2009 Finals Game 4: Open Thread

Talk about game 4 of the Finals here. Can Orlando tie things up? Do they need to shoot the lights out to do so (66.4% eFG in game 3)? If the Lakers win is the series over? Any adjustments you think either team should make?

How about some silly bets:

  • Alston or Kobe: Who will have a higher eFG%?
  • Over/Under: Dwight Howard 2.5 blocked shots.
  • Over/Under: Gasol 20.5 points.
  • Over/Under: JJ Redick 4:59.5 minutes played.
  • Over/Under: 99.5 points combined at halftime
  • Second Round Thoughts

    Looks like we might have two series to watch in the second round. Boston tied the series at 1-1 yesterday on Rondo’s triple double. The undermanned Celtics weren’t thought as title competitors, but they managed to stave off a fiesty Chicago team, and are giving Orlando their money’s worth. On the other side of the coin, you have to wonder what’s going on with the Magic? They made a 41 win Philadelphia team look good giving them a 2-1 lead in the first round. In game two, Dwight Howard shot 5-13 from the field and 2-8 from the charity stripe. Everyone has a bad game in the NBA, but you’d think Howard would eat up the Garnett-less Celtics.

    In the West, Houston and Los Angeles are locked in mortal combat. The Rockets upset the Lakers in game one by limiting Kobe to 32 points on 31 shots. In game two, the Lakers fought back literally. In the end of the third quarter Scola committed a hard foul on Odom, and few members of Los Angeles had some harsh words for Scola. (OK it was Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic, probably the two least scary people in all of Los Angeles.) A few seconds later Scola would set a screen on Derek Fisher and get leveled. The replay clearly showed Fisher accelerating into him, like a WWE wrestler complete with the bloody head. Fisher was ejected, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the league held him out of game 3. Meanwhile Artest was ejected for gesturing at Kobe Bryant, and Von Wafer was sent to the locker room for arguing with his own coach. I still say he’s better than Roberson.

    Oh and one last note: Stephon Marbury is shooting 30.2% eFG% and is -42 for the playoffs with only two games in the positive side of +/-.

    Seven Seconds or Mess: Webisode 18

    I know it’s been a while, KB, but the 7SoM is back. If you’re curious about where I’ve been just read the first paragraph here.

    I’ve missed the opportunity to break down the collapse of the team’s playoff hunt but the issues that caused it are the same issues I’ve tried to lay out on tape all season. So with the remaining schedule I’ll be pointing out some of the negative aspects of the Knicks’ key players.

    First up is David Lee whose shortcomings on the defensive end have been on display in previous episodes. In episode 18, I show his unwillingness to rotate to players getting into the lane opting to stick with Dwight Howard instead. Well with Howard finishing with 29 points on 12-18 shooting and 14 rebounds (four offensive), Lee’s decision didn’t make a difference.

    (Click HQ.)



    Now this isn’t something that we don’t already know about Lee but the layups by Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee were part of Orlando’s fourth quarter comeback and just reinforces the fact that the Knicks need a defensive presence inside. And on a night when the Magic shot an uncharacteristically poor 7-25 from three point territory, they were able to get into the paint and score with ease.

    So how do you feel about Lee’s defense?

    East Missed Out On Lee

    Henry Abbott and Kevin Pelton made an interesting note about yesterday’s All Star game.

    Had a chance to trade emails with Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus during the live blog of the All-Star Game. Kevin rightfully pointed out that naming Mo Williams to replace Chris Bosh was the primary reason the East got mauled inside.

    The choice of Williams meant the East entered the game with only two legitimate bigs — Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett, both of whom were starters. As a result, Rashard Lewis was forced to assume the center spot for long stretches of the game. Lewis has always been a bit challenged defending the post at the PF position, and he certainly doesn’t have the strength or the ability to absorb a beating against opposing 5s. But that’s exactly what he was charged with doing as the backup center on the Eastern squad, and the results were disastrous for the East.

    Points in the Paint? West 96, East 58.

    Glass? West 51, East 38.

    Shaquille O’Neal: 17 points, 8-9 FGs in 11 minutes.

    Watching the game I felt the same. It seemed as if the West had free reign in the paint and on the boards. While the East had an edge in aggregate offensive rebounds 13 to 12, the number is skewed by the fact that the East had more opportunities. The East had 59 chances for an offensive rebound, and the West only had 49.

    A few weeks ago I advocated for David Lee on the All Star team, but outside of this site I was a minority. When Chris Bosh was injured, he was replaced by Maurice Williams. This substitution was justified from a political standpoint, as Williams is a top performer on one of the league’s best teams.

    However from a tactical standpoint, this was a mistake. The East was left with only two players who were capable of playing center: Howard and Garnett. In All Star Games coaches tend to go deep into their benches, meaning that teams need to have plentiful reserves to field a normal five. Without a third center, the West dominated the inside and laughed their way to an easy victory. The knock against Lee is that he was a product of D’Antoni’s system, and excels only because of the style the Knicks play: a fast paced, no defense, guard emphasized game. Of course this is same environment as the All Star Game, so it makes sense that Lee would have excelled there as well. One only has to look back at the 2007 Rookies-Sophomore game for proof.

    In the end it doesn’t really matter if the East won or lost. And no one will look back and call Williams’ selection over Lee as the NBA’s worst All Star crime this year (Iverson voted in as a starter was). Ultimately the important thing to learn from this is that players shouldn’t be judged in a vacuum. Different players will have different value depending on the environment. Perhaps in a general sense, Maurice Williams or Rashard Lewis are more deserving of an All Star berth than David Lee. But in last night’s context Lee would have been a better fit.

    Iverson and Lee: Two Sides Of All Star Perception

    In the story “Boy Who Cried Wolf”, the boy lies for his own amusement and his lies doom him when the villagers fail to come to his aid during a wolf attack. This classic fable is a good example of perception. The town believes that the boy is liar, hence they judge all his actions from that perspective. So even when the boy is telling the truth, the perception of the boy results in the townspeople viewing it as a lie.

    Perception is a useful tool, because it allows us to remember facts about people without remembering their entire history. For instance if you have a friend who consistently shows up at your party empty handed, your perception of him will make it easier for you to deal with him without recalling every incident.

    But perception has its downside as well. Again take the example of your beer mooching friend. Let’s say he finally realizes his selfish ways and decides it would be rude to show up for a shindig without a 6 pack in hand. It may take some time for you to acknowledge this change. The first time he shows up with some ale, you may think that to be the fluke. He may have to do more than any other person to change your perception of him. Perhaps an entire case of your favorite beer and a bowl of guacamole would do it.

    Perception works the same way in sports, and is especially true when it comes to fans voting for All Star Games. That would be the only reason why Allen Iverson was voted in as a starter. Iverson has always been a divider among fans. Some see him as a selfish player who always needs the ball and jacks up too many shots. Others as an offensive wizard who provides open shots for his teammates.

    If you belong to the first group of fans, you probably didn’t think Iverson was an All Star, so let’s argue the point of view from the latter group. In his prime, Iverson was averaging upwards of 25 points/36 minutes. This high volume scoring was valuable to his team, even at the price of his low percentage shooting. If this were true, then why is Iverson still valuable today? His scoring is down nearly 30% from his career average (16.7 pts/36 this year, 23.6 pts/36 career). And despite the decrease, his shooting percentages are still below their career numbers (51.0 TS%, 43.9 eFG%). Add to this the last two teams Iverson was traded from improved after trading him, and you have to wonder if he’s providing an All Star level contribution these days? But of course Iverson isn’t the only NBA player whose perception doesn’t match his production.

    Knick fans were hoping that David Lee might be named an All Star reserve this year, but unfortunately he was not. And while I’m not sure that Lee should have been, I’m certain that he suffered from poor perception. Since his first days in the NBA, Lee has been labelled as a player who only scores because he’s an afterthought in the other team’s defensive scheme. Since then Lee’s game has evolved, but that reputation has stuck. Take this quote from Truehoop:

    Lee is just here as a courtesy to the millions of Knick fans. Oh, he’s a player and all, and I know Mike D’Antoni was campaigning for him. But when your guy makes an open 20-foot jumper, and everyone is pleasantly surprised? That guy’s not an All-Star. The competition is just too stiff. Look up there and look at who made it, and tell me who he should replace.

    Now Henry Abbott is as informed about the NBA as anyone, and I’m sure this was written with a bit of tongue in cheek. However the implication is clear: Lee only scores because he’s left wide open. And if someone as knowledgeable as Henry Abbott feels this way about Lee, then imagine how the average fan sees him?

    Additionally, Lee was probably hurt by Rashard Lewis’ perception as well, since Lewis was a former All Star in Seattle in 2005. Lee and Lewis both provide about the same amount of scoring (Lewis has a small advantage in points per minute, Lee edges him in efficiency) and many of their peripheral stats are similar (they are both weak at shot blocking and steals, albeit Lewis is better in both areas). From a visual perspective, the big difference between the pair is Lewis’ ability to score in a few different ways, including an excellent three point shot (39.3%). But from a statistical perspective, Lewis’ edge in scoring (2.7 pts/36) doesn’t seem to be enough to make up for Lee grabbing twice as many rebounds (11.9 reb/36 vs 5.8 reb/36).

    Of course even if Lee has the statistical superiority, the perception is that it’s only because he’s getting wide open looks. But does that make sense? Teams that play Orlando have to worry about their other scorers like Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and Hedo Turkoglu as well as Lewis. Which Knicks do opposing teams have to account for? Wilson Chandler? Al Harrington? Tim Thomas? Chris Duhon? Jared Jeffries? I’d imagine with those teammates Lewis gets more open looks than Lee. Well at least that’s my perception.


    I’ve turned off the comments for this article, because it’s similar to one already in the forum. Please feel free to voice your opinion there.

    Knicks’ Week in Advance 12/01/08

    Welcome to the third installment of “Knicks’ Week in Advance.” As always we will look at the Knicks’ Four Factors and compare them to those of their opponents. Based on each team’s stats I’ll offer suggestions for what the fans should watch for and what the Knicks should look to do that game.

    Before we get into the match ups, I want to say a quick word on the importance of advanced stats. I think every fan would do well to understand how they work – especially in light of the style of play the Knicks adopted this year. For instance last week New York, the fastest pace team (98.7 possessions per game), faced the second fastest pace team in Golden State (97.2 possessions per game). Combine that with the fact that the teams are 26th and 27th in defensive efficiency (109.4 Knicks and 110.9 Warriors), and the Knicks’ rotation featured 7 players, you get the perfect storm for gaudy offensive numbers. That is how I predicted Lee could get 20 boards vs. the Warriors.

    Of course that game Lee had 21 rebounds and Duhon 22 assists, prompting the casual fan to draw comparisons to Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Without it’s proper context, the average Knick fan might expect numbers like that from the pair on a regular basis.

    Four games this week. Home games against Portland and Detroit bookend a road trip through Cleveland and Atlanta.

    December 2 Portland [First meeting of the teams this year.]

    TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
    New York Knicks-Offense 98.8 107 50.3 14.8 23.5 19.3
    Rank
    1
    11
    10
    10
    27
    29
    Portland Trail Blazers-Defense 86.2 107.3 49.7 16.2 25.2 23.5
    Rank
    30
    18
    21
    13
    8
    13
    New York Knicks-Defense 98.8 109.4 51.5 14.5 28.8 18.8
    Rank
    1
    26
    27
    25.5
    25
    2
    Portland Trail Blazers-Offense 86.2 113.5 51.4 15.1 32.8 22.1
    Rank
    30
    2
    3
    12
    1
    21

    Terrible Tuesdays continue for the Knicks (four Tuesday games, four playoff teams), this time Portland comes to town. In some ways, the Blazers are the Bizzaro Knicks. The Blazers are dead last in pace (86.6 possessions per game), while the Knicks are first in pace (98.7 possessions per game). The Blazers are a great rebounding team (detailed below), while the Knick are not. The Blazers waived a highly paid, petulant, offensive minded point guard before a power play between he and management became a distraction. The Knicks… well you know the story.

    What to watch for 1: Rebounding. The Knicks are going to have trouble keeping the Blazers off the glass. The Blazers are 2nd in offensive rebound percentage (32.6%), and none too shabby on defensive glass securing all but 25.1% of defensive rebounds (6th). The Knicks give up 28.8% of all defensive rebounds (24th), while securing 23.5% of available offensive boards (27th). Long story short: make the first shot; there will not be many second chances.

    What to watch for 2: The neutralization of David Lee. Lee at center is not going to have the easy match ups he had against the Warriors. Oden and Aldridge are solid interior defenders and strong shot blockers (2.7 and 1.3 blocks per 36 minutes respectively). What Lee can do to help the team is work the pick and roll with Duhon and then hit the 15 footer with consistency (why don’t they run that more with Lee and Harrington’s mid range game?). If Lee can lure Oden out of the paint, it could open things up for drives to the lane (if only there was a Knick that liked to do that).

    What to watch for 3: The Blazers are exceedingly efficient on offense (113.1, 2nd in the NBA) and from the floor (51.1 eFG%, 5th). The Knicks will need a solid defensive effort against this team.

    December 3 at Cleveland [Cavs won first meeting 119-101]

    TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
    New York Knicks-Offense 98.8 107 50.3 14.8 23.5 19.3
    Rank
    1
    11
    10
    10
    27
    29
    Cleveland Cavaliers-Defense 90.2 102.7 45.8 16.5 26.4 26.4
    Rank
    23
    6
    4
    11
    15
    26
    New York Knicks-Defense 98.8 109.4 51.5 14.5 28.8 18.8
    Rank
    1
    26
    27
    25.5
    25
    2
    Cleveland Cavaliers-Offense 90.2 114.8 52.4 14.4 30.4 25.9
    Rank
    23
    1
    2
    6
    5
    7

    The Knicks looked awful against the Cavs in the last meeting. It was the first game with new acquisitions Harrington and Thomas so maybe that had something to do with the Cavs one-sided victory. More likely, it was due to the Cavs being one of the best teams in the East.

    What to watch for: Defense. When the Knicks last played the Cavs, I suggested that the Knicks pressure the ball and force the Cavs into poor shots and sloppy play. What did the Knicks do? They allowed the Cavs to post a 58.4 eFG% while only forcing 8 turnovers. The boys in blue have to do better. Hopefully, Mobley will be available to help the back court defense. I know the team should always play good defense, but it is crucial when playing a team as efficient as the Cavs.

    December 5 at Atlanta [ First meeting of the teams this year. ]

    TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
    New York Knicks-Offense 98.8 107 50.3 14.8 23.5 19.3
    Rank
    1
    11
    10
    10
    27
    29
    Atlanta Hawks-Defense 90.1 107.8 48.4 14.9 28.2 22.7
    Rank
    24
    21
    10
    22
    21
    11
    New York Knicks-Defense 98.8 109.4 51.5 14.5 28.8 18.8
    Rank
    1
    26
    27
    25.5
    25
    2
    Atlanta Hawks-Offense 90.1 109.1 50.8 15.3 27.6 22.8
    Rank
    24
    7
    7
    14
    9
    18

    After a very hot start, the Hawks have cooled a bit but they are still a dangerous match up for the Knicks because their offensive efficiency (109.1, 6th) and eFG% (50.8%, 7th) exploits the Knick defense.

    What to watch for 1: Pace. For a team with so many athletic players the Hawks don’t really push the pace (90.1 possessions per game, 25th). It will be interesting to see what the Hawks do if the Knicks push the pace.

    What to watch for 2: Inside the paint. The Hawks, like the Knicks, lack a true center. Solomon Jones is solid interior defender (2.7 blocks per 36 minutes) but he is quite foul prone (5.5 fouls per 36 minutes). Josh Smith blocks the same number of shots per 36, but is more of a weak side defender than face up. If Duhon and Robinson can get inside they can open up a few easy baskets for Lee and Harrington when Smith comes to help.

    December 7 Detroit [Pistons won first meeting 110-96]

    TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
    New York Knicks-Offense 98.8 107 50.3 14.8 23.5 19.3
    Rank
    1
    11
    10
    10
    27
    29
    Detroit Pistons-Defense 89.8 107.6 49.5 15.2 26.4 25.6
    Rank
    25
    20
    18
    20
    14
    24
    New York Knicks-Defense 98.8 109.4 51.5 14.5 28.8 18.8
    Rank
    1
    26
    27
    25.5
    25
    2
    Detroit Pistons-Offense 89.8 107.7 48.4 14.6 27.2 25.6
    Rank
    25
    9
    18
    8
    11
    10

    Last week I wrote that the Knicks needed to exploit the high usage/low efficiency of the Pistons’ offensive leaders. The Knicks did not do that in allowing the Pistons to post a 54.4 eFG%, which is 6 points higher than their season average (48.6%, 17th). Let’s try it again.

    What to watch for: 12 p.m. opening tip. The Pistons will be on the road and maybe they partied a bit Saturday night in New York. Maybe they will be sluggish for this game.

    I admit I’m reaching here, but I’ve been chasing two kids around all weekend. (Did you know that baking soda and rubbing alcohol can undo the work of a two year old artist who works in the medium of Sharpie on fine oak furniture?)

    Read last week’s article, the same stuff applies.