Phoenix Suns v New York Knicks

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: 76ers sat Jahlil Okafor because they were close to Trail Blazers trade

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 26: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers controls the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Wells Fargo Center on October 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. The Thunder defeated the 76ers 103-97. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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The 76ers sat Jahlil Okafor for two games last week, openly acknowledging they were discussing trading him. Then, they played him in their final game before the All-Star break.

That prompted speculation that no deal fell through, but that Philadelphia was bluffing being close in order to drum up interest.

But maybe there actually was a near-trade.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

On the surface, this makes sense. We know the Trail Blazers were interested in a cost-controlled center, because they traded for Jusuf Nurkic.

But that trade also makes Portland perfect cover if the 76ers are just trying to deflect from a gambit gone wrong. Not only were the Trail Blazers plausible trade partners, they already made their deal. So, there will be no questions about revisiting discussions.

Locker room drama? Player recruitment? Paul Millsap, does that go on All-Star weekend? “Rarely ever”

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 17:  Paul Millsap #4 of the Atlanta Hawks speaks with the media during media availability for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game at The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans on February 17, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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NEW ORLEANS — Russell Westbrook vs. Kevin Durant spreading tension throughout the locker room. Players trying to convince Carmelo Anthony he should agree to a trade to their city. Players coming up and trying to recruit free agents to be this summer like the Hawks’ Paul Millsap.

It’s how some fans picture it is inside All-Star weekend locker rooms, all sorts of palace intrigue playing out like a soap opera.

“Rarely ever,” Millsap said of these kinds of things coming up. “For us, we get away from regular season basketball. It’s not about our respective teams, it’s about what’s going on now. You may share some stories, but we’re not talking about (regular season drama).”

Fans can be deeply invested in what happens during the regular season — heck, Eric Gordon heard boos from frustrated Pelicans fans before he won the Three-Point Contest Saturday.

But for the players, it’s a vacation. A chance to get away from all that drama.

“No, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter at all,” Millsap said of the regular season minutia that can dominate the league. “Once you get down here we’re all teammates. That’s how guys treat it. To get here, we’re enemies, but while we’re here everybody’s teammates and are fun to have in the locker room. It’s just a good time.”

They’re more likely to talk about the parties around town.

“Some,” Millsap said with a laugh. “But it’s just more general conversation, almost nothing about the season.”

Most of the recruitment comes in the summer, and most via text. Some players don’t like each other, just like nearly everyone reading this has someone at their office/job they don’t like working with (except me, all my bosses should be canonized they are such good people). Come the office Christmas Party, people put that aside and just get along. Same thing All-Star weekend for the players. Everyone just gets along and tries to enjoy the experience.

When play starts up again next week, the drama can return.

Draymond Green: ‘Shaqtin A Fool’ treats JaVale McGee unfairly

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) is greeted by forward JaVale McGee in the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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NEW ORLEANS — JaVale McGee has fired off at Shaquille O’Neal about “Shaqtin A Fool,” TNT’s blooper segment. Now, the oft-mocked Warriors center has someone else sticking up for him.

“I think JaVale is unfairly treated on Shaqtin,” Golden State forward Draymond Green said. “This year has given me a little different outlook on it.

“I just think there’s some stuff that goes on there about JaVale that really shouldn’t be on there. But, because it’s JaVale…”

That is true. McGee goofs that wouldn’t register if they were by other players make Shaqtin. But McGee still produce plenty of worthy candidates.

And it’s not as if Green is completely turned off.

“I like the show,” Green said. “It’s funny as hell to me. But that aspect of it has kind of given me a little different view.”

PBT Extra: Despite Russell Westbrook’s triple-double pace, James Harden is MVP frontrunner

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The NBA’s MVP race is down to two men. Sure, you can make a case for Kawhi Leonard or LeBron James, some even want to throw Isaiah Thomas in the mix, but the best any of them is going to do is down the ballot in the final three slots.

The top two are reserved for James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

In this PBT Extra, I discuss that while Westbrook is on pace for a historic season — averaging a triple-double of 31.1 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 10.1 assists a game — it is Harden who is lifting his team to higher heights, and that very well could win the beard the award.