Tag Archives: dwyane wade

The Headband, and Other Stories

I’m still trying to process the nirvana we all witnessed last night. For now, here are just a few thoughts. 

Tim Duncan, long-overdue for even a good game after an overall disappointing series, was superb in the first half, shooting 11-of-13, including a perfect 6-of-6 in the first quarter. He didn’t so much turn back the clock as he did perform his greatest hits: a bank shot just below the elbow, a turnaround hook, even an opportunistic dunk after Tony Parker sucked in three defenders at the rim. However, it was not to last. Bosh, the most frequent student of Duncan’s harsh tutelage, played terrific defense on Duncan in the second half, both fronting him and playing him extremely well in one-on-one situations.

When a star turns in such a performance in a loss, there’s a tendency to cry that the team wasted that player’s effort. Maybe, sometimes, that holds true, if that player was the only one on the team producing anything of substance. This was not the case here, as Kawhi Leonard, with his 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Tony Parker (also mostly ineffective after the first half, save for the last twenty or so seconds of the game), also put up valiant efforts. It’s a shame San Antonio couldn’t capitalize on one of Duncan’s finest finals performances, especially when the game seemed to be firmly in their grasp, but it’s a stretch to say it was a wasted effort.

The last minute or so of the game was one of the most exciting periods of basketball of the entire season. Threes abound, from LeBron’s second-chance, to Tony Parker’s prayer answered and Ray Allen’s we-should-have-expected-that-but-it-was-still-incredible shot.

Poor Kawhi Leonard.

Spoelstra opted to re-insert Dwyane Wade, despite the overwhelming success of the Wade-less lineup that instantly improved the spacing and was critical to the Heat’s comeback. And while Wade’s defense disrupted San Antonio’s offense, heading off cutters and denying passing lanes, his offense disrupted that of his own team. Spoelstra, in all likelihood, is well aware of Dwyane Wade’s on/off numbers. Obsessed with the minutiae and details, Spoelstra knows that, for the series, with LeBron and Wade on the court together, the Heat’s offensive and defensive rating  is 100.8 and 112.7. He likewise knows that with LeBron on the court and Wade off, the offensive rating shoots to 131.7 while the defensive rating plummets to 89.5. Yet that knowledge does not eradicate all emotions. We praised Popovich for having the necessary detachment to leave Duncan on the bench in a crucial moment against the Warriors, but I don’t think we fully understand just how tough it is to do that to not only a star, but a star whom a coach has grown with, just as Spoelstra has grown with Wade. The numbers may have said to leave Wade on the bench, and it was likely the best strategy. But numbers, for better or for worse, don’t always guide decisions.

This was the second game six in which LeBron dazzled and destroyed, each performance defined by a single word. In Boston, it was The Stare, the usually exuberant LeBron seemingly vacant of all emotion. Last night, it was The Headband, and by eschewing his signature accessory, James eschewed any and all final links to the LeBron of the past. No longer un-clutch. No longer unafraid. The headband was a prison, long ago adorned by James, for fear that neither he nor the rest of the world could handle his awesome power. But fear would not rule LeBron, not this day. OK, it probably had more to do with the fact that there was a really important game going on and he couldn’t care less about a piece of fabric.

Still, while the loss of his headband didn’t unlock some heretofore untapped power, that it almost perfectly coincided with the Heat’s miraculous comeback will certainly shape the legacy (sorry, Derek) of this game. This is not something to bemoan. So many of any sport’s iconic games or performances are fondly recalled by a word or a phrase: The Flu Game, The Hand of God, The Catch, The Bloody Sock, and now, The Headband.

This is what we wanted.

This is what we hoped and wished and begged and prayed and pleaded for: seven games of this magnificent match-up. And there could not have been a more perfect set-up to usher us in to Thursday night’s finale than last night’s instant masterpiece.

 

 

 

RTOE: Game 1 reactions!

Game 1 happened! It was awesome! Amin, Ian, Jack, Jared, and Jordan wanted to talk about it! RTOE ahoy!

1. In 10 words, what’d you think of the game last night?

Amin: It made watching bad teams for 82 games worth it.

Ian: Everything I wanted and more, filler, filler, filler, filler, ten!

Jack: These teams are fantastic and this series will be, too.

Jared: Tony Parker: good at basketball. The series is not over.

Jordan: Basketball gods, please give us six more games of that

2. Please describe, in as vivid detail as possible, your reaction to Tony Parker’s game-winning shot.

Amin: “HOLY [EXPLETIVE] HE MADE THAT????”

Ian: Dulled by red wine and the Eastern Standard Time Zone, it still merited a pretty significant snort of surprise.

Jack: I snorted.  Or chuckled.  Perhaps it’s best described as some combination of a scoff and laugh, actually.  What great defense when Miami absolutely needed it, and what an even greater shot when San Antonio had the chance to put the game away.  Still, I wasn’t surprised.  That’s the brilliance of Parker in a nutshell.

Jared:

Jordan: No. Instead, I shall give you my father’s reaction: *Dad jumps out of his chair* “WHOOOOOOOOOA”

3. LeBron had 18/18/10. Holy crap.

Amin: I don’t understand how someone can so understatedly dominate the way he did. Eighteen rebounds and ten assists? Great googily moogily.

Ian: It’s an impressive line, but watching him accumulate it wasn’t nearly as impressive as it would seem. The curse of being the best is the accompanying absurd expectations.

Jack: Ridiculous.  No disrespect to Parker or Duncan, but LeBron was far and away the best player on the floor last night.  And he shot 1-8 from outside the basket area! That’s as true a testament to his dominance as anything else, and one of the main reasons why this series is still a 50/50 bet.  Simply, he can be better going forward – it’s a make or miss league, remember? – and he will.

Jared: It’s ridiculous that we’re probably going to spend the better part of the next few days listening to garbage about whether or not he was too passive rather than talking about how he became one of only 7 players to put up those numbers in a playoff game, and the first since Tim Duncan in 2003 to do it in the Finals.

Jordan: BUT HE DIDN’T WIN TEH GAME BECUZ HE’S A CHOKER. Seriously, though, that’s just ridiculous

4. Dwyane Wade was alive last night. That was fun.

Amin: I especially appreciated Doris Burke asking him right before the half something along the lines of “so how much of your play so far has been shots falling vs. your body cooperating?” We’re at a weird place in our NBA-watching lives when reporters are rightfully allowed to ask players about their waning health and the players don’t even bat an eye because it’s true. But as has been the case throughout these playoffs, coulda used a bit more Wade.

Ian: I prefer the hobbled, limping version serving metaphorical penance for the tracks that were laid for him straight to the free throw line in the 2006 Finals. Ball Don’t Lie.

Jack: Wade was active and energetic offensively, but I’m not sure his solid individual numbers paint an accurate portrayal of his impact.  All too often he pounded the ball after receiving a high screen, getting the Heat out of rhythm and rendering LeBron spot-up bystander.  That won’t be good enough against the Spurs, as Wade’s team-worst plus/minus (-11) properly indicates.

Jared: Was he? 17 points on 15 shots, 2 rebounds, 2 assists. I didn’t really “feel” like he had a huge impact on the game, either.

Jordan: That was fun! And I’m sure LeBron appreciated the help. Now, Miami hopes Wade can keep that production up.

5. Duncan’s halftime buzzer-beater or Manu’s curveball bouncepass to Bonner: which made you feel more like you wanted to be a basketball player when you grow up?

Amin: While Ginobili’s pass was something I still can’t comprehend, Duncan’s shot was so nuts to me. There were 0.8 seconds left in the half, and he got the ball off the inbounds pass, created space, took the jumper, nailed it, never broke a sweat. It was the moment when I knew, for a fact, he was an automaton.

Ian: Curveball. Even Pedro Martinez thought it was ridiculous.

Jack: Curveball, but I was just as impressed by several seemingly more routine passes Manu made last night.  Miami’s aggressive pick-and-roll defensively strategy will give Ginobili ample opportunities to show off his passing flair.  What a joy to watch.

Jared: Manu’s bounce pass. That thing was inhuman.

Jordan: curveball curveball curveball curveball. Oh my god I needed a cigarette and a change of pan–too much? Too much.

6. After last night, the Big 3-era Heat have now lost four Game 1s in the playoffs. They have gone on to sweep the following 4 games. Do you see that happening in this series?

Amin: I have zero clue how to factor last night’s game as some sort of projection point. Certainly, the Spurs outplayed the Heat down the stretch. Part of that was due to Duncan checking in right as LeBron checked out. They made up for some lost ground there, and the Spurs never ceded it. Assuming Wade plays with the same level of energy through the whole series, and assuming that Kawhi Leonard will eventually make another corner three sometime before the world ends, the Spurs are not getting run over in 4 consecutive games.

Ian: No, and also no.

Jack: No way.  This series is going six games at least, and we should all hope for longer.  It might be a classic.

Jared: No. This is going 7.

Jordan: Absolutely not. This is going to be a long, terrific series.

When it falls down, who you gonna call now?

lucidtech | Flickr

Noam and Amin try to break down what’s going on with Miami, where Indiana’s future is taking them, and how teams can be successful over the long haul.

Noam: This Heat-Pacers series has been something of a basketball treat. All games have been competitive, excepting those in which Udonis Haslem goes 8 of 9 from the field (which, incredibly, amounts to more than one game). Paul George and Roy Hibbert have made themselves household names. Chris Andersen LITCHERALLY hasn’t missed a shot. And that LeBron guy is pretty good. Having seen these two squads matched up two years in a row, I would gladly sign up for another four or five.

You posit an interesting question on Twitter, though: could the Pacers possibly be considered as favorites in any future permutations of this series? Of Miami’s core, only LeBron, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole are on the right side of 30. More importantly, Dwyane Wade, supposedly among the younger-oldies at 31, has seen fluctuations between his prime self and a sadder, broken down version happen frequently and violently. On the other side, Indiana’s starting wings are 22 and 23, with latter doubling as a third-team All-NBA premier wing defender. Roy Hibbert is 26, George Hill is 27.

But Indiana, for all its up-and-coming appeal, does have a major age concern. That would be David West, 33 by the time 2013-14 will tip off. He had ACL surgery two years ago, and while he seems to have recovered admirably, he plays a very physical game. Indiana’s strength is in their five man unit, but if one declines sharply, are we sure that balance isn’t irrevocably disrupted? Could growth on the wings, as well as the incremental improvements Hill and Hibbert project to make as they hit their prime, be enough to offset West’s age?

Amin: First of all, I don’t want your Chris Traeger reference to go unacknowledged. Well done, sir.

Second of all, yes my question is interesting. That’s sort of what I was alluding to. Indiana’s core–aside from West–is on the upswing. I could see West decline (as you said, he’s 33, he had ACL surgery, and he plays a tough, low-post game), but he looks like he’s declining gradually. I think that’s kind of the most ideal situation for any player in any sport, but especially for a guy who plays how he does. West will be slightly less effective next year, but he won’t have a stark drop off. Hibbert should improve, right? Will he make up for any potential deficiencies in West? Will Indiana let Hansbrough walk and pick up a backup PF who has a little more offense up his sleeve? Maybe Indiana can pounce on Thomas Robinson’s availability and play him heavy minutes behind West? Wowee.

Then, you’ve got the potential re-addition of Granger. Assuming Granger can play at even 75% of his former self… that’s pretty good. Granger is an effective scorer and a great defender. He gave LeBron fits during their intra-division CLE-IND series a few years ago. Granger also doesn’t seem like the type of player who would be difficult to fit back into a Pacers-style offense or defense. And based on the Pacers’ slower offense and their need for a wing upgrade over Gerald Green, slotting Paul George at the 2 (with Lance Stephenson behind) and Granger at the 3 seems like it would make the Pacers really good without causing extra stress/undue injury to Granger and his recover. And when I say “good” I mean “really really good.”Back to Miami real quick: Even with a very effective post game, LeBron + a bunch of other guys is probably not a championship team, right? That’s what existed in Cleveland, and it was proven time and again that LeBron needed a bit more reliability from the rest of the roster. That reliability came in Miami in the form of 1 guy who can get to the free throw line at will to close any gap (Wade) and another guy who is essentially guaranteed to make any shot if he’s wide open (Bosh). Those two players were not available in Cleveland. I am saying this as an unabashed Cleveland homer and someone who is rooting for a team with TYLER HANSBROUGH to beat the Heat.

Sorry about the Cleveland-aside. FOCUS. Ahem, OK. So, what I’ve noticed during this series is that the Pacers have been VERY good at preventing LeBron and Wade from living at the free throw line. As Derek alluded to in his piece, they’ve also effectively neutralized Chris Bosh’s impact by drawing him away from the basket on nearly every possession and contesting every shot he puts up. Miami has been relying on LeBron (as it should) and a 20-point performance by random role player X on any given night. Last night, it was Udonis Haslem. Haslem played really well, and the Heat needed every bucket he made–if not for their points then for their momentum.

When you look at the Heat’s roster, LeBron and Bosh are still in their primes, Cole and Chalmers are still young, and pretty much everyone else is a dinosaur in NBA years. Also, Chris Bosh is still possibly a dinosaur, but for other reasons (JOKES!). Going into next season–and more important the next postseason–if you have this same roster, you have LeBron still in his prime, a Bosh that people can figure out, an OK Chalmers/Cole backcourt (OK in Miami, average or less elsewhere), a Wade whose bad nights are starting to outnumber is good nights, a Ray Allen/Shane Battier combo that not doing its only required task of making open 3s, a revolving door of bigs, and Udonis Haslem. That’s… not gonna cut it.

Sorry, guess that wasn’t quick. But as it stands now, Indiana’s got options and are generally moving uphill. The Heat are still going to be good, but with their cap situation, they’re really only going to be able to make changes around the edges… and right now, their potential long term problems are with their core.

What do you think the next step for both teams will be to make sure we’ve got a rematch of them in the ECF next year?

Noam: It’s hard to throw out a foolproof ECF plan just because so many things can go wrong – injuries, luxury tax, injuries, random bounces, injuries, Nate Robinson catching fire, injuries. My gut says Miami is pretty much fine staying the course, as Erik Spoelstra would say, using the mini-MLE to get another 3-and-D guy (but maybe a less decrepit one this time, eh?) and gambling on a few minimum deal bigs. Indiana might be more interesting – I think convincing cases can be made for both keeping and trading Danny Granger, West is a free agent and could potentially come out of this summer either overpaid or in another jersey, the Pacer bench is epically horrendous. Also, after they refused to give up the 23rd pick in the draft for J.J. Redick, I demand that they either sign J.J. Redick or find a way to draft an immediate contributor with that pick. DEMAND IT, I SAY. HEAR ME, DONNIE?! However, I will immediately turn on my designation of Indiana being more interesting than Miami and ask you this question: is Miami’s run for a repeat title a historic abberation? This whole Wade business creates a unique vibe around the Heat – the way they came together and the mere existence of a 28 year old LeBron James makes them seem dynastic, and yet, as covered earlier, they might just be headed for a decline. We’ve seen teams win the title in a manner that seemingly dooms the following decade (Jordan Bulls, Duncan Spurs, any Laker title team ever), and we’ve seen teams win titles while giving the impression that they’re about to fall off from that level (the 2011 Mavs are a prime example of that), but do you remember any other team ever looking like it may just be both?

Amin: There are three important variables in this evaluation: 1) The CBA and salary cap, 2) Are any of the things that LeBron/Wade/Bosh do things that other players can do? and 3) What is Miami’s draft outlook looking like?

If you want this 3-man core to be dynastic, then the ret of the roster needs to be filled out in the same way as San Antonio’s. You gotta draft, develop, and trade your way into good parts that fulfill some of the tasks (or cover the deficiencies of) your core guys. And you gotta have the money to do it. If you do, you start to play your core guys fewer minutes as they get older, but the system is locked down. Alternatively, you can do what Dallas does and break the bank, stack, and reload the roster later around 1 or 2 pieces.

Right now, the Heat have a lot of good players, one great player, and two guys in between that are injured so are playing as good-level. Now, San Antonio has definitely recovered from a situation like that, but they’ve also consistently had draft picks and a well-managed cap. There’s a good chance Miami can pick up the same great play next year–like 99% certainty if Wade is healthy–but the nature of the Heat’s management of those 3 Spursian variables points to them not being able to turn this team into a 3+ championship dynasty like they hubristically promised.

In today’s CBA, is 3 rings the best anyone can do? Will the Spurs be terrible after their core retires/leaves? Can any team maintain contender or semi-contender status for 10+ years anymore? 5+ years, even?

Noam: The Thunder will be the ultimate test case for that, won’t they? They’ve hit all the theoretical checkpoints by drafting a transcendent star in Durant, finding another all-star to flank him in Russ, and being good enough early enough so his prime isn’t wasted. It’s what the Cavs couldn’t do with LeBron – they got to the Finals in his fourth year, one year ahead of the pace Durant set for OKC, but they did it with a supporting cast that was mostly veterans and role players. As LeBron continued to grow, they wilted instead. I think that’s the point that makes San Antonio so unique – David Robinson sitting out in 96-97 gave them their two cornerstones as a starting point, and they capitalized even further on that by inexplicably picking up two more in Tony and Manu. Without discrediting their developmental system, there are only so many such players percolating through depth charts, and grabbing several of them closely enough to have them all hit their primes together (or, in two different batches) requires immense amounts of luck.

Could it happen again? Sure, in theory. It’s hard to say if there are any other candidates for such a run, though. The Pacers are trying, but Paul George isn’t LeBron or Durant, and Hibbert is more Ibaka than Westbrook. Since this has somehow become a heavily anti-Cleveland exchange, we should point out that Kyrie might be that kind of transformative talent, and is being smartly surrounded by players his age, though none of the Waiters/Thompson/Zeller(/Nerlens Noel?) seems to be of the Westbrook caliber. There are some other tandems that one might throw out there – Chris Paul/Blake, Rose/Noah, Rubio/Love, Harden/Morey Acquisition X, Andrew Wiggins/Whoever Is On The Roster That Drafts Andrew Wiggins – but all are stretches, whether because they are dependent on unknown qualities, or because the known qualities have so far been lacking.

Is that CBA-designed or just plain happenstance? I would call it the latter, but it’ll be hard to tell without the benefit of hindsight. After all, this Spurs stretch is an outlier not just for the 2010s, but throughout NBA history. Outside of Red Auerbach being decades ahead of the curve, the Lakers continuously getting hall of fame centers, and the greatest player of all time existing, these things tend not to happen more often than they do. Again, the viability of the model could hinge on where OKC lands, with the Harden trade as the potential turning point. It’s an interesting wrench in that it simultaneously rid them of a third all-star, but brought in some assets that, if maximized, could theoretically bring in some of those young assets to develop in the Spursian manner you mentioned. If their run is cut shorter than we envisioned when this team came together, the Harden trade could become the turning point in NBA dynasty building.

Which brings us back to the Heat. They seem to be staring down some financial issues of their own – they’re scheduled to be repeater tax payers the moment such designations become available. If Wade’s knees don’t ruin everything, could his contract? Could Bosh’s? Are they due for a Harden trade of their own? Or, conversely, LeBron walking next summer before his supporting cast is torn apart? God, these would be great questions to discuss retroactively during all the free time we’ll have in the 2017 lockout.

Amin: Game 6 seemed to exacerbate all the same questions we had after Game 5. It’s going to be tough to figure out what Miami needs to do, but they need to do something. Be it a Harden-type trade, a use of the amnesty provision, any other type of trade that creates some complementarity and reliability… something. I don’t think they anticipated their core becoming unstable like this so quickly. And I don’t think any of us did either.

Lion Face/Lemon Face 5/16/13: Don’t Forget Your Towel

Grit! Grind! Dunks! Classic Dwyane Wade! LeBron flopping! Towels! Let’s take a look at the best and worst from last night.

 

Lion Face: Memphis Grizzlies

It wasn’t easy, and it was rarely pretty, but the Grizzlies move on to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.  Zach Randolph (28 points, 14 rebounds) and Mike Conley (13 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds) were terrific in the series-clincher, attacking the Thunder at perhaps their two weakest positions. Congratulations, Memphis.

Lemon Face: Tony Allen

Courtesy of SBNation

Courtesy of SBNation

Tony, didn’t you learn anything from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy? Never forget your towel! Seriously, this is what sparked Oklahoma City’s insane near-comeback. (And yes, I realize it was a shirt, but the title of this post and the Hitchhiker reference don’t exactly work with a shirt, so back off).

Lion Face: Tayshaun Prince

Raise your hand if you thought Prince still had this kind of dunk in him. Put your hand down, liar.

Lemon Face: Kendrick Perkins

One look at Perkins’ numbers in the semifinals forces the face to scrunch and sour in such an extreme manner that it resembles, well, Kendrick Perkins. The sultan of scowl shot 17.6% for the entire series, notching a PER of -.72. What’s that? You want visuals? Trust me, you don’t. No, seriously, you don’t. Fine, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

Courtesy of NBA.com/Stats

Courtesy of NBA.com/Stats

 

Have you finished wiping up the blood that seeped from every orifice? Good. Maybe next time you’ll listen to me.

Lion Face: Dwyane Wade

Wade, knee troubles and all, put on a vintage Wade performance in the fourth quarter, shooting a perfect 3-of-3, including two eurostep-powered floaters that registered high on the nostalgia meter.

 

Lion Face: Chicago Bulls

Hats off to this team. Battling through injuries, fatigue and overblown, undeserved criticism, they beat the Nets in seven games, gave the Heat a hell of a fight, and gave us a few Nate Robinson moments we’re unlikely to forget any time soon.

 

Lemon Face: LeBron James

All NBA players flop. The one who say they don’t flop? Guess what, they flop. So while LeBron James’ flop shouldn’t really be anything noteworthy, I’m still putting it here because it was pretty ridiculous.

Courtesy of SBNation

Courtesy of SBNation

 

Lion Face Lemon Face 4/23/2013: Shooters Gon’ Shoot

Welcome to Lion Face Lemon Face, where we recap last night’s NBA action Ben and Matty style. In case you didn’t already know, Lion Face equals good and Lemon Face equals bad. At least that’s how I think this whole thing works.

Lion Face: Dwyane Wade’s monster put-back dunk

Wade may be 31 years old, a reluctant defender in transition for stretches during the playoffs and spending the majority of his time raising his eyebrows at Brandon Jennings but give the man his due: He hasn’t lost it yet, whatever “it” is.

Lemon Face: Norris Cole’s missed dunk

Norris Cole, on the other hand, is 24 years old. Here’s a general rule of thumb: if your name isn’t Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade or Blake Griffin and your running the floor beside LeBron James, the only thing that should be on your mind is “how do I get this flying death machine freight train superhuman machine basketball player the ball?”

Lion Face: Presented without comment, a real Lion Face.

lebronprimal

Lemon Face: Brandon Jennings

There’s nothing wrong with making sweeping declarations. In fact, I encourage them. They give me funny things to tweet about. The problem here is that Jennings is all shot and no substance. Here’s his shooting chart from last night:

jennings shooting

A whole lot of red and nothing in-between. Daryl Morey is only mildly impressed. Lucky for Jennings, the Bucks can technically still win this series in six games. That is, if LeBron James spontaneously combusts and Dwyane Wade is too emotionally shattered to continue playing. Even then, Chris Bosh and a healthy mix of shooters could get the Heat over the proverbial hump.

Lion Face: JR Smith

Your 6th Man of the Year, folks…

jrbomb

Lemon Face: The Celtics’ offense

I’m not really sure what happened here. All I know is that Knicks-Celtics felt a lot more like a first round series in the Eastern Conference than I thought it would. Here’s the Celtics’ shot chart from the second half:

celtics shot chart

That shouldn’t be allowed in the NBA. This looks like if a fifth grade version of me went on Microsoft Paint and decided that red was my favourite colour and that all basketball courts should be red because I said so! What’s worse is that the Celtics went the final nine minutes of the game without getting a single basket. Part of the issue was that the C’s just couldn’t capitalize on their open shots — especially the open threes Paul Pierce produced from the post — but I have to give kudos to the Knicks’ defense. They were absolutely suffocating. “Signing Kenyon Martin in the middle of the season sure made a difference for the Knicks” is close to number one on my list of things I never thought I’d say in 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 2.13.04 AM

 

Lion Face: The Knicks’ third quarter

This is the only scoreboard you need from the third quarter: Carmelo Anthony – 13, Boston Celtics – 11. I guess it’s an improvement from Boston’s fourth quarter performance in Game 1 when they were held to just eight points. One thing’s certain: it won’t matter that the Celtics are in the TD Garden for the next two games if they continue to score less than 13 points for multiple quarters.

Lion Face: America’s team. I think. Probably not.

Last night, the Golden State Warriors became the first team to score over 130 points in a playoff game since the Celtics eviscerated the Lakers in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals. Jarrett Jack, Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson combined for 101 points on 63 shots. In completely unrelated news, Golden State’s small ball is awesome. Here’s the Warriors’ shot chart:

warriors shot chart

Notice the way that this one contrasts with Boston’s shot chart from the second half? Yeah, that’s an inherently good thing. Oh, and here’s an incoming super overreaction: The Warriors are kind of perfectly set up to be this year’s “they just went on a crazy shooting run and knocked off a few teams that they really shouldn’t have knocked off” team.

Lion Face: Harrison Barnes’ Reverse Slam, proceeding celebration

BarnesReverseWarriorsBench

Lemon Face: Denver’s defense

Here’s the thing about the Warrior’s small line up, which might end up being the ultimate “diamond in the rough” non-acquisition this Spring: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack are all capable and willing shooters. Per NBA.com, the trio shot 43.5 percent from 16-24 feet over the course of the regular season, miles ahead of the league average. The Nuggets, on the other hand, aren’t employed with big men that are adept at closing out on shooters off the pick and roll. As a result, they allow the league’s second worst opponent field goal percentage from that range. Unless George Karl is an even better coach than I think he is (likely), Denver’s going to be in a bit of a pickle.

All statistical support for this story provided by NBA.com

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: The Heat-Bucks 2012-2013 Playoff Preview

From October through April, thirty teams scratched and clawed their way for this opportunity. Who will make it out? Who will be disappointed? Who will shock and surprise? Who will hit an insane buzzer beater that will make us all collectively gasp so loudly that we will be able hear each other from six counties away? WHO? TELL ME, WHO?

Welcome to the Hardwood Paroxysm 2012-2013 Playoff Previews.

Virtual Systems Analysis

by Derek James

The NBA playoffs are a stage and a showcase for players at all stages of their career, and this series is no different. Last season we saw it with LeBron James, and he will look to further enhance his storied season this spring. Then there is Milwaukee’s backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, both of  whom will look to use this series to earn a raise this summer. Jennings, 23, will be looking for his first big NBA contract, and Ellis, 27, will be looking for his next big contract. It’s simple: if they perform at a high level in the playoffs against the reigning champions and they could cause a team with cap room to throw them more money, despite each player’s flaws.

This combination is risky because when you put the combined Usage Rates of Ellis’ 26.3% and Jennings’ 23.6% you see that they use just under half of the team’s possessions when they’re on the court together, 49.9%. This wouldn’t be so potentially worrisome for Bucks fans if Ellis and Jennings didn’t shoot just above or below 40% on the regular season and if the two didn’t take 33 shots per game on average. There is a real possibility for a boom-or-bust series for these two when you factor in the playoffs, each player in a contract year, and each player’s respective playing styles. In fact, you could argue that whether or not this series is competitive is determined by the play of the Jennings and Ellis. And if each player decides that this is their time to shine and force it too much, this could be a very quick series for the Heat.

However, there is one small beacon of hope for the Bucks to remain competitive in this scenario, and that is on the glass. We know the Heat don’t rebound well — 26th in Offensive Rebounding Percentage and 28th in Defensive Rebounding Percentage — but that hasn’t mattered since they don’t leave that many rebounds to begin with, being the NBA’s best shooting team. In the meanwhile, the Bucks have established themselves as the 11th best team at snagging up offensive rebounds.Being able to do this will not only enable the Bucks to get second chance points, but also control the tempo of the game; Milwaukee was played at the third fastest pace this season while Miami finished twenty places lower, at 23. Now, just because the Heat haven’t played at as high of a pace as last season doesn’t mean they can’t, so it could very well backfire (Miami is second best in the league this season in transition on offense and third in transition defense while the Bucks are fifteenth and fourteenth, per Synergy), but if Milwaukee can push the tempo they would not be allowing the league’s fifth to have a chance to get set as quickly.

Still, risking a track meet with the Heat is likely very dangerous, but there is likely a better strategy.

Unfortunately, that strategy is likely contingent on Ellis and Jennings — the Bucks’ two most ball dominant players — not going into I’m-Trying-to-Get-Paid-This-Summer mode. What I mean by that is each player will have to regularly make the correct decision between setting up teammates, which their season assist numbers indicate they can, and calling their own number on offense. The other part involves grabbing as many offensive rebounds as possible to keep the ball out of Miami’s hands and working to get the best shot again. Finally, in the same way that trying to get out in transition could give the Bucks opportunities for good looks before the defense can get set, doing so with good ball movement in the halfcourt may be the wiser approach given how good Miami is defensively in transition. That said, this doesn’t end in victory for the Bucks, anyway; it’s just a less painful death.

Considering how well both teams have been this season limiting turnovers and forcing turnovers, rebounding could make the biggest difference between winning one game or getting swept out of the first round.

If Ellis and Jennings each want to prove their worth and value to NBA teams without their next teams being immediately ridiculed for their next offense, showing that they can play intelligently against arguably the best team in the league is a great way to do it. Playing within a team concept and not for personal motivations will also maximize the abilities of their teammates, and keep them from becoming a one-dimensional team. As for LeBron James and the Heat, they will be looking at this as the first step on their road to a hopeful repeat.

The Fly In The Ointment

by Jordan White

Brandon Jennings or MontaEllisHaveItAll may explode for forty points, but rarely do those explosions come whilst getting others involved.  On a team where people actually pass him the ball and get him open looks, J.J. Redick may be a potent threat against the Heat. Unfortunately, Redick plays for the Bucks. Ersan Ilyasova is the type of stretch-4 that killed James’ Cavaliers in the playoffs, but Chris Bosh is an ideal match-up for the Heat against the sweet-shooting big man. In previous years, we’d talk about the potential for Miami to become complacent. That’s a laughable sentiment this year. Truly, there is no x-factor, not one that could make a difference in this series.

Through the Looking Glass

by Andrew Lynch

Currently, there’s only one person on this list of players who scored 30 points, dished eight dimes and grabbed eight boards per game over the course of at least eight playoff games.

After the four games of this series, LeBron James will be well on his way to making it two.

Hey. Wade. I got a new complaint.

Naw, I don’t really have a complaint. But I was getting pretty complain-y on Twitter earlier today for no real reason at all. I felt crotchety, and Dwyane Wade’s quote was the first thing in my path.

Tom Haberstroh (Paroxy-Alum!) talked to Wade and LeBron James about what means more between scoring titles and championships. As you would expect, both said that championships mean more (they are on a championship-contending team), and that while scoring titles are fun, that’s not why they’re here.

But then the post moved its way into efficiency:

“I hate that I really value efficiency,” Wade said. “Because I look around the league sometimes and I see a guy shooting 41, 42 percent from the field and I’m like, ‘Wow, they’re just hoisting up shots and they don’t care.’ I guess that’s that freedom, but I don’t have that mindset. I want to be as efficient as possible.”

[screeching brakes]

Here’s where I started getting crotchety. Wade just complained about dudes shooting 41%. Really? His FG% has never been above 50% until this season, so he can’t be that efficient, can he?

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

Dwyane Wade League Average
Season FG% 3P% FT% FG% 3P% FT%
2003-04 0.465 0.302 0.747 0.456 0.358 0.758
2004-05 0.478 0.289 0.762 0.456 0.358 0.758
2005-06 0.495 0.171 0.783 0.456 0.358 0.758
2006-07 0.491 0.266 0.807 0.458 0.358 0.752
2007-08 0.469 0.286 0.758 0.457 0.362 0.755
2008-09 0.491 0.317 0.765 0.459 0.367 0.771
2009-10 0.476 0.300 0.761 0.461 0.355 0.759
2010-11 0.500 0.306 0.758 0.459 0.359 0.763
2011-12 0.497 0.268 0.791 0.448 0.349 0.752
2012-13 0.519 0.258 0.731 0.453 0.359 0.753
Career 0.489 0.289 0.767 0.456 0.358 0.758

If you take a look at these numbers, Wade’s clearly having a good shooting year at nearly 52%. But for the most part, he looks kind of average–except when it comes to 3-pointers, where he looks decidedly below average.

If you’re calling yourself efficient, you should be making shots, right? This season, he’s making more than half, but look at that Free Throw percentage! Look at that stinker of a 3-point percentage! Who’s he to say he’s efficient?

I mean, just look at these shot charts. He’s not exactly lighting it up all over the place.

Dwyane Wade 2012-13

Dwyane Wade 2012-13

A few good spots, but not a ton. Now, take a look at last year. He wasn’t much better.

Dwyane Wade 2011-12

Dwyane Wade 2011-12

And his career averages:

Dwyane Wade career

Dwyane Wade career… wait, he’s one shot short of 10,000? What an odd milestone. Moving on.

So what the heck was he talking about? Then, it dawned on me. He’s not talking about taking and making shots.

He’s talking about where he’s taking shots. Wade’s shot-making isn’t what makes him efficient. It’s his shot locations. Look again at the images above. He’s shooting around the league average or better on all mid-range and around-or-at-the-basket shots. That’s pretty impressive.

Now look at the following images of the amount of shots he takes at each location.

Over his career:

Dwyane Wade Shot Locations Career

Dwyane Wade Shot Locations Career

Dwyane Wade Shot Locations Career

Dwyane Wade Shot Locations Career

Last year:

Dwyane Wade Shot Locations 2011-12

Dwyane Wade Shot Locations 2011-12

And this year:

Dwyane Wade Shot Locations 2012-13

Dwyane Wade Shot Locations 2012-13

So over the course of his career, 46.7%of his shots have been at-or-near the basket, last year he improved his career average to 50.2%, and this season it has increased further to 50.6%. So basically, he’s taking over half of his shots at-or-near the basket.

At Rim 3-9 Feet 10-15 Feet 16-23 Feet Threes
Wade FG% League Average FG% Wade FG% League Average FG% Wade FG% League Average FG% Wade FG% League Average FG% Wade eFG% League Average eFG%
2006-07 0.670 0.610 0.550 0.420 0.420 0.390 0.380 0.400 0.399 0.537
2007-08 0.660 0.608 0.460 0.423 0.370 0.385 0.370 0.405 0.429 0.543
2008-09 0.660 0.604 0.510 0.427 0.420 0.391 0.420 0.401 0.476 0.550
2009-10 0.670 0.610 0.471 0.440 0.340 0.398 0.360 0.396 0.449 0.532
2010-11 0.666 0.641 0.502 0.390 0.385 0.393 0.370 0.394 0.459 0.538
2011-12 0.660 0.626 0.437 0.375 0.438 0.383 0.370 0.381 0.402 0.523
2012-13 0.747 0.647 0.455 0.396 0.424 0.418 0.410 0.384 0.393 0.540

Not only that, but the table above shows that, at least since 2007, he’s been consistently above the league average in this area. This year in particular, his FG% specifically at the rim is nearly 75%–a full 10% above the league average.

So let’s see: taking over half your shots at-or-near the basket coupled with making 46% of them near the basket and 75% of them at the basket equals…

[carry the four, square root of this apartment, divide by the salary cap...]

Um, yeah. I guess that is pretty efficient. And that’s how Erik Spoelstra and the Heat have structured their offense this whole season, haven’t they? And I bet Wade knew what he was saying the whole time, didn’t he?

My mistake. Carry on, Mr. Wade.

Wade’s stats in the first table courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com. League averages and all data in the second table courtesy of HoopData.com (2006-13 averages in first table assumed for pre-2006). Shot charts courtesy of NBA.com/stats.

2013 All-Star Profiles: Dwyane Wade

Photo via ->>Hamish of Flickr.

Photo via ->>Hamish of Flickr.

Watching Dwyane Wade in 2013 is akin to watching a great band at a mid-to-late-career crossroads. He’s not washed up, though he sometimes looks it, and his health concerns are impossible to ignore. He’s not the 2006-11 version of Wade, either, although games like the Heat’s December 1 victory over the Nets, in which he notched 34 points and 7 assists, remind us that the undisputed top-5 All-NBA talent is not completely gone. This season’s Wade is the Rolling Stones circa 1976: he’s past the point of cranking out Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street on a yearly basis, but he still may have a Some Girls in him before the Heat’s Big Three era is closed.

Wade’s selection as an All-Star starter comes as no surprise to anyone. As one of the most iconic players of the past decade and star of two title teams in Miami, he’s got a starting spot locked up for as long as he chooses to continue playing. And although 2012-13 is far from his best season, I have a hard time being mad at the selection. The Western Conference is overflowing with backcourt talent, to such a degree that Stephen Curry was left off the roster despite shooting 45.3 percent from three-point range on 7 attempts per game. That’s not the case in the East. The only other shooting guard on the roster with a case is Paul George, and he also has a case for being the wrong Pacer on the team.

Even still, I can’t help but look at this game as the one time per year when Wade is discussed as one of the NBA’s elite without any of the baggage that comes with playing for the team he plays for. For the first season and a half of the Big Three experiment, Chris Bosh’s inferiority to Wade and LeBron James was what was made the butt of every joke about the team’s “Big 2 1/2.” But as Erik Spoelstra has perfected the LeBron-centered smallball style that landed the Heat a convincing Finals win over the Thunder last June, Bosh’s defense and floor-stretching ability as a big man have become more and more indispensable. And as King James has rightly assumed the mantle of the Heat’s primary playmaker, putting to an end every silly “whose team is it?” narrative, it’s increasingly been Wade who’s had to sublimate his talents and strengths. Wade is the one that feels expendable, which is insane, because he’s still Dwyane Wade.

This season, Wade has the lowest usage rate he’s had since his rookie year, but he’s shooting the ball more efficiently than he ever has. Although his once-unrivaled explosiveness is a few knee injuries past its peak, he still finishes as efficiently around the rim with terrific efficiency, and has improved the midrange shooting he’s been forced to rely on as well. He’s expressed his frustration occasionally at not being the go-to guy anymore, but there isn’t much you can do about that when you’re playing alongside the best player of the post-Jordan era at the absolute height of his powers, and Wade’s for the most part been able to come to terms with it. You can’t always get what you want.

Devil In Detail

Margarita Night

This time, between the end of summer league and the beginning of training camp is the doldrums of the NBA off-season. There is no notable NBA news, which ironically makes everything about the NBA newsworthy. One of the “monster stories” during this cycle of malaise was Dwyane Wade publicly assessing his mid-range jumpshot, acknowledging it needed to be fixed, but specifying that the work needed to be done on the catch. I won’t pretend to have the requisite knowledge to critique the mechanics of Wade’s jumpshot, nor quibble with his assessment of what needs to be fixed.

The mid-range jumpshot is a curious animal. Every NBA player takes them. Some make them, some don’t. But the identity of a few players is so intertwined with their mid-range jumpshots that it’s almost impossible to separate the player from the action. Wade is certainly a member of that genus. In his public statements he characterized himself as one of the best mid-range shooters in the league. For him, that particular shot is obviously a big part of how he sees himself as a basketball player. I agree that Wade’s mid-range jumper is a huge component of his on-court identity. However, on this side of the table things don’t look quite as rosy.

In the piece I linked to above Matt Moore pointed out that, despite his claims to the contrary, Wade has not been one of the best mid-range shooters in the NBA. In fact he has been one of the least consistent at his position. Even more damning is the way his struggles to regularly make outside shots are held in stark contrast to his incredible ability to finish at the rim. Among those with an identity tied strongly to that mid-range jumpshot, Wade is one of an even smaller number of players who’s outside shooting looks much worse, because the alternative is so incredibly effective. The trade off in value between a Wade layup and a Wade jumper is visually enormous, but how does it shake out statistically?

With a little support from NBA.com I calculated Wade’s points per shot average on attempts in the paint. I also did the same for all his attempts, including three-pointers, that came outside the paint. I even incorporated free throws, eyeballing it a little and splitting them 95%/5% for my inside and outside the paint calculations. When all the numbers were crunched I found that Wade averaged 1.295 points per shot inside the paint, and 0.805 points per shot outside the paint. That’s a difference of 0.490 points per shot, meaning every jumpshot Wade takes costs his team roughly half a point. Averaging 7.08 jumpshots per game, Wade had his hand in the offensive cash register and slipped out with just over 3.5 points a night.

Especially troubling for the Miami Heat is the fact that his teammate, LeBron James, suffers from an equally dramatic split. His points per shot inside the paint is a robust 1.429, outside the paint it’s 0.923. Although that makes him a much more efficient outside shooter than Wade (and slightly above average compared to the rest of the league), each of his jumpshots costs the Heat 0.506 points. With 9.5 attempts per game, LeBron’s willingness to shoot from the outside takes another 5 points per game from the kitty.

Of course, I’ve just set up and knocked down a straw man of epically silly proportions. Saying that a jumpshot by either player “costs” the Heat points by comparing to them a layup is playing fast and loose with both language and logic. Every shot that Wade, LeBron, or any other NBA player takes is not an even choice between layups and jumpers. Circumstance play a heavy hand in shots that are available. It may seem like both players can get to the rim at will but that is an illusion; an illusion created by absurd athleticism, but obscuring off-balance and ill-suited defenders, empty space created by teammates, and poor defensive rotations. A decision to force the ball to the rim on every possession would leave a slew of additional turnovers, miscues and general ugliness in it’s wake. The outside shot has to be part of their offensive game because the shots they excel at simply can’t be taken 25 times a night.

However, that line of thinking assumes this is a situation with only two possible outcomes, a shot inside or outside the paint. There is a third option – no shot at all.

LeBron and Wade are both splendid passers and generous teammates, more than willing to use their offensive acumen to create opportunities for their teammates. When I suggest that they pass up shots, I’m not trumpeting a grand scheme to quash ball-hogism. I’m suggesting a hypothetical experiment where two of the game’s best players simply refuse to engage with the weakest parts of their skill set.

The top of every team’s defensive game plan for the Heat is – make Wade and LeBron shoot jumpers. “Make” strikes me as a much stronger verb than is a necessary since both players seem more than happy to oblige. Using the same method as before, I calculated that the rest of the Heat averaged a solid 1.004 points per shot, inside or outside. Obviously some of that efficiency comes from the defensive attention drawn by Wade and LeBron, but can we really say that taking bad jumpers opens opportunities for their teammates? I have yet to read an NBA Playbook post illustrating how driving lanes were opened, or corner threes created, by the threat of Wade or LeBron hoisting a shot from 16ft.

Although his reluctance to take shots of any kind means he is working with slightly different variables, Rajon Rondo is already six years into a no-jumpshot experiment. His almost pathological refusal to attempt outside shots hasn’t seemed to affect his ability to get into the paint at will, create shots for his teammates or lead a fully functioning NBA offense. Obviously the system would need to look different, but how much worse would the Miami Heat offense be if one of their basic tenets was that LeBron and Wade don’t take jumpshots? What if they refused to take the shots that every NBA defense wants them to take? What if it was layups, free throws or nothing for two of the league’s best penetrators?

I’m sure this experiment will never be initiated, and my questions may never be answered. Perhaps I’m just grasping at straws, trying to entertain myself for the 40 odd days until meaningful NBA basketball is played again, wandering down dark and twisted trails that weren’t meant to be explored. Still, I can’t shake the revolutionary idea that maybe the best way to fix a broken jumpshot is to stop taking so many of them.