Tag:Russell Westbrook
Posted on: December 7, 2010 9:56 am
Edited on: December 7, 2010 10:07 am
 

Shootaround 12.7.10: Where Stern went wrong

Posted by Royce Young
  • Darren Rovell of CNBC on why the NBA messed up purchasing the Hornets: "The last point is the public relations disaster that this could create. If George Shinn and Gary Chouest couldn’t make it in New Orleans, fine. They’d say that and leave. Now it’s the NBA’s business to put this team in the best position it can and if they leave New Orleans it will be the league’s fault, not Shinn or Chouest’s fault, that they left."
  • An editorial from The Times-Picayune: "Mr. Stern and the league played an important role in the Hornets' return to New Orleans post-Katrina. The league also brought the NBA All-Star game to New Orleans in 2008, and metro residents are thankful for that support. The league is appointing Jac Sperling, a native New Orleanian and vice-chairman of the NHL's Minnesota Wild, to run the Hornets. But the new ownership raises questions as to the team's future, especially as the current lease expires in 2014.
  • Magic Johnson should buy the Hornets?
  • At The Hive on why the Hornets aren't the Expos: "The Hornets, however, are a viable, competitive, and valuable franchise. Their only problem is that George Shinn wanted out of the organization quickly, and that wasn't able to be done quickly enough for his desire and still keep the franchise in New Orleans. It's not a team, like the Expos, that were deemed to be of negative value to the league."
  • Noam Schiller of Both Teams Played Hard on MIP candidates: "Russell Westbrook: And who stands above Horford for 2nd in the league in PER? I’ll give you a hint: he plays for the Thunder and he isn’t Kevin Durant. Westbrook has taken his scoring to the next level by using his speed and athleticism to constantly get to the rim, where he either converts his shots at a career high 55.2%, or draw fouls. Russ is getting to the line 9.6 times a night (good for 4th in the league) and making his freebies at a career high 87% clip, combining with last year’s prominent leap-maker Kevin Durant to create the league’s most deadly foul drawing team. If he doesn’t make the all-star team this year, something is wrong with the universe."
Posted on: December 2, 2010 11:40 am
Edited on: December 2, 2010 11:47 am
 

The Game Changer: A lot happened last night

Posted by Royce Young

Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.

THE BIG ONE: BOOZER RETURNS, ORLANDO DOESN'T CARE

The Bulls were just coming off some of the best basketball of their season. They were returning home after a great road trip and were hosting one of the top teams in the East. They were ready to say something and to do so, they were finally getting the services of their biggest offseason acquisition.

Carlos Boozer was back.

Problem was, the Orlando Magic didn't care. They had business to take care of. And take care of business they did.

The Magic plowed the Bulls 107-78 in a game that wasn't really ever close. Even after the first quarter when it was 28-22, it felt like the Bulls were just hanging on. Orlando dominated everything. They outrebounded Chicago 44-21, (only 21 rebounds for Chicago!), hit 49 percent from the field, went 10-21 from 3, only missed one free throw and got 81 points from their starting five. One guy didn't stick out for the Magic. It was just a total team beatdown.

So maybe the Bulls aren't quite ready yet.

But how did Boozer do? In 22 minutes he went 2-5 for five points and two rebounds. It wasn't really the kind of game though where Boozer could make much of an impact though, so I wouldn't judge anything based off it. However, if you're looking for a crazy stat of the night, how about Joakim Noah - the league's second leading rebounder - not grabbing a single rebound in 25 minutes?

GO-GO-GADGET LINES

Tough to really single anyone out on this night with a number of big nights across the league. Russell Westbrook was an assist away from a massive triple-double as he went for 38 points, nine assists and 15 rebounds.

Westbrook's teammate Jeff Green had a career-high 37 on 12-21 shooting and 4-5 from 3.

Deron Williams went for 16 assists with ZERO turnovers. Impressive. Most impressive.

And Blake Griffin of course had another massive game, dropping 31 points with 13 rebounds.

CLIPPING ALONG

I went back and forth the entire fourth quarter. Are the Clippers really beating the Spurs, or are the Spurs just playing that bad? After watching Antonio McDyess brick a jumper that may have dented the backboard, Manu Ginobili airball an open 3 and Tim Duncan make two bad passes in traffic, I leaned toward the latter.

But then I watched Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon and even Baron Davis take over late in the game and close things out. So while it was probably a combination of the Spurs poor play and the Clippers doing well, I think the lesson here is to take that despite the still horrid record, these Clips aren't rolling over for anyone.

Griffin posted another stellar night, dropping 31 points, 13 rebounds and four assists, Eric Gordon had 21 points on 8-17 shooting, but it was really Davis who in his return, made the difference. In just 23 minutes, Davis had seven points and 10 assists, and really controlled his young team down the stretch against the veteran Spurs.

Still, it helped that San Antonio shot just 35.6 percent from the floor and missed 21 3-pointers. But that doesn't mean this Clipper win should be overlooked. In a week, the Clips have beaten the Hornets, who at the time owned the league's best record and now the Spurs, who currently sit atop the league. Granted, this makes L.A. just 4-15, but I get a Thunder-ish feeling from these guys. They're young, hungry and learning. They're working hard, have talent and given time, may start figuring out how to win.

Plus, having a piece like Blake Griffin in place helps quite a bit.

ONE OTHER THINGS FROM THAT SPURS GAME

Interesting note: Gregg Popovich sat Tony Parker for the entire fourth quarter, instead playing George Hill. Parker, who was healthy, didn't appear happy on the bench about it. Weird.

GRIFFIN (ALMOST) SMASH

LOTS OF FREE HOOPS IN JERSEY

There were 12 games in the NBA last night. All of them took the traditional 48 minutes to settle the final score. Except one. It took 63 minutes.

The Thunder and Nets played a triple overtime classic Wednesday with Oklahoma City eventually emerging as a 123-120 winner. The last 15 minutes and 1.5 seconds were an entire game in itself.

First, Anthony Morrow hit an awkward 3-pointer to send the game to OT. Then in the first period, the Thunder fought back to even get it to the second frame. In the second overtime, the Nets held a three-point lead with 6.2 seconds left. But an ill-advised Stephen Graham foul on Jeff Green as he was shooting a 3 (which rimmed in and out) put Green on the line where he coolly hit all three freebies. Third OT.

That's when Russell Westbrook took the game over. In the third extra period, Westbrook scored all 13 of OKC's points, two shy of the NBA record for points in an OT.

Kevin Durant sat the game out with a sore knee, so his two buddies picked up the slack. Westbrook finished with 38 points (21 after regulation), a career-high 15 rebounds and nine assists and Green had a career-high 37.

THE Lakers ARE GETTING GOOD AT LOSING

Matt Moore wrote on the Lakers losing a fourth straight and here's a juicy part:
The other trend that the 4-game streak omen is up against? Phil Jackson has never failed to complete a 3-peat. Given the fact that LA has five months to get it right, Andrew Bynum returns in a few weeks, and this team could not care less about the regular season and they're still only losing these games by a handful of buckets, we should probably bet on the latter trend holding up.

But it still should be noted that the Lakers right now? They're not very good at all.

WHIMSY

I was sent this picture yesterday by someone and it must be posted. It's titled, "Jazzketball."


PARTING THOUGHT

The Heat beat up on a bad team yet again, whooping the Pistons 97-72. But commend the Heat for not losing focus the night before the biggun against the Cavs tonight. They dominated from the opening tip and held every Piston starter out of double-figures.

The high scorer for the Heat was LeBron with 18, but really, this game was about the suffocating defense and not who scored what. If we could only figure out why they can't do this against good teams with good players.
Posted on: November 30, 2010 3:35 pm
 

Award-O-Matic MVP 11.30.10: CP3 as MVP

NBA F&R breaks down the MVP candidates after the first month of the season by dissecting the award down to three parts: Most Valuable, Most Important, and Most Oustanding Player. CP3 is in control.
Posted by Matt Moore with contributions from Ben Golliver and Royce Young




Well, we're a month into the season and the context of this year has begun to take shape. While certainly a long way from the finish line, we've already gotten a glimpse of who's playing well, who's playing average, and who ... not so much. And so it is that we begin our monthly look at awards. On a regular basis we'll take you around the award contenders and give you a look at who is in contention for the NBA's major awards by breaking down what they really mean in our Award-O-Matic. Today we start with the MVP.

The problem, as has been elucidated approximately a million times by various media members, is that the MVP is a nebulous, hard to define award. Its name is Most Valuable, but it most often goes to the Most Outstanding Player on a winning team. If your play is other-worldly but your team doesn't win, you have no shot. If you contribute the most to a winning team but your numbers aren't stellar, again, your chances are slim. It takes a combination of three factors: value, performance, and importance to snag the award. As such, we decided to break the award into those three categories, tally them up with the top player getting 3 points, the second 2, the third 1, then summing to see if we could come up with a list.

First up?

Most Valuable Player (To Their Team): Who is most responsible for their team's success? Or, to put it another way, whose team suffers the most without them?


Matt Moore:


1. Dirk Nowitzki: Without him that offense is anemic and it's been his rebounding that's kept them in games at points.
2. Carmelo Anthony: Seriously, Nuggets. Cliff. Teetering. Melo's the only thing keeping the truck from smashing into pieces.
3. Dwight Howard: Get him in foul trouble and the Magic turn into a Mid-Major college team, just wining it from perimeter to perimeter.

Ben Golliver:

1. Chris Paul:
  I like Darren Collison as much as the next guy, but CP3's return from injury to lead New Orleans' absurd hot start, despite an unimpressive supporting cast, reveals exactly how valuable the league's best point guard is.
2. Rajon Rondo Boston would still be good without Rondo, but his game ownership places them on an elite level and makes them the odds on favorite to win the East yet again. 10.6 points, 14.2 assists (what!), 4.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals through the end of November. Crazy.
3. Kevin Durant The Thunder have had an up-and-down start but imagining this team with Russell Westbrook at the helm by himself, dragging an ineffective Jeff Green along for the ride, would be a recipe for a guaranteed lottery team. KD will get better -- perhaps much better -- over the course of the season, and he's already easily leading the NBA in scoring again.

Royce Young:

1. Chris Paul:   Subtract Paul and what do you have. I can promise you it's not an 8-1 team. It's really as simple as that.
2. Dirk Nowitzki:   The Mavericks are dangerous in every fourth quarter that they're close in. The reason is because Dirk can score in every situation, at any time. He essentially is the Maverick offense.
3. Steve Nash:   Take Nash away and yes, there's Goran Dragic who can dazzle in stretches. But without Nash this Suns team is nothing more than a 35-win club. With Nash, there's potential to push for the playoffs.

Most Important Player: Who is most crucial to their team's success? Ex. Last year I argued that Josh Smith was MIP because when he did Josh Smith-y things, the Hawks were nearly unstoppable, and when he didn't, they were much more beatable.


Matt Moore:

1. Chris Paul:
He does everything and it starts and stops with him. This is even more clearly illustrated by their recent struggles down the stretch where he hasn't been involved.
2. Al Horford: The level of production Horford is creating right now is simply astonishing. More astonishing is how overlooked he is.
3. Pau Gasol: It's him that's carrying the Lakers. Even as Kobe scores all the high points, the most dominant Laker performances this season are from Gasol.

Ben Golliver:


1. Pau Gasol: His virtuoso early season performance has single-handedly made Andrew Bynum an afterthought. What more needs to be said?
2. Deron Williams:   Utah's streak of comebacks begins with Williams' tough-minded leadership and ends with his play-making and shot-making.
3. Dirk Nowitzki:   Another banner start from Dirk singlehandedly puts a Dallas roster loaded with question marks in the playoff mix.

Royce Young:

1. Pau Gasol: Having Gasol as part of the triangle has been like a revelation. He's really what makes the Lakers so darn dangerous.
2. Kevin Garnett:
We saw what an impact his has in regard to the Celtic defense two seasons ago when his knee was injured.
3. Nick Collison:   He's a classic no-stats All-Star. He's only played for a few weeks so far this season for Oklahoma City but his value is immeasurable and impact immediate. He tips rebounds that become extra possessions, takes charges, sets outstanding screens and makes two or three small (but big) plays a game.


Most Outstanding Player: Who has simply wowed you?


Matt Moore:

1. Rajon Rondo: Key plays every time he's on the floor and he makes it look easy, There are a lot of moments where he looks like he's just on a different plane from everyone else.. and he's got three Hall of Famers on his team.
2. Russell Westbrook: Westbrook has managed to take over the game down the stretch. His turnovers are down, assists are up, he's got range and that mid-key pull-up jumper is as deadly as it ever has been. He's been simply phenomenal in half-court and full-court sets.
3. Deron Williams: Three point guards? Yup. Check Deron at the end of the clock with the game on the line. Money. And that's after all the assists, rebounds, key plays and floor leadership. Man's a ninja, no joke.

Ben Golliver:


1. Dwight Howard:
  Lost in the Miami Heat wave, Howard is quietly putting up 22.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks as the defensive and rebounding engine that will make Orlando a title contender for years to come. By the way, Orlando sits atop the Southeast Division -- 3.5 games ahead of the Heat.
2. LeBron James: His numbers are crazy and his highlights are spectacular. It's a wonder he can jump so high and dunk so hard carrying the burden of Chris Bosh and Erik Spoelstra's corpse on his shoulders.
3. John Wall:   Wall doesn't belong in the MVP discussion -- there are too many holes in his game (jumper, turnovers) and his team is terrible -- but for sheer "outstanding-ness" and "wow factor" he merits inclusion here. His assist numbers have been great and his speed is tops in the league; he's a lot further along the NBA readiness scale than even his biggest fans could have imagined.

Royce Young:

1. Rajon Rondo: He's been nothing but insanely ridiculous. Manages the game perfectly, understand his place within an offense and runs the show beautifully.
2. Kevin Love: When given the time on the floor, he's a legitimate 20-20 threat every single night. How many players can you really say that about?
3. Russell Westbrook: There's a case to be legitimately made for Westbrook as an MVP contender. Kevin Durant is still leading the league in scoring, but Westbrook is what's kept the team winning games. But his play has been just insane this year (23.8 ppg, 8.4 apg, 5.1 rpg) and he's a super-highlight waiting to happen.

Here are the tallies:

Most Valuable Player:
1. Chris Paul (6)
2. Dirk Nowitzki (5)
Tied for 3rd: Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo (2)
Tied for 4th: Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash (1)

Most Important Player:
1. Pau Gasol (7)
2. Chris Paul (3)
Tied for 3rd: Deron Williams, Al Horford, Kevin Garnett (2)
Tied for 4th: Dirk Nowitzki, Nick Collison (1)

Most Outstanding Player :

1. Rajon Rondo (6)
Tied for 2nd: Russell Westbrook, Dwight Howard (3)
Tied for 3rd: Kevin Love, LeBron James (2)
Tied for 4th: John Wall, Deron Williams (1)

Top 5 in Totals:
1. Chris Paul: 9
2. Rajon Rondo (8)
3. Pau Gasol (7)
4. Dirk Nowitzki (6)
5. Dwight Howard (4)
Posted on: November 30, 2010 12:28 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2010 1:35 pm
 

Westbrook gets the best of CP3 in big PG showdown

Posted by Royce Young

OKLAHOMA CITY -- NBA fans, probably more than any other group, love to debate and argue. Mostly about who is the best at this position, who is the best overall, or if you're a Laker fan, you just yell "KOBE KOBE KOBE" when asked about anything.

Kobe or LeBron used to dominate every message board and comment section, but really, 2010-11 has become the season of the Great Point Guard. At the beginning of the year, it was Rajon Rondo with all those history-making assists. Then it was Chris Paul again as he led his Hornets to a surprising start. Then of course there's Deron Williams, who is consistently excellent. Oh yeah, Derrick Rose who wows us with his up-and-unders, plus is carrying the Bulls to one of their best starts in years.

Everyone has a favorite in the race, but the lineup is pretty well settled. Those four really make up the current pantheon of great point men in the league. But there's another player that's standing at the door, asking for an invitation to the club.

I think it's time to start talking about Russell Westbrook.

Monday night in Oklahoma City, we were treated to a duel between Westbrook and Paul and by the end of the game, we were getting exactly what we wanted. Both players were going right after each other, trying to put their team on their back. Everyone expected Paul to have the edge. But it was Westbrook who came out on top.

In the fourth quarter, Westbrook scored 12 of his 25 points, while going a perfect 4-4 from the field. He also finished with 11 assists, five rebounds and five steals. He hit the game-clinching shot too, a 3-pointer right in the face of Paul with 1:38 left that put OKC up 88-81. Westbrook took over the game entirely, and did it against maybe the best player in the league at his position.

"It's the new Russell man," Kevin Durant said after the game. "He’s just taking over games and controlling games. That’s what we need for us to win.”

It's true. While Durant is Oklahoma City's de facto best player, Westbrook has probably been the team's MVP in the opening month. While Durant has struggled shooting the ball, Westbrook has found a way to pick up the slack, scoring in bunches all while running a fluent point guard. He's the team's unquestioned emotional spark and Westbrook has developed a knack for the dramatic in big moments.

Westbrook was so terrific in the game that his eight turnovers almost went unnoticed until you looked at the box score. It's true - Westbrook was out of control at times and four of those turnovers were completely unforced. But it speaks to something when a guy can shake that off and still put up the effort he did against one of the best defending guards in the league.

"Russell made big plays for us, which was helpful in getting the victory," said Thunder forward Jeff Green. "That's what Russell does. He's been doing it all season for us. Russell has been playing big all year and hopefully, will continue."

Here's a fun fact: Westbrook is one of two players averaging over 20 points, five assists and five rebounds a game. The other guy sharing that honor is LeBron James. Actually though, save rebounds where James hold a slim edge, Westbrook is averaging more points and assists than the reigning two-time MVP.

In head-to-head matchups with the game's other elite point guards (Williams, Paul, Rondo and Rose), Westbrook is averaging 24.0 points, 7.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. Plus, his team is 4-2.

The West is stacked with Steve Nash, Paul, Williams and Jason Kidd so getting an invitation to the All-Star Game won't be easy. But Westbrook's putting together a nice early campaign and he's got the attention of opposing coaches.

"He's an All-Star," said New Orleans head coach Monty Williams. "He probably won't get the votes unless [the commissioner] puts him in the game. But that guy is playing at a level that you scout for him about 10-15 minutes of your practice because of his pick-and-roll, how he's shooting the ball now, and he gets to the free throw line about 10 times a game. If you said that and just left the name blank, you'd say that's an All-Star."

Funny to think about this time last season people were still wondering if Westbrook was really even a point guard. Now the question is, is if he one of the best in the game. Right now, it's kind of hard to argue against it.
Posted on: November 29, 2010 12:38 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2010 12:39 pm
 

Video: Russell Westbrook says hi to Shane Battier

Posted by Royce Young

Here's Russell Westbrook. He's 6'4, athletic, really fast and likes to dunk all the time. Did I mention he's a point guard ? And here's Shane Battier. He's the charge-taking, no-stats-All-Starring, glue guy that plays great defense and does little things.

What happens when they meet in the lane? One flies through the air like a missle headed for a small city and the other just has to watch it. Observe:



The irony of Westbrook's massive cramjob is that Battier, in very Battier-like fashion, turned around and hit three crucial 3-pointers for the Rockets almost immediately after. Battier has been struggling from deep on the season, but went 4-6 for Houston Sunday to really key the Rockets 99-98 win over the Thunder.

So he may have been abused both physicaly and emotionally by Westbrook, but Battier responded. Typical. I'm sure Dick Vitale is somewhere nodding right now.
Posted on: November 19, 2010 8:21 am
 

Shootaround 11.19.10: Friends and enemies

Posted by Royce Young
  • Joey Graham is making friends in Cleveland: ''He'll be in the rotation for a little while,'' Cavs coach Byron Scott. ''I wanted to try something different. With Joey, I know I can get some scoring in the post. He's kind of made his living there.''
  • Cole Aldrich is blogging for Dime : "Someone asked me the other day to compare Coach Brooks and Coach Self. I would say the main thing that sticks out is both of their philosophies are defensive-minded. If you look at the teams that have won NBA championships, they were strong defensive teams like Boston and the Lakers. In terms of differences, Coach Brooks is probably a slight bit more laid back than Coach Self. He always expects a lot out of you, and he’ll get after you a little more."
  • J.R. Smith is losing his role to Gary Forbes: "I think J.R. knows exactly where we're at," Karl told The Denver Post Wednesday. "I think right now, it's J.R. and me, and I think J.R. should understand what's going on. I've got a kid playing better than he is playing. And I don't have minutes to share."
  • Eddy Rivera of MagicBasketball on Orlando's win: "There was no one from Phoenix that could slow down Howard, let alone stop him, so they were forced to double-team him nearly every time he touched the ball in a 4-out/1-in offensive set. This forced Howard to be a passer and, aside from a few turnovers here and there, he was able to spur some ball movement. Perhaps the one thing to takeaway from Howard’s performance on offense was that he was able to make two jumpshots on the left elbow with the third quarter winding down."
Posted on: November 5, 2010 11:04 am
 

Game Changer 11.5.10: Night of Thunder

Posted by Royce Young

Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.

THE BIG ONE: OKC FINDS ITSELF IN OT

For three quarters, it looked like more of the same for the Thunder. Bad defense, simplistic offense and a double-digits deficit. The Trail Blazers were having their way and with a 6-0 run to start the second half, Oklahoma City was within an inch of being run out of the building. For this here recap, I actually already had almost 200 words written about how the Thunder defense has been absolutely terrible this season.

But they held it together. They dug in and they were ready to fight. And fight they did.

The Thunder found what worked for them last season and got back into the game by relying on the defensive end coupled with two supreme playmakers making supreme plays. Kevin Durant hit big shots. Russell Westbrook was everywhere, hitting shots, grabbing rebounds and attacking the Portland defense.

Somehow, after being manhandled, the Thunder locked up the Blazers 100-100 and forced five extra minutes. I have no idea how, but they did.

So now, on the road against a team that had a day off and is one of the premier squads in the West, common sense says the Blazers would take charge in overtime. Wrong again. The Thunder didn't allow a point in the overtime period until there was a minute left. A layup by James Harden with four minutes to go almost proved to be a gamewinner. In overtime, Portland went 1-9 from the floor with the only basket being a meaningless 3 at the buzzer.

It's early in the season. For Oklahoma City, this is game five of 82. But it cannot be understated how important this win is for the Thunder. After two whoopings by the Jazz and Clippers,  the team was lacking confidence, the fanbase was a little rattled and people were wondering where last season's OKC team was.

Well, the Thunder found themselves in Portland Thursday night. Just in time, too.

GO-GO-GADGET LINES:

Toney Douglas: A career-high 30 points on 9-14 shooting including 5-9 from 3. It was actually better than that though because Douglas had to heave three of those 3-point misses at the end of the shot clock.

Derrick Rose: 24 points and a career-high 14 assists

Kevin Durant: KD had 28 points and 11 rebounds and was especially terrific stat-wise, but he played 52 minutes of a possible 53, played stellar defense on Brandon Roy down the stretch and blocked three shots.

CAPTAIN HINDSIGHT VISITS CHICAGO:

With nine minutes remaining, the Knicks led the Bulls 108-89. Tom Thibodeau, thinking about Friday night when his Bulls travel to Boston for the second game of a back-to-back, had seen enough. The Knicks were carving up his team and so he threw in the towel.

The starters came out and seemingly, the game ended there. Except the Chicago bench kept playing. And actually, they kept playing to the tune of a quick 10-0 run. Four minutes remaining, Bulls down nine. Here comes the calvary, right?

Wrong. Thibodeau kept Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng on the bench. Whether that was because he was still thinking about Friday night or because he thought the second unit was playing better and gave the Bulls a better chance of actually coming back, he kept his starters on the bench.

Not that it would've worked out better if Rose and company had checked back in, but the closest the Bulls could get was nine, three different times. There just wasn't enough firepower and not enough defensive ability to get the stops needed and the baskets on the other end. Kyle Korver kept things interesting, hitting a couple outside shots, but in the end, it wasn't enough.

Hard to say whether or not Thibodeau screwed the pooch in this situation, but an interesting situation nonetheless. You'd think with the Bulls down nine points with four minutes left, that would be a good time to have Rose, Deng and Noah in the game. Except this time, Thibodeau thought otherwise. Maybe he was playing the hot hand, maybe he was proving a point with the starters or maybe he had an eye toward Boston. Whatever the case, an approach that definitely opened the door for some second-guessing.

A SOMEWHAT CLEVER STAT THAT KIND OF TELLS THE STORY:

The Bulls went 19-27 from the free throw line. The Knicks went 16-24 from the 3-point line.

HERO(ES) OF THE DAY:

Two nominees from the Thunder: First, Russell Westbrook. The third-year point guard put up 28 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out five assists. But he was the difference in OKC's win over the Blazers. He pulled in six offensive rebounds from his point guard position, with three of them coming in the last eight minutes of the game. Plus, when OKC needed a couple buckets, Westbrook knocked down two huge jumpers. Kevin Durant is obviously Oklahoma City's star, but Russell Westbrook may have been their best player Thursday.

Secondly, Serge Ibaka. The man dubbed "Air Congo" may not have had a line that jumps out to you - 11 points, seven rebounds, two blocks - but his interior defense was vital to the Thunder. LaMarcus Aldridge started the game 6-6 from the field for 12 points and was abusing Jeff Green. Early in the third quarter, Aldridge had 20 points and had just missed two shots with Nenad Krstic and Green attempting to check him. Ibaka entered and played Aldridge for the entire fourth quarter and overtime and held Aldridge to a mere basket. He altered shots and established an inside presence for OKC.

AUDIBLE THUNDER:

Scott Brooks talking about OKC's big win (via Ben Golliver):


DID YOU KNOW THIS:

This was the Knicks first game on TNT since 2007. Kind of surprising for the league's biggest market. But a nice return too. But right now, New York is 2-2 and its next six games are very winnable - home games against Washington, Philadelphia, Golden State and 0-4 Houston and two road games against Milwaukee and Minnesota. There's a chance people, that the Knicks could be getting some people excited soon.

DON'T MISS:

NO REGARD FOR HUMAN FAIL:

I absolutely adore Kevin Harlan. Like, he's one of my very favorite announcers. But this must be posted. With the Thunder up four after Westbrook iced the game with two free throws, Harlan loses track of the math.



Follow F&R on Twitter at @CBSSportsNBA and check out our RSS feed . This has been your daily edition of the Game Changer.
Posted on: November 1, 2010 1:31 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2010 1:32 pm
 

Oklahoma City and the full-court press

Posted by Royce Young

Kevin Durant and some of his teammates have nicknamed the Oklahoma City franchise "Thunder U" because of the college-like attitude the permeates from the team, ranging from the rabid home crowd to the togetherness of the players.

But the Thunder showed another college-like wrinkle in their 120-99 loss to the Utah Jazz Sunday night. A full-court press.



At basically every level except the professional one, basketball teams press. Nolan Richardson made "40 minutes of hell" famous with his swarming, intense full-court attack at Arkansas. Rick Pitino utilizes high-energy presses at Louisville (and before, at Kentucky) to try and turn up the Heat, speed up the tempo and get an opponent playing out of character and faster than they want to.

College basketball teams that know how to use a press often break it out when trailing by double-digits late in the second half of a game. It can lead to quick shots from your opponent, turnovers leading to easy buckets and sometimes, turn a 15-point deficit into a six-point one in a matter of minutes.

And with the Thunder trailing the Jazz by 27 mid-way through the third quarter, Scott Brooks called on the dogs.

Brooks used two different lineups with the press. The second one was the most interesting. Technically, James Harden was the point guard with Daequan Cook, Thabo Sefolosha, Jeff Green and Kevin Durant, who played center. Durant was the "point man" on the press, with Harden picking up the ball-handler. Unlike Pitino's press, the Thunder didn't really try trap, but instead went for steals and tried for turnovers. (The first lineup if you're wondering was Westbrook, Sefolosha, Durant, Green and Ibaka.)

It worked too. The Thunder quickly went on an 8-0 run, cutting into the Jazz lead while energizing the crowd. it helped too that Deron Williams was out because of foul trouble. So the Thunder funneled the ball into the hands of Gordon Hayward and C.J. Miles, players that aren't deft ball-handlers.

Oklahoma City pressed for the remaining six minutes of the third and for about four minutes of the fourth. After Williams returned, the Jazz found a few easy buckets and started breaking through.

Brooks probably kept the press on a little too long, as the Jazz adapted and moved past it with ease. The surprise element definitely caught the Jazz off-guard, especially with secondary ball-handlers on the court. That part was pretty smart by Brooks - put on the press with Earl Watson, Hayward and Miles handling the ball, not Williams.

Malcolm Gladwell made a very strong case for why NBA teams should press, citing reasons like supreme athleticism and the versatility of players to make a difference on an opponents offense. For OKC, those things definitely apply. Even if the press doesn't work, you make the other guy exert effort, you drain time off the shot clock, disrupting their offensive sets and potentially you pressure them into a mistake.

And it worked in Oklahoma City for a time too, igniting a small run and some energy to an otherwise flat team and crowd. But the Jazz pointed out the problems with it being completely successful - when you've got good players, breaking a press isn't that difficult.

A press at lower levels often is successful because players aren't as skilled, are easy rattled and the frantic pace can mess with someone that's not an expert at handling the ball. NBA players don't suffer from those issues, well, for the most part. So while the Thunder press was fun and potentially something we haven't seen the last of, it's not quite a deadly secret weapon in Brooks' back pocket.
 
 
 
 
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