Archive for January, 2008

Tracking the Raptors’ Key Stretch of 19 Games (#7)

January 31, 2008

The Anatomy of Wins and Losses in the NBA:
Breaking Down Key Possessions

Game 7 – TOR 122 vs Was (24-19) 85, W 5-2 … Full Play-By-Play
Game 6 – Tor 104 @ WAS (23-19) 108, OT, L 4-2 … Full Play-By-Play
Game 5 – TOR 106 vs Mil (17-26) 75, W 4-1 … Full Play-By-Play
Game 4 – Tor 114 @ BOS (33-6) 112, W 3-1 … Boxscore 
Game 3 – Tor 95 @ PHI (15-25) 99, L 2-1 … Full Play-By-Play
Game 2 – TOR 89 vs Atl (17-18) 78, W 2-0 … Boxscore, Full Play-By-Play
Game 1 – TOR 116 vs Sac (15-21) 91, W 1-0

===============================================

Key Possessions which determined the W-L result:

– the entire 2nd Quarter (where TOR outscored Was, 33-18)

Key Raptors: Jason Kapono (6 pts; 3-4, FGA; 2 O-Rbs), Andrea Bargnani (9 pts; 2-2, FGA; 1-1, 3FGA; 4-4, FTA; 1 Rb) and Rasho Nesterovic (6 pts; 3-3, FGA; 4 Rbs)

Vital Components:
– in the decisive 2nd Quarter
Tor/33 pts; 12-22, FGA (54.5%); 3-5, 3FGA (9 pts); 6-6, FTA; 14 Rbs (3 O-Rbs/6pts); 1 TO
WAS/18 pts; 6-18, FGA (33.3%); 4-10, 3FGA (12 pts); 2-2, FTA; 11 Rbs; 5 TO

… meaning that the Raptors scored 6 pts more than the Wizards did during this specific sequence in the game as a direct result of 2nd Chance Opportunities; got to the FT Line more (6-2); outrebounded Washington (14-11), and won the Turnover battle (1-5) … to put the game away prior to half-time.

Next Game:
vs LA Lakers (Fri Feb 01)

The Worm vs The Winner

January 31, 2008

I miss Dennis Rodman, too … and share with other Hoops Crazies (like Kelly Dwyer) an almost inexhaustible appreciation for (i) the way ‘The Worm’ played the game – ‘full throttle‘, at all times – and, (ii) the single best attribute of  his generally under-appreciated ‘game’, his seemingly unparalleled ability to just ‘go & get it’. 

As an NBA ‘original’ … Dennis Rodman was, without question, the best rebounding (and, perhaps, as well, defensive) player I’ve ever seen … who stood under 6’9, in his stocking feet.

That said … ‘The Worm’ who patrolled the hardwood and devoured the glass, unrelentingly, first and foremost for the Pistons’ ‘Bad Boyz’ and, secondarily for Da (‘best-team-of-all-time’) Bulls (beside MJ & Pip) … remains only the 2nd Best Rebounder, in the history of the NBA, according to these eyes.

When comparing ‘Glass Masters’ across eras (and with no insult intended toward ‘The Worm’), there remains today one other ‘Gentlemen Giant ‘ (of The Game) who still reigns supreme above the ‘Rainbow Haired, Flesh-embroidered, Human Pin Cushion’, in terms of sheer ‘Rebounding Proficiency’.

During his illustrious career, the indominable Bill Russell (Boston Celtics, C, 6’9) … who collected 11 NBA Championships over a span of 13 years … is still most deserving of the title, “Best Rebounder in NBA history”.

And, when it comes to deciding which one of these two ‘Pantheons of Hoop’ I miss more – although the similarity between their images can, at certain times, be striking …

Bill Russell Rebounding vs Dennis Rodman Rebounding

… it isn’t even remotely close.

“There are two types of superstars (in the NBA). One makes himself look good at the expense of the other guys on the floor. But there’s another type who makes the players around him look better than they are, and that’s the type (Bill) Russell was.” — Don Nelson

In our lifetime, we will never see His kind again.

Super Bowl XLII: Destiny Calls

January 31, 2008

Three days prior to kick-off, the ‘side number’ for this game looks pretty accurate to me … NE -12.5

e.g. if it’s -14.5 or more, I’m all over the G-men, going for their 11th consecutive cover on the road; if it’s -12 or lower, anytime prior to kick-off, I’m gonna have to hit the Pats, hard; and, if it stays between -12.5 and -14, that’s a very dicey call, either way, from where I’m perched, right now … i.e. in the catbird’s seat, +27.7 units on the NFL season to-date.

How have the Giants been able to mask their apparent weaknesses in the Defensive Secondary, against each of the Bays, in their playoff victories?

IMO, the ‘uncomplicated’ answer is … their Front 7, right now, is as good (read, as … super athletic, physical and fierce) as any group in the league, today, anchored by Strahan and propelled by young’ns Umenyiora, Tuck & Torbor (etc.) … as is their Running Game with the tandem backs combo, Bradshaw (speed) & Jacobs (power).

While I can see several different scenarios unfolding in this game … the one which gives me the most pause to tread lightly in assessing this match-up, right now, is the still uncertainty involved with that protective boot Tom Brady was wearing (unexpectedly?) last week, and the effect his injury has had on the amount of reps he’s taken, since then, with his usual ‘Gang of Marauders on Offense’ (i.e. re: the cohesiveness of their ‘spread’ & ‘hurry-up’ passing attack vs the Giants pass rush and their situational subs).

Giants defense prepares for dancing Brady

IMO, if Tom Brady is completely healthy, and in his customary rhythm with Moss, Welker, Faulk & Co., I don’t see New England scoring less than 35 pts in this game … which should be enough to win and get the cover, if the number stays where it’s at today (-12.5) and the Giants’ Special Teams don’t return any kicks for TDs …

but, if his timing is thrown off, by his inactivity since the Chargers’ game, even just a little bit, then there’s every possibility for the G-Men’s Front 7 to hold down the fort again, like they did against the respective Bays …

in which case …

it will then fall, once more, at the feet of the Pats’ veteran Defensive Unit, led by Bruschi, Vrabel, Seymour, Harrison and (my 2nd favourite defensive player in NFL history, Mr. Junior) ‘Old Man’ Seau … to play the type of “tough, physical, smash-mouth” football, they are capable of, in the Red Zone, as though this was, in fact, the FINAL GAME of their pro careers! …. hmmmmmm???

… and, thereby, avoid the (cruel?) hand-of-fate which befell the St. Louis Rams, Feb 3, 2002 (6 years ago, to the day) when, as very healthy 14-pt favorites, they succumbed to an upstart team, led by an inexperienced QB, who completed 16 of 27 passes that day – for 145 yards with 1 TD – and marched his team down the field for the game winning score, while being named Super Bowl MVP.

Which way will things play out this Sunday?

IMO, this group of Patriots will only go as far as Tom Brady’s health & Junior Seau’s heart can take them.

In the end, will it be enough?

Only (Father) time can truly tell … but, right now, it seems to me as though Destiny is calling out their names, Here & Now.

19-0.

Misdiagnosis in New Jersey

January 31, 2008

Q. Should the Nets trade Jason Kidd? (or not)

Nets in three-way talks for Kidd 

A. In a nutshell … (absolutely) NO (frigg’n) WAY! 

Jason Kidd has been New Jersey’s stalwart PG, and a perennial League All-Star, since his arrival in ‘the Swamp’, via trade from Phoenix (when Nets’ GM, Rod Thorn, fleeced his Suns’ counterpart, Bryan Colangelo, exchanging Jason Kidd and Chris Dudley for Stephon Marbury, Johnny Newman and Soumaila Samake, Jul/18/01).

Reviewing Kidd’s 6 prior years with the Nets …

Season W-L Win% Finish
’01-02 52-30 .634 Lost NBA Finals
’02-03 49-33 .598 Lost NBA Finals
’03-04 47-35 .573 Lost Eastern Conference Finals
’04-05 42-40 .512 Lost 1st Rd Playoffs
’05-06 49-33 .598 Lost Eastern Conference Semi-finals
’06-07 41-41 .500 Lost Eastern Conference Semi-finals

New Jersey has yet to miss the playoffs, has made 5 trips to the Eastern Conference Semi-finals, 3 trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, and 2 trips to the NBA Finals …

which stands in stark contrast to how the Nets fared prior to his arrival:

Season W-L Win% Finish
’94-95 30-52 .366 *
’95-96 30-52 .366 *
’96-97 26-56 .317 *
’97-98 43-39 .524 Lost 1st Rd Playoffs, 0-3
’98-99 16-34 .320 Lockout Season *
’99-00 31-51 .378 *
’00-01 26-56 .317 *

* Missed Playoffs

a decidely dim period in their organization’s history.

In fact, The Difference is, literally, like Night (sans Kidd) and Day (avec Kidd).

THE PROBLEM, however, in New Jersey, right now, has nothing to do with Jason Kidd.

THE PROBLEM, in New Jersey … has everything to do with, one, Vincent Lamar Carter!

Period. Full stop. Exclamation Point. End of discussion. 

Since HIS arrival in ‘the Swamp’, via trade from Toronto (in exchange for Alonzo Mourning, Aaron Williams, Eric Williams and two First Round draft picks, Dec/17, 2004), the Nets have moved steadily in reverse, and have failed to reach the Eastern Conference Finals each of the past 3 seasons.

The fact is … ‘Wince’ Carter is a supremely talented ‘individualistic’ basketball player, who plays only ‘when’ and ‘how’ he chooses to, on any given day (depending on the mood he’s in), is a ‘chronic under-achiever’, and who is  a ‘poor fit’ with the other two shining lights for the Nets (Kidd & Richard Jefferson).

Instead of simply acquiescing to the trade request of Jason Kidd, what Rod Thorn needs to do, in this situation, is look out for the best interests of the Nets organization, and:

(i) Find a willing suitor for the services of Vince Carter, who was signed this past off-season to a reasonable contract extension by New Jersey; and, then …

(ii) Stay the course with Jason Kidd;

(iii) Await the return of Nenad Krstic (C), who has missed the Nets’ last 33 games this season, after missing almost all of last year, while rehabilitating his injured knee …

Nenad May Be Needed Addition

Trading Jason Kidd is not the solution to what ails the New Jersey Nets, right now … currently, holding down the 8th (and final) Playoff position in the Eastern Conference (19-26).

What New Jersey needs, both, this season and moving forward for the future, is a terrific Point Guard (i.e. Kidd); a 1st class Small Forward (i.e. R-Jefferson); a young and athletic Power Forward (i.e. Sean Williams); a rock solid Center, who can rebound effectively, defend an opposing ‘Big’, pass the ball, and make mid-range jumpshots, selflessly (i.e. Nenad Krstic); and, then, a Prime-time ‘Scoring Machine’, at the Off Guard position (i.e. ???), who can consistently knock down perimeter jumpers and get to the FT Line on a regular basis … all of which ‘Wince’ Carter no longer does, night-to-night, in the NBA.

All-Star, ‘pass-first’, ‘triple-double’ Point Guards (like J-Kidd) do not just grow on trees, in this league … wildly inconsistent, athletic, egocentric, ’20-14 & 5′ wing men (like V-Carter) do.

Tracking the Raptors’ Key Stretch of 19 Games (#6)

January 30, 2008

The Anatomy of Wins and Losses in the NBA:
Breaking Down Key Possessions

Game 6 – Tor 104 @ WAS (23-19) 108, OT, L 4-2 … Full Play-By-Play
Game 5 – TOR 106 vs Mil (17-26) 75, W 4-1 … Full Play-By-Play
Game 4 – Tor 114 @ BOS (33-6) 112, W 3-1 … Boxscore 
Game 3 – Tor 95 @ PHI (15-25) 99, L 2-1 … Full Play-By-Play
Game 2 – TOR 89 vs Atl (17-18) 78, W 2-0 … Boxscore, Full Play-By-Play
Game 1 – TOR 116 vs Sac (15-21) 91, W 1-0

===============================================

Key Possessions which determined the W-L result:

– the entire 3rd Quarter (where the Raptors were outscored, 15-25)
– the OT (where Toronto was outrebounded 10-2) , including 1 crucial O-Reb/Jamison tip-in which put the Wizards up by 5 pts at the 00:09 mark)

Key Raptors: Anthony Parker (who was 3-16, FGA; and committed an important shooting foul on Antawn Jamison, in the OT, sending him to the charity stripe for 3 shots, with the score tied, 95-95)

Vital Components:
– in the decisive 3rd Quarter
Tor/15 pts; 3-7, 3FGA (9 pts); 3-4, FTA; 9 Rbs; 3 TO
WAS/25 pts; 2-5, 3FGA (6 pts); 5-5, FTA; 15 Rbs; 3 O-Rbs (7 pts); 2 TO

– in the OT
Tor/9 pts; 2-4, 3FGA (6 pts); 2-2, FTA; 2 Rbs
WAS/13 pts; 2-3, 3FGA (6 pts); 5-5, FTA; 9 Rbs; 4 O-Rbs (2 pts)

… meaning that the Wizards scored 9 pts more than the Raptors did during these two specific sequences in the game as a direct result of 2nd Chance Opportunities.

Next Game:
vs Was (Wed Jan 30)

The Best Point Guards in the NBA: An Update

January 30, 2008

Whaddayouthink: the NBA’s best point guard?

Here’s what I wrote a month-and-half ago, on this topic …

The Best Point Guards in the NBA (Dec 19 2007)

and, here’s exactly where I’m at today … with a slightly different slant on the question asked (above) by Kelly Dwyer:

Conventional Be Damned 

If you could put any 4 other players you wanted to with the Point Guard (PG) of your choice, right now, in the NBA, completely healthy, to play and win only 1 game, on which your own life depended … this is how I would rank the following list of individuals playing in the league today:

1. Jason Kidd
2. Steve Nash
3. Chauncey Billups
4. Tony Parker
5. Baron Davis
6. Deron Williams
7. Chris Paul
8. Brandon Roy (climbing with a bullet)
9. Jose Calderon
10. Devin Harris

but … if I am putting together my own “5-man team” of players … regardless of which positions they play, at the moment, in the NBA … to take on all-comers, this is who I would choose to use at the PG spot on my current-day “Dream Team”:

PG – Lebron James
OG – Dwyane Wade
SF – Kobe Bryant
PF – Kevin Garnett
C – Tim Duncan

and, then, you could take any of those 10 “other” players you wanted to and it wouldn’t matter one bit to me … my “Group of 5” is going to kick your team’s a$$, in an NBA game, played under NBA rules.

That’s my answer to Kelly Dwyer’s question.

Bell-weather Games For The Raptors

January 29, 2008

In the midst of their most important stretch of games this season, this week’s back-to-back encounters with the Wizards (23-19, Souteast Division, 2nd, #5) loom large on the horizon for Toronto (24-19, Atlantic Division, 2nd, #4), and the eventual Playoff Seeds in the Eastern Conference, re: the #4 and the #5 positions.

A sweep by either team puts it in the driver’s seat, as far as securing the Home Court Advantage, down-the-road, should these two adversaries meet one another in the 1st Round of the Playoffs; while a split, sets the tone early for what shapes up as a season-long tug-0-war between these two teams for the #4 spot in the Conference Standings.

On the personnel front, both teams match-up very well with one another:

Was vs Tor

STARTERS:
1. Calderon vs Daniels
2. Parker vs Stevenson
3. Moon vs Butler
4. Bosh vs Jamison
5. Bargnani vs Heywood

KEY SUBS:
6. Dixon vs Mason, Jr.
7. Delfino vs Young
8. Humphries vs Blatche
9. Kapono vs Songaila
10. Nesterovic vs Pecherov

Coach:
Mitchell vs Jordan

If Toronto can hold its own on the glass, turn the ball over less than Washington, get to the FT Line more than the Wizards and score more points from Behind The Arc, the Raptors are poised to sweep these two games. If, however, the Wizards can dominate the glass, turn Toronto over, stop Bosh from getting to the FT Line for double-digit attempts, and hold their own in terms of 3-pointers made, then the Wizards are going to (at least) split these two games. And, considering that both teams are playing, right now, without a key player in their usual rotation – i.e. TJ Ford (a good player) for Toronto and Gilbert Arenas (an NBA All-Star) for Washington – this should bode well for the Wizards come playoff time. 

Tracking the Raptors’ Key Stretch of 19 Games (#4 & #5)

January 28, 2008

The Anatomy of Wins and Losses in the NBA:
Breaking Down Key Possessions

Game 5 – TOR 106 vs Mil (17-26) 75, W 4-1 … Full Play-By-Play
Game 4 – Tor 114 @ BOS (33-6) 112, W 3-1 … Boxscore 
Game 3 – Tor 95 @ PHI (15-25) 99, L 2-1 … Full Play-By-Play
Game 2 – TOR 89 vs Atl (17-18) 78, W 2-0 … Boxscore, Full Play-By-Play
Game 1 – TOR 116 vs Sac (15-21) 91, W 1-0

===============================================

Key Possessions which determined the W-L result:

Game 5 – the entire 3rd Quarter
Game 4 – execution on their final 4 possessions in the 4th Quarter, when trailing 104-108 …

01:23 Delfino, 3FGM (assist by Calderon) … 107-108
00:56 Bosh, 2FGM/Driving Dunk (assist by Calderon) … 109-110
00:31 Calderon, FTM + FTM … 111-110
00:10 Calderon, 2FGM/Driving Layup + FTM/And1 … 114-112

Key Raptors:
Game 5 – Jose Calderon and Chris Bosh
Game 4 – Carlos Delfino and Jose Calderon

Vital Components:
Game 5 – holding their opponent to 11 pts in the 3rd Quarter (scoring on only 27% of their possessions/6-22); while putting up 32 pts themselves (scoring on 63% of their possessions/15-24)
Game 4 – Shooting 71% on 3’s (15-21), outscoring their opponent by 24 pts from Behind the Arc; and, the superb play of Jose Calderon 

Next Game:
@ Was (Tue Jan 29)

The Knicks Have (Finally) Turned The Corner

January 21, 2008

1st Quarter
8:58 Bos 33 NYK 30

Having (finally/temporarily?) settled on the following rotation …

STARTERS: PG/Fred Jones, OG/Jamal Crawford, SF/Q-Richardson, PF/Zach Randolph, C/Eddie Curry;
SUBS: PG/Nate Robinson, G-F/Jared Jeffries, F/David Lee, F/Renaldo Balkman 
RESERVES: G/Mardy Collins, PF-C/Malik Rose, C/Jerome James

the New York Knicks (13-27) are playing their best basketball of the season, winning 4 of their last 5 games (vs Det, vs Was, @ NJ and @ Mia) and, today, are playing tough against the Boston Celtics (unlike last time).

Q: What’s the key to the Knicks improved play of late and their heightened expectations for the remainder of the season?

A: The total absence of Stephon Marbury from their team.

Knicks: Stephon Marbury made decision to have surgery now

Despite their status as multi-million-dollar salaried, high profile employees, Real Life can sometimes be harsh for professional athletes … when they reach the END OF THE LINE.

Such is the case, precisely, in this instance, for the Knicks and Starbury. 

If he’s actually played his final game (ever) for his home-town team, both the Knicks and Stephon Marbury will be better off for it.

Let’s sincerely hope that both sides of this equation can, at last, see the light (of good reason) and, either with a straight ‘Buy Out’ or a trade – plus a renewed commitment to playing team basketball, defense & rebounding – put this franchise back on the road to respectability. 

LIVE (In-Game) UPDATE:

3rd Quarter
12:00 Bos 59 NYK 45 … Knicks Starters, this half: Robinson, Crawford, Jeffries, Lee and Randolph

06:38 Bos 68 NYK 52 … Q-Rich (who can shoot) subs in for Jeffries (who can’t)

05:20 Bos 70 NYK 54 … Curry subs in for Lee … the Knicks are going in-reverse

02:57 Bos 80 NYK 63 … Paul Pierce and Q-Rich both get tossed from the game, picking up their 2nd techs apiece … Joey Crawford’s in the house … Fred Jones subs in

00:31 Bos 82 NYK 70 … the C’s lead is now cut to 12

4th Quarter

12:00 Bos 82 NYK 70 … Knicks Starters: Robinson, Crawford, Jones, Randolph and Curry … vs the Celtics’ 2nd unit, i.e. Eddie House, Ray Allen, Tony Allen, Leon Powe and Big Baby Davis

11:41 Bos 82 NYK 72 … Kevin Garnett subs in for Leon Powe … things are about to get very interesting … versus the Knicks BIG line-up, without Mr. Pierce

08:20 Bos 89 NYK 81 … coming back from 19 down, the Knicks are fighting hard today … with Boston already in the ‘penalty’ free throw situation

06:15 Bos 94 NYK 82 … Knicks’ time-out

04:41 Bos 100 NYK 83 … Knicks’ time-out, again, after the C’s stepped on the gas with consecutive hoops by KG, Davis (O-Reb dunk) and House … Lee subs in for Randolph; Jeffries subs in for Curry; Knicks trying to go with a ‘small’ line-up

02:27 Bos 107 NYK 87 … the Knicks hit a scoring wall after cutting the lead to 8 … ‘White Flag’ time in Gotham

00:00 Bos 109 KNY 93

Not nearly good enough but, still, a far cry from a 45 point shellacking.

Better days ahead (?) … for this once storied franchise.

Tracking the Raptors’ Key Stretch of 19 Games (#3)

January 20, 2008

The Anatomy of Wins and Losses in the NBA:
Breaking Down Key Possessions

Game 1 – TOR 116 vs Sac (15-21) 91, W 1-0
Game 2 – TOR 89 vs Atl (17-18) 78, W 2-0 … Boxscore, Full Play-By-Play
Game 3 – Tor 95 @ PHI (15-25) 99, L 2-1 … Full Play-By-Play

===============================================

Key Possessions which determined the W-L result:
– the entire 3rd Quarter

Vital Components:
Playing their 4th game in 5 nights and trailing by 5 points to open the 2nd half, the Raptors allowed the 76ers to shoot 60.8% from the field – yielding 7 interior baskets (i.e. 3 dunks, 2 layups and 1 tip-in) and 5 Offensive Rebounds – and, then, made 6 Turnovers (Parker/3, Calderon/2, Humphries) of their own in the 3rd Quarter, alone … a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

Next Game:
@ BOS (Thu Jan 24)