Kurt Helin

Mike Budenholzer

Mike Budenholzer back with Hawks after 1-game absence

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ATLANTA (AP) Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer was back with the team Sunday night after missing one game because of his wife’s undisclosed medical emergency.

Budenholzer is not publicly discussing Mary Beth Budenholzer’s health status.

“The support from the players and the staff and everybody has been great,” he said before Atlanta played Utah. “I’m just appreciative of that.”

Budenholzer returned home from Boston on Friday morning. Assistant Kenny Atkinson coached in Budenholzer’s absence that night and the Hawks lost to the Celtics.

Budenholzer was last season’s NBA coach of the year. The Hawks won 60 games, second best in the NBA, and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time.

Paul George: “I’m not a fan of analytics”

Paul George, Andrew Wiggins

The best way to view the NBA analytics movement’s feelings about the midrange jumper is to compare it to the baseball analytic movement’s feeling about the stolen base attempt — unless you’re really good at it, the risk is not worth the reward. But if you are good at it, it’s a valuable weapon. See Chris Paul, for example. The discussion is more nuanced, but that is the broad strokes of it.

Paul George takes a lot of midrange jumpers (as do the Pacers as a whole), and he is no fan of being told what a bad shot that is. Check out his quotes on analytics, via Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star.

“I’m not a fan of analytics,” said George, who takes 4.9 shots per game from 15-19 feet, second only to Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin for most in the NBA.

“The greatest player to ever play this game was a midrange jump shooter in Michael Jordan,” George continued. “At that time no one had nothing to say. It’s about what’s best for that player and what’s the skill set of that player. We have a lot of guys who are more than capable at shooting well from the midrange. So I don’t know what to say about analytics. It works for some systems. I’m not a believer of analytics. That’s just how it is.”

Jordan played in a different era with different hand-checking/zone defense rules, which makes it difficult to compare directly across eras — the rise of teams that love the three ball is more about those factors than pure analytics. However, the idea from the first paragraph still applies — Jordan was good from the midrange, so for him that was a reasonable shot.

Here’s the real question — is the midrange jumper one that works for the Pacers? Here is their team shot chart for this season.

Pacers shot chart

The answer to whether a midrange shot is a good one varies from shooter-to-shooter, and includes questions such as how open said shooter is, and if they are in one of their comfort zones on the floor. Look at Paul George from the midrange this season, if he’s on the left side below the free throw line, that looks like a pretty good shot.

Paul George shot chart

Basketball is too fluid a game to suggest all midrange shots are bad, or even that all such shots are created equal. But in the end, if you can get more of your shots at the rim or have them taken by guys with legit three-point range, you’re better off than not.

Five Takeaways from NBA Sunday: Celtics are locking teams down

Marcus Smart, Russell Westbrook

The NBA season is starting to develop a rhythm, and while it’s too early to try to draw much out of the statistics (we need to get to 20 games before we draw any serious conclusions) some patterns are emerging, such as the Boston defense. We’ll talk about a couple of those in our five things you need to know from around the NBA on Sunday:

1) Boston is locking teams down. Last season, Boston was an okay defensive team, 12th in the league, and that was enough to get them into the postseason. This season coach Brad Stevens has the Celtics locking teams down early — they are fourth in the NBA in defense, allowing just 94.4 points per 100 possessions (that’s 7.4 per 100 better than last season). Two key areas are driving this. The first is turnovers — Boston is forcing turnovers on 19.4 percent of opponent possessions, the highest rate in the NBA. Sunday against Oklahoma City, Boston forced 18 turnovers and that was one of the keys to a quality win for the Celtics. Jae Crowder leads the NBA in steals (which is stunning). I’m not sold Boston can maintain this pace of turnovers, but they likely remain near the top of the league. The other area is simply forcing other teams to miss shots — opponents have an eFG% of 46.5 percent against the Celtics, fifth in the NBA. Maybe the best illustration of that Sunday was Marcus Smart going up against the powerhouse that is Russell Westbrook — while Westbrook had 27 points, he was 5-of-20 shooting (Smart had 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting). Maybe the highest compliment to Smart’s play was how Westbrook played it down postgame.

Holding Westbrook in relative check was not all Smart, it was a team effort, but that is what Boston has been doing all season and why they again look like a team headed toward the playoffs in the East.


2) Karl-Anthony Towns went head-to-head with Marc Gasol and held his own. The crazy thing — Towns turned 20 on Sunday. Even at that age Towns went head-to-head with one of the best centers in the game in the younger of the Gasol brothers and completely held his own — Towns had 14 points and nine rebounds. Sure, Gasol put up numbers (16 points, seven rebounds) and his wet midrange jumper in the second half was key to the Grizzlies win, but if you’re a Timberwolves fan you have to be excited with what you see. Towns has been the best rookie in the NBA so far this young season (he’s averaging 15.5 points and 10.2 boards a game).

3) Don’t sleep on Charlotte. The Hornets handled the Trail Blazers fairly easily at home on Sunday, and while it’s certainly early it looks like this is a team that will be in the mix to return to the playoffs this season. What they are doing is not beating themselves — they don’t turn the ball over, and they are focused on grabbing defensive boards (best rate in the NBA so far) so the opponent doesn’t get a second chance. Charlotte has the seventh best offense in the NBA this young season, Jeremy Lamb has played well of late (he’s looking like a guy who deserved that extension), Jeremy Lin has fit well as a sixth man (11.5 points a game, a PER of 18.3) and this is a team that is difficult to beat. If you are looking ahead on your team’s schedule and think “Charlotte, that’s an easy win” you will be in for a rude awakening. 

4) DeMarcus Cousins is beasting. Over his last three games, Cousins is averaging 36.3 points and 10.7 rebounds a game, while shooting 51.4 percent. He dropped 36 and 10 on Toronto and they had no answer — Cousins was central to a win the Kings needed before a five-game road trip opens.

5) Anthony vs. Anthony: Carmelo Anthony and Anthony Davis put on a show at MSG. It was a noon tip at Madison Square Garden Sunday — an early start in a city with great nightlife means a sloppy game (call it the J.R. Smith memorial issue). Despite that, Carmelo Anthony and Anthony Davis put on a show for the fans (and those fans left happy after seeing a Knicks win).

Kobe, Clarkson lead Lakers past Pistons 97-85 for 2nd win

Kobe Bryant
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant‘s entire 37-year-old body is aching for an ice bath and a day off just 10 games into his 20th NBA season.

Bryant still put in the extra effort necessary to make sure those 10 games weren’t the worst start to a season in Lakers history.

Bryant had 17 points, eight rebounds and nine assists to help Los Angeles beat the Detroit Pistons 97-85 Sunday night for its second win of the year.

Andre Drummond had 17 points and 17 rebounds for the Pistons, who finished a six-game West Coast trip with their fourth consecutive loss.

Bryant went 6 for 19 from the field during a season-high 37 minutes, but finished with a season-high in assists. He stayed in until the Lakers’ win was assured, even though it meant he won’t play in the Lakers’ game in Phoenix on Monday to rest.

“We’ve got to get this win here at home,” Bryant said. “(But) right now, I’m barely standing up. My back and my legs, it’s killing me. I go home, and I’m looking forward to that ice bath and the stretch, and a full day of recovery tomorrow. … I’m not looking forward to walking to the car. Seriously.”

Jordan Clarkson scored 17 points and Los Angeles snapped a four-game skid in its return from a long East Coast trip. The Lakers are only 2-8, but that’s one game better than last season’s Lakers, whose 1-9 start led to the worst record in the franchise’s history.

“We needed this one,” Clarkson said. “We really dug down defensively.”


Smart leads Celtics past Thunder 100-85

Marcus Smart, Serge Ibaka, Andre Roberson
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Marcus Smart scored a career-high 26 points to help the Boston Celtics beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-85 on Sunday night.

Isaiah Thomas scored 20 points, Avery Bradley had 14 and Jared Sullinger added eight points and 15 rebounds to help the Celtics win their third in four games. Boston shot 48 percent and outrebounded the Thunder 47-34.

Smart, who played college ball at nearby Oklahoma State, also guarded Russell Westbrook effectively. He was part of a collective effort that held the reigning scoring champion to 5-for-20 shooting. Westbrook still scored 27 points and carried a larger load with Kevin Durant out with a hamstring injury.

Serge Ibaka scored 16 points, and the Thunder had a season-low point total and their worst shooting performance.

Westbrook had posted triple-doubles in his previous two games but finished this one with just five assists and four rebounds.

Oklahoma City’s three-game win streak was snapped.

The Thunder led at halftime 52-45 behind 17 points from Westbrook. They pushed the lead to 11 early in the third quarter, but the Celtics rallied and trimmed their deficit to 74-72 by the end of the third quarter. Boston finally took the lead early in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Thomas. Back-to-back 3s by Thomas and Avery Bradley pushed Boston’s lead to nine, and a layup by Thomas bumped it to double digits for the first time. The Celtics never lost control from there.


Celtics: Smart got a technical with 1:47 left in the second quarter. … Brad Stevens coached at Butler before heading to the NBA to coach the Celtics and said he was impressed with Butler’s 144-71 win over The Citadel on Saturday night. … Boston made just 13 of 20 free throws. … F Kelly Olynyk fouled out with seven points.

Thunder: G Anthony Morrow got his second straight start in Durant’s place. He went scoreless in 14:56. … Kyle Singler had scored 18 points over his first eight games this season, but had eight Sunday. … There was a marriage proposal during Kiss Cam in the third quarter. … Westbrook and Dion Waiters were issued technicals in the second half.