One of the most compelling match-ups, and (hopefully) the East’s answer to Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers, this is one series that with a little luck could go the distance. Read more…
Looking at the least compelling series an otherwise entertaining postseason has to offer. It’s Pacers vs. Hawks! Read more…
Continuing on our journey through a massive playoffs preview, next up is New York vs. Boston. (Spoiler: These two teams don’t like each other.) Read more…
Our first preview in a series by series breakdown of every first round match-up as we head into the playoffs, ShakyAnkles’ writers Aaron Weiss, Spencer Lund, and Michael Pina begin with the Miami Heat taking on the Milwaukee Bucks. Bucks fans: you know what you’re getting into. Tread carefully. Read more…
Russell Westbrook took 22 shots last night. He missed 15, which means he only made seven. Most of the successful ones came next to the basket, most of the missed were far away. This math typically doesn’t foreshadow pleasant comings for the Thunder, but last night they more than weathered the storm…with Russell Westbrook steering the ship.
The elite guard showed why Oklahoma City still believes he’s best suited to run the point, finishing with 12 assists, two turnovers, and a gritty road victory against a blood thirsty Chicago Bulls team fighting for both a statement win and their own wounded pride.
I was honestly beginning to doubt if he could help Oklahoma City win basketball games when he wasn’t scoring in a variety of athletically marvelous ways, but tonight he proved me wrong. Is Russell Westbrook an elite player when it comes to elevating those around him? On Thursday, the answer was an emphatic yes.
This wasn’t a good game from Westbrook, it was great. I’ve re-lived a few sequences in my mind several times since the final buzzer, and—just, wow—the vision, the precision, the patience; these are the plays Westbrook makes that nobody wants, nor is able, to remember when the Thunder lose and he attempts more shots than Kevin Durant.
Boris Diaw vs. Oklahoma City. The Spurs won 120-111. Diaw’s statistics: 27 minutes, 9 points on 4-5 shooting, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block.
Aren’t these Spurs so much fun to watch? The balance of their offense is beautiful in a perfect way. While every other team is playing on Earth, Duncan & Co. appear to hover above the clouds, seeing things before they happen and making sense of a broken, unpredictable game with an order and discipline that could very well be unprecedented.
The smoothness of San Antonio’s offense is one unanswerable question, similar to “Which came first: the Chicken or the egg?”. Is it so successful because of the skilled players who run it, or is the system in place what allows these players to thrive? Read more…
Pau Gasol vs. Denver. Los Angeles lost 113-96. Gasol’s statistics: 29 minutes, 3 points (1-10 shooting from the field), 3 rebounds, 2 personal fouls, 16.9% usage percentage, plus/minus of -29 (game-low).
Ever since the Lakers were unceremoniously swept from the playoffs by Dallas last season, Pau Gasol has been Los Angeles’ great scapegoat. Unlike Lamar Odom, when Gasol was traded this past December he came back, venturing forth in what retrospectively should go down as one of the most awkward seasons a player has ever had to endure. For the most part, Gasol made it work, deferring to Andrew Bynum in the post and Kobe Bryant everywhere else, allowing his elite mid-range jump shot to turn him into a glorified Brandon Bass, and attempting twice as many three-pointers in this shortened season than in the previous four combined. The public complaints were few and far between, and the result was a Lakers squad, devoid of anything close to a capable bench, winning its division and somehow becoming the league’s premier overachiever. Nobody, including the sportsbook review could’ve foreseen the success.
Now the playoffs are here; games are powerful enough to brush all those that were played over the past five months under a very large rug. This is the time to increase what you did in the regular season; a time when the brains of fans, agents, coaches, scouts, general managers and owners are trained to focus and remember. Barring a never-before-seen iconic performance, nobody who’s normal can recall what a given player did on a random night in February, but spring-time heroics are hard to forget.
Last night the Lakers played their second straight close out game against a Denver Nuggets team that’s equipped with an energetic personnel capable of giving Lakers head coach Mike Brown a migraine every 20 minutes. Calling last night’s game for TNT, one of the first bits of analysis Steve Kerr gave us was this: “It’s very important for the Laker bigs to establish the toughness that they lacked in Game 5.” They didn’t. Instead of helping them survive with their alpha dog Kobe Bryant laboring with a stomach issue, Pau Gasol helped tighten the noose around his team’s neck while Andrew Bynum kicked out the stool.
For this piece, I’d like to shine a bright light on the the worser of these two giants: Mr. Gasol. His “performance” was lackadaisical and confusing. At no time throughout the game did he assert himself in consecutive trips down the floor, and 12 of his 29 minutes came without Bynum by his side—that’s one quarter of the game where Gasol could’ve asserted himself with some sort of presence. Instead he had a lesser impact than Timofey Mozgov. Read more…
Gerald Wallace vs. Cleveland. New Jersey lost 105-100. Wallace’s statistics: 40 minutes, 27 points (on 8-14 shooting from the field, 10-11 from the free-throw line), 12 rebounds, 1 block.
It’s so difficult to place an accurate value on Gerald Wallace. Some nights he’s a furious ball of energy whose borderline dangerous hustle produces really great numbers. Other times, his borderline dangerous hustle doesn’t get it done. From a night to night basis, the defense is there along with the aggressive passion, but in the long term, the very way he plays the game will probably chew away at his enjoying of a long, productive career. Wallace turns 30 this July. Since 2009, his scoring and rebounding numbers have gone down on a per-36 minute rate. He’s never developed a three-point shot, and once his quickness melts to a puddle of methodic movement, there won’t be all that many ways a team can use him on the offensive end for 30-plus minutes on a consistent basis.
When New Jersey included a top-three protected first round draft pick in their deal to acquire Wallace from the Blazers, most analysts weren’t quite sure what they were thinking. Why would a team that should be focused on its rebuilding process grab an aging small forward whose best days are clearly behind him? Then there was talk that the deal was a smoke signal directed at Dwight Howard, letting him know they were serious about surrounding him with a more-than-capable third wheel should he choose to join the team next year in Brooklyn. (And hey, if Deron indeed decides to sign with Dallas, the Nets can always flip Wallace and his expiring contract for a first round draft pick and another young player should they so please.) Things looked really, really bad. But here’s the biggest reason New Jersey may be laughing last: The underlying toughness and determination that are associated with his game infects those around him; his energy is contagious, especially around the young and easily influenced who might be on a team in the middle of a renovation.
How do you put a price on that? The Nets did, and most, including myself, thought it was too much. But even if they did overpay, players who neither tire nor take plays off—and indirectly affect others by their own shear will—are unquantifiable at the end of the day. Read more…
No player best represents the flawed personality of an egotistical nut job quite like Kobe Bryant. For all the aesthetically pleasing movements that leave us breathless, there are three post game quotes that have us shaking our collective heads. Everyone believes at some point or another that the world revolves around them—that the obvious explanation for why the sky is gray is their own temporary sadness—but nobody comes close to relentlessly proving it as truth like Kobe. His quotes after this game were typical in that they assaulted common sense, and the astounding usage rate number here shows that.
”The shots he took, I’d give it to him again. I don’t know how many shots he missed near the rim – I mean, point-blank shots.” —Lakers Head Coach Mike Brown
Here are some indisputable numbers that contradict Brown’s public attempt at appeasement: 13 of Kobe’s shots were taken at least 10 feet from the basket, and two went in. Kobe went 1-7 from nine feet and in. He only attempted three shots at the rim and missed them all. Meanwhile Andrew Bynum, aka the Lakers most dominant player, missed just two shots, scored 33 points, and had a lower usage rate than Bryant. Something doesn’t fit with Brown’s assessment.
Kobe Bryant vs. Utah. Lakers lost 103-99. Kobe’s statistics: 37 minutes, 15 points (on 3-20 shooting), 38.2% usage rate, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 7 turnovers.
I ask the following question with no disrespect and in the nicest possible way: Seriously, what is Greg Stiemsma? His inhabitance in the NBA is based on two things, size and desperate need for size. The fact that last night, in one of the most lopsided, dominant games played this season, Stiemsma posted a +/- of +1, playing more minutes than any Celtic except for Brandon Bass, is beyond weird, and only begins to devalue the logic of a traditional box score and what it can tell us about a player’s impact. I would feel legitimate guilt if I didn’t say Stiemsma was more than positive in influencing Boston’s merciless obliteration of Nate McMillan’s tenure. He swatted shots. He offered himself up as a threat in spacing the floor. He was an undeniable presence.