Do you need a closer to win in NBA? George Karl says no.

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It looks great when Derrick Rose makes the sweet crossover and drains the jumper to win the game. Hero ball makes heroes when it works.

But the league’s best “closers” miss more of those shots than they make. As we start to get more and more information that look at situations and players we learn this — going isolation with one player at the end of a game is a very ineffective way to win. Even if you have a Rose or Kobe Bryant on your team, hero ball is not the way to go.

Henry Abbott explained it this way at TrueHoop: Who are the top three teams in the NBA in field goal percentage in the final three minutes when tied or down by 3 or less? Atlanta (67.2 percent), Memphis (62.5) and New Jersey (56.7 percent). Of those teams only New Jersey with Deron Williams has a true elite “closer” — and with the game on the line Wednesday night he passed to a wide-open Jordan Farmar.

Everyone talks about the big shots Steve Kerr and John Paxson hit with the Bulls — those came because the Michael Jordan didn’t shoot, he passed. Abbott adds to that thought.

Robert Horry, aka Big-Shot Rob, had the chance to win games in crunch time only because ball movement brought the shot to the open shooter: him. Horry, not surprisingly, calls isolation “bad basketball,” before adding that it’s something the best coaches simply don’t use: “People always want the lead dog to take the shot. People forget you’ve got to be pretty good to be in the NBA. Even though they don’t take a lot of shots, those other players are very capable of making those shots….”

Who else hates hero ball? Apparently, Bryant’s teammates. This season, when shooting out of crunch-time isos, Bryant has averaged roughly 0.5 ppp. If the Lakers offense worked that miserably for 48 minutes, the team would score fewer than 50 points a game. Still, Bryant easily leads the league in crunch-time iso attempts.

Conventional wisdom is that you need one of those closer to win at the end of games. People look at teams like the Pacers, 76ers and Nuggets and say “if they just had a closer at the end of games they could contend.”

Nuggets coach George Karl doesn’t buy it. Here is what he told 104.3 The Fan in Denver (via Sports Radio Interviews).

“How many closers are there in the league? Five? Seven? Eight? I mean, it’s just, you’ve got to understand that you can’t play like all these other guys that have stars. And my thing is, why do you want to play their game when they’re more talented, bigger, stronger and more experienced than you are? Why don’t we play a game that, right now, it wins in college and it wins in Europe? Everybody says it’s only won in Detroit … and it’s only won maybe four or five championships. But if you can’t have a great quarterback, why not try something else? I think we have a talented basketball team, that if we can figure out how to be the best team, we will beat many, many people. And I think we can win a championship.”

The bottom line is having personnel that can get good shots at the end of games. It doesn’t have to be Kevin Durant in isolation, it can be a set that ends up with a shooter wide open on the weak side. It may not be as easy on the coach as putting the ball in the hands of Derrick Rose and getting out of the way, but it can be more effective.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.

 

Paul Millsap says the expected, he will “most likely” opt out of contract

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This is ranked right next to “overeating can lead to weight gain” on the list of surprising things, but we will dutifully report it anyway:

Paul Millsap is going to opt out and officially become a free agent this summer.

Atlanta’s owner as well as Mike Budenholzer, the coach and head of basketball operations, have both said they plan to do whatever it takes to re-sign Millsap with the Hawks. Millsap didn’t sound like someone eager to leave after the Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs Friday.

“It’s been great. I’m looking to expand this and see where the franchise can go. These last four years has been great. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Even with both sides singing Kumbaya, keeping Millsap in Atlanta likely means a five-year contract at or near the max, which for a 32-year-old player means the Hawks would regret the last year or two of that deal.

Not that the Hawks have much of a choice here, they have to come in big and keep him. For one, they can’t afford to lose Al Horford and then Millsap for nothing in back-to-back years. If they were going down the rebuilding road, they needed to trade Millsap at the deadline (or last summer) to make sure they got something in return. Atlanta explored trade options at the deadline, but then pulled back (rumored to be because of an edict from ownership, which didn’t want to see the team blown up after the Kyle Korver trade).

By not making that trade the Hawks signaled their intention to remain a good team — a 43-win team this season that got them the five seed — with Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard, one that draws well at an arena that historically has not been that full, and see if they can add on. They strike me as a team that will win between 42-50 games a year and be middle of the pack in the East for the next few years, unless they can find a way to add an elite player (which is incredibly difficult).

But if the Hawks can’t re-sign Millsap, then the plan gets blown up. So expect them to come in with a big offer come July 1.