The numbers tell the story: In the first three games of the series the Magic ran 33 pick-and-roll plays. In Game 4 they ran 43. And won.(via Eddy Rivera)
And these weren’t just your standard screens. They were staggered double screens, with Rashard Lewis setting a first screen before Jameer Nelson came off that one and got to Dwight Howard setting a second one. It worked. According to MySynergySports the Magic got 10 of their 33 baskets directly off the pick-and-roll, but when you notice the most of the 9 spot-up shots they made came off the pick-and-roll.
Nelson came off those screens and was able to penetrate, often getting back behind the basket where he could kick out to shooters or even find Howard or other bigs. Celtics bigs had to help on Nelson, freeing up Howard and others to grab offensive rebounds and get easy putbacks. Finally the Magic were able to do to Boston what they did to every other team in the league.
But can they do it again? If the Magic are to send this series back to Boston, they are going to have to keep running the pick-and-roll. A lot. Everybody knows it.
The question is, what does Doc Rivers — and really Tom Thibodeau — come up with?
Rivers said at shoot around he wants more ball pressure, look for the Celtics to do what they do — be physical on defense. As much as the referees will let them. Rivers said he wanted his defenders to “put their body” into the Magic ball handlers.
He’s talking specifically to Rajon Rondo. This is going to come down to how Rondo fighting through the picks and not letting Nelson have is way. The Magic will be playing with a renewed confidence and energy, but you can bet the Celtics will not play as poorly as they did last game. This is a veteran team that has responded better on the road all season.
But in the end, it will all be about the pick-and-roll.
DeAndre Jordan tied his personal best with 12 made free throws Monday night against the Trail Blazers.
But that’s not what anybody is talking about with Jordan’s trips to the free throw line Tuesday.
So you don’t have to do the math yourself, Jordan hit just 35.3 percent of his free throws. When the Clippers pulled away with a mini-run in the fourth quarter, Blazers coach Terry Stotts responded with hack-a-Jordan, and Doc Rivers refused to take him out. The result was nine intentional fouls and trips to the free throw line in less than two minutes.
It was ugly to watch.
The purist’s answer here is “if he hits his free throws this never happens, so learn to shoot them.” That’s the camp Adam Silver is in, and it’s his voice (and that of the other owners) that matters. There is no appetite around the league to change the rule, even though more and more players are being subjected to it.
I would argue that fouling intentionally off the ball in the first place is outside the spirit of the game — it’s not playing basketball — and unsportsmanlike. I think it’s bad for the sport, much worse than missed free throws and a dragged out game. I would like to see any time there is an off-the-ball foul the aggrieved team having a choice of free throws or the ball out-of-bounds.
But I’m in the minority. The rule isn’t changing soon. Which means Jordan — or Dwight Howard or Rajon Rondo or someone — is going to get the chance to set a new free throw futility mark soon. That will be fun to watch.
While it does happen — and the ones that do happen tend to be bigger names — December is not a time the NBA does a lot of trades. Team GMs are always willing to talk, listen, and get a feel for the market, but it’s not until after the first of the year — and closer to the February trade deadline — before the market picks up momentum.
But there are always trade rumors, and the well-connected Steve Kyler over at BasketballInisiders.com had an interesting one — the Houston Rockets might be open to moving Ty Lawson.
The Rockets have been sniffing around the league for deals and there is a belief among other teams that Lawson could be had in trade, and had cheaply. Lawson is owed $12.4 million this season with the final $13.21 million of his deal being fully non-guaranteed.
As the Rockets search for ways to change, there is a belief that Lawson could be the first Rocket player moved. But given how poorly Lawson has played in Houston and his troublesome off-the-court history, it’s hard to imagine that Lawson alone is going to yield much in return. But as teams start to get desperate, Lawson does have a career assist average of more than 6.5 assists per game and averaged 9.6 per game last season for the Nuggets.
The Rockets are 10.4 points per 100 possessions better this season when Lawson is on the bench rather than starting. Lawson and James Harden — both of whom need the ball in their hands to be most effective — get outscored by 9.3 points per 100 possession when they are paired. Pair Lawson with Dwight Howard and the Rockets are -11.4 per 100.
The Rockets clearly need to shake things up, and firing coach Kevin McHale and bringing in J.B. Bickerstaff has not been the answer. They have serious effort issues, which leads to real locker room chemistry questions. If they move Lawson, with that salary they should get a player of some value in return. If a good team loses a point guard to injury, Lawson could be a viable alternative.
Moving Lawson would be no magic bullet for Houston right now, but don’t be shocked if you hear a lot Lawson rumors as the trade deadline nears.
It was the matchup everyone wanted to see — LeBron James and the Cavaliers against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in the NBA Finals. You can be sure the suits at ESPN/ABC wanted to see it.
Never happened. It felt like it would in 2009, but LeBron and the Cavs ran into a Magic team they could not defend and fell short. Kobe vs. LeBron never happened on the NBA’s biggest stage.
LeBron blames himself he said Tuesday, as reported by the Akron Beacon Journal.
“I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain,” James said of 2009, when the Cavs were upset by the Orlando Magic in the conference finals. “I know the world wanted to see it. I wanted it, he wanted it. He held up his end, I didn’t hold up my end and I hate that. I hate that it didn’t happen.”
LeBron was phenomenal in that series, but this was a team he could not carry all the way. In Game 1 he had 49 points on 20-of-30 shooting, plus dished out eight assists, and pulled down six rebounds — and the Cavaliers still lost. LeBron had a 59.1 true shooting percentage for the series despite a ridiculous 38 usage rate. The problem was his teammates had no answers for Stan Van Gundy’s offense with Dwight Howard in the paint and four shooters around him, plus Hedo Turkoglu playing the best ball of his career off the pick-and-roll.
Bottom line, LeBron you shouldn’t blame yourself. I’d say blame Cavaliers management, but clearly you did a summer later when you took your talent to South Beach. At least you ultimately learned to forgive.
Of course he would have — 29 other GMs would have as well.
Jackson also seriously would have considered trading the No. 4 pick if the right package of picks — including Brooklyn’s unprotected pick from this season — were part of the package. Again, that’s not a surprise or even a poor decision.
But in New York, which has fallen in love with the guy they used that No. 4 pick on in Kristaps Porzingis, that idea has become news, especially in the wake of No. 3 pick Jahlil Okafor‘s recent run of off-the-court issues. Here is the report, via the New York Post.
According to an NBA source, as much as Jackson’s top adviser, Clarence Gaines Jr., wanted Jackson to take Porzingis even if the Knicks had the No. 1 pick, that wasn’t the way the Zen Master would have gone if it was a choice between the two big men.
Okafor was Jackson’s man.
“He had to draft Okafor — too much a sure thing,’’ the source said.
Again, 29 other GMs would have done the same thing at that time. Now, maybe it changes, but at the time anyone who tells you differently is selling something.
It’s not that some of those GMs (and certainly some of their scouts) didn’t think Porzingis could develop into an excellent NBA player, but he was considered a higher risk pick than Okafor, who is averaging 17.5 points a game for the Sixers and looks like a franchise cornerstone player. Maybe Porzingis had a higher ceiling, but Okafor had a way higher floor. If your job is on the line with a draft pick, you think about the floor.
Has Okafor had some incidents off the court? Obviously. He’s a 19-year-old making decisions that put in situations where bad things happen. That’s correctable. We all made stupid decisions when we were 19, just most of us grew out of them. (Well, if you ask my wife whether I did or not…) He likely will to, his handlers are already making significant steps.
Zach Lowe at Grantland said that the Knicks did consider trading the pick, but the deal never came close to fruition.
The Celtics were hell-bent on moving up to draft Justise Winslow, and offered the Hornets four first-round picks — including one of Brooklyn’s unprotected picks — for Charlotte’s No. 9 pick. But that was Boston’s fall-back plan, sources say. Boston initially chased Charlotte’s pick with the idea of sending it to the Knicks, along with Boston’s No. 15 pick, to vault all the way into New York’s draft slot — where they would take Winslow. Charlotte refused Boston’s pitches, and the scenario died. The Knicks downplay their interest in Boston’s offer, though it’s fascinating to consider how the draft might have played out — and which fan base would be chanting “POR-ZIN-GIS!” today — had the Celtics swooped in for Winslow at No. 4
“We listened,” Mills says. “But we were never close.”
Now, looking back at it, Knicks fans wouldn’t trade any of it.