’s and the Magic’s and the Reggie’s and all those thrilling transcendent moments.

  49. Z-man: I disagree that Jeffries had almost no strength, he was a versatile defender and was effective on top of a zone.

    It’s one thing, I didn’t say no strengths. And verstaility as a defender isn’t necessarily as valuable as being a strong defender at one spot. His weaknesses are really glaring though. He can’t score, can’t pass… can barely touch the ball without doing something goofy or stupid. Turiaf is an efficient low-volume scorer, strong passer, very strong shot blocker, and a solid defender overall.

    Z-man: invariably the ball winds up in Turiaf’s hands and something bad is likely to happen

    I don’t really see it. He’s a good passer and doesn’t force too many shots. His TO% has been historically normal or a bit high, but this season it’s quite low for a big (through 6 games). To say that something wrong has been happening every time a guy with a .650 TS%, 15.6 ast%, and 11.5 TS% touches the ball is just ridiculous. As I say I don’t think it will last to that degree, but he’s just a lot better than Jared Jeffries.

    Z-man: On defense, I have seen him(as Z pointed out) try to block everything in sight and instead of using his length to force a tough shot, bail a guy out with 2 FTs by being overly aggressive.

    He’s fouling less per 36 than Stat, the exact same amount as WC… and he’s not trying to block a lot of shots: he is. I think this is an unfair criticism. The Knicks defense has been strong and I think Turiaf has been a big reason why.

    Z-man: The bottom line is, I really like what I see from him as a reserve, but I don’t see him as a starting…or finishing…center on a winning team. 

    Again, I don’t care what minutes of the game someone plays.

    Z-man: but I think the trade-off of having Turiaf’s size in there is pretty significant, especially when he sends guys to the line.

    You’re entitled to your opinion, even if it’s completely at odds with reality so far this season.

  50. Ted Nelson:
    His strength at this point is mostly moving off the ball and making good quick decisions with the ball. I don’t want to see him sacrifice that to start playing crappy iso basketball.   

    Ted,
    Perhaps “iso” isn’t what I meant in the traditional Kobe/Iverson sense. I more mean a guy that has some handle and good court vision who can make the right play in the halfcourt set. Think Turkoglu in Orlando. Sure Fields isn’t the shooter Hedo is, but he is quicker and is capable off the dribble and with the catch and shoot. I’m not asking him to “take over” per se.
    I’d like to see him at the 3 in that lineup to accentuate his driving and add 3pt shooting, but I do see the complications of having a post defense with that lineup that can easily be pushed around.
    And for the record, I’m all for Turiaf getting minutes while Mosgov learns. Mosgov is clearly an unfinished product. Starting matters less than actual minutes (or lineups that work together.)
    -AR should just be Amar’e’s “understudy”.
    -And I know it’s been said many a time, but Chandler should be banned from shooting threes unless completely unguarded!

  51. Fields deserves to be in the mix at the end of the game. Six games into the season he is the best 3 pt shooter on the team and has the highest fg percentage. Sure, he has not showed that he can be a crunch time scorer at this level. But the reason is simple. He has not been given the opportunity. The Pac-10 may have been down last year but it is not a cupcake league and I seem to remember that they did a lot better as a conference in the NCAA tournament than the Big-10, second pick
    Evan Turners conference. Sitting one of our best players in the last few minutes while Toney Douglas and Wil Chandler throw up ill-conceived bombs is a mistake. I have confidence that Landry will either take a good shot or move the ball to a teammate in better position. Not so much Toney or Wil.

  52. Re:Turiaf, I was specifically speaking about the ends of close games.

    “Again, I don’t care what minutes of the game someone plays.”

    Again, I am only talking about the end of close games, and if what minutes someone plays makes no difference to you, I would guess that puts you at odds with just about every coach that ever lived. From my perspective, choosing the players that are on the floor at the end of close games is among the most important strategic decisions an NBA coach has to make.

    Regarding being at odds with reality, here’s the reality I observed: In the Blazer game, when we were up by 7, Turiaf missed a point blank layup on which he was fouled (not enough to affect the shot, imo) and then missed both FTs, after which the Portland run began. He then got a key offensive rebound near the basket and proceeded to commit an obvious offensive foul trying to put it back in rather than pass it out and reset. Against the Sixers, he committed a foul against a guard (Turner?) taking an off-balance drive at the end of the shot clock and another obvious foul going for a block on a mid-range shot. He shot 5-13 from the line and made 4 total shots in our 3 losses. If you would like to point out the contributions he made in the waning minutes of these two tough losses, I’d be happy to listen. Frankly, I don’t think he was an asset on either end in those two games. In regards to his D, did he really do anything that stood out at the end of these 2 games? I understand that his total stats for 6 games are extremely high but they are not in line with his career numbers and will almost certainly come down to earth.

    I’m not saying that other players (esp. Amar’e and WC) have performed well down the stretch in close games, but I have some confidence that they will figure it out, while I have concerns that Turiaf (by all accounts, his upside is a 20 mpg backup center, confirmed by a PERs of 14 in ’08-’09 and 12 in ’09-’10) will not.

    It is also worrisome that the blog post referred to by Z has thus far been spot-on re: Randolph and Azu, at least for now. I’m just saying that I see some of what he’s talking about in reference to Turiaf.

  53. ess-dog: Perhaps “iso” isn’t what I meant in the traditional Kobe/Iverson sense. I more mean a guy that has some handle and good court vision who can make the right play in the halfcourt set. Think Turkoglu in Orlando. Sure Fields isn’t the shooter Hedo is, but he is quicker and is capable off the dribble and with the catch and shoot. I’m not asking him to “take over” per se.

    Agreed. I’m not sure Fields isn’t just as good a shooter as Hedo. I just wouldn’t expect too, too much from him as a rookie.

    ess-dog: AR should just be Amar’e’s “understudy”.

    I still think this is hurting AR: playing with an unimpressive offensive unit. I think if you get him out there with a good offensive group it will allow him to get some easy looks and make some plays for guys who move well like Fields, Gallo, and Amare. I do see the defense/transition unit he’s in, but I just think you’re going to get forced into the halfcourt a decent amount and those guys are pretty lost in the halfcourt.

  54. I just don’t think you can blame Turiaf for the Knicks’ inability to run a coherent offense against the packed-in zone. They start to panic against that look. If they actually start running a coherent half-court offense late in close games his strengths as a passer will come into play.

    Do you really think every time Turiaf has the chance to make a play late in a game he’ll mess it up? That’s as unsustainable as his 650 TS%… I think it’s largely sample size. He’s a good passer, good finisher, draws some fouls, good defender, excellent shot blocker, and seems to pick up his rebounding in the clutch. These things should start to come through in a larger sample. I don’t think he’s Hakeem and if you’ve got a better replacement, fine. I’m just dubious as to whether there is one on this roster right now. I think you are discounting his defense because of some blog and a couple of dumb fouls.

    One thing that would worry me is if his conditioning is not good and that drops off his play… that’s total speculation, though, and D’Antoni would know a lot more about his conditioning than us.

    Z-man: In the Blazer game, when we were up by 7, Turiaf missed a point blank layup on which he was fouled (not enough to affect the shot, imo) and then missed both FTs

    It’s one play. He’s a 70% career FT shooter. He didn’t hit clutch FTs last season, but the year before he did. Both are obviously small samples. He’s been at 73% and over 80% on FG% in the clutch the last two seasons, which leads me to believe the missed lay-ups are a fluke.

    Sure, if you have a lead late you want to get him out of there on offensive possessions for hack-a-Shaq reasons. Otherwise, I think he gives the Knicks a better chance to win than Timo (talk about FT% and bonehead moves) and AR (not that we’ve ever seen much of AR with the first unit to know). I also think the Knicks are now a defensive team, and he is one of their better defenders. Plus a big, long line-up with a help defender of his caliber is their best defensive/all-around look IMO.

    Turiaf actually did make a few plays in the 4th against Portland. Rebounds, drew fouls, 2 assists, a steal… In a 17-3 end game run it’s hard to find too many positives for the Knicks late in that game, though. Is it really fair to point to Turiaf of everyone? Then he blows some plays against Philly so he’s the problem? I would urge a little patience before deciding that based on a 17-3 close out and a 16-4 close out… There is enough blame to go around on those ones.

    Z-man: and then missed both FTs, after which the Portland run began

    You really think 2 missed FTs is the reason Portland outscored the Knicks 15-3 for the next 4 minutes? You really think Andre Miller saw him miss those FTs and decided because of that he’d go nuts and win the game?

    Z-man: confirmed by a PERs of 14 in ’08-’09 and 12 in ’09-’10

    PER rewards scoring volume to a ridiculous extent. Turiaf has a career WS/48 of .118. What does that confirm? What do WC’s weak PERs throughout his career confirm?

  55. Z-man: Sigh…nobody responded to this point in the last thread, so I’ll try again…I am concerned that Turiaf is “fool’s gold.” [Despite his overall good play as measured by stats] he made several bonehead plays down the stretch in this game and vs. Portland. He touches the ball too much in situations where we need offense [probably because he gets left open?] I undertand he blocks shots, but if he is going to commit dumb fouls and turnovers in critical situations, we don’t need him out there [in crunch time.]In a way, he reminds me of Jared Jeffries, in terms of having some important talents but will be more of a liability than an asset in crunch time.  (Quote)

    I’m very torn by this Turiaf question.
    From what I have observed, he is the focal point of the defense when he’s on the court. He is talking, encouraging, making sure people understand assignments. He has defended the rim effectively and he has put hard fouls on penetrating guards, something which I think is absolutely necessary.
    I also have seen him struggle at the foul line when the defense packs into zone defense. He isn’t too clear what he needs to do.
    I think Mosgov in some ways is a far more skilled and capable player on offense. But he still struggles with the nuances of NBA ball. His foot work is rough, he makes mistakes when he seeks physical contact.
    Personally, I see Turiaf as a stopgap guy until and if Mosgov figures it out.
    Turiaf has done some bad things during losses and some very good things during wins.
    The game sample is pretty small after six games, so it’s hard to draw conclusions.
    His play is way better than past years, so far, and should start coming back to the norm. But it may be that D’Antoni’s system helps him be better, as do the players around him. Amare’s defense has been a revelation for me and that may be helping Turiaf. There’s nothing like a strong defensive power forward watching the center’s back.

    I’m not sure it’s fools gold if you don’t see it as gold from the outset. I think the Knicks know what they have in Turiaf and they are riding a player who has played well for a time.
    I don’t see how that is much different that Chandler heaving up a bunch of shots on a day when he appears to be unconsciously hot.
    You ride the hot hand.

    ess-dog: I know it’s risky for D’Antoni, but I would like to see Fields more involved at the end of games. He’s playing excellent ball and has both the i.q. and defensive toughness needed to close out games. .  (Quote)

    ess-dog:
    I think Fields is a real brain-teaser. He really looks very good. He seems to be a complete player.
    But then all of a sudden last game Williams found a weakness in his game and exploited it, and Fields didn’t adjust very well. He reminded all of us that he is still learning the NBA, the foul calling favoritism that certain players enjoy, and how to cope with it.
    I think that he was arguing those calls is why D’Antoni finally sat him. The argument showed he wasn’t getting it, and so long as he wasn’t getting it, he wasn’t going to adjust his play to avoid it.
    He was giving away easy points.
    That’s why I think baby steps. The Knicks are still going to lose a lot of games. They have better talent this year, but they still have holes, they still have a lot of youth. They should try to win games as best they can, but with guys like Fields, they will need to give him a little bit of weight to bear at a time. You can’t ask the kid to be taking too many crucial shots too early.
    I think if he misses enough of those, his confidence suffers, and young guys’ confidence is far more fragile than even moderately veteran players.
    I like how he is being used. He is being put into situations where he can succeed and learn and develop. Patience now will lead to a much more confidant guy in the 66th game, IMHO.

  56. Frank O.:
    That’s why I think baby steps. The Knicks are still going to lose a lot of games. They have better talent this year, but they still have holes, they still have a lot of youth. They should try to win games as best they can, but with guys like Fields, they will need to give him a little bit of weight to bear at a time.

    The Knicks are a 4-2 team according to Pythag. wins, and I think they have a real shot at performing at that level if the coaching staff, who have dozens of years of basketball experience, are able to identify simple problems such as Chander’s Josh-Smith-complex and Stoudemire’s desire to “earn” his max contract by turning into LeBron James.

    Will that happen? Not sure. We, the lowly armchair quarterbacks, seem to be pretty clear and articulate about the Knicks’ problems. Don’t think we’re wrong, either.

    I’d identify the cause of Fields’ and Turiaf’s success as being smart, unforced play. Turiaf isn’t playing like Zach Randolph: he’s taking the right shots (close-range), and he’s making them. Fields is doing the same, with the occasional open three attempt. Outside of Amar’e and Chandler, the team is playing unselfishly, and the WS/48 and TS% figures show that.

    Also, I’d like to mention how wrong I was about their rebounding. I was very, very wrong about their rebounding.

  57. The Honorable Cock Jowles: The Knicks are a 4-2 team according to Pythag. wins, and I think they have a real shot at performing at that level if the coaching staff, who have dozens of years of basketball experience, are able to identify simple problems such as Chander’s Josh-Smith-complex and Stoudemire’s desire to “earn” his max contract by turning into LeBron James. Will that happen? Not sure. We, the lowly armchair quarterbacks, seem to be pretty clear and articulate about the Knicks’ problems. Don’t think we’re wrong, either.I’d identify the cause of Fields’ and Turiaf’s success as being smart, unforced play. Turiaf isn’t playing like Zach Randolph: he’s taking the right shots (close-range), and he’s making them. Fields is doing the same, with the occasional open three attempt. Outside of Amar’e and Chandler, the team is playing unselfishly, and the WS/48 and TS% figures show that.Also, I’d like to mention how wrong I was about their rebounding. I was very, very wrong about their rebounding.  (Quote)

    Well put.

  58. I was wrong about their rebounding, too, thankfully.

    Ted –

    I think the mathetical response to your “possession” argument revolves around regression to the mean. Yes, of course every possession is equally important – BUT that is different from saying that every possession has an equal impact on the team. It does not, because players are not robots, and emotion (as Dan pointed out) does come into play.

    You acknowledge this, but say that it’s impossible to predict what effect emotion will have on a team or player. That isn’t true, because players PERCEIVE certain situations/possessions as more important than others, and we can measure what players during those possessions. For instance, as you point out, LeBron does substantially better during “crunch time,” though you then say, but he does substantially better in general than other players. True, but he does better than HIS usual…as do most great players. That would indicate that emotion has some kind of effect: under pressure, he “finds another gear,” gets himself “in the zone,” etc. And conversely, other players cannot handle the adrenaline, the expectation, the scrutiny.

    Taken in the context of team, there are certainly “crunch time” moments for an entire team, moments THEY perceive as being as important, and because of that enter into those moments with greater or less clarity and self-possession and are able to execute better/worse because of that clarity or lack thereof. Was the possession in the middle of the second period when they were up by 10 just as important. Yes. But did it seem so to the team? No. Granted, to the great players and teams, the answer would be – and should be – Yes. But it isn’t, because most teams regress to the mean. If they are ahead, they slack a little. They don’t “put their foot on the other guy’s throat.” Thus, they perform poorly on those possesions, the other team comes back, and they find themselves in crunch time…wherein their performance is affected by adrenaline and so on, making those possesions different, if not exactly “more important.” And the consequential emotion continues to affect the players in the same way.

    The great players treat every possession as important. The great teams have a killer instinct and continue to try to crush their opponents even when they’re up. The great coaches encourage their players to cherish each possession, urging them not to “be careless with the basketball.” But not all players, teams, and coaches are great, which leads to certain possessions in the course of a game having greater emotinoal weight to the team, which leads the team to perform DIFFERENTLY than with other possessions, for better or worse.

    Make sense?

Comments are closed.