Posts Tagged ‘Ian Mahinmi’

Pacers need a lift from their bench

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew previews Game 4 of the Heat-Pacers series

MIAMI – Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

The Indiana Pacers’ starting lineup has outscored the Miami Heat (by 29 points) in its floor time in the Eastern Conference finals. But when the Pacers have had one or more reserves on the floor, they’ve been pretty awful (minus-34). And thus, they’re down 2-1 with a need to get Game 4 on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Yes, this is the same story as we had in last year’s conference finals, when the Pacers’ starters were a plus-49 in seven games and all other Indiana lineups were a minus-77.

With that in mind, reworking the bench was the focus of the Pacers’ summer. They traded for Luis Scola and signed C.J. Watson and Chris Copeland. But in the regular season, lineups that included at least one reserve were only slightly better (plus-2.0 points per 100 possessions) than they were last season (plus-1.8).

In February, the Pacers signed Andrew Bynum and traded Danny Granger for Evan Turner, moves that somehow threw their starters in a funk. They’ve been better in the postseason, but the bench is back to bringing the Pacers down.

The playoff numbers aren’t as bad as they were last season, but Indiana lineups with at least one reserve on the floor have been pretty dreadful offensively and have been outscored by 4.4 points per 100 possessions in 16 games. In this series, they’ve been awful on both ends of the floor and have been outscored by 30.3.

Scola scored eight straight points in the second quarter on Saturday, but has shot 2-for-11 otherwise. Ian Mahinmi has played just 23 minutes in three games. Turner has played just three, and managed to dribble straight into a triple-team upon entering Game 3. Watson has the worst plus-minus (minus-31 in 58 minutes) in the series.

The only reserve that hasn’t hurt the Pacers in this series is Rasual Butler. Meanwhile, the Heat have gotten lifts from Ray Allen, Chris Andersen, Norris Cole and Rashard Lewis, all of whom have been trusted and empowered much more than anyone on Indiana’s bench.

That’s why some of this has to come back on Pacers coach Frank Vogel. In a sprint for the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage (which they lost in Game 2) from the start of the season, the Pacers weren’t willing to sacrifice games to develop their bench. Over the last two seasons, the Indiana starting lineup has played almost twice as many minutes (3,429) as any other lineup in the league.

Part of that is health. They’ve been fortunate that none of their starters have missed more than eight games in either season.

Part of it is dependence. When the starters are much better than the reserves, teams tend to stick with them for longer minutes.

But part of it is a lack of foresight. Scola, Watson and Mahinmi had regular roles during the season, but guys like Copeland and Butler were basically used in garbage time.

And so, while the Heat can adjust their lineup however they need to according to the matchup or who’s playing well (witness Cole and Allen helping them destroy Indiana in Saturday’s fourth quarter), the Pacers are rather rigid.

When his team is struggling to match up with Miami’s small lineup in transition and David West is chasing Allen around multiple screens, there’s little Vogel can do. He isn’t going to take West off the floor, because he’s his most stable and dependable player. If he benches Roy Hibbert, Vogel has lost his rim protection against the best rim attacker in the league.

Foul trouble is another problem. With George Hill and Paul George forced to sit extra minutes in Game 3, the Pacers’ defense didn’t hold up. Lance Stephenson was forced to play all of the final three quarters and looked gassed as the Heat pulled away in the fourth.

In its last six wins, Miami has outscored its opponents in the fourth quarter by an average score of 26.5-19.5. The Heat haven’t been superb all game, every game, but they get it done when they need to.

Might the Pacers’ starters be able to hang with the champs better in the fourth quarter if their reserves had given them a little more production and rest earlier in the game?

That question may still linger if Indiana doesn’t turn this series back around on Monday. To do that, they’ll need more production from the bench.

Pacers get their game 7 at home

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com

VIDEO: Mike Scott’s dunk over Ian Mahinmi was a show-stopper but not enough win Game 6

ATLANTA — So this is what all the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference fuss was about.

The Indiana Pacers freaked out about it, obsessed over it all summer, from the moment they walked off the floor on the losing end of things last summer in Miami in the Eastern Conference finals.

They stalked from the day training camp opened and still fretted over it as their season careened from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.

It was their mission this season to earn it, knowing full well they might need to use the home-court advantage that comes with it to get out of a jam at some point during these playoffs.

But so soon?

In the first round?

Against the Atlanta Hawks?

Of course not.

But it doesn’t matter now. None of the minutiae matters with their entire season down to this one, winner-take-all Game 7 Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Whatever missteps have been made along the way become background music to their playoff soundtrack if they can string together back-to-back wins against that 38-win Hawks team that has had their number the past month, both in Atlanta and Indianapolis.

Thursday night’s dramatic come-from-behind 95-88 win before a sellout crowd at Philips Arena was the season saver.

History, and more importantly infamy, will have to wait.

“This was a gutsy win for our guys,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.

Saturday night’s Game 7 is a must-win … to save face, the future and the Pacers from the humiliation of one of the greatest collapses of a so-called contender in league history.

“It’s zero-zero. One game. It’s tournament time,” Pacers All-Star Paul George said after he and his teammates avoided becoming just the fifth No. 1 seed in NBA history to fall to a No. 8 seed. “It’s win or go home time. So we’ve got to play a great game, because we know as well as they know that they’re capable of beating us on our home floor.”

The Pacers haven’t played one of those great games in forever. They’ve managed to just get by up to this point in this series. They outlasted the Hawks in Game 6 more than anything, staying in it long enough for George, who was in foul trouble early and throughout the game, and David West to take turns playing hero down the stretch.

It was the execution of a delicate two-man dance the Pacers have not been able to rely upon throughout this series.

Faced with a choice between survival and surrender, the Pacers’ two best and most reliable players snatched away a game the Hawks simply gave away. They scored 24 points each, West scored 12 of his in the fourth quarter on 5-for-6 shooting from the floor after making just 5-for-14 before halftime.

The Hawks were up 84-79 after a Jeff Teague 17-footer with 3:16 to play sent the crowd into a frenzy. Three disastrous offensive possessions later — Hawks center Pero Antic turned the ball over, then missed a wild 26-footer followed by a missed 17-footer from Paul Millsap —  and West finished things off on a clear out with a driving runner with 1:07 to play that put the Pacers up 87-85 and ahead for good.

Lance Stephenson added 21 points and 9 rebounds and the Pacers got quality minutes and production from Ian Mahinmi, Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson on a night when Vogel decided regulars Roy Hibbert (12 minutes), Luis Scola (12 seconds) and Even Turner (DNP — coach’s decision) weren’t a part of the solution.

“We tried some different lineups,” said West, who added 11 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals to his statistical tally in Game 6. “Coach just rolled the dice. Down the stretch I was talking to Paul down the stretch and I told him it would be just me and him down the stretch. I thought our team did a great job closing the show. We got enough stops. Ian was great on Millsap, and it paid off for us.”

We won’t know for sure until Saturday if it was a temporary fix or not.

What’s clear, however, is that these Hawks have no fear in them where the Pacers are concerned. Never mind that 0-8 record all-time in road Game 7s.

They bounced back from a Game 4 loss and stroked the Pacers in Game 5, leading by as many as 30 points as they turned the home crowd against George, West, Stephenson and a frantic bunch that didn’t handle the business at hand. The Hawks shot the cover off the ball that night, knocking down 15 of their 27 shots from deep compared to just nine of 35 in Game 6.

“They’ve burned us a couple of times,” West said. “We’ve had some stretches where we didn’t put the ball in the basket. We just can’t allow those stretches where we allow 20 points to our three or four. We’ve got to make sure we get a shot on goal on every possession, because they are so explosive, especially from the three-point line. We’ve played all year for this, to get Game 7s in our building. The energy is going to be great. We just have to handle our business.”

If only it were that simple for the crew that has courted this moment and this stage for so long!


VIDEO: The Pacers stayed calm down the streetch to force a Game 7 against the Hawks

 

Plumlee brothers make their marks

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Mason Plumlee spikes an alley-oop pass

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Traded to Phoenix last July, center Miles Plumlee‘s had a closeup view of the inseparable bond the Suns’ twin brothers Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris have always shared.

Miles and Mason Plumlee, a rookie center-power forward with the Brooklyn Nets, each might stand 6-foot-10 and around 240 pounds, but these brothers are not twins. Their version of brotherly love growing up was more like the push-and-shove of a textbook sibling rivalry.

“It’s funny, we were so competitive growing up, we fought more than we got along most of the time,” Plumlee told NBA.com recently during a phone interview. “But basketball was the one thing that kind of kept us together and brought us together even when we weren’t on good terms with one another.”

Surely then they had grown so close through basketball during high school that making the decision to do it again at Duke, with Miles, 25, heading there first, followed the next year by Mason, 24, was always part of the Plumlee plan.

“Not at all,” Miles said. “I committed to Stanford and he was going to Duke, so for a whole year that wasn’t the plan until certain things transpired. My coach [Trent Johnson left for LSU] and Duke came into the picture. If you asked me a year before, I would have said, ‘Yeah, I don’t want to play with Mason.

“We grew up and realized we don’t have to fight about everything and from then on we’ve been super-close, and it’s been fun to go on this journey with him.”

These days the brothers talk on the phone as often as best friends.

“We talked today,” Mason said, smiling, during the Nets’ recent trip through Dallas. “You spend a lot of time on the road, so just seeing what city he’s in, seeing what he’s up to. We’re very close.”

They’ve got plenty to talk about, too, as each is coming to the end of unsuspectingly successful seasons. Miles walked out of Indiana, traded with Gerald Green for Luis Scola after having spent 68 of 82 games his rookie season planted on the Pacers’ bench behind Roy Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi. Mason, the 22nd overall pick by the Nets in June, figured to get much the same bench treatment on a veteran team and behind the likes of Kevin Garnett, Andray Blatche and Brook Lopez. 

Both are carving out a place in the league. Miles, the 26th pick by the Pacers in 2012, stepped into the starting center position with the Suns, a team most saw as one that would be bringing up the rear in the Western Conference. He got off to a fast start, averaging a double-double by showcasing an evolved low-post game and running the floor in the Suns’ up-tempo attack, while dispelling any notion he’s little more than a physical, solely defensive-minded player.

“The big thing for me has always been my confidence and being a little more calm mentally on the court,” said Miles, a candidate with Green for Most Improved Player of the Year. “I’ve always kind of had the skills and the talent, I just hadn’t had a chance to get that confidence going. I [played] roles in college and I played on a lot of winning teams and I loved it, but it’s part of the reason people were surprised I was drafted as high as I was.

“I showed some of the coaches and GMs in the draft process I had more to my game than the general public probably perceives. I just built on that, and you play through the post a lot more in the NBA than at the college level and that helped me slow down and extend my game.”

With five games left, Miles is averaging 8.3 ppg, shooting 57.4 percent, and 8.0 rpg. Phoenix (46-31) is clinging to a playoff spot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

“He got going early and often, so that kind of made me want to get going myself,” Mason said. “Once I saw him doing it, I’d tell him if he had a good game and we were about to play that team, the coaches would see it in scouting and I would say, ‘I can do what he does.’ So I’d try getting a little playing time out of that, and just knowing that if he could make it happen, I could make it happen.”

Mason has played in 64 games, aided by the early, season-ending injury to Lopez, and he had his 19-game streak in the Nets starting lineup snapped Saturday when Kevin Garnett made his return from injury. Moving to the bench didn’t bother Mason, who scored 16 points on 8-for-10 shooting with seven rebounds in a win over Philadelphia.

He’s averaging 6.8 ppg on 64.0 percent shooting, and 4.1 rpg in 17.4 mpg, and will be playing in the postseason with the rejuvenated Nets. He’s played a key role. In the last 20 games, Mason is averaging 7.9 ppg on 66.3 percent shooting and 5.8 rpg in 21.2 mpg, like Miles, showing he’s more than just a physical big man.

“I never thought that,” Mason said. “I don’t really put too much stock into other peoples’ opinions. I just kind of do my thing and keep it moving.”

And don’t look now but in a couple years, there could be a third Plumlee in the league. Marshall is a 7-foot, 260-pound center at Duke. He’ll be a junior next season.

“It would be crazy to play against Marshall because he’s always been so much younger than us,” Miles said. “I’ve never had to take him quite as seriously because even when we were at Duke during practice, I was like I’m going to laugh it off.

“I’d have to take him seriously, so it would be a lot of fun to have him in the league.”

Ah, brothers.

Pacers’ Defensive Success Starts With Stopping The Pick-And-Roll

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – In today’s NBA, if a team can’t defend the pick-and-roll, it’s in trouble.

The league’s best record has been built on the Indiana Pacers’ No. 1 defense, of which their pick-and-roll coverage is an integral part.

Through Monday, the Pacers had allowed 0.94 points per pick-and-roll possession, easily the lowest mark in the league, according to SportVU data provided to NBA.com. As you’d expect, there’s a strong correlation between SportVU’s pick-and-roll numbers and defensive efficiency. The top four teams in the former are the top four in the latter.

Note: All stats included here are through Monday, March 3.

Top pick-and-roll defenses

Team Screens P&R Poss. Opp. PTS PTS/Poss DefRtg Rank
Indiana 3,245 2,548 2,395 0.94 94.0 1
Golden State 2,881 2,333 2,249 0.96 99.1 3
Chicago 2,782 2,242 2,164 0.97 97.7 2
Oklahoma City 2,928 2,342 2,284 0.98 100.0 4
Toronto 2,878 2,276 2,255 0.99 100.9 7
Miami 2,681 2,134 2,130 1.00 102.7 13
Houston 3,171 2,534 2,537 1.00 102.1 9
Brooklyn 2,851 2,286 2,295 1.00 105.1 21
Memphis 2,857 2,278 2,306 1.01 102.1 8
Washington 3,014 2,441 2,478 1.02 102.2 10

The Pacers have two Defensive Player of the Year candidates in Paul George (on the perimeter) and Roy Hibbert (on the interior). And among 168 combinations that have defended at least 100 pick-and-roll possessions, the George-Hibbert combo ranks fourth, having allowed its opponent to score just 0.83 points per possession.

Top pick-and-roll defense combinations

Team BH defender Scr. defender Screens P&R Poss. Opp. PTS PTS/Poss.
OKC Sefolosha Ibaka 140 137 99 0.72
BKN Livingston Garnett 120 113 83 0.73
OKC Sefolosha Perkins 120 110 91 0.83
IND George Hibbert 190 183 152 0.83
WAS Ariza Gortat 164 158 133 0.84
POR Williams Lopez 154 148 125 0.84
SAS Mills Diaw 142 138 117 0.85
PHX Dragic Mark. Morris 159 151 130 0.86
GSW Thompson Bogut 201 187 162 0.87
CHI Augustin Boozer 106 101 88 0.87

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins, Robin Lopez or Andrew Bogut on this list. Those guys are on the floor to defend. They know where to be and they communicate to the guy getting screened.

But you’ll also notice a common trait among some of the ball-handler defenders (Thabo Sefolosha, George, Shaun Livingston, Trevor Ariza and Klay Thompson) on the list: length. Those guys all put in the work on defense, but it certainly helps to have the wingspan to force the ball-handler into a circuitous route toward the screen and also block the passing lane after he’s picked up by the screener’s defender.

The data shows that both George and Hibbert distinguish themselves from their teammates when it comes to defending pick-and-rolls …

Pacers’ ball-handler defenders

BH defender Screens Poss. Opp. PTS PTS/Poss. Shot%
George Hill 957 905 861 0.95 22%
C.J. Watson 587 563 548 0.97 23%
Paul George 468 449 402 0.90 27%
Lance Stephenson 385 373 355 0.95 32%

Pacers’ screener defenders

Screen Defender Screens Poss. Opp. PTS PTS/Poss. Shot%
Roy Hibbert 859 821 740 0.90 29%
David West 682 646 610 0.94 22%
Ian Mahinmi 494 472 462 0.98 27%
Luis Scola 386 364 359 0.99 20%

Shot% = Percentage of screens in which the ball-handler attempted a shot

You’ll notice that the ball-handler takes more shots when Hibbert or Ian Mahinmi is defending the screener. The Pacers’ centers drop back in their pick-and-roll coverage, like this …

20140305_hibbert_pnr

… while their power forwards come out high…

20140305_west_pnr

Both Hibbert and Mahinmi have the length to prevent the ball-handler from getting to the rim, while still staying attached to the roll man. And often, the only available shot is a mid-range pull-up or a floater or runner from 8-12 feet. Those shots are worth less than 0.8 points per attempt.

NBA shot values per location

Location PTS/FGA
Restricted Area 1.21
In The Paint (Non-RA) 0.78
Mid-Range 0.79
Corner 3 1.16
Above the Break 3 1.06

Here’s an example of George and Hibbert defending a pick-and-roll from the Mavs (a top-10 pick-and-roll offense) …


Hibbert stops Monta Ellis, but also gets back to recover to Samuel Dalembert. And since Lance Stephenson didn’t have to help, he’s able to run Shawn Marion off the 3-point line.

Indiana opponents have run more than 40 percent of their pick-and-rolls from the top of the key, but have had a little more success running them from the side of the floor …

Pick-and-rolls vs. Indiana, by location

Location Screens Screen Poss Opp. PTS PTS/Poss.
Center Point 1,390 1,230 1,149 0.93
Wing 987 897 893 1.00
Sideline Point 793 745 704 0.94
High Post 154 152 124 0.82
Corner 85 82 69 0.84

Here’s the league’s best pick-and-roll combination getting an open jumper for Channing Frye by running it on the side of the floor, where there’s less help …


Luis Scola hedges hard, Hibbert is occupied by Miles Plumlee inside, and the other Pacers are on the opposite side of the floor, so there’s no one to account for the popping Frye.

Here’s a Dallas side pick-and-roll where George Hill helps from the weak side and Shane Larkin is wide open on the wing (maybe, in part, because he’s Shane Larkin).

20140305_dal_side

The Heat had some success in the conference finals when they ran sideline screens toward the baseline, turning the Pacers’ defense inside out. Here’s a similar play from Portland …


Hibbert probably came out too far on Damian Lillard on that play, but the sideline pick-and-roll can give the ball-handler a better angle on the pocket pass, and the Blazers’ spacing makes it difficult to help from the weak side.

(More on the Blazers later in the week, when we address teams that don’t defend the pick-and-roll very well.)

Even from the sideline, you’re not getting a great return on pick-and-rolls against the Pacers. That’s why they rank as one of the best defenses we’ve ever seen.

Hibbert Still Important When Not Scoring



HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Roy Hibbert is getting paid, with a capital P, a capital A, a capital I, and a capital D.

So the Pacers are just going to have to ride with their 7-foot-2 center through his offensive struggles. Hibbert is shooting just 39 percent this season and has the free throw rate of a contact-shy point guard.

Back-up Ian Mahinmi hasn’t exactly been Tyson Chandler in terms of efficiency, but he’s been more efficient than Hibbert, and he had a strong game (14 points on nine shots) in Milwaukee on Tuesday. Still, Pacers coach Frank Vogel went back to Hibbert for the final seven minutes of a tight game against a division rival.

Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star spoke with Vogel about that decision before the Pacers crushed the Jazz on Wednesday

Pacers center Roy Hibbert’s offensive problems this season have been well documented.

And despite those struggles, Vogel said he will stick with Hibbert over Ian Mahinmi late in games.

Mahinmi had 14 points off the bench against Milwaukee compared to Hibbert’s eight points on 4-of-10 shooting.

Still, Vogel went with Hibbert at the end of the game because he’s the anchor of their defense.

“We always consider going with the hot hand,” Vogel said. “There are things that Roy brings to the table that Ian doesn’t that have won for us at a high level the last couple of years. Typically we’re going to go with him unless there’s an extreme example.”

The decision didn’t really work out for Vogel. The Bucks outscored the Pacers 17-15 over the last seven minutes, Indiana shot 3-for-11 (Hibbert didn’t take a shot) and lost the game 98-93.

But Hibbert is still the right choice for Vogel. The Pacers are a pretty awful offensive team, but they’re better right now (101 points scored per 100 possessions over their last 10 games) than they were earlier in the season (94 points scored per 100 possessions over their first 10 games). Plus, they’re 14-12 because they rank second in the league in defensive efficiency.

Hibbert has been the anchor of that No. 2 defense. Indiana is allowing just 96.3 points per 100 possessions with Hibbert on the floor vs. 100.2 with Mahinmi on the floor. And the numbers show that Hibbert is one of the best big men in the league at defending the rim.

Lowest opponent FG% in restricted area while on floor
(power forwards and centers)

Player OppFGM OppFGA OppFG%
Ekpe Udoh 135 291 46.4%
Ronny Turiaf 76 162 46.9%
Kosta Koufos 156 329 47.4%
Roy Hibbert 206 408 50.5%
Larry Sanders 167 329 50.8%

Minimum 100 FGA

As the anchor and rim-protector of the No. 2 defense in the league, Hibbert deserves some early Defensive Player of the Year consideration. He also deserves plenty of playing time, even when he can’t put the ball in the basket.

As Collison Surges And Kidd Splashes, Guard Shuffle So Far So Good

 

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — After another Dallas track meet Wednesday night netted the surprising Mavericks a third consecutive victory, pace-setting point guard Darren Collison was asked if he’s looking forward to a mano-a-mano showdown against Jason Kidd when Dallas visits the Garden on Friday night.

After all, Collison replaced Kidd, who had agreed to a three-year deal to stay in Dallas only to suddenly abandon ship and swim to the Big Apple. Kidd’s about-face so hissed Mark Cuban that the Mavs owner vowed not to hang Kidd’s No. 2 next to Dirk Nowitzki’s No. 41 one day as an expected shrine to the tandem that delivered Dallas its only championship.

“Nah,” Collison said sheepishly. “Come on, man. It’s just a team thing. New York has got it going; we’ve got it going.”

Both teams are arguably the surprise of their respected conferences, entering the game with a collective 7-1 record. Dallas is 4-1 despite playing without Dirk Nowitzki (arthroscopic knee surgery) and other injury snags that have bounced key players in and out of the lineup.

The truth is, Kidd’s change of heart actually did himself, the Knicks, the Mavs and Collison all a colossal favor. (more…)

Brand, Mavs agree to one-year deal

The Dallas Mavericks were the winners for the services of Elton Brand Friday, claiming the 33-year-old forward off of amnesty waivers for $2.1 million. Getting Brand continues a strong comeback for the Mavericks after losing out on Deron Williams and Steve Nash at the start of the free agency negotiating period.

Brand wanted to go to Dallas, a source told NBA.com Wednesday. And he got his wish, giving the Mavericks a big who has never scored less than double figures or averaged fewer than 6.1 rebounds per year in his 13-year NBA career. He will back up Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman at the center and power forward spots, but Brand is most interested in showing that he can still be a major contributor to a good team.

Last season, Brand averaged 11 points and 7.2 rebounds for Philadelphia in the regular season. Those numbers went down in the playoffs, but Brand was dealing with a neck injury that limited his range and effectiveness.

In Dallas, he’ll re-team with former Clippers teammate Chris Kaman, whom the Mavericks signed to a one-year deal Wednesday. The Mavericks also traded for guard Darren Collison and swingman Dahntay Jones in a deal with the Pacers for backup center Ian Mahinmi.

(more…)

Pacers Stick To Underwhelming Deals

Few in the executive offices around the NBA command more respect than Donnie Walsh. Likewise, few GMs from generation-next created more buzz than Kevin Pritchard, both when he got hired and unceremoniously dumped in Portland.

But trusting in the wisdom of the men making the deals isn’t the same thing as trusting one’s own eyes when assessing personnel moves. That’s why the Indiana Pacers’ latest maneuvers triggered so much head-scratching among the team’s fans and here at Sekou’s Hang Time hideout.

Darren Collison, a legitimate starting point guard but one who finished last season coming off the Pacers bench, is gone. So is wing defender Dahntay Jones, reserve scorer Leandro Barbosa and off-the-bench big Louis Amundson. They’ve been replaced by D.J. Augustin, Gerald Green, Ian Mahinmi and rookie center Miles Plumlee – well, replaced might not be the best word, so let’s say their roster spots have been taken by those newcomers.

Doesn’t seem like much, as judged here at HTH. Not even a push, never mind an upgrade to the Pacers’ roster. And that’s what Indiana was hoping for, wasn’t it, a surgical move or two to vault it into close-second status in the Eastern Conference this season behind the Miami Heat?

Beat-writer extraordinaire Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star tried to explain the moves to a fan base growing increasingly restless:

Fans don’t like what they’ve seen so far. Some already want Walsh to retire and Pritchard to go somewhere else.

Have the moves been flashy? Not even close.

Are the moves good enough to catch Miami in the Eastern Conference? Not as long as the Heat have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

But it’s all about progression for the Pacers.

They had no choice but to trade point guard Darren Collison…

Wells then explains that Collison, though he said he would be willing to continue as George Hill’s backup, really wasn’t happy in that role. Well, that shouldn’t have bothered the Pacers one bit – would they prefer a backup who doesn’t burn to start? Even then, Collison figured to have trade value in excess of Mahinmi – that deal withDallasseemed to gift the point guard and Jones to the Mavericks. Augustin doesn’t have nearly the juice, and can leave next summer as a free agent anyway.

Moving out some of the other players while trusting the latest mature version of Green, compared to all his previous incarnations, might not be the most sound decision either.

There’s a tendency to rely on Walsh and Pritchard, based on the basketball bank accounts both have amassed in their careers. But for a team that had the Heat down 2-1 in their best-of-seven East semifinals, for a club that was thinking about an Eric Gordon signing as this offseason’s signature move – as well as retaining center Roy Hibbert and point guard George Hill – the Pacers’ approach of one step forward, maybe two back, is hard to embrace.

Rosen’s Report: Dallas at Phoenix

Despite the dismantling of their championship squad, the Mavs still nurture hopes of defending their title. For now, they are languishing in the lower-seeded playoff bracket but are only one game away from earning the third seed in the West. They also anticipate that their corps of veterans will have their respective A-games honed when the money season commences.

For the Suns, competing in the playoffs is both a distant memory and an unimaginable future. While Phoenix is still a moderately competitive team, two of their stalwarts — Grant Hill and Steve Nash — are learning that the older they get the faster they get old. Is it time, then, for management to utter the “R” word — Rebuilding?

HOW THE MAVERICKS CAN WIN

Unless he’s double-teamed, Dirk Nowitzki’s dreadnaught arsenal of off-balance, step-back, wrong-footed shot-releases can seldom be deterred. Plus, he’s a dead-eye shooter with 3-point range, is virtually unstoppable when driving left, and has the most convincing shot-fakes in the NBA. Nowitzki has certainly recovered from his early-season slump, yet he remains somewhat erratic — especially before the halftime intermission.  However, Nowitzki usually has long arms whenever a game is up for grabs. Even though Jared Dudley is Phoenix’s best defender, Nowitzki will still have to be two-timed — which will create opportunities for Nowitzki’s timely passes to generate open shots for his teammates.

(more…)

Blogtable: One Memorable Moment

We’ve asked our stable of scribes to take one last look back at the 2011 NBA playoffs.

In 10 years, the one get-out-of-my-seat-and-scream-“Wow!” moment from the 2011 playoffs that I’ll remember:

Steve Aschburner: Derrick Rose put all his 2011 MVP wonderfulness on display in Game 3 of the Bulls’ Eastern Conference semifinals series against Atlanta. Rose scored a career-high 44 points, hit four of his seven 3-pointers on a night of 16-of-27 shooting and played at a higher sped than anyone else on the floor. No other Bulls starter scored more than seven points, all five Hawks starters reached double figures – and it didn’t matter with Rose seeking-and-attacking. “The first timeout I called, 49 seconds into the game, I saw an energy level that right away I knew we were in trouble,” Atlanta coach Larry Drew said.

Fran Blinebury: He does so much. He makes much of it look easy. But when LeBron James split Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki  and zoomed in to throw down that vicious one-handed tomahawk dunk on Ian Mahinmi in Game 3 of the Finals, I could practically feel it down to my toes. And probably so could most of Mahinmi’s fellow countrymen back in France.

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