Suns’ turnovers, Knicks’ offensive rebounds earn New York win

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In the seminal NBA advanced stats book “Basketball on Paper,” Dean Oliver identifies his four factors in winning a basketball game. At the top of the list is the most obvious thing — shooting. It represents 40 percent of the outcome, Oliver said.

The Suns shot better than the Knicks in a Sunday matinee at Madison Square Garden — the Suns shot 48.8 percent to the Knicks 44.4 percent. To be more accurate, use eFG% (which gives you a bonus for made threes, just like the shot does) and you find the Suns were at 53.7 percent to the Knicks 51.1 percent.

But shooting alone is not going to win you a game. The second and third things on Oliver’s list are turnovers (25% of the outcome) and rebounding, specifically getting offensive rebounds (20%).

Those areas are what propelled the Knicks over the Suns 106-99.

The Suns had 17 turnovers to the Knicks 7 — the Suns turned the ball over without a shot on 18 percent of their possessions (the Knicks it was 8.7 percent). New York also may not have shot as well but they grabbed the offensive rebound on 32 percent of their misses and got another look at it.

Those factors made it a comfortable win for the Knicks. Well, until the final quarter when the Knicks coasted, the Suns played a little more desperate and it got closer than it should have. But this game never felt in doubt from the opening minutes.

The Suns were the Suns to start this game — eight first quarter turnovers, a technical foul for Michael Beasley who threw his headband into the crowd in frustration after a turnover, and the Knicks went on a 17-2 run and the Suns were down 11 early.

But when Carmelo Anthony went out with a second foul (offensive, for using his arm to hook a guy in the post, something he does a lot but usually gets away with it) the Suns came back on a 14-3 run. The Knicks bench looked like the noon start was far too early for their old bodies. It was a four point game after one quarter.

The first quarter also had the best highlight of the game. And of course it involved Rasheed Wallace.

Wallace picked a technical foul for some extra contact on Luis Scola after the whistle on a foul. It was a classic Sheed technical, not the “kinder, gentler” Sheed we were promised this year, and of course Wallace thought it was a bad call because he thinks every foul called on him in the last decade was a bad call. When Goran Dragic missed the technical foul, Sheed yelled his classic line “ball don’t lie.” And the ref gave him a quick and petty second tech for that. Still classic Wallace, not knowing or caring where the line is.

With Wallace showering in time to catch the 1 p.m. NFL games, and Marcus Camby out injured, it meant more run for rookie Chris Copeland and he looked good — 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He puts the ball on the floor well and used that to drive on the Suns players — like Carmelo, Copeland is more effective for the Knicks when they use him as the four and he has mismatches he can exploit with his handles.

New York took control of the game the second quarter, with Carmelo not really being efficient but getting the job done on the block (17 first half points on 6-of-15 shooting). ‘Melo finished with 34 points on 11-of-27 shooting for the game.

As laid out before, the Suns dozen first half turnovers and the Knicks getting the offensive rebound on 36 percent of their missed shots was the key to the Knicks taking control. New York was up 17 at the break.

The Knicks stayed in control and this game should have been done there. Marcin Gortat was efficient — 18 points on 11 shots — but he’s not a guy who can take over a game. Shannon Brown did what he has done all season — gun without a conscious. He had 17 points but was 6-of-16 shooting.

The Knicks relaxed in the fourth and Suns tried to make it interesting —they got the lead down to 4 in the final minute, but the game never felt in doubt. Mostly because Raymond Felton took charge and after a not great shooting game to hit some big shots. He finished with 23.

For the Knicks, it was a professional win — the better team, the one that fancies itself a contender, taking care of business. Would have been nice to get a blowout and rest the stars some at the end, but still a pretty easy Sunday in New York.

Report: Manute Bol’s birthday was made up, may have played in NBA at age 50

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Former NBA center Manute Bol was a sight to behold when he came to the United States for college. At 7-foot-7 and just 200 pounds, his slight frame was always shocking to the eye.

Bol passed away in 2010, but stories about the Sudanese big man have been top of mind lately as his son, Bol Bol, recently committed to play basketball at the University of Oregon.

A recent story has surfaced about the elder Bol and the purported age at which he entered the NBA and played.

According to former Cleveland State coach Kevin Mackey, he was the one who decided Bol’s birthday was October 16, 1962. This was apparently because it wasn’t clear just how old Bol was at the time.

Via Zagsblog:

“I gave him his birthday because they didn’t know how old he was,” Mackey, now a scout with the Indiana Pacers, told ZAGSBLOG.

But Mackey says Bol was probably much older and could have been in his 40s or even 50s when he played in the NBA. According to Wikipedia, Manute played in the NBA from his early 20s until his early 30s for various teams, including the Washington Bullets, Golden State Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers.

“The immigration people were in the office [at Cleveland State] and they thought it was great. They loved it. And they were big fans of Cleveland State, they used to come to all our games. They wanted to cover themselves because Manute was starting to get so much publicity. His picture was in the paper. He was on the 6 o’clock news because he was a such a different looking guy than everyone else. At that time, no one had ever seen anything like it.”
So at that point, Mackey worked with the local immigration office to come up with a birthday for Bol, Oct. 16, 1962
“It was in October, I wanted to make it after Sept. 1,” Mackey said. “I wanted to make sure he was young enough because he didn’t have an age. I think he was [in his 40s], I really do. But there’s no way of ever really knowing.”

Bol didn’t end up playing at Cleveland State, reportedly because his English was not good enough. He wound up playing at the University of Bridgeport before getting drafted by the Washington Bullets with the 31st pick in the 1985 NBA Draft.

Mackey is now a scout with the Indiana Pacers, and he is so far the only person telling this story. If it is true, it would have been an incredible feat for Bol to play in the NBA into his 40s.

Patrick Beverley after Clippers’ 9th-straight loss: “This ain’t how I roll”

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The Los Angeles Clippers are bad. The team has lost nine straight games since beating the Dallas Mavericks on Nov. 1.

LA has looked discombobulated, and even their stars have struggled. Over the past 10 games, for example, Blake Griffin is shooting an unthinkable 38.2 percent from the field. Griffin’s shooting percentage now sits 10 points below his career average.

So too have guys like DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers struggled, either in scoring the basketball or in effecting resistance on the defensive end. The Clippers are ranked just 21st on defense according to Basketball Reference, a dip from 12th the year before.

Oh, and Danilo Gallinari is hurt, but you probably already saw that coming.

Meanwhile, Chris Paul‘s replacement at PG is Patrick Beverley, an equally tenacious defender and motivator of playoff squads. After Monday’s loss to the New York Knicks, Beverley spoke to reporters about the team needing to play harder and mature faster.

Via the LA Times:

“This … feels like 100 losses,” Beverley said. “Straight up. This … is weak. This ain’t how I roll. That ain’t OK and I won’t allow it to be OK as long as I’m here. That’s a fact.”

“We just got to play harder. That’s it. We just got to play harder. You get rid of the mistakes by playing hard. We’re not playing hard; the first unit, not the whole team. I challenged the first unit to play harder.”

“We too cool. We too cool. We come in this game, we come on the court like people are supposed to back down because of the name on the back of our jerseys and that’s not the case. The only thing people are looking at is the name on the front of our jersey, and that’s nine losses in a row.”

Beverley is an intense dude, but the Clippers issues are systemic and aren’t likely to right themselves. Remember, this is a Western Conference where the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, and Memphis Grizzlies have all had injuries. Portland has floundered out of the gate. If there was a time to strike, it would be now for LA.

Instead, the Clippers are one of the teams that are struggling along with the rest of the aforementioned teams. I’m not sure what Beverley will be able to do about that.

Steven Adams says Thunder late-game struggles on him, not Westbrook/George/Anthony

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In the first half of games this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder have the best defense in the NBA, allowing just 91.7 points per 100 possessions. In those first 24 minutes, the Thunder are outscoring teams by 12.7 points per 100 possessions, second best in the NBA (Houston is first).

However, in the fourth quarter, the Thunder defense is 18.1 points per 100 possessions worse. Their offense stagnates late in games with a lot of “you take a turn and then it’s my turn” isolation between Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony.

The Thunder have nine losses this season, and OKC lost double-digit leads in six of those. Monday night it was a 19-point lead against New Orleans where the Pelicans — without DeMarcus Cousins — came back to win 114-107.

There’s a lot of blame and finger-pointing going on in Oklahoma City, but Steven Adams said less of that should be at the three stars and more of it should be at him. Via Royce Young at ESPN:

“Mainly me, to be honest (should be blamed). Because the play itself you have to execute it properly and it has to be legit down to the t. I screwed up my feet on a couple of them in terms of spacing. … Everyone plays a part in the plight so you can say yeah the shot doesn’t go in which sucks. But to get them that shot I didn’t help them.”

Adams can take on a little of the blame, but this is a team thing right now — everyone has earned some blame. Billy Donovan as coach, role players like Andre Roberson or Patrick Patterson who have not lived up to expectations this season, and yes Westbrook/George/Anthony have earned some blame, too. It’s a little bit of everything.

There’s also time for the Thunder to figure it out, but they are on the clock as this is a one-year experiment in Oklahoma City (no way they pay the whopping tax coming next season to keep all three stars and Adams, no matter what ownership says publicly).

C.J. McCollum: I told Evan Fournier during altercation ‘ you’re sweet and soft like those crepes you eat’

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C.J. McCollum blew kisses at Evan Fournier when they got into a confrontation during the Trail Blazers’ win over the Magic last week:

But apparently the incident was even better than that!

McCollum on The Flagrant Two podcast, as transcribed by Colin Ward-Henninger of CBSSports.com:

“I just felt like he disrespected me by putting his hands on me,” McCollum said. “Obviously, I’m not trying to get any fines or anything of that nature and I told him he was sweet. He’s French, and I said that, ‘you’re sweet and soft like those crepes you eat.’ “

Did McCollum actually say that in the moment, or did he come up with the line after the fact? I want the former to be true, so I choose to believe it.