Here’s a little video project edited by John Bennett of NBA Playbook and myself. This may not be the most timely, with the Conference Finals starting tomorrow, but we had too much fun making it not to share it.
The excitement of the start of the playoffs was dampened considerably yesterday by Derrick Rose’s devastating ACL tear. The crushing loss of the reigning MVP from one of the two teams in the east with a legitimate shot at winning a title hung like a black cloud over the rest of the day’s games, and probably won’t quite disappear from the backs of our minds for the rest of the postseason and beyond. But Sunday’s opening contest between the Jazz and the Spurs played host to something as wonderfully life-affirming as the Rose injury was soul-crushing: Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili found the fountain of youth.
The aging Duncan and injury-plagued Ginobili, both of whom sat out the final stretch of regular season to preserve their legs, lent credence to the theory that maybe, just maybe, the teams best suited for this hectic, 66-game lockout schedule are the oldest ones, the ones with the veteran know-how. How many times did we see Duncan do this in the regular season?
Ginobili’s two slams were equally awesome, throwback affairs.
Through two days, the postseason has been at times depressing (the injuries to Rose and Iman Shumpert) and thrilling (the Clippers’ insane comeback, Kevin Durant’s game-winner), and full of smaller, simpler pleasures that may go forgotten as the playoffs unfold. Pleasures like the knowledge that two of the most reliable aging superstars in the game can still look 10 years younger when they want to.
The NBA’s first four-overtime game since 1997 combined with the Jazz’s uncharacteristically poor shooting produced a rarity: Utah missed 77 shots from the field (49-for-126, 39%) in a 139-133 loss at Atlanta. That was the highest single-game total in an NBA game since 1993, and it was the most ever by the Jazz and the highest total against the Hawks since the Suns implausibly missed 90 shots in a 48-minute game at Atlanta in 1971 (38-for-128, 30%).
That’s a lot of misses in one night. And while I’m not here to rag on the Hawks, playing their third game in three nights, or the Jazz, playing their third in four, I would like to share what happened in the futile first of four overtimes last night.
Yeah, that’s a combined 2-for-16 from the field. Four points. FOUR. Apparently that’s only the second-worst overtime total in NBA history. I blame the stupid schedule.
DeShawn Stevenson isn’t a great shooter. He isn’t a great passer, either. But sometimes, a miserable pass turns into an incredible shot. Like at the end of the third quarter in Orlando last night. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it.
This is the dynamic duo you’re excited about in Milwaukee, right?
Yeah, maybe not. But if you tuned into the Bucks/Warriors game to see the Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis Show, you ended up watching something a bit different. While it was cool to see Ellis and Ekpe Udoh make their Buck debuts against their former team and see the crowd show its appreciation, the most productive players on the court had nothing to do with the main story:
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: 22 points (10-15 fg), 17 rebounds (nine offensive), two assists, three steals, one block in 32 minutes.
Mike Dunleavy: 24 points (7-8 fg, 4-5 3pt, 6-6 ft), three rebounds, four assists, zero turnovers in 19 minutes.
For Mbah a Moute, it was a career high in scoring and a season high in rebounding. He did his work just like Ersan Ilyasova was doing it before Ilyasova got sick, with effort and smarts, albeit without the jump shooting.
Dunleavy was about as efficient as you can be, continuing the excellent all-around play off the bench that has keyed Milwaukee’s five-game winning streak. He’s now averaging 20.8 points, 5.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds over the last five, often running the offense with the second unit. Oh, and during that stretch he’s shooting 60.3 percent. He did it against Golden State in fewer minutes than normal, while hearing boos from the Oracle crowd every time he touched the ball. (Sidenote: if you can figure out why Warriors fans still boo him, let me know.)
It’s telling that the Bucks kept rolling along with Ilyasova out of the lineup, even if Golden State isn’t the class of the West. Ilyasova is the Eastern Conference Player of the Week and has been putting up monster numbers lately, but he doesn’t function like a traditional star. Milwaukee doesn’t run a ton of ISO plays for him; rather, he gets his points by moving into open spaces and crashing the glass. Per Basketball-Reference.com, only eight players Â boast a higher offensive rebounding percentage than Ilyasova this year. Mbah a Moute was able to pick up the slack in that area Friday night and ended up with the same kind of ridiculous numbers we’ve been seeing from Ilyasova.
A lot of people still think of Scott Skiles’ Bucks as a defense-first team, but this season they’re 11th in offensive efficiency and just 22nd on defense. They’re one of the best passing teams in the league, fourth-best at assists per possession per TeamRankings.com. “We have a lot of good chemistry inside the team,” said Ilyasova after a recent win.Â “Everybody trusts each other… When they make the extra pass, you have to trust the teammate to make the shot. It’s the kind of thing we’re really good at.”
“It’s kind of been really easy for me right now,” Ilyasova continued. “Hopefully we’re going to make the playoffs together.”
The Bucks are averaging 31.8 assists a game in their last five games. They’re eighth in the East, tied with the Knicks with a record of 20-24. Going forward, the challenge is to integrate the new guys without losing any of the chemistry that brought them into the playoff picture. It’s fair to worry about how Ilyasova will fit in with Ellis needing the needing the ball in his hands, but these performances from Mbah a Moute and Dunleavy show that it doesn’t haveÂ to be all backcourt all the time. This is just one game against a team that appears to be tanking, but it’s a good sign.
In this installment of Â Have Ball, Will Travel, we’ll take a look at an odd play in which Gerald Wallace — on a cut to the basket — manages to get from the top of the key to the basket without using any of his two allotted steps.
Atlanta Hawks 92, Portland Trail Blazers 89; 4th, 9:45
Wallace was notÂ whistled for a travel. It’s a correct no-call; although viewers often have an instinctive reaction to a player who covers as much ground as Wallace does in this play, you can see from the video replay that he never actually has the ball in his possession until he finally goes up for the layup. Kudos to the baseline official, who has nails Wallace’s bobble and actually signals it in order to explain the no-call.
For reference, here’s the relevant section of the traveling rule:
A player who receives the ball while he is progressingâ€¦may take two steps in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball.
Basic enough, but with an important clarification (emphasis mine):
The first step occurs when a foot, or both feet, touch the floor after gaining control of the ball.
Interestingly, even if we count Wallace’s step beyond the top of the key as his gather step (which makes sense considering he’s only initially receiving the pass), he still doesn’t travel. Thanks to some long strides and an early launch point (he actually jumps up for his lay-in at the bottom of the free throw circle), Wallace’s slash through the paint is even legal on a hypothetical basis.
In this installment ofÂ Have Ball, Will Travel, weâ€™ll take at a look at a play where Vince Carter went to work against the Milwaukee Bucks, and stepped his way into one of the NBA’s points of officiating emphasis this season.
Carter was called for a travel on this play. On first glance, it looks as though Carter might simply be pulling a classic — if too obvious — pivot shift. However, if you watch his steps closely, the violation doesn’t come on a pivot play at all (nor by taking too many steps), but on a pretty unique instance of the same-foot hop rule that warrants an automatic whistle. From the NBA Rulebook:
Upon ending his dribble or gaining control of the ball, a player may not touch the floor consecutively with the same foot (hop).
This rule is one typically enforced on the perimeter, but Carter manages to bring it to the post by keeping one foot just off the ground as he hops to trigger his post move. At full speed, Carter’s move looked unorthodox and possibly illegal, but the officials (David Jones, Olandis Poole, and Mike Callahan) were right on top of this interesting application of one of the points of emphasis in officiating this season.
In this installment ofÂ Have Ball, Will Travel, weâ€™ll take at a look at LeBron James’ drive to hoop in the final minute of regulation against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Based on the league’s interpretation of the jump stop rule, James would have theoretically been able to pivot — as he does in order to manufacture a shot — following the culmination of his move. However, there are two flaws in James’ execution. The first: he attempt to execute a jump stop but does not land both of his feet on the floor simultaneously, a necessary requirement of the rule. That rule is as follows, per the NBA Rulebook:
A progressing player who jumps off one foot on the first step may land with both feet simultaneously for the second step.
The second: following his jump stop, LeBron reverse pivots using his left foot as his base, but slides his foot over from the white boundary line into the painted area itself. This kind of pivot slide isn’t dealt with in the rulebook explicitly, but I’m interpreting it in a general sense under the clauses addressing the “lifting” of a pivot foot (with the explanation that the pivot is being “lifted” and put back on the ground in one motion).
James’ move is not unlike many of the others that have been documented in this series. It takes place at the end of a game by a player with incredible speed, and the fact that it’s James is, in my eyes, irrelevant. The more important factors are the speed of the play action and how much the footwork itself is obscured by defenders, both of which — athleticism and added defensive attention — happen to correlate with being an awfully good player.Â That doesn’t excuse the lack of a call, necessarily, but the trend of reluctance to determine games with whistles in the blink of an eye is at least worthy of note.
In this season premiere installment ofÂ Have Ball, Will Travel, weâ€™ll take a closer look at Dwyane Wadeâ€™s game-winning bucket from Wednesday nightâ€™s contest between the Heat and Bobcats.
UPDATE:Â By way of a rule clarification from the league office and further review of the play, it’s been determined and illustrated that Wade’s move was — contrary to my first analysis — completely legal. Observe:
The crucial determinations here are that of the “gather” and the “first step.” Because Wade gathers the ball while his right foot is on the ground — his “gather” step — he hasn’t officially begun using the two steps he is allotted by NBA rules. Thus, the jump stop he uses to get to the left block is technically the first step of his sequence, allowing him to still utilize a pivot.
Here is the specific wording in the NBA Rulebook that allows for such a play:
A player who comes to a stop on step one when both feet are on the floor or touch the floor simultaneously may pivot using either foot as his pivot. If he jumps with both feet he must release the ball before either foot touches the floor.
If Wade’s right foot had been counted as his first step, the play would indeed have been illegal, and would have resulted in a traveling violation. That wasn’t the case here, though, and though my retraction alone doesn’t mean much, the officials deserve credit for making the right determination on Wade’s gather (which in this case isn’t much of a debatable issue; his foot is clearly planted when Wade collects his dribble) and rightfully allowing the bucket to stand.
Post-jump stop pivot moves are about as easy as travel calls get; while drives through traffic or quick spin moves often require slow motion to fully assess without a reasonable doubt, the jump stop is a clear and distinct action easily differentiated from any illegal steps that follow. Even at full speed, we’re able to see Wade execute a nice jump stop, but negate his move with what should have been a turnover.
It wasn’t. The officiating crew flat-out missed this game-changing call, which should come as little surprise to those who regularly eye the footwork of ball handlers in the waning moments of any close game. Most officials do their best to avoid interventionism at such a crucial juncture, and thus whistles of virtually any kind become a bit harder to come by. Such was the case here, and Wade capitalized by completing the possession with a bucket.
It happens. This isn’t the first time a call was missed, and it won’t be the last. But it’s worth pointing out the violation on Wade’s move toward the rim, if only to shine a spotlight on this commonly used bastardization of the jump stop.
For reference, here is the relevant section of the traveling rule, as described in the 2010-2011 Official NBA Rulebook*
A progressing player who jumps off one foot on the first step may land with both feet simultaneously for the second step. In this situation, the player may not pivot with either foot and if one or both feet leave the floor the ball must be released before either returns to the floor.
*The 2011-2012 version is not publicly available, but modifications to the traveling rule were not included among the announced rule changes or even in the points of officiating emphasis.