Tag:Denver Nuggets
Posted on: April 18, 2011 1:48 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 2:33 am
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Thunder-Nuggets: Interference call costs Nuggets?

No-call on basket interference call may have cost the Nuggets dearly late in a close game vs. the Thunder
Posted by Matt Moore

In the Thunder's epic Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets, there were an incredible amount of seemingly big moments. Every time one team would land a haymaker, the other would respond. Just when Denver thought it had buried the Thunder, Kevin Durant would land another three. Just when OKC thought it had finally cemented the comeback with a six-point lead late, Nene charged back. And then, this play happened to give the the Thunder a one-point lead late. 



It's a close call, but...
Here's the definition from the NBA's rulebook. The one most will look at is Rule 11, Section 1-A, b.:

b. Touch the ball when it is above the basket ring and within the imaginary cylinder


But it's not that simple. Nowhere in Rule 11. is the definition of "in the cylinder" defined. The ball is clearly in the cylinder... partly. Take a look. 




So it seems easy, right? Half the ball is in the cylinder. So it's in the cylinder. But the NBA rulebook does not define "in the cylinder." It's a judgment call, likely left open to protect the officials, like a lot of rule interpretations. But without that, you can make the argument it was in, and out, of the cylinder. 

But what about the net? That's the obvious thing, right? Funny thing. Here's the only place the net is mentioned in the interference/goaltending section outside of coming up from inside it, from the full rulebook:

h. Vibrate the rim, net or backboard so as to cause the ball to make an unnatural bounce, or bend or move the rim to an off-center position when the ball is touching the ring or passing through.



Okay, so grabbing the net obviously will vibrate it. But a. the ball is neither touching the ring nor passing through, and b. he did not cause the ball to make an unnatural bounce nor c. move the rim. Unless you want to get into chaos theory, which is a slippery freaking slope. 

So. The ball was both in and out of the cylinder. And Perkins did touch the net but did not create an unnatural bounce, nor move the rim. But wait, there's more! How about G.? 

g. Touch any live ball from within the playing area that is on its downward flight with an opportunity to touch the basket ring. This is considered to be a "field goal attempt" or trying for a goal.



Okay, so it's a live ball. It's in the playing area. And it's on its downward flight with an opportunity to touch the basket ring (the ball winds up hitting the rim as Perkins guides it down). so it's the equivalent of a defensive player swatting a ball on the way down. Except the ball has already hit rim. So it's not really applicable here. Plus, if this was taken literally, the alley-oop would be illegal off a missed shot. 

So we're back to b. and h.. Is the ball in the cylinder? Is using the net causing an unnatural bounce? 

Then there's this video. It walks you through a similar situation, and the determination is that the call is interference because the base of the ball is on the rim. As the ball's path leads it to bounce off the rim and out,  you could argue that's not the case here. And since Perkins touches it just before it hits rim, it also gets out of that. 

At its heart, this comes down to the cylinder. The most widely accepted terminology is that if any part of the ball is in the cylinder, it's a violation. But since the NBA rulebook doesn't define that, it leads to situations like this. Which is going to make tomorrow tons of fun for Stu Jackson. 

The reason the play was important was because it gave the Thunder a one-point lead. A Westbrook jumper would give the Thunder a three-point lead, and the Nuggets faced a three-point deficit instead of a one-point deficit. 

Now, from there, Raymond Felton blew a possesion in a terrible way, which is on him. The Nuggets missed a ton of free throws, which is on them. The Nuggets had every opportunity to win this game and did fail to close the deal. But it does create a really bizarre situation. 

We'll update you with the league's explanation for how this play was correctly, or should have been called. 

Update from a Twitter follower, from an NBA explanation post:
Once the ball is on or directly above the rim, no player can not touch the ball.



Of course whether the ball is directly above the rim...
Posted on: April 17, 2011 1:19 am
Edited on: April 17, 2011 2:09 am
 

George Karl has had some words for OKC -- why?

Posted by Royce Young



George Karl has been talking a bit of smack about the Thunder talking smack. Him, and the Nuggets, have accused their first round opponent of being "cocky" and talking a larger-than-usual amount of junk.

Karl said this recently: "There’s no question there’s a cockiness to Oklahoma City ... We know what they were saying after the game here. We know what they were saying. We know. I’m not going to bring it to the public, but we know."

But Karl took it even farther, calling his former assistant and current Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks, "cocky." "He’s confident and his team is confident,” Karl told reporters in Denver recently. “At times when you get beat by him, you think they might be too cocky." Brooks, who is decidedly uncocky responded in a very Scott Brooks way.

“I’ve been called a lot worse. Trust me,” Brooks said Saturday. “My mom calls me a lot worse after we lose.

"You guys know me,” Brooks continued. “I worry about what we do with our team and focus on what we do. My job is to get our guys ready to play. We’ve done a pretty good job with that. … I care about what I do. I care about what our players do, and that’s where it ends. Denver, they can do the things they do. That’s on them. That’s on George, that’s on their staff. I focus on our team, our guys and I believe in what we do.”

I have a pretty good feel for Brooks -- and the Thunder -- because I live in OKC and cover the team up close. And I have never seen anything out of them that I'd call cocky. I do think there's a new confidence to them and maybe a bit of swagger since the Kendrick Perkins trade, but I wouldn't call it cockiness. Especially when it comes to Brooks. "Scott Brooks" might as well be the antonym for "cocky." He is easily one of the most humble coaches in the league.

So of course it makes me wonder: What is Karl trying to achieve here by going on the offensive? It almost seems like he's trying to manufacture bulletin board material for his team. Almost like he's trying to bait the Thunder into giving him some. Could he really be that desperate for motivation? Possibly. Especially when you consider that Karl went on record saying he wanted to avoid Oklahoma City, and with the Thunder beating the Nuggets rather solidly twice in the past two weeks.

So far -- if that is indeed Karl's intention -- it's failed. Kevin Durant wouldn't bite when Jim Rome asked him about it. "We just play basketball. We don't do any talking other than letting people know how good a team they are and how tough the series is going to be." Durant made it a point to say a number of times how tough he thought the series would be and how good he thinks the Nuggets are. If Karl's trying to bait the Thunder, he's going to have to take it up a notch.

A big reason for OKC avoiding it? They fall in step behind their soft spoken leader. Brooks has set a very humble, respect-your-opponent, turn-the-other-cheek tone with his group. When asked if he had a response for Karl's claims, Brooks once again took the high road.

“I don’t think we need to warn our guys,” he said. “Our guys are basketball players. We play basketball. We’re into our team. We’re into what we do on the court. That stuff off the court…why worry about that? That has no bearing on this series at all. Our guys love to play, they’re gym rats, they care about the game, they respect the game. They care about what they do. They represent themselves, the organization and the city well. That’s all I care about.

“I don’t get into going back and forth and I don’t tell our guys, because that’s not who they are. We don’t have to address an issue that’s not there. … I’ve been with George for a few years and he does his thing his way, and he’s very successful. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Karl no doubt has never been shy about speaking his mind and being candid with reporters, but this just feels forced to me. He's been around the block and has won a lot of games so I'm sure it's calculated. If he's pulling out all the stops to motivate his guys, that's his prerogative. He might be trying to get in the heads of the young Thunder squad. He might be trying to make them play with the wrong kind of emotion.

Whatever Karl is up to, I think he's got his reasons. Doesn't stop me from thinking it's probably a bad move, though. In trying to make some bulletin board material from scratch, I think he just gave some to the Thunder.

Posted on: April 15, 2011 3:02 pm
 

Thunder-Nuggets Preview: There will be blood

Posted by Royce Young



I. Intro:  No. 5 seed Denver Nuggets (50-32) vs. No. 4 seed Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27)

It's already being looked at as the "fun series" to watch. The young, athletic Thunder versus the young, athletic Nuggets. Some seem to be torn on the outcome which says one thing -- it should be a fun series.

Both teams underwent pretty serious transformations near the trade deadline. One was shipping out its star and replacing him with a gaggle of above average players. The other was shipping off one of its young pieces and replacing him with a championship tested big man.

At the time, it looked like the two franchises were headed in opposite directions. It looked like the Thunder were setting up to contend in the now, while the Nuggets were attempting to restructure for the future.

Except Denver kept winner and actually probably became a better team. In the end, we settled in on a unexpected series pitting division rivals against one another. Already the two teams are talking a little smack and already they've tussled. I get the feeling they don't like each other one bit. Did I say it should be fun?

II. What Happened: A look at the season series

Throw out the first two meetings because they don't count at all (Denver and OKC split 1-1 anyway). The teams that faced off in those first two games aren't the ones you see now. A lot changed.

And more than really any other series, we got the best taste of what to expect over the last couple weeks with this one. Not only did the Thunder and Nuggets play each other -- home and home, too -- but the games were important at the time. The Northwest Division title was still on the line.

OKC took the game in Denver 101-94, handing the Nuggets their first loss at home since the Melo trade and snapping a seven-game win streak. Then back in Oklahoma City a week later, the Thunder dropped the Nuggets 104-89 with a relentless defensive effort.

III. The Easy Stuff: Denver has no one to guard Kevin Durant

In the two recent games, Durant averaged 30.0 points per game on 45 percent shooting and really didn't get much of a challenge from Denver defenders. Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari shared the assignment, but the Nuggets tried switching on every screen Durant ran off of.

What result was a bunch of mismatches with Durant catching Nene or Kenyon Martin one-on-one. That wouldn't be a problem, except Durant is taller than both and can shoot over anyone on top of driving past them.

OKC is 22-1 this season when Durant shoots better than 50 percent from the floor. Read that last sentence again. Really, without Ron Artest last year holding Durant down against the Lakers, that series might've been very different. The Nuggets have to find a way to check Durant, otherwise they'll have a hard time checking the Thunder.

IV. Secret of the Series: The three P's: Pace, Perk and perimeter defense

The Nuggets play at the second fastest pace in the league (95.6). They want to run. They want to get Ty Lawson, Chandler, Martin and everyone else out in the open floor.

Oklahoma City isn't opposed to running by any means, but the Thunder definitely want to keep the Nuggets off the highway. In the last game in OKC, the game was played at a pace of just 90.0, something that definitely favored the Thunder. In the halfcourt, the Nuggets struggled scoring against OKC's man-to-man defense.

To go with that, inside Kendrick Perkins gives OKC the ability to leave single coverage on Nene. That means the Thunder's perimeter defenders can hang on Denver's list of good shooters. The Nuggets want you collapsing and rotating everywhere so they can find a marksman open on the outside. OKC didn't afford Denver that, holding the Nuggets to just 10-30 from 3 in the last two games.

V. The Dinosaur Narrative : "He who scores most will win"

Why is everyone acting like this will be a high scoring, up and down series? The two games these teams played in the last couple weeks were won by the Thunder by an average score of 102.5 to 91.5. Oklahoma City plays some serious defense now. Since Perkins joined the starting lineup, the Thunder are only second to Chicago in defensive efficiency.

Obviously the Nuggets like to run and the Thunder aren't shy about it, but if these games are 120-117 like everyone is acting, Scott Brooks might throw up. Kendrick Perkins most definitely will. (You know, from the running.)

This series will be more about stops and rebounding than anything else. Denver struggled in the halfcourt against the Thunder the last two games and OKC excelled, especially late. It's not about outscoring or outgunning each other. It's about out-stopping each other.

VI. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each match-up?

PG: This will be fun. Speed on speed. I'm not sure anyone is faster than Russell Westbrook end-to-end with the ball in his hands. Except Ty Lawson (and maybe Derrick Rose). Westbrook is bigger and stronger though, which gives him the edge. But Lawson is the most important part to the Denver offense. He scored a then career-high 28 points against OKC in Denver two weeks ago.

SG: Assuming Arron Afflalo is healthy, this is a big edge for the Nuggets. Thabo Sefolosha doesn't add much on the offensive side and his defensive skills aren't needed that much on Afflalo. But OKC does use James Harden off the bench much in the same way Dallas uses Jason Terry. Then again, Denver has J.R. Smith who is maybe this series' overall X-Factor...

SF: I already went over it, but Denver just doesn't have a good defender for Durant. Both Gallinari and Chandler will have their chances, as well as Afflalo, but we're talking about maybe the most gifted offensive player in the game.

PF: Really this is a push because both Kenyon Martin and Serge Ibaka, while good players, aren't going to do a ton more than block, rebound and score occasionally on put-backs.

C: Other than the point guard matchup, all eyes will be here. Perkins and Nene already tussled once and there's no doubt that they'll likely go at each other again. Perkins did a really good job on Nene in the first meeting holding him to just 3-10 shooting, but Nene came back with a solid 6-9 effort in the last meeting.

Bench: Both teams have very strong benches. As mentioned, Harden is more of a bench starter for OKC. Eric Maynor is a terrific backup point guard. Daequan Cook a nice specialist. Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed good veteran big men. Denver has excellent weapons too with Raymond Felton, Chander, Smith and Chris Andersen. The benches will be big and both are very good.

Coaches: George Karl and Scott Brooks know each other well. Brooks was an assistant under Karl for three years. Karl is the more experienced one and has been both the favorite and the underdog before. This is Brooks first rodeo as a playoff favorite. But this series is more about the players than the coaches, so I don't really think this matchup matters a whole lot.

VII. Conclusion

This will be a terrific series, no matter the number of games it takes. Some are feeling the Nuggets in an upset as that's what a lot of the numbers suggest. But I don't see it. I think everyone agrees that the Nuggets may have actually become a better team trading Melo, but against the Thunder, it hurt them. Kevin Durant gets an easier job, the Nuggets don't have a good halfcourt option late in games and OKC actually matches up really well with Denver now.

The Nuggets are dangerous, especially when a couple guys get hot. But that's what it'll take. They'll have to have big games from J.R. Smith (good luck relying on him), Gallinari, Lawson and Chandler to move on past OKC. The Thunder know what they're getting from Durant and Westbrook. They know they can play defense. I like this Nuggets team a lot. Just not against Oklahoma City. Prediction: Thunder in five.

Posted on: April 13, 2011 11:48 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 2:28 am
 

2011 NBA Playoff Matchups Set Wednesday

Final playoff positioning following Wednesday night's games. 
Posted by Matt Moore




All playoff matchups are set following Wednesday night's games. We've got our 16 teams seeded.
Eastern Conference:

The East is locked. For more analysis on the East, check out our discussion from Tuesday

1 Chicago vs. 8 Indiana
2 Miami vs. 7 Philadelphia
3 Boston vs. 6 New York
4 Orlando vs. 5 Atlanta


Western Conference

1 San Antonio vs. 8 Memphis
2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. 7 New Orleans
3 Dallas vs. 6 Portland
4 Oklahoma City vs. 5 Denver

The Mavericks' win over the Hornets locked Oklahoma City into the 4 seed, they'll face Denver. A Lakers win over Sacramento gets them the 2. The Hornets loss doesn't really matter, since it all came down to Memphis. Memphis t anked against the Clippers to get to the 8 spot. Memphis to the 8. The Hornets wind up 7th. 

Meanwhile, the Spurs' tank squad lost to Phoenix . Chicago finishes with the best overall record and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, including the Finals should they advance that far. Again, something that could come back to bite a tanking team. 

Some quick thoughts, as our series previews start tomorrow: 

Grizzlies-Spurs: Memphis may have made a brilliant manuever or doomed themselves. Manu Ginobili was injured Wednesday night, and if he's out, the Grizzlies might push the Spurs a bit. But they also ended the season in pathetic fashion, even for a tanking team. If that carries over, this could be over quickly. 

Hornets-Lakers: This is going to be short, violent, and brutal. I'll let you figure out how. Worst matchup for the underdog. 

Blazers-Mavericks: Portland fans wanted this matchup. We'll see if it works out for them. There are some good things here for Portland. If Dallas doesn't hit another gear, they could get rolled in the first round. Again. 

Nuggets-Thunder: This does not look like a great matchup on the surface for Denver. They'll have to get together and play the series of their lives, but against an inexperienced Thunder team, there's some possibility here. 

Posted on: April 13, 2011 9:50 am
Edited on: April 13, 2011 6:23 pm
 

Your Wednesday Morning NBA playoff scenarios

Updated playoff positioning following Tuesday night's games. 
Posted by Matt Moore




We've got 16 teams, and a lot of them are locked in place. Here's where we stand in terms of playoff positioning going into Tuesday night's games.
Eastern Conference:

The East is locked. For more analysis on the East, check out our discussion from Tuesday

1 Chicago vs. 8 Indiana
2 Miami vs. 7 Philadelphia
3 Boston vs. 6 New York
4 Orlando vs. 5 Atlanta


Western Conference

1 San Antonio vs. 8 Memphis/New Orleans
2 Dallas/Los Angeles Lakers vs. 7 Memphis/New Orleans
3 Dallas/Los Angeles Lakers/OKC vs. 6 Portland
4 Dallas/Oklahoma City vs. 5 Denver

What a mess. Though, it is less of a mess than it was yesterday. Memphis pulled Zach Randolph and Tony Allen vs. the Blazers, surrendering the sixth seed, presumably to attempt to avoid Los Angeles. It's thought that Memphis will also rest some combination of starters Wednesday night vs. the Clippers. Portland's win locks them into the sixth seed. 

The Lakers' win over "San Antonio" (I wouldn't really call that team that played the Spurs, would you?) means that Oklahoma City cannot finish second, and the Lakers cannot finish fourth. 

Before we get into contingencies for Wednesday night's results, just to review: San Antonio is locked as the 1 seed, Denver is locked as the fifth seed, and Portland is locked as the sixth seed. Those teams aren't going anywhere. 

Now, here's how Wednesday night's games shake out. 

If the Lakers beat the Kings, the Hornets beat the Mavs, and Bucks beat Thunder: The Lakers. gets the 2 seed with a one-game advantage over the Mavs, the Hornets get the 7 seed by one-game advantage/tiebreaker over Memphis, regardless of the outcome of Grizzlies-Clippers. Mavericks get the 3 seed and face the Blazers. Lakers as a 2 seed face Hornets as a 7. Grizzlies lands in the 8 and faces 1 Spurs, while the Thunder land in the 4 and face 5 Denver. 

If the Lakers beat the Kings, the Mavs beat the Hornets, and the Grizzlies beat the Clippers: The Lakers still gets the 2 seed by virtue of tie breaker over the Mavericks, who land as the 3 seed, regardless of the outcome of Bucks-Thunder, also by tiebreaker. Grizzlies get the 7 seed and will face the Lakers, Hornets fall to 8 and will face Spurs. Thunder wind up in the 4 and face 5 Nuggets. The Mavericks face the Blazers.

If the Lakers beat the Kings, the Mavs beat the Hornets, and the Grizzlies beat the Clippers: Lakers get 2 seed by tiebreaker, Mavericks land in 3 seed, Thunder get 4 and Grizzlies wind up 7. 1 Spurs face 8 Hornets, 2 Lakers play 7 Grizzlies, 3 Mavericks play 6 Blazers, and 4 Thunder play 5 Nuggets.

If the Kings beat the Lakers, the Hornets beat the Mavs, and Bucks beat Thunder: The Lakers keep the 2 seed by virtue of tiebreaker over the Mavs, the Mavericks still get the 3, and the Thunder wind up in the 4. The Hornets earn the 7 seed, while the Grizzlies fall to 8.  Spurs play Grizzlies, Lakers play Hornets, Mavericks play Blazers, and Thunder face the Nuggets. 

If the Kings beat the Lakers, the Mavericks beat the Hornets, and the Grizzlies beat the Clippers: The Mavericks slide up into the 2, the Lakers down to the 3, the Thunder into the 4, Hornets drop to 8 while Grizzlies notch themselves at 7. 1 Spurs play 8 Hornets, 2 Mavericks play 7 Grizzlies, 3 Lakers play 6 Blazers, 4 Thunder play 5 Nuggets. 

If the Kings beat the Lakers, the Mavericks beat the Hornets, and the Clippers beat the Grizzlies: The Mavericks slide up into the 2, the Lakers down to the 3, the Thunder are locked into the 4. New Orleans maintains the 7 with tiebreaker over Memphis, who drops to 8. 1 Spurs play 8 Grizzlies, 2 Mavericks play 7 Hornets, 3 Lakers play 6 Blazers, and 4 thunder play 5 Nuggets.

If the the Hornets defeat Mavericks, and the Thunder defeat Bucks:  This drops L.A., Dallas, and Oklahoma City into a three-way tie. Lakers win 2 seed regardless of their game vs. Kings by virtue of tiebreaker/ one game advantage, Thunder move into the 3, and Dallas winds up 4th. Hornets win assures them 7. 1 Spurs play 8 Grizzlies (a Hornets win makes their game irrelevant... well, more irrelevant), 2 Lakers play 7 Hornets, 3 Thunder play 6 Blazers, 4 Mavericks play 5 Nuggets. 

In short: 
Lakers win and they get the 2.

Mavericks win and Lakers lose, Mavs get the 2.

Thunder win and Mavericks lose, Thunder get the 3. 

Hornets win, they get the 7.

Grizzlies win and Hornets lose, Grizzlies get the 7. 

Complicated enough for you? Last game of the season, and still so much to decide.
Posted on: April 12, 2011 3:35 am
Edited on: April 13, 2011 8:54 am
 

Your Tuesday morning NBA playoff scenarios

Updated playoff positioning following Monday night's games. 
Posted by Matt Moore




We've got 16 teams, and a lot of them are locked in place. Here's where we stand in terms of playoff positioning going into Tuesday night's games. 

Eastern Conference:

The East is locked. With Miami's win over the Hawks combined with Boston's loss to the Wizards, along with the Sixers loss to the Magic, we have our first round playoff match-ups.

1 Chicago vs. 8 Indiana
2 Miami vs. 7 Philadelphia
3 Boston vs. 6 New York
4 Orlando vs. 5 Atlanta

Boston lucks out in this scenario. Without a legit center and against a weak rebounding team, their biggest concerns are mitigated, and it could allow them time to get back on their feet. Shutting down explosive stars is their business. Philadelphia, on the other hand, is the exact kind of team Miami could overlook. While the Sixers are outmatched at nearly every position outside point guard (even lacking a superior center). The Magic knew they were headed for the Hawks for weeks, same with Chicago and Indiana. 

New York landing as the six is considerably higher than many thought they would in the preseason. Philadelphia has to be unnerved they surrendered the sixth spot, but given their beginning, it's still a win. 

A likely Easteron Conference semi-finals series between Boston and Miami would begin with Game 1 in the great state of Florida. 

Western Conference: 

Things are much more liquid in the Western Conference. Denver's win over Golden State secures Denver in the fifth seed. The Spurs locked up the No. 1 seed a week ago. Other than that, everything's up in the air. Dallas' win over Houston after L.A.'s loss to the Thunder Sunday puts the 2 seed back in play. The Mavericks are now a half-game ahead of the Lakers for homecourt in a theoretical second round. The pressure is now on L.A. to break their five-game losing streak and close out the season to secure that seed. But then, lowering themselves to actually trying in games like this are not really the Lakers style. 

And oh, look at that, Oklahoma City is only a half game behind the Lakers. If the Lakers lose out, it's possible L.A. could wind up in the fourth spot, as crazy as that is. 

Meanwhile, as Denver is the dividing line between the insanity up-top and the looniness on the bottom, there's a continuing shuffling in spots 6-8. Portland remains in the driver's seat for the sixth seed. With the Hornets' loss to the Jazz, which was about as badly timed as it could have been, the Hornets have fallen to the 8th seed. Memphis is now in the seventh spot. The Grizzlies face the Blazers Tuesday night with the season series tied 1-1. Winner gets tiebreaker. Portland wins, they lock up the sixth. Grizzlies win, it comes down to Wednesday night's games. This situation is made trickier by not knowing how the top will look. In reality, everyone's trying to avoid the Lakers. But since L.A. could land anywhere between 2 and 4, there's no way to effectively duck them. If Portland wants to avoid the Lakers, for example, and think winning is the best way to do so, they could beat the Grizzlies, then watch Phil Jackson pull his starters against San Antonio and Sacramento. 

There's no way to tank to avoid opponents. It's a lottery at this point. Which is why so often coaches ignore such strategies at an organizational level. 

We'll update you after Tuesday's games. 
Posted on: April 10, 2011 9:58 am
 

Mythbusters: Lawson puts the hot hand to the test

Posted by Royce Young



Ty Lawson went 10-11 from 3 Saturday night against Minnesota. He started the game 10-10, with the lone miss coming on a wild 30-foot runner to end the third quarter.

Think about that one for a second. Ten straight... from 3-point range. Incredible.

The 10 straight makes is an NBA record. Had Lawson not missed his final heave, he would've set the NBA record held by Latrell Sprewell who went 9-9 from deep in 2003. Lawson sat the entire fourth despite being just two makes away from the all-time NBA record of 12.

Anyway, any time a guy makes 10 consecutive shots from anywhere much less downtown, there's always a seemingly logical, simple basketball explanation. He was hot.

That's what backcourt buddy Raymond Felton said. "A guy's hot like that, you've got to feed him the ball," he said after the game. When somebody is cooking -- and hitting 10 straight from 3 is pretty much surface of the sun hot -- there's no way to explain the outbreak of sharpshooting other than just saying he was "hot."

But there's actually been extensive studies done on this exact topic. The great Henry Abbott of TrueHoop has sort of championed this topic, contending -- behind actual scientific evidence -- that the hot hand does not, in fact, exist. When someone heats up in a game and drops a number of jumpers it's more about the simple laws of percentages sorting themselves out rather than the old basketball explanation of being hot.

There has been a ton of research on this. And most every researcher/scientist comes to the same conclusion: The hot hand doesn't exist.

A recent book "Scorecasting" by Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim tackled exactly this in a chapter entitled "The Myth of the Hot Hand." A review by the New York Times summed it up well:
For example, in a chapter titled “The Myth of the Hot Hand,” the authors declare that in sports, momentum, a k a “Old Mo,” doesn’t really exist, that no matter how many home runs a slugger belts in a week, no matter how many games in a row a team wins, the likelihood of success in the next at-bat or the next game is no different than it is when no hot streak exists. Statistics prove this is so; the numbers say that a streak of any sort is simply an expected variation in an extended, observable pattern of events, the way a coin is likely to come up heads 10 times in a row at some point if you toss it 10,000 times.

For this reason and a few others, the authors say, the basketball strategy of passing to a shooter on a hot streak is more often than not a loser. They argue interestingly (and sensibly) that one thing that happens to shooters on a streak is that they succumb to hubris and begin taking more difficult shots.

It's hard to argue with things like, you know, facts. The logic behind busting the myth of the hot hand is almost rock solid. Even explaining away Ray Allen's epic shooting gallery from Game 2 of the NBA Finals last season wasn't all that challenging. Allen wasn't hot -- he's just a great shooter.

But bring it back to Lawson's incredible 10-10 start Saturday night. Lawson is far from a great shooter, especially in terms of the great Ray Allen. Lawson is a career 38.5 percent shooter from 3 and that comes on just 239 career attempts to date. He's never hit more than three in a game before Saturday. He's much more of a slasher with an incredible ability to finish in traffic around the rim despite his small stature. He's not known as a marksman.

So for him to hit 10 consecutive 3s, something no one else in NBA history has done, that defies the law of percentages theory, right? Or at the very least, makes us at least rethink declaring the hot hand a myth.

I never really bought into the claims that there was no such thing as a hot hand but couldn't find a way to argue against it that was worthwhile. I played basketball. I've been in shooting grooves before. Not to brag -- well to kind of brag, but I'm trying to make a point -- I once hit seven 3-pointers in the first half of a high school game. Was I a good shooter? Sort of, but I'm definitely no Ray Allen. But I can tell you, I felt good that night. I felt the hot hand.

I still play a decent amount of pick-up and there are times guys hit two, three or four straight from deep. Inevitably, everyone nods in agreement and says, "He's hot." If you've shot a basketball and watched it go through the hoop a couple straight times, you know the feeling. Stats may say it doesn't exist, but I can you one thing that absolutely does: confidence.

Watch highlights from the game. Notice Lawson's shot selection. Not a single forced 3 or bad look in the bunch. Well, you could call the 10th one a bit of a Heat check, but still, no hand in his face. Point is, it's not like he was just chucking them up after he hit a few. But also notice Lawson's release. It gets quicker and quicker with each attempt and he even starts kicking his legs out a bit as he shoots. An obvious sign of confidence in his jumper.

Confidence is an amazing thing. And that's really what the hot hand is. It's a sincere belief that every time you raise that ball and fire it up at the basket that it's going through the bottom of the net. You increase your chances of it happening by repetition of course, by practice. It's like a golfer that perfects his swing so that he can repeat it every time on command. It's impossible to actually do, but explain how a guy on the golf course out of nowhere fires up a 61 with seven birdies on the back nine. It's because he was confident in his game. It's because he got hot.

But that's why the hot hand is fun to talk about. Players will tell you it absolutely exists, that it's a real thing. The numbers and data however, tell you differently. What do you trust?

Posted on: April 8, 2011 5:02 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 5:04 pm
 

Denver may not want OKC; does OKC want Denver?

Posted by Royce Young



The expectation a few days ago for Friday night in Oklahoma City was high drama when the Thunder took on the Nuggets. Denver was closing in on the Thunder's division lead and pushing to nab that coveted four-seed from the Thunder.

But the Thunder eliminated a hefty amount of the anxiety Tuesday by taking down the Nuggets 101-94 in Denver, which opened the door for Oklahoma City to clinch the Northwest Division and four-seed the next night against the Clippers.

Maybe because of that loss and the fact Denver handled the Mavericks Wednesday night, George Karl was prompted to say he actually preferred seeing the Mavs in the opening round of the playoffs if he had his way.

And Karl's Nuggets could help that along Friday night actually. OKC is just one game behind Dallas (and holds the tiebreaker as a division winner). Any Thunder win from here on out gets them closer to the three-seed and a destination with either Portland or New Orleans in the opening round, instead of Denver.

Question is, is that really what the Thunder want?

Most have been saying they shouldn’t want the three-seed. Common sense says playing the Lakers in the Western Finals is better than playing them in the second round. 

Here’s the thing about playing the Lakers: If you want to get to the NBA Finals, you’ve got to beat them at some point. What’s it really matter if it’s in the second or third round? All it means if you can get past them in the semis is that the road gets easier to the Finals. And besides that, since when are the Spurs pushovers? They’re pretty good, remember? Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com actually sees the Spurs as OKC’s kryptonite team . So let’s not get carried away thinking that San Antonio is the easiest team ever. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Gregg Popovich, four titles, best record in the West this year -- yeah, the Spurs are pretty good.

That's getting ahead of ourselves though. What about in the first round? Does OKC want the heated Nuggets or most likely, the Blazers?

After the way things looked against Denver Tuesday, the Nuggets actually appear to maybe be a more favorable matchup for OKC. Here are some reasons: 1) They don’t have anyone ideal to guard Kevin Durant. 2) Nene is a major part of their offense and Kendrick Perkins can handle him one-on-one. 3) The Thunder should be able to dominate the boards. 4) Ty Lawson will have a tough time checking Russell Westbrook an entire series.

Now of course a dominant effort by the Nuggets tonight could change that perspective a bit.

Portland on the other hand, seems to have the pieces to match the Thunder a bit better. Gerald Wallace is a pretty good defender to check Durant. OKC doesn’t have an answer for LaMarcus Aldridge. Brandon Roy is kind of a mystery — what if he revs it up for a seven-game series? Beating Portland at the Rose Garden is tough. To beat the Blazers, the Thunder would likely have to out-execute them late in games.

All of that together and it just feels like Portland is the tougher team for OKC.

That said though, I think I’m asking myself the wrong question here, because it’s not about who you play. It’s more about the idea of trying to position yourself in the playoffs. I understand one side of it. If the goal is to go deep into the postseason, you want to set yourself up in the best way possible to do that, right? Of course. But not at the cost of losing games.

Besides, what are you going to do? Have the team intentionally lose a game or two? How do you tell a group of guys to go out there and not try so hard tonight? How do you expect guys who have worked their butts off since August to win every time their shoes hit the hardwood to go ahead and drop one? Yeah, not realistic. You can sit players like Durant and Westbrook but you don't want to sacafice rhythm for a seed.

Between the Blazers and Nuggets in the first round really neither is an ideal matchup and neither is a nightmare for the Thunder. Neither is a team that’s going to just cause OKC a million headaches. Both will be tough to beat and I definitely see each going six, maybe seven games. But it’s not like the Thunder’s got a big problem with one. Plus, I like the idea of pushing hard at the end of the season and bettering your circumstance. Momentum is good. Confidence is wonderful. Look at what a little Big East tournament run did for Connecticut.

In the end, it shouldn't matter anyway. If team wants to go to bigger things as Durant said, you’ve just got to beat the teams in front of you. Whoever is put on the bracket next to your name, you play them and beat them. You can’t ask for a cakewalk to the Western Finals. You can’t expect someone to make this easier for you. If you have a chance to win, you win. If you have a chance to improve your seed, you do it. Who cares who you play and when you play them? You have to beat people to get to the goal anyway, so might as well get it over with.

Then again, if the Hornets want to go ahead and stay in sixth, I'm Scott Brooks and the Thunder would be more than thrilled to move up.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com