Tag:Theory and Proof
Posted on: January 4, 2012 10:16 pm
Posted by Royce Young
THE THEORY: The Pacers are just beating up on bad teams
THE PROOF: Miami drills Indiana 118-83
The Pacers started the season 4-1 and had the look of a team that could be flying a bit under the radar. So with a Wednesday night game in Miami the Pacers had a shot to make a statement.
And I guess they did. In the wrong direction though. Indiana might not quite be ready yet.
Blowouts happen in the league a lot. Good teams get ripped, especially on the road against a buzzsaw like th Heat. But this Miami team was missing Dwyane Wade and the Pacers were clearly keyed up at the tip. Dahntay Jones had some misguided quotes before the game about taking the game to the Heat and whatnot. The Pacers saw this as a shot to catch some attention.
Because let's face it, their 4-1 start really wasn't something to get that excited about. Wins over Detroit, Cleveland, New Jersey and Toronto really aren't all that impressive. And the loss was to the Pistons. So there was a big question mark for this Pacers team coming into their game against Miami. Beating teams you're supposed to is the sign of a solid group, but competing against maybe the class of the NBA would go a lot further in telling us where Indiana is at than a win over the Nets or Wizards.
To put it simply: The Pacers got streamrolled. LeBron James just stomped them. Indiana went 1-15 from the floor in the second quarter and turned it over 10 times as Miami outscored them 33-12 and basically ended the game there. By the finish line, Miami was the first team to crack a hundred on Indiana and did it with about eight minutes left in the game for a 35-point win.
Are the Pacers for real? I think it's way too premature to say either way. Their wins aren't really impressive and their losses are bad, in different ways. But it's early and the Pacers will have a lot more opportunity to make statements soon. In the next two weeks Indiana gets Boston, Philadelphia and Atlanta. They've got some very winnable games still mixed in that batch but the Pacers don't get to just keep feasting on bad or rebuilding teams.
But looking at the East, there's a good chance Indiana could crawl up to No. 5 or 6. The Knicks dropped an ugly game to the Bobcats and the Hawks are still a bit of a question. The class of the conference is clearly the Heat and Bulls, but Indiana could potentially slot itself in that second pack of New York, Atlanta, Orlando and Boston (yes, Boston).
The Pacers performance in Miami definitely didn't make the right kind of statement. It's going to keep most in the camp of thinking they aren't there yet, at least in terms of actually competing with the big boys. David West was a nice addition, but the Pacers are lacking consistent scoring options. Danny Granger is good in spurts, Roy Hibbert sometimes works well in the post and Paul George's 3-point shooting has been nice. But like the opening round series against the Bulls, sometimes the Pacers don't know where to get points from.
It's too early to cross anyone off any list (except for the Wizards and Nets), but the Pacers definitely got a wake-up call from Miami Wednesday. They aren't there yet and really, probably aren't as close as they thought.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 1:56 pm
By Matt Moore
Theory: The Celtics are in trouble despite their comeback effort against the Heat and tough opening schedule.
Proof: Paul Pierce was out. It was a road game. The calls didn't go their way. And they still managed to come back from 20 down to put the knife to the Heat's throat Tuesday night. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com says that the reports of the Celtics' demise are greatly exaggerated. And he's right. But a further examination of this team's performance through two games reveals that it's not all smoke and mirrors that show cracks in the green facade.
For starters, well, you know, they lost both games. A great comeback effort doesn't mean much if the result is still a pair of L's to playoff opponents gunning for you on national television. The Celtics dug themselves holes they couldn't get out of despite long second-half runs in two games, especially Tuesday night, and the result is an 0-2 mark to start a season they need to rack up wins early in order to rest later in.
But beyond the obvious losses, there's a serious trend coming to light that looks awful bad. The Celtics have been one of the best defensive teams in the league for the past four years. They've been about as reliable as it gets in terms of cracking down on the opponent. But they surrendered a 112.7 defensive efficiency (basically the rate they would have scored at in an average pace game) against the Heat after givig up a 112.8 mark to the Knicks. They allowed the Knics to shoot 47 percent on Sunday, and the Heat to shoot 56 percent on Tuesday. This despit stellar third and fourth quarters, respectively, in those games. The Celtics' defense has been just plain bad. Has the copetition been high? Absolutely. But the same style that worked for so long, slowing it down, grinding it out, isn't working well so far.
Then there's the offense. The C's managed to close the Heat's lead to 3 late in the fourth quarter against the Heat, but consider what they needed offensively. With Paul Pierce out, the Celtics wound up running a huge chunk of their offense throught he perimeter. The shots fell. They were 12-19 from the arc against the Heat, a ridiculous mark. Would Keyon Dooling (18 points, 4-6 shooting from 3) have had as many minute with Pierce available, even with Keyon Dooling playing minutes at the 2. The Celtics were downright Magic-ian in shooting all those threes. That was the only way they were able to hang so long. That kind of shooting obviously isn't sustainable. The argument can be made that the Heat's clip won't stay that high either, and it's a valid one. But the Heat ran a smoother offense and created easier opportunities in transition.
This isn't to say that the Celtics won't figure it out, they will. Pierce will help. Continuity will help. Understanding lineups better and getting Bandon Bass more minutes will help. But the Celtics have issues as they showed in the first three quarters against the Heat. There are problems that the Celtics need to resolve quickly.
Posted on: December 26, 2011 12:29 am
Edited on: December 26, 2011 12:31 am
By Matt Moore
Theory: The Bulls did not play well and still won, and that says more about the Lakers than the Bulls.
Proof: It's not so much that the Lakers played badly, because they didn't. It's that they played above how we thought they would Sunday, until the last five minutes, and then suddenly regressed to the mean at warp speed. The Lakers had played well, above their talent level with an injured Kobe Bryant and a suspended Andrew Bynum, honestly, and looked primed to steal the game from out from under the Bulls. The Bulls were not making it hard on them. Derrick Rose was not great or even really emphatic until the last five minutes Luol Deng was more like the pre-2011 Luol Deng (good but inconsistent) than the 2011 Luol Deng (consistently great on both sides)... until the last five minutes. The Bulls shot poorly from the field, and were leaving wide-open perimeter shots left and right.
And yet they won.
The easy way out is to say that Andrew Bynum will make everything better, that more time together will heal all wounds, but the bigger concern is that it wasn't the supporting cast of little-known non-stars that blew this game. It was Kobe Bryant his 8 turnovers, most notably the crucial final turnover that lead to Derrick Rose's go-ahead score. >Bryant shot 11-23 from the field. And there wasn't enough surrounding talent with Lamar Odom getting ejected in Dallas and Bynum at hometo cover. His shot selection wasn't really a problem until his final two attempts, where he forced things, especially his final shot, a baseline running fadea, away trying to get over three Bulls. That's not Bryant anymore.
The formula for the Lakers has to be Mike Brown's defense gets them in range, then the star power finishes the job. But if the star power isn't able to convert, the Lakers are in trouble. The kind of trouble we thought they might bed the going into the season. Bynum's out three more games, and the Lakers play two lottery squads in a row. But if things went this right and they still lost Sunday, isn't there a chance things could start even worse for the Lakers?
Posted on: December 25, 2011 11:48 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 12:42 am
Posted by Royce Young
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Thunder topped the Magic 97-89 behind 30 points from Kevin Durant. But that wasn't the story. It was the way the Thunder handled Orlando on both ends, specifically Dwight Howard.
THE THEORY: The new Kendrick Perkins makes Oklahoma City a title contender
THE PROOF: Dwight Howard: 4-12 from the field, 11 points
Perkins shed 32 pounds in the offseason and re-discovered a bit of his old athleticism and agility. But the question for Oklahoma City was if the new Perkins was going to make that much of a difference. Would a quicker, lighter, more agile Perk mean the Thunder could dominate the paint.
OKC's opener against Orlando came down to an essential, simple matchup: Perkins got the better of Dwight Howard. Howard was just 4-12 for 11 points, but here's the kicker: Howard shot just eight free throws.
That's one major improvement from Perkins because of his new body: He doesn't foul. He can move his feet much better and doesn't have to use his hands to keep someone in front of him. It's a big reason Howard only took eight free throws. Perk was quick enough to stop Howard off the dribble.
When Howard can’t roll inside, it completely limits the Magic’s inside-out game, which is what they’re basically designed to do. Orlando started the game 8-9 but went through a 5-30 stretch after that and shot just 37 percent for the game.
“I thought Perk was really good staying between Dwight and the basket,” Scott Brooks said. “That’s what you want to do.”
Perkins basically played Howard by always keep a body pressed against him, staying home and giving him a 12-foot jumper if he wanted it. Howard tried it three times, hitting one. After that, Howard never went near the paint without Perkins' barrel chest right up against him. That’s how he's going to play everyone and that’s why he can change the Thunder defensively almost all on his own.
At one point after Perkins was a little hot after getting tangled with Howard. Ref Bill Kennedy told Perk to chill and then even went over and told Brooks to calm Perkins down. Brooks didn’t look at all interested in that.
“We like him a little angry,” Brooks said. “We like him mad at his opponent.”
Perkins did pick up his first technical of the season though by scuffling with Howard later. That’s No. 1 for Perk, and because of the shortened season, he’s got 12 more until he faces a suspension.
“He told me he’d slow it down when he got to nine,” Brooks said. “I’m trying to talk him into six.”
While Perkins has a new body, he's still got the same old attitude. He's rough, mean and wants to play nasty. With that kind of interior defense, the Lakers won't be able to overpower OKC with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. Nene won't give the Thunder big fits. Memphis's duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol shouldn't take down the Thunder inside.
By process of elimination, if that's what the new Perkins is going to do for the Thunder defense, that's championship caliber stuff.
Posted on: December 25, 2011 5:33 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 12:31 am
Posted by Ben Golliver.
THE THEORY: A faster Miami Heat is a more dangerous Miami Heat
THE PROOF: Miami runs away with opening day road win
The early word out of Miami Heat training camp was coach Erik Spoelstra's desire to up the tempo in an effort to unleash his team's fierce athleticism and ability to finish plays in transition. A competitive advantage could be found, reason dictated, if Miami adopted some of the University of Oregon's football team's creativity and unpredictability.
Miami was below-average (No. 21) in terms of pace last season but has all the parts, on paper, to be one of the most versatile, mobile teams in the game. The Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can all move quickly, authoritatively and nimbly in transition, the available point guard options aren't ball-stoppers and center Joel Anthony and power forward Udonis Haslem aren't oafs. The linchpins of any offense attack are going to be James and Wade, of course, and both are good in isolation and halfcourt situations that it was tempting to just slow things down and let them work their guaranteed man-to-man abilities to create regular trips to the free throw line and high-percentage looks for their teammates. Miami was a top-3 team in terms of offensive efficiency last season so any chances amount to Spoelstra tinkering with a winning formula rather than overhauling a broken model.
Going faster increases the potential for turnovers, lost possessions and decreased overall efficiency, but it also creates the potential, given the sheer quality of Miami's horses, to simply run teams off the court in demoralizing fashion. The Heat went to Dallas and defeated the Mavericks on Christmas Day, 105-94, but their higher-octane approach made this a game that was far less competitive than that score indicated.
Miami ran up a 30+ point lead thanks in large part to its ability to turn Dallas over and convert in transition, where the Heat finished with 31 fast break points. The results were often sensational, none more mesmerizing than the following double alley-oop, which saw James tip a lob pass from Mario Chalmers to Wade, who finished it with a thunderous dunk and a scowling face that said, "Ooh, that was nasty." The play began with Chalmers picking Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki's pocket from the weakside.
James and Wade, together, were extraordinarily efficient, combining for 63 points on 40 shots and getting to the line a combined 25 times. Bosh was mostly an afterthought but with numbers like that it doesn't much matter. Miami committed 23 turnovers, certainly something to keep an eye on, but it got to the foul line at will and torched Dallas' first unit on the break. The blowout potential here is frightening.
Here's one last look at their open court abilities. a Wade to James to Bosh combination which was sparked by a Wade block on the defensive end. There's not a team in the league that can stop this trio if their chemistry is clicking like this at full speed.
Posted on: December 25, 2011 5:19 pm
Edited on: December 25, 2011 9:41 pm
By Matt Moore
Theory: The Knicks are still learning defense but they have a path to it.
Proof: For a quarter it certainly looked like the Knicks were the same team they always have been under Mike D'Antoni. But excepting the third quarter 35-17 meltdown by the New York Knicks, the home team put in the effort and technique on the defensive end, and that's what led to their two-point win over the same team who swept them in last year's playoffs, the Boston Celtics. Well, that and Carmelo Anthony.
But outside of that horrific run to start the second half, the Knicks showed what you want to see if you're a New York fan. They were active defensively, especially when Tyson Chandler was in the game. They repeatedly attacked the Celtics at the rim (11 blocked shots). They held a huge advanteage on the offensive glass until the third quarter which accounts for a signifianct portion of Boston's advantage on the glass.
There was a different feel for the Knicks, who wound up winning the game by defending a Kevin Garnett fadeaway jumper well enough. The Knicks also flashed a new attitude, repeatedly standing up to Boston's bullying approach, concluding with Bill Walker getting in Garnett's grill after his miss, then taking a shot to the throat from Garnett. This is an ugly, tense, rivalry that gets nastier with every game.
And for once, it looks like the Knicks are ready to bow up to the bullies. Throw in the best scoring frontcourt in the league and the Knicks have their season off to the start they wanted. Even despite that third quarter.