This season, every contender has shown a chink in their armor. We talked about the Spurs defense struggling lately. Miami and Los Angeles have had ugly losses to weak teams. Chicago is untested and unproven in the playoff cauldron.
And Boston’s defense may be a concern.
Ever since the Kendrick Perkins trade there was the question of if the Celtics defense would be the same. Zach Lowe at Sports Illustrated’s Point Forward broke out the numbers and found that overall the defense is pretty close to what it was pre-trade.
However, overall includes the outlier of the Bucks scoring just 56 points Sunday (and with their terrible offense it is an outlier). Lowe takes that game out of the equation and finds Boston has allowed 102.8 points per 100 possessions since the trade. That’s not bad (it would be about 10th in the league) but it is worse than Boston’s season average of 97.7 (using Hoopdata’s numbers).
What’s more concerning is why the defense is worse.
1) Opponents are hitting a much better percentage of inside shots. In those nine games, teams have made 123-of-193 at the rim (63.7 percent). For the season, Boston ranks second in this category at a shade worse than 60 percent. That 63.7 percent mark would rank about 17th overall…. Another small red flag: Those nine foes have assisted on 58.5 percent of their close baskets, a huge jump from an average assist rate on close shots of about 51 percent for Boston’s opponents this season. No team has allowed an interior assist rate as high as 58.5 percent over the full season.
2) Opponents are shooting about 37 percent from three-point range during those nine games, up from a season average just shy of 34 percent. A small change, but perhaps a notable one, given the close relationship between a team’s interior defense and its ability to protect the three-point line.
We must point out that nine games is a very small sample size, so we want to be careful about jumping to conclusions. There also are mitigating factors, for example Nenad Krstic is not a bad interior defender and is working hard to learn the Celtics system and fit in. Shaquille O’Neal will be back for the playoffs and he certainly is a big body that can alter shots and change things in the paint. Finally, they still have Kevin Garnett healthy and he is the heart of the defense.
It’s no time to panic. But it is something to watch as we head toward the playoffs. Because it is a chink in the armor.
DeMarcus Cousins had a bitter exit from the Kings, but that won’t be the last they see of him.
Cousins’ Pelicans will host Sacramento tomorrow night.
Not that Cousins rushed to talk about the matchup.
Justin Verrier of ESPN:
Cousins is pretty funny when joking with the media, and his smile is contagious. Just listen to all the laughs Cousins generates as he goes through his shtick.
Bonus points to Cousins for eventually breaking down and providing real answers. Some of his relationships in Sacramento were clearly meaningful to him, and he wanted to acknowledge those — even if he’d prefer just to get past this awkward game and all the talk it invites.
Lauri Markkanen is 7-foot and made 42% of his 3-pointers this season.
That combination alone will have NBA teams drooling, and the Arizona freshman will capitalize.
Evan Daniels of Scout:
Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.
Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.
Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.
Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.
There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.
But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.
Watch for Collin Sexton in the 2018 NBA draft.
In the meantime, the Alabama commit had all eyes — include Dwyane Wade‘s — on him with this pass in the McDonald’s All-American Game last night.
Carmelo Anthony scored just nine points on 12 shots in the Knicks loss to the Heat last night — well below his season averages of 22 points on 19 shots per game.
Anthony, via Ian Begley of ESPN:
“I see the writing on the wall. I see what it is,” Anthony said late Wednesday night. “I see what they’re trying to do, and it’s just me accepting that. That’s what puts me at peace. Just knowing and understanding how things work. I’m at peace with that.”
Is Anthony talking about just the Knicks’ final dozen games of this season, when they’re clearly interesting in testing less-proven players? Or is he referring to his entire tenure in New York?
Anthony has said he’d consider waiving his no-trade clause if the Knicks want to rebuild, and they’ll reportedly try again to trade him this offseason. Perhaps, this is Anthony indicating he’s warming up to the idea of allowing a trade.
Anthony’s and Kristaps Porzingis‘ timelines are barely compatible, if at all. It’d make sense for the Knicks to go in a different direction.
Could Anthony be at peace with that?