Tag Archives: Nova

NBA Playoffs Video: Goran Dragic Goes NOVA in Suns-Spurs Game 3

I don’t know if you heard, but Goran Dragic won the MVP Award on Friday night. He scored 26 points — all in the second half and 23 in the fourth –  in the Suns’ decisive Game 3 victory over the Spurs, and was thereby coronated as the league’s Most Valuable Player, the Suns’ new starting point guard, and the sovereign ruler of the great state of Arizona.

Witness history in the making:

For a bigger view, click here.

Vince Carter Went NOVA… /sigh

You don’t expect things like this – at least you don’t expect them anymore. You especially don’t expect them after the season we’ve seen from Vince Carter.

There are two different directions I wanted to take this piece as I discuss the night Vince Carter turned back the clock/heart and decided to go Nova (hence the photo above). I’m conflicted on what I saw because we all have the same perception of Vince Carter. He’s the definition of potential. He’s also the definition of wasted potential. I was never of the mindset that Vince could be the new Jordan. There were many things about him that seemed to be lacking. But he had more ability in him than most could ever imagine so when we saw him sputter after nights in which he would excel, we became frustrated and resentful that he would refuse to do the things we wanted to do.

With Vince it was always “if only he would…” because we hoped he would one day grasp his potential, hold onto it like a golden ticket and prance through the streets of the basketball world as he sings, “I’ve got the gollllllden tiiiiiicket!”

But we never really got that from him past the first couple of seasons. Vince was a guy that just didn’t want it and with his tumultuous time in Toronto, we gave him the benefit of the doubt until we were so insulted by his lack of heart that we wanted to destroy him for it. When he moved to New Jersey, we were hopeful a change of scenery would bring out the best in him. And it did on occasion. However, Vince still didn’t want to be that guy. He was content going out there, playing basketball a certain way and collecting his paycheck.

Now that he’s on Orlando (a team that retooled in a risky way after making the NBA Finals last year), we’ve been waiting for him to give this kind of effort. He’s been all over the map for the Magic this season as they’ve waited for him to bring the thunder consistently. Nobody really expects him to do it flair-filled style of dunks and scores around the basket. We’ve accepted the fact that he attacks the basket with three-pointers and long-range shots over high-flying acts of absurdity. But what you’ve wanted out of him is the effort to take this team to the next level, even if it’s just by being a competent basketball player that doesn’t hijack possessions and alienate his teammates with the way he affects games (positively or negatively).

When he scores 48 points during a nationally televised game on just 27 shot attempts, you start to hope that maybe this is it. Maybe this is when he gets locked in with his Magic teammates and finds the extra gear to put them back into the Finals and in a better position to win the whole damn thing. After all, that’s why they brought him in there and let Hedo walk for maple syrup covered pizza.

Part of you is watching and thinking, “yep, this is exactly what this team needs right now.“ They need a go-to guy that can turn a good half into a half that makes you consider forgiving the past decade of malaise. And hopefully in a couple of games, you won’t feel sheepish and naïve for thinking these kinds of thoughts.

Historically, Vince will make you reconsider your hope – which brings me to the other angle of this 48-point performance. Vince flat out knows how to depress a basketball nerd like myself.

As I watched Vince lead the Magic from a 17-point deficit to a six-point win, I couldn’t help but resent him for this performance. To me, Andre Miller’s 52-point outburst the other day was far more probable than this 48-point game from Vince. Not because I think Andre Miller is a better basketball player or a better scorer. I would never be so obtuse to think something like that to be true. But it seemed more probable to me because I didn’t think Vince Carter had the effort left in him.  To score 34 points in the second half of a ball game when his team REALLY needed it seemed so far-fetched to me that a player in the year 2010 who can’t move laterally, can’t shoot threes and basically throws up a 1954-style set shot was more likely to drop around 50 points in a ball game.

This depresses you because of the way he did it. He wasn’t just hoisting up threes and long twos because he was afraid to make contact. He attacked the basket and attacked it often. By my count, he attempted a shot around the basket or in the key 12 times and made 10 of them against the Hornets (he had attempted five shots around the basket more than five times in a game just nine times this season). Granted, he was being guarded by Morris Peterson. I didn’t remember that Mo Pete was even in the NBA up until a week ago and basketball is practically a religion to me. Yet, he still did it.

And it’s not like he was soaring through the air. His steps on the court are the NBA equivalent of intensive labor. He looks out of shape and out of breath most of the time. He moves like one of the old guys at your local gym or YMCA. All of this makes it even more frustrating that he was able to put up a game like this. I was resigned to the fact that Vince Carter simply didn’t have it anymore and didn’t want to have it. I was actually okay with that. Instead, he tried and he tried hard and it worked to the tune of 48 dramatically efficient points. How does that happen?

Ultimately, I still feel cheated by Vince Carter and his career with nights like this reminding me just of that when I thought it was behind me. Did Vince owe the fans and me a different story arc to his career? Not really. Maybe you could argue he owed it to himself but if he’s happy fading into “what could have been” obscurity then that’s on him.

I just could have done without the diabolical casualness of his career. And I could have done without the 48-point reminder that he was an Allen Iverson heart away from burning this place to the ground.

I just didn’t expect this tonight.

The Big Ol’ Honkin’ Boston-Atlanta Post

Prior to Friday’s Hawks-Celtics game, Boston center Kendrick Perkins said his team “put a hit out” on Hawks guard Jamal Crawford, who had burned the Celtics for 18, 18, and 17 points off the bench in winning the teams’ first three meetings.

Instead it was Crawford who did all the hitting — in the paint, off the backboard, beyond the 3-point line, and even from halfcourt. He scored 18 of his 28 points in the first half to turn a nine-point deficit into a 12-point halftime lead, and the Hawks coasted the rest of the way to a 100-91 win — one that was unusually chippy for a regular season game but par for the course for a Hawks-Celtics tilt.

via Boston ‘hit’ plan perks up Crawford – TrueHoop Blog – ESPN.

No, there will not be a ‘Big Ol’ Honkin’ LA-Boston Post’ when LA creams them tomorrow.That’s of no surprise, and I doubt it will be competitive.

But this one’s relevant for a few reasons, so let’s take a look.

Hmm… you know, we started with schadenfreude yesterday. We should go the other way. Okay, let’s talk Haw…

Oh, hello there, Mr. Schadenfreude!

Hi there, Matt! I’m here to remind you to always take joy in the misery of others before moving on to positive takeaways!

Thanks, Mr. Schadenfreude! I’ll be sure to do just that. Bye, Mr. Schadenfreude!

So let’s begin with Mr. Perkins.

There’s being confident that you’re the best team. And there’s confidence that you’re the best player. And then there’s confidence that you’re the ONLY good team with the ONLY good players, which is what the Celtics fall into. The attitude wasn’t one of respect, it was “we can’t get beat by that scrub again.” And they paid for it.  And even if it was respect, you’ve got to keep your mouth shut to the media. You’ve lost three games to a team that’s on pace for a top four seed. You can’t just run your mouth. They’ve already done enough to earn some respect.

For the players in the Celtics’ locker room, “It means that they lost,’’ said Doc Rivers. “They lost to the Atlanta Hawks. I don’t think it means much more than that. Nobody wants to get swept, but I don’t think you get to go to the second round when you sweep a team in the regular season. That I know of. You get to go to the next game.’’

via Hawks sweep floor with Celtics – The Boston Globe.

But that’s not Boston. They won the title, even though they struggled through the first and second rounds, so therefore anything else that happens is invalid. Look at how they responded to Orlando, with the poodle comment. Now Orlando’s 2-1. At some point you need to recognize that you’re in trouble.

I still firmly believe that if the Celtics were to specifically gameplan and say, “we’re going to shutdown Crawford” they could. They’re great at gameplanning specific players. But they didn’t. They thought they could just outclass them, like they thought they could do to Orlando.

What’s worse is that this is endemic. There is a genuine lack of athleticism on the Celtics right now. It’s Rajon Rondo and a bunch of guys who are good at basketball but not athletic guys who are good at basketball. Which means when the Hawks buckle down and focus for long stretches, the Celtics look winded. Pierce was on fire last night, and still knocked down a big three, but he still looked flat-footed and winded.

Picking Up the Pace: The Hawks averaged a convincing 17.25 fast break points per game against the Celtics this season, while the Celtics lugged behind with asthma-filled lungs, posting just 12.75 fast break points per game. Slow and steady did not win this race. Usain Bolt would be proud.

via Breaking Down The Sweep – CelticsBlog.

There is, naturally, a refusal among the Celtics faithful to put this on age. If they do, well, that’s a wrap, kids. And they know that. Injury was the excuse, but now KG”s back. But I do think one injury still severely hampers this team. Marquis Daniels. Quis was capable of helping out with the Celtics’ weaknesses and would have also helped prevent something that’s killing them right now. Rasheed Wallace shooting.

******************

Now for the Hawks, I feel like they’re going too far in the other direction. This win means a lot. No lie. It’s a big deal, proof that this team can say “If we face Boston in Round 2, we have a great shot at the ECF, and then who knows?” That’s a monumental shift.

But let’s not go licking our go-go boots just yet, okay? You It’s better to just represent “They’re a great team, we’re proud of this win, now we’ve got to keep it up.” Resting on laurels will also get you killed. And beating Orlando tonight or Cleveland at some point would also be advised, since right now, you’re hoping for a near-impossible matchup set.

  • # The fourth quarter wasn’t much better outside of Joe Johnson suddenly remembering he was playing the Celtics and, thus, should start making every fall-away he could create for himself.
  • 55 points on 38 shots and 12 free throw attempts for Johnson and Crawford. Considering the opposing post defenders, Horford and Smith got a suitable number of touches. A fine offensive performance from concept down to execution.

via Hoopinion.

I’d like to give Bret a big ol’ handshake today. He ALMOST said something completely nice about a Joe Johnson ball-domination offense. I made this argument earlier in the season, and then wondered if I was wrong when the Hawks were struggling with him doing it more. So last night’s play wasn’t a validator, but it still fuels the debate: Joe Johnson’s ability to turn bad possessions into points is a good thing.

The Hawks offense ground to a halt early in the fourth. I mean, we’re talking “nothing doin'” territory. Josh Smith tried to be aggressive, but the Celtics were doing that weird “double-body” thing where they form a concave wall and manage to not foul (apparently), so he couldn’t get anything to fall. And then Johnson decided “You know what? That’s it.” And went all “08 playoffs” on ‘em. And then Crawford came in and finished the job. And that’s just too much measured firepower for the Celtics to overcome after working that hard. There are going to be times when they’ll need Johnson to take games over. As good as Josh Smith has become in all phases, as good as the Hawks are as units at both ends of the floor, they need someone to create his own shot and kill the other team’s soul. And he drove a big ol’ dagger into Paul Pierce’s heart last night.

Maybe this is nothing, and there’s no continental shift happening. But Atlanta’s consistently winning with a core of guys who have played together for several years and who perform at both ends of the floor.

And the Celtics? Well, while the team won’t because of its unwavering confidence in itself based off the jewelry it won 19 months ago, the fanbase is rapidly approaching full-blown meltdown.

LION FACE/LEMON FACE PREVIEWPALOOZA: Central Division

Ladies and gentlemen, the stylings of TIME Magazine’s Most Influentialest Man Evereverever, and fifteen time winner of People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, not to mention recent Nobel Prize Winner and YOUR faaaaaaavorite actor, Mr. Ben Affleck.

Indiana Pacers

Lion Face: Youth! Talent! Oi! Oi! Oi!

Joke all you want about Tyler Hansbrough, but the Pacers have a ton of interesting young pieces. You know Danny Granger. Neat fella, loves Bat Caves. But T.J. Ford isn’t a bad point to have when he’s not looking over his shoulder. Roy Hibbert is ready to make his presence felt in the NBA. Brandon Rush is a capable wingman that can work in any style imaginable. Forget for a moment that they’re wasting time with Dahntay Jones and Earl Watson. This Pacers team has a little something to it, and if Jim O’Brien works his magic, this could be a playoff team. Yes, I’m serious. But don’t blame me when Ford misses half the year with injury and another Earl Watson turnover sends Danny G to Arkham.

Lemon Face: Yo Dawg, I Heard Mike Dunleavy’s Knee Likes Being Hurt, So We Put a Knee Brace On His Knee Brace’s Knee Brace

Mike Dunleavy’s hurt, and he’s hurt bad. It’s a shame too; the last time MDJr was really healthy, he was terrific for these Pacers. Dun’s capable of being a hot-shooting and playmaking 2 guard, which I hear is a hot commodity in those run-and-gun offense you whippersnappers are running these days. Not to mention the fact that the guy holding the ball in that offense, talented and speedy though he may be, is stricken with puppy love for his sub-par jump shot and tries to score more than most point guards.

But instead of that do-it-all shooting guard, the Pacers will turn to somehow still inconsistent Brandon Rush, the shot-happy Luther Head, and the poor-shooting, overly physical, still completely ineffective…thing that is Dahntay Jones. Not exactly an ideal situation in terms of shooting guard depth.

Detroit Pistons

Lion Face: They Got Ben Gordon!

Ben Gordon is coming off the high point of his career, and it was his intent to get PAID. I can’t blame him, but I can hate teams foolish enough to ink him to that contract. Oh it’s been said, many times, many ways here on Hardwood Paroxysm, but let me lay it out for you: Ben Gordon will lose you games. He’ll keep you in some and win a few outright with a hot streak, but this is a player who will dominate the ball during crucial stretches and lose games by himself. He just isn’t efficient or versatile enough offensively to be a true threat to take over the game. (And this was supposed to be the Lion Face…oh, Ben, you just get me all riled up.)

They also nabbed Charlie Villanueva, who just may be the patron saint of HP. If this site had a mission statement, it would read something like this: “To praise and honor that most unbeloved of tweener forward, the big man oozing with potential but lacking in dominance, the lad laced with power and yet somehow lacking of it. These are the players will inherit the league, the world, the universe, and we will praise them in their brilliant (if frustrating) glory.” Amen to that. Charlie V is a ton of fun to watch, and though I’m still a bit befuddled by the Milwaukee Bucks’ devious plan to just abandon one of their best players outside a corner store in Detroit, I’m pleased that someone was willing to make a commitment to this cat.

Lemon Face: They Got Ben Gordon.

Guys, guys, guys, I’ve got a great idea. So let’s go out and get a ball-dominating, self-righteous shooting guard with a Napoleon complex. No, no, it won’t be like that Allen Iverson experiment, I SWARE. Gordon and Rip will happily support each other as they attempt to slit each other’s throats for minutes, and I’m sure this won’t affect our ability to develop Stuckey or Bynum whatsoever. I’m seeing bright lights and championship rings, friends. GET READY WORLD, BECAUSE HERE COME THE PISTONS!

Cleveland Cavaliers

Lion Face: The Rich Get Shaqier, the Poor Lose Lots of Games

The Cavs offseason additions begin with Shaquille O’Neal, because he’s still a game changer. Even though Cleveland won’t feature him the same way Phoenix did, they’re also an absolutely splendid team with only the most basic needs of a little self-created interior scoring and a man to stand up to Dwight Howard. Shaq can do both of those things, even if he’s not 28.

That acquisition, in and of itself, may not have been enough to solidify the Cavs spot as the favorites in the East. But add Anthony Parker. Add Jamario Moon. Add the low-risk, high-reward Leon Powe. This team is absolutely, positively stacked in every sense of the word, and I haven’t even gotten around to mentioning that LeBron James guy.

Lemon Face: Is it a Home Run Swing When a Double Would Do?

I hate baseball metaphors, and I hate myself for using them. But that doesn’t make the terminology in “America’s pastime” any less applicable or rhetorically accessible. So pardon me for that headline, but there is a truth in it: Did the Cavs really need Shaq? I mean, really? There weren’t other adjustments to be made on the interior, y’know, ones that don’t involved centers with a track record for destroying even the most rock solid team chemistries? We all that the walls in Phoenix were impenetrable. The bond between Mike D’Antoni and Steve Nash was like two old friends, and the offense was just in sync. But add one Shaquille O’Neal to the mix, stir until thickened, and watch the fireworks. I’m not saying that trading for Shaq won’t turn out in the Cavs’ favor because for all I know, they just might win the whole thing. But there’s a certain volatility to the ingredients here, and it’d be a shame to see a family masquerading as a team implode based on a miscalculation.

Milwaukee Bucks

Lion Face: Moving in a definite direction is a good thing.

The Bucks needed to shed some salary, and that meant Richard Jefferson had to go. It also likely means that Michael Redd will be out of his home, sweet NBA home by the trade deadline. Rather than fiddling around in a cess pool of mediocrity, The Skiles Bunch seems focused on rebuilding through internal development, maximization of talents available, and clearing cap. It’s the right way to do things, folks, and though it occasionally leads to handing Kirk Hinrich a pretty substantial contract extension, it’s a much more effective plan than the league’s usual ‘get rich quick’ schemes. You’re not going to trade up from the middle of the Eastern Conference into championship contention on a whim, and given the personnel and financial situation weighing down the Bucks, they made the smart choice.

Lemon Face: It doesn’t mean they’ll make the playoffs.

The Bucks now have honorable intentions, but we can’t expect things to get better overnight. For one, the point guard situation should be the league’s running punchline. I love Jennings more than most, and to me he has star written all over him. But I’m positive of the fact that he’s not ready to play the lead for a playoff team, no matter how uncompetitive the bottom of the Eastern Conference is. Otherwise, ‘Waukee will turn its lonely eyes to the likes of Luke Ridnour and Roko Ukic. If anyone could kindly point out to me which of those three will be even a semi-successful defender (and I’m talking outright, not relative to expectations) this season, then by all means. But an inability to defend the point guard position is going to be a problem against, oh, almost every team in the league. It’s huge.

But beyond that, this is a team that just doesn’t really make much sense offensively or defensively at the moment. There are interesting parts, most notably a fine collection of role players, but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of cohesive offensive strategy aside from letting Michael Redd do his thing. Jenning can create, but Rokonour aren’t exactly the best distributors in the world. That leaves an underwhelming offensive outfit to fend for themselves, and as much as I like Carlos Delfino, Hakim Warrick and the like, that plan is doomed. DOOMED.

Chicago Bulls

Lion Face: Derrick Rose Is The Answer/The Future/The Divine Truth

If you want reason #1 why Chicago was comfortable with letting go of Ben Gordon it’s because he’s not worth that much money. BUT, if you wanted reason #2, it would be Derrick Rose.

I’m not entirely sure if Rose is ready to run the Bulls’ offense as the primary offensive weapon, but apparently some folks in Chicago are. Keep in mind they’re also the people that decided Vinny Del Negro would make a fine head coach…but I’m willing to grant them a little latitude on this one. Aesthetically, I just love Rose’s game. Sometimes he’s smooth, and at others he’s herky-jerky, but his driving style is shockingly effective due to his tremendous length and crazy athleticism. Those are the traits that make point guards fun. It’s why we love Russell Westbrook and generally undervalue Ramon Sessions. Sessions is quick and a solid point man, but come on, CAN HE DUNK? WILL HE MAKE ANDRE MILLER LOOK LIKE HE’S ROLLER SKATING ON MARBLES? We want our stars to be spectacular, and Rose has spectacle down pat.

Lemon Face: None of it means a damn thing.

The Bulls are absolutely, 100% playoff worthy. They’ll make it to the postseason, and they’ll have the very distinct pleasure of failing to live up to the hype from last year’s epic Bulls-Celtics throwdown. There won’t be any punches to the face, or shoves into the scorer’s table. Just the Magic, the Celtics, or the Cavs using the Bulls as a speed bump on their path to glory. In order to escape this fate, Luol Deng would pretty much need to become an absolute stud, Tyrus Thomas would need to stay motivated and within himself, and Rose would have to rise to even greater heights. The last is obviously the most possible, but can we really imagine a world where Deng is anything more than slightly above pedestrian as a scorer? He’s competent, and his midrange jumper can be a weapon. But that 2006-’07 playoff run you have in the back of your mind? Fluke. Major fluke.

Like a Glove

Flip Saunders and the Washington Wizards are a match made in Gilbert’s own Gilberty heaven.  There are performing circus animals everywhere, fireworks, unicorns, elaborate masked balls, and the whole thing is probably scored by Animal Collective.  But somewhere in that world, there’s an incredible offensive coach whose style has been ridiculed, leadership has been questioned, and successes attributed to others.  He’s a kindred spirit with a perfect fit for not only Gilbert’s style, but the team’s style.  So light the fuse, pick out your feathery masque, and cue Sung Tongs — things just might get magical in Washington.

Flip Saunders isn’t just a good offensive coach, he’s a great offensive coach.  He’s also one that doesn’t come with the baggage of say, a Don Nelson.  Depending on how you interpret the events that transpired in Detroit, you may have your list of qualms with the man or his style, but it’s hard to argue with how he transformed one of the league’s slowest and least imaginagive offensive teams into a vehicle for easy buckets, exploiting mismatches, and whimsy.  Where Flip got the raw deal was with how the Pistons completely overachieved in the their two years under Larry Brown.  Yes, they won the championship, but the Pistons were masters of opportunism, not the league.  They were a good team that played great defense playing against a great team that had a great meltdown at a great time.  I dare not deny Detroit their ‘ship nor its legitimacy, but come on, the Lakers were the better team.  The next season, the same squad got all the way to the Finals, but fell short against the Spurs.  Those were good runs by a quality team, but does that really mean that merely reaching the conference finals three times in a row was an abject failure?  Especially when handed a…let’s say ‘confident’ roster with questionable focus?  He won an average of 58.7 wins over three seasons, for blog’s sake.

Blaming so-and-so for what went down in Detroit is SO 2008, so I’m going to let sleeping Sheeds lie.  What we have now is a depressingly bad Wizards squad with an interim coach who never had a chance.  Gilbert and Brendan Haywood’s injuries had a lot to due with the EPIC FAIL of 2008-2009, but that doesn’t change the fact that this team will need guidance to reintegrate Arenas, Haywood, and potentially a high lottery pick into the rotation.  What better man is there to champion the Wizards’ regular season than a man famous, or even infamous, for his regular season pedigree?  Realistically, I’m not sure how far this team can go, as currently constructed, in the Eastern Conference in years to come.  A lot of that hinges on exactly what Gil can do and chooses to do.  But Saunders fits Washington’s bill perfectly, and seems an ideal candidate to bring the Wizards back into the postseason and, perhaps even more importantly, get the most out of Arenas.

1/21/09: The Night Andrew Bynum Went Nova

Bynum Goes Nova

Bynum Goes Nova

I could complain about the Clips not having Camby. I could complain about letting rookie DeAndre Jordan get 23. I could complain about how the Lakers always seem to have huge nights after I decide to poke them with sticks. But really none of that is fair to Andrew Bynum, who scored 42 points on 24 shots, nabbed 15 boards, and had 3 blocks. That’s just sick. Sick I tell you. That, my friends, is Nova.

I’m sorry, Andrew. Please don’t hurt me anymore.