O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight just want the Bucks to get an identity already

9 Comments

The Milwaukee Bucks have not won a game in 2014.

Considering the 7-33 Bucks are the NBA’s worst team, who knows when they’ll break their nine-game losing streak? They’re capable of winning any game – though all seven of their wins have come against teams with losing records – but they’re not going to be favored any time soon.

To the surprise of nobody, Milwaukee’s veterans are beginning to express their displeasure. Winning cures all ills, but the Bucks have had no feel-good moments to ease the pain of their sick season.

Caron Butler wants more playing time, and O.J. Mayo and Brandon Knight want an identity.

Mayo, via Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel:

“You look around the league, you’ve got some teams that are defensive teams,” Mayo said. “You’ve got some teams like (Houston) and the Warriors that are offensive-minded, like Portland and Denver, they’re going to get up and down, spread the floor.

“You’ve got teams like Memphis, Chicago, physical, defensive-minded. Here we are at game 40, we don’t know what we are right now. It’s going to be hard to collect wins when you don’t know what to expect.”

Knight agreed with Mayo. Via Gardner:

“That’s a great point,” Knight said. “If you look at the Bucks, what are we known for? We know this team here (Houston) is known for their inside presence with Dwight and scoring a lot of points. And they’re going to shoot a lot of threes as well.

“So what is our identity? I think that’s something we have to define and we have to play to that identity if we’re going to be anywhere near the team we want to be.”

I’m sorry, but the Bucks have an identity.

They’re the worst offensive team in the NBA, scoring just 95.6 points per 100 possessions, according to NBA.com/stats.

They shoot poorly, don’t get to the free-throw line and turn the ball over too much. On the bright side, they’re only slightly below average at offensive rebounding. But all together, their offense distinguishes them from the rest of the NBA.

If their offensive rating holds – which isn’t a given, considering scoring typically rises during an NBA season – it would the worst in an 82-game season since 2003-04, when the Chicago Bulls (93.9) and Toronto Raptors (94.6) had lower marks.

Milwaukee also the worst defensive-rebounding team in the NBA (identity!), but that’s unlikely to reach a historically bad level.

The Bucks can’t simply choose to be a strong offensive team like the Rockets or Warriors, a strong running team like the Trail Blazers or Nuggets or a strong defensive team like the Bulls or Grizzlies.*

Those teams have the players to succeed in at least one facet of the game. The Bucks don’t.

*Memphis has struggled defensively overall this season but ranks sixth in points allowed per possession in the last month.

Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $40,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Monday’s late games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $6,000. Starts at 5pm ET on Monday. Here’s the FanDuel link.

In his assessment, Mayo also complained about getting irregular minutes. And perhaps Larry Drew should end the fluctuations – and sit Mayo. The Bucks have been drastically better when he’s off the court.

With Mayo:

  • Offensive rating: 92.1
  • Defensive rating: 107.7

Without Mayo:

  • Offensive rating: 100.1
  • Defensive rating: 102.5

That’s the difference between being the worst team in the league and just regularly bad.

Then again, doesn’t being the worst team in the league come with a stronger identity than being just regularly bad?

Mayo and Knight should be careful what they wish for. Instead of seeking an identity, they should help Milwaukee go from terrible to merely subpar in a few areas – and there are a lot of areas where Milwaukee is terrible to choose from.

Teams rarely choose their identity and then play to it. Typically, their identity is established based on the skillsets of their players. Milwaukee is better off with no identity than the identity it has now – bad defensive rebounding and even worse offense.

And good news for all: Even if the Mayo and Knight help the Bucks lose their identity, they’re already so far back in the standings, that meager improvement probably wouldn’t cost them the top seed in the lottery. Then, in June they can draft a player capable of helping the team form a positive identity.

Warriors post longest playoff home winning streak in NBA history

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Leave a comment

You remember the Warriors’ last home playoff loss.

Golden State hasn’t lost a playoff game in Oakland since signing Kevin Durant. The Warriors went 9-0 at home last year and are 7-0 at home this year. Their Game 3 win over the Rockets last night gave Golden State a record-breaking postseason home winning streak.

The Bulls (1990-91) previously held the record. The leaderboard:

image

Are the Warriors atypically good at home? The more accurate answer is they’re just atypically good.

They’re 10-4 on the road the last two postseasons, an incredible mark in its own right. Like most teams, they’re better at home.

That presents a tough challenge for Houston with Game 4 of the Western Conference finals Tuesday in Oakland.

Backed into must-win Game 4, here are three things Rockets must do to even series

Getty Im ages
Leave a comment

Three years ago, the Houston Rockets came back from 3-1 down in a playoff series to defeat a Los Angeles Clippers (and give that franchise a punch to the gut from which it has not recovered). It was one of the great Rockets’ moments of the last decade.

Houston is not going to be able to do that against these Golden State Warriors. Go down 3-1 after Game 4 Tuesday at Oracle and the series is all but over.

Which means after the Rockets’ blowout loss in Game 3 Sunday night, Houston finds itself in the same must-win spot it did after Game 1. And unlike Game 2, the Rockets will not get helped out by an arrogant Warriors team not playing at its peak — the Rockets are going to need a near perfect game to beat a full-force Warriors team on Tuesday.

Here are the three key areas the Rockets must improve to win Game 4:

1) Just shoot better — finish shots at the rim and hit some threes. It’s rather obvious and simplistic, but it’s the reality: Houston just has to shoot better in Game 4.

The Rockets took a full one-third of their shots at the rim in the restricted area in Game 3, but they struggled with those making just 13-of-27 (48.1 percent). The Rockets took 42 percent of their shot attempts from three but hit just 11-of-34, and they were 7-of-25 on above the break threes. That’s not good enough, the Rockets are going to need at least 15 made threes in a game to win.

“Those are double whammies,” Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni said of the missed shots at the rim. “It’s like we missed layups first half especially and they go down and score. So in transition, you’ve got to keep them out of transition, you’ve got to make layups. We didn’t do that. When they did miss, we didn’t box out all the time, and then we turned it over 20 times. It’s a formula for losing, and for us to correct that, we can’t turn it over. Got to make layups for shots, and get back.”

To be fair, the Warriors contested shooters well all game, especially guys driving the basket, but still, the Rockets need to knock down more of their shots contested or not. It’s the most basic premise of basketball.

2) Houston has to play faster. D’Antoni said it above, the Rockets and their missed shots let the Warriors get out in transition and control the pace. It’s also a simple fact that the team that controls the pace — the team that gets transition opportunities and gets into its offense earlier in the shot clock — will win the games.

Golden State had 26 transition opportunities to 12 for the Rockets, according to the Synergy Sports stats breakdown.

Or, look at it this way (via Cleaning the Glass), in Game 3, Houston started just10.4 percent of their possessions in transition (and scored a dreadful 0.89 points per possession on those plays). For comparison, in their Game 2 win, the Rockets started 18.7 percent of their possessions in transition. On Sunday night in Game 3 Warriors started 19.8 percent of their plays in transition, nearly one in five trips down the court, and they scored 1.44 points per possession on those plays.

The Rockets need to make more shots and then, even when they miss, get back in transition and not let the Warriors get rolling early in the clock. Houston also needs to defend better and force more Warriors misses, which will allow them to run. It’s all tied together, the Warriors were making shots so the Rockets were taking the ball out of the basket and coming up against set defenses; the Rockets were missing shots that let the Warriors come up fast and forcing the Rockets to scramble on defense (Golden State tears apart teams in those situations). It’s a holistic thing, but the evidence it’s working is which team controls the pace, and the Rockets need to do that in Game 4.

3) Houston needs more out of Chris Paul. It’s easy to point to the Stephen Curry eruption in the third quarter as the time the Warriors ended the game, and there is truth to that. Golden State started the third on a 10-0 run (where Curry had five of those points) and the fire was lit, then Curry started hitting 30-foot threes and quickly the game was out of reach. Those Warriors runs are crushers.

However, to me the turning point in the game was when James Harden went to the bench for his usual rest with 2:46 left in the first quarter — the Warriors outscored the Rockets by nine before the quarter was up (part of an 11-0 run to end the quarter). By the time Harden returned with 9:16 left in the second quarter, the Rockets were down 10, a hole they never could get out of (they were down 11 at the half).

CP3 has to be better in that stretch. The Warriors threw bigger, switchable guards at him on defense — Shaun Livingston, Nick Young, and then Andre Iguodala — and Paul couldn’t get separation and make plays against them. Without Harden, the Rockets offense stalled out, and doing that led to the Warriors getting to push the pace and get their transition buckets. Paul looked slowed at points, reaching on defense and not as explosive as we’ve seen.

This isn’t the Utah Jazz. Harden was off in Game 5 against Utah, but Paul picked up the slack (his 41-point, 10 assist game) and Houston got the win. Against Golden State, both Paul and Harden must have good games for Houston to have a chance. The Warriors are too good, too deep, there is no margin for error anymore.

The Rockets have an elite game in them — we saw the blueprint of what they have to do in Game 2. Houston can do that again. The only question is can they do it in the face of Golden State’s pressure, because the sharks on the Warriors smell blood in the water and will be coming hard in Game 4.

Shaun Livingston crossed James Harden so hard it made Greg Anthony mispronounce “meme” (VIDEO)

shaun livingson
Getty
1 Comment

The Golden State Warriors embarrassed the Houston Rockets on Sunday night. Stephen Curry scored 35 points, didn’t miss a shot in the third quarter, and helped the Warriors win Game 3 and take a 2-1 series lead by a margin of 41 points.

Not too shabby.

But it wasn’t just Curry who turned the Rockets into shrinking violets. Shaun Livingston, who added 11 points off the bench while shooting 4-of-4, took his turn putting Houston to task.

During one play, Livingston crossed up James Harden on his way to a wide-open dunk. Livingston’s crafty dribble moves also shook commentator Greg Anthony’s brain up a little bit, so much so that Anthony forgot how to say the word “meme”.

Via Twitter:

Even during a 41-point decimation the NBA is still the funniest league on the planet.

Report: Kings, Hawks could pass on Luka Doncic if Suns don’t take him No. 1

AP
5 Comments

Luka Doncic or Deandre Ayton?

That’s the question many NBA fans are asking themselves, but according to one report it’s not the only thing several teams in the Top 3 of the 2018 NBA Draft are thinking about.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony says that while the Phoenix Suns may still be considering taking Doncic with their No. 1 overall pick, the Sacramento Kings (2) and Atlanta Hawks (3) are not.

The Kings and Hawks are reportedly leaning toward taking an American frontcourt player, which would point us toward guys like Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson, and Mo Bamba.

Via ESPN:

The growing consensus among NBA decision-makers in attendance at Stark Arena in Belgrade is that the teams drafting behind the Phoenix Suns at No. 1, the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks are likely to pass on European prodigy in favor of American frontcourt players. The question remains whether a team will trade up into the top three to snag Doncic, or if he will fall to the No. 4 (Memphis) or even the No. 5 pick (Dallas) after being heavily scouted in the Euroleague playoffs against Panathinaikos and mostly struggling.

The information we’re missing is whether the Kings and Hawks are turned off by Doncic specifically. Is it because they haven’t scouted him as much as the other guys? Is it because of perceived team need? Do they think Doncic has peaked already? Are they worried about less information being available from a Euro prospect? All are possible.

With all the hype around Doncic, it would be shocking to see him fall out of the Top 3. It’s happened before, but both Ayton and Doncic are the guys atop this draft that people are licking their chops to get.

Could we see a team trade up to get Doncic from the Hawks or Kings if Phoenix goes elsewhere? Is this just false information funneled to the media as a means of depressing the market for Doncic or for ferreting out a big trade offer?

The conference finals aren’t even over yet and here we are talking about the incessant drama of the NBA offseason. I love this league.