Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

Air Check: Sometimes You’re Hot

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — For NBA fans like us, there’s nothing better than League Pass. Having the ability to watch every game every night (and then again the next day) is heaven.

aircheck-250Of course, with local broadcasts, you get local broadcasters, which can be good and bad. It can be good, because these guys know their teams better than most national broadcasters. It can be bad, because these guys love their teams more than most national broadcasters. And they’re usually not afraid to show that love.

Air Check is where we highlight the best and worst of NBA broadcasts.

He must work on these lines

Sixers analyst Malik Rose has become an Air Check favorite and you may recall his Hawesome call from a couple of seasons ago. Well, Rose is back with another great line, this time using poetry instead of a pun after Marcin Gortat gives Spencer Hawes two free points with a major blunder.


VIDEO: Malik Rose gets poetic about Marcin Gortat’s gaffe

“Sometimes you’re hot, sometimes you’re Gortat.”

Classic. Hat tip to The 700 Level for tweeting that one out when it happened. You have to wonder if Rose’s game prep includes coming up with one-liners for the Sixers’ opponents.

“Let’s see, we got the Wizards tonight.

“John Wall … didn’t get the call, lost the ball, had a rough fall.

“Hmmm…. Bradley Beal has lost his zeal…

“Nah…

“Uh oh, Eric Maynor, better call the trainer!

“Close, but not quite….

“Every day he doesn’t play, Otto Porter‘s career is getting shorter.”

“Heh.”

Hyperbole in Hollywood

If you were watching that great Wolves-Clippers game on Monday night, you may have heard Ralph Lawler go a little over the top in regard to Chris Paul‘s steal in the final minutes …


VIDEO: Ralph Lawler gets a little too excited about CP3’s steal

Lawler called it the best steal he’s ever seen. Yeah, you could say that’s hyperbole … or maybe Lawler just doesn’t watch a lot of basketball, missed the 1987 Eastern Conference finals, and missed all the contact on the play (which he acknowledged upon seeing the replay).

Of course, Lawler’s has a partner in hyperbole in analyst Michael Smith. Check out the following calls from a preseason game against the Blazers.

First, after DeAndre Jordan gets fouled on a fast break, Smith lauds Jordan’s ability to run the floor…


VIDEO: Clippers analyst Michael Smith loses perspective on DeAndre

Smith: “That is so difficult to do. I don’t even know if it’s fair to say that it’s more difficult for a big man to do that than a small man. But people would say that often, that it’s harder for a big to shoot free throws or it’s harder for a big to run and catch on the fly. I don’t subscribe to that, because D.J. runs like he was 6-foot-2 and catches like he’s 6-foot-2 on the fly.”

OK. He runs well and can catch the ball. Fine. But then Smith takes it over the top…

“Of course, he’s 6-11 and I think he’s the best running big the game maybe has ever seen.”

Lawler: “Settle down, Mike.”

Smith: “Can you name one better, partner?”

Anthony Davis. Just sayin’.

Later in the same quarter, Jamal Crawford missed a pull-up, mid-range jumper…


VIDEO: Clippers’ broadcasters need to check their stats on Crawford

“Jamal Crawford,” Smith says, “will make that shot 8 times out of 10.”

So Jamal Crawford shoots 80 percent on mid-range shots. OK.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 137) With Special Guest Host John Schuhmann

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Without a set timetable or a concrete method for rebuilding a franchise in the NBA, we’re all left to the fluid nature of a process that has been known to devour those on the inside.

For every blueprint that turns out to be gold (the Indiana Pacers rebuilt themselves into a legitimate championship contender), there are at leas three that have to be torn up before the sketching is done (the Utah Jazz are on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Pacers some eight games into this season).

That totally unpredictable dynamic is what makes the NBA season so intriguing. As hard as watch the top teams, just as much attention has to be paid to the struggling teams because you never know when things might turn around. On Episode 137 of the Hang Time Podcast we put the rebuilding process under the microscope with our special guest host, NBA.com’s numbers Morpheus John Schuhmann, whose weekly Power Rankings offer the best glimpse of the constant twists and turns of the fortunes of the entire league on a regular basis.

Check out that conversation, Sounds of the Game and our latest installment of Braggin’ Rights (someone went 3-0 last week) on Episode 137 of The Hang Time Podcast with special guest host John Schuhmann of NBA.com:

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

Blogtable: Fixing The Knicks

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


What to do with Kobe? | Can the Knicks be fixed? | Disappointing should-be contender?



VIDEO: The Starters discuss the Knicks early-season woes

Fix the Knicks. Can it be done with this roster? If not, do you have a midseason trade in mind for them?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The Knicks are not the stuff of honey-do lists and home weekend projects. They are a contractor’s annuity, a sort of endless renovation. I haven’t bought into New York as a legit contender since Patrick Ewing perspired in the world’s most overrated sports arena. I’d suggest a Carmelo Anthony trade because of the gap between his real value and his assessment of his value, but I know that’s not happening. So I’d suggest a backcourt fix — too much of the frontcourt already is fossilized — to upgrade from Raymond Felton (they’re stuck with J.R. Smith). Contrary to what many New York media folks think, however, the other 29 teams don’t exist as incubators for personnel to help the Knicks. Shaky management has consequences

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Fix the Knicks? Not without pixie dust. It’s pure fairytale fantasy.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Fix the Knicks? Hmm, I don’t think so. Trades? Sounds great, but New York’s stuck with Amar’e Stoudemire and who else on that roster is going to fetch anything that can put this ship on a championship course? IMO, The Knicks are tied to their contracts until the summer of 2015 when they can reset. I’m sure Kevin Love waits with bated breath.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Better yet, fix the people who keep thinking the Knicks are a serious threat out of the East. Hey, you trade for Andrea Bargnani, you’re on your own. Losing Tyson Chandler is obviously a big hit, and it would be nice if Carmelo Anthony could hit a shot, but guess which team took players other clubs did not want and spun it as getting better. Bargnani, Metta World Peace — this is a roster with few trade chips.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No and no. Assuming that the “it” in the “getting it done” means reaching the conference finals, the Knicks won’t come close. They’re a dreadful defensive team without Tyson Chandler, and even if he comes back at 100 percent, they don’t have enough guys who can make positive impacts on both ends of the floor or the floor spacing that they had last season. Iman Shumpert is the one guy other teams would covet, but trading him for a band-aid would be shortsighted, because this team isn’t getting past the Heat or Pacers with its current, flawed core.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It cannot be done with this roster. And no mid-season trade will fix what ails these Knicks. The fix for the Knicks is a much more long-term operation. The salary-cap disaster they are dealing with right now (the expiring $49.7 million in salary owed to Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani doesn’t allow for any seismic moves before the summer of 2014) isn’t as easy to fix as it once was. The new collective bargaining agreement doesn’t have the loopholes it once did. That means the Knicks are basically stuck with trying to make this current roster work. That means Carmelo Antony has to play above and beyond the pale and Mike Woodson and Co. have to locate something that works and allows this team to climb out of their funk and make the playoffs. Ride this season out, get to the summer and then the heavy lifting begins.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: The best way to fix the Knicks is to wait until 2015, when Stoudemire and Chandler and Bargnani all come off the books and you’ve got salary room. And if you really want to be bold, Carmelo’s a free agent then as well. With this current team, I’m not sure what there is you can do to improve the team other than maybe sending some guys to Germany for medical treatment.

Karan Madhok, NBA.com India: This Knicks’ roster was always weird, and with the injury to Tyson Chandler, it seems to have gotten even weirder. The Knicks need an inside presence, and Bargnani, despite his height, isn’t an inside player. The combined efforts of an injured Amar’e Stoudemire, Kenyon Martin, Cole Aldrich, and maybe one free-agent big man signing can be the temporary answer. Being far above the salary cap make them really unflexible when it comes to midseason trades. The Knicks need defensive help and they need it desperately. The in-house solution is to bench Bargnani and move Metta World Peace to the starting five. On offense, New York were at their best last season when they played Carmelo Anthony at the power forward position and surrounded him with shooters. Mike Woodson needs to go back to that system. If it wasn’t broke, why fix it?

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA.com Brasil: I don’t think so. They need to either speed up the pace to make up for that “matador” defense, or switch things up. They definitely need a backup big with a defensive mindset. I can’t think of trades for them, but I could see them shopping Stoudemire and even Bargnani around.

 

Blogtable: What To Do With Kobe?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


What to do with Kobe? | Can the Knicks be fixed? | Disappointing should-be contender?



VIDEO: Kobe Bryant on his rehab work, comeback plans and more

Say you’re a Lakers fan or a Lakers front-office type … Is there any reason for Kobe to come back this season?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The No. 1 reason I want Kobe Bryant back this season — whether I’m a Lakers’ employee, an NBA fan or a blog-stained wretch — is I’m sick and tired of the Father Time cliché. To heck with that old bastard’s undefeated record. If anyone is ornery and driven and talented enough to kick his white-bearded butt, it’s the Black Mamba. Bryant has a burning desire to play sooner, not later. He’s got some serious all-time positioning to boost (fourth in points and FGAs, third in FTs, etc.) and, at 35, a finite number of games remaining to do so. Then there’s that ring total, which won’t change for him this spring … but you can be the one to tell him that. Finally, in this revenue-sharing NBA, TV ratings matter, no team’s more so than the Lakers. Kobe’s return and ramp-up to lethalness is a mini-series rave waiting to happen.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: If you’re Kobe, the only reason to come back this season is because you’re Kobe. You’re 35 years old, time is running out quickly on your career and you don’t give up a year. Ever. Maybe you won’t win a championship this season, or even come close, but you can take another step toward reinforcing your reputation and cementing your legacy as the toughest guy in the game today. And you love that.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: It isn’t in Kobe’s DNA, but stay away, take the year off. This has all the makings of San Antonio Spurs circa 1996-97. You remember, The Admiral got hurt, the Spurs tanked and a few months later they drafted Tim Duncan and changed the course of NBA history. Or this could be another in a long line of Lakers maneuverings/good luck to land a franchise-anchoring player like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Mamba. Can you imagine Kobe tough-loving rookie Andrew Wiggins? L.A. is so desperate for that next superstar, but it isn’t happening in free agency. The draft, this draft, is the way to go. So Kobe, keep strengthening that Achilles, but no reason to put it into action until training camp 2014 when the Mamba turns Mentor.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Kobe’s answer is the easy one: Yes, absolutely, definitely, for sure. He’s not getting any younger and the chance to play with a lottery team is still the chance to keep playing. The Lakers front office also wants him back this season. They have offseason decisions to make, so it is valuable to see how the many free agents in waiting are able to play with him, worth considering moving forward. Management also has to get a read of where Kobe is physically as they talk about a new contract with him. The fans? Probably. While they see the value in ping-pong balls, there is also something to be said for the answer from Kobe himself. It’s a chance to see one of the greats before he is off the court for good.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com:If he’s healthy, he should play. If he’s not, he shouldn’t. Pretty simple. The Lakers aren’t going to make the playoffs either way, but I don’t think you’re going to keep Kobe off the court if he feels he can play. I’m sure Lakers fans would rather watch him gun for MJ’s spot on the all-time scoring list than go through a full 82 games of Nick Young and Wes Johnson. And since he’s getting paid more than $30 million, it would be nice if he earned some of it.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: This is blasphemy! A question like this could get you punched in the mouth in certain parts of Los Angeles and Southern California. Lakers fans always want as much Kobe as they can get. He’s the heart and soul of the franchise. Of course, you want him to come back, even if the Lakers are completely out of the playoff picture when he does return. He’s the reason Lakers fans pay all of that money to attend games at Staples Center and the same reason fans around the globe identify with the team despite having never set foot in Hollywood. The front office needs to him to come back so they can shop him and the franchise as an ideal future destination for the free-agent class of the 2014. A recovered Kobe is a priceless visual aide. Kobe clad in one of his designed suits all season does nothing for the Lakers’ cause. Do you even want Kobe to come back this year … blasphemy!

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’ve thought all along that the only reason for Kobe to rush back and attempt to play before he’s one-million percent healthy and confident would be to help the Lakers if they were a playoff team. Sure, we are still way early in the season, but it looks as though the Lakers don’t have the firepower to be a contender, and probably not a playoff team, either. If I’m a Lakers fan I tell Kobe to take a year off and get healthy, try and trade Gasol for a first round pick, and then next season have two blue chippers to learn from the league’s greatest competitor.

Davide Chinellato, NBA.com Italia: What a Lakers fan thinks: I want Kobe to come back as soon as possible. We can still turn this season around and be the usual Lakers. What the Lakers front office thinks: We should figure out a way to convince Kobe to sit out the entire season. The 2014 Draft is so talented, and we have a lot of money to invest in the free agency. We’ll be back as strong as ever next year and our team will have a bright future. What (I think) Kobe Bryant thinks: I’m out to prove everybody I’m the best ever. I’ll play tomorrow.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA.com Greece: Kobe is the Lakers. And the Lakers are Kobe. Even if in a mediocre season, the return of the “Black Mamba” could spice things up and give the Lakers’ fans a reason to embrace the team onces again. Also, Kobe is now 35. He will not get any younger. He has some good games left in him. I am pretty sure he can beat the achilles injury, but nobody, N-O-B-O-D-Y, can defeat time.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA.com Germany: Honestly, I’m not one for the tanking thing. If a player is healthy, he should play. And play to the best of his abilities and to win every game. I’m pretty sure Kobe thinks the same way, and the Lakers management won’t be able to do anything about it. And it’s not all that bad. I’m convinced the Lakers won’t make the Playoffs either way, and despite the fact that they might miss out on Wiggins, Randle and Parker they’ll still get a lottery pick, i.e. a good player. Also: They’re the Lakers, they can always get better through free agency. And for Kobe: He’s only 675 points behind MJ. Catching the GOAT would certainly soften the blow for an otherwise lost season.

Blogtable: Disappointing Contender

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


What to do with Kobe? | Can the Knicks be fixed? | Disappointing should-be contender?



VIDEO: GameTime’s Brent Barry and Steve Smith discuss the NBA’s best teams

Which supposed title-contender is leaving you coldest right now?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Let’s see, I already laid waste to the Knicks in another of today’s questions. I’m cutting Brooklyn and the L.A. Clippers some slack because it’s early for veteran-laden teams hoping to still be playing in June. I think Chicago and Oklahoma City are flawed but acknowledge certain undeniable strengths. Miami, Indiana and San Antonio are locked and loaded. That leaves me with Golden State and Memphis (sorry, Houston), and I’ve expressed doubts about the Warriors’ durability and two-way-ness before. But the Grizzlies seem neither to have improved much offensively (oy, that perimeter shooting) nor maintained what had been their disruptive defense. A lot of folks didn’t even rate them as contenders coming in, but that’s not how this edition of Memphis basketball was supposed to go. Mike Miller looking more spry than Tayshaun Prince is just one of Grizzlies’ many issues.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The team that used to play tough defense, shut opponents down and be the once-rugged, snarling Grizzlies. To quote Bob Dylan, I’m stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Hello, Brooklyn. But while I wait for Deron Williams to revert to his Utah days, allow me to suggest that Dwight’s Rockets already give me a headache. I know Dwight’s put up some monster rebounding games, but he’s only averaging 17.7 ppg and is shooting 55.6 percent from the floor, which just two weeks in would go down as his worst since his second season. I watch him in the low block and marvel at the bricks he puts up from 5-feet and in. There’s nothing close to a Dream Shake going on there. Worse, Dwight’s passive performance in the home loss to the Kobe-less Lakers was extraordinarily embarrassing as he literally ran away from L.A.’s Hack-a-Howard tactic. Where’s the killer mentality? Where’s the heart? I only see gazes of confusion. I predicted Dwight, set free from weighty decisions, would have a big year. Statistically, I suppose he’s on his way, but unless he ratchets up the intensity and the leadership, I don’t see the Rockets being a big, bad title contender.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com:With an emphasis on “at this point of the season” and understanding that they may have a week or two for a turnaround: the Clippers. The defense needs to get a lot better. Getting Matt Barnes healthy will help. Getting more time with Doc Rivers’ system will help. Underwhelming start, but the cold is not permanent.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Clippers. They’ll get better defensively as the season goes on, but they can’t even see the top 10 in defensive efficiency from where they are now (28th). And as good as they are offensively, that’s where they need to contend. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are OK, but not great on defense, and they’re depending on those two a lot more than they were last season, when they had two strong defensive bigs off the bench. I was curious to see if Doc Rivers could get them defending at a league average rate (at least), but the early returns have not been good.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: You must have identified a team as a “title contender” before now to figure out which one leaves you coldest right now. The Memphis Grizzlies (formerly the Hang Time Grizzlies … before they ran off Lionel Hollins) have me freezing right now. They played in the Western Conference finals last season and were supposed to be a team ready to take that next step this season with their core coming back and a new voice (Dave Joerger, who was hand-picked by the front office) leading them. After watching the Indiana Pacers, a team that made its own trip to the conference finals last season, take them apart Monday night, my expectations for the Grizzlies continue to free fall. You have to be careful in this league when you go tinkering with success. What Hollins brought to the table for the Grizzlies was truly something special. He had a way of pushing just the right buttons on a roster with so many unique personalities that I think folks inside (and outside) the team failed to realize it before he was ousted. Hollins wasn’t just the best fit for the Grizzlies, he was the perfect fit.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’m not sure if anyone picked Houston to be a title contender, but of all the teams that people talked so much about over the summer and felt were in that upper echelon, to me the Rockets have several issues to address. Dwight Howard is either still bothered by the injuries that slowed him the last two seasons, or he’s just not the player he used to be. Houston’s poor perimeter defense wouldn’t bother me so much if Dwight was back there erasing shots, but he hasn’t been (he’s averaging his lowest blocks per game since 2006). Meanwhile Dwight’s shooting a career low at the free throw line, 47.1 percent, so Hack-A-Dwight is an obvious and effective strategy for teams to go to.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA.com Germany: The easy choices might be Brooklyn and Chicago, but I’m not really worried about either team. The Nets will need a while to really develop some chemistry, and they’re not particularly interested in the regular season. The Bulls’ offense heavily depends on Derrick Rose, and he hasn’t been able to find his rhythm yet. The Grizzlies have been kind of underwhelming, but if we count Houston among contenders, the Rockets are my choice. Dwight Howard and Ömer Asik don’t fit together yet, they don’t have an NBA starting power forward and their defense has been awful. Lots of question marks in the loaded West.

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA.com Brasil:I expected Houston and Brooklyn to have some chemistry fine-tuning difficulties early on, and D-Rose just couldn’t come back at a 100% so early, but I definitely expected more from Doc Rivers’ Clippers. They are a powerhouse offense, but we were told Doc’s focus was making this team into an elite defensive unit, and that couldn’t be further from what it actually is on the court. On D, they look like a pick-up team right now.

Early Numbers Show Problems With Lineup Combinations

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — We’re 15 days into the 2013-14 season and the standings don’t quite match what we thought they’d look like. The Nets and Knicks are down and the Suns and Sixers are up.

It’s early, but more data is coming in every day, and it’s giving us an early look at some interesting lineup combinations around the league. We were all wondering how the Pistons’ new frontline would work out and whether Rockets coach Kevin McHale could play Omer Asik and Dwight Howard together.

Some results are expected, some are surprising and some are inconclusive. Again, it’s early. So the numbers below aren’t necessarily an endorsement of the combos that are working or an indictment of those that aren’t. Everything must be taken in context, and the most important context right now is that we’re looking at small sample sizes.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

How are Smith, Monroe and Drummond faring?

Minutes: 141
Pace: 91.3
OffRtg: 101.3
DefRtg: 116.9
NetRtg: -15.7
+/-: minus-34

No team put together a more fascinating mix this summer than the Pistons. And the thought was that, due to floor spacing issues, they would struggle offensively with Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond on the floor together. The other thought was that, thanks to their length, they would be strong defensively and on the glass.

They’ve been a good offensive rebounding trio, but not a good defensive rebounding trio. That’s not their biggest problem, though. Opponents have shot 51 percent (effective field goal percentage: 56.0 percent) with the three on the floor together and all together, the Pistons have been absolutely brutal defensively with their big lineups. Of the 205 three-man combinations that have played at least 100 minutes together, the only ones that have been worse defensively are two other Detroit trios that include Monroe and either Drummond or Smith.

The Grizzlies, who rank 19th offensively, scored 68 points in less than 32 minutes against the Smith-Monroe-Drummond frontline. The Pacers, who rank 13th offensively, scored 59 points in less than 21 minutes.

There are a bunch of issues that need to be cleaned up. It starts with transition, where Monroe is particularly slow. He also struggles to contain ball-handlers on pick-and-rolls. Smith and Drummond can be too aggressive, often biting on pump fakes or sacrificing rebounding position by trying for blocks. And sometimes, the problem is with the backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Chauncey Billups, a pair of liabilities in their own right.

After getting trounced by the Warriors on Tuesday, the Pistons rank dead last in defensive efficiency. It’s early and five of their seven games have been against above-average offensive teams, but the numbers are such that coach Mo Cheeks will need to seriously consider staggering the minutes of Smith, Drummond and Monroe more than he already is. More minutes for Kyle Singler and/or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would have a positive impact on the Pistons’ D.

Within the big-man trio, the only pair that’s logged a decent amount of minutes without the third guy is Monroe and Smith, which has played 70 minutes without Drummond. The Pistons have been even in those minutes, allowing just 96.3 points per 100 possessions.

The Asik-Howard combination

Minutes: 93
Pace: 93.6
OffRtg: 87.3
DefRtg: 103.1
NetRtg: -15.8
+/-: minus-35

Those numbers — the pace and the offensive efficiency in particular — do not typify Houston’s style. With only one of the two centers on the floor, the Rockets have played at a pace of 102.3 possessions per 48 minutes and have scored 108.1 points per 100 posssessions. That does typify Rockets basketball and those numbers would rank third and fourth in the league, respectively.

Rockets efficiency

On floor MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Asik + Howard 93 93.6 87.3 103.1 -15.8 -35
Only Asik 88 105.3 102.5 92.0 +10.5 +19
Only Howard 196 100.9 110.8 98.3 +12.5 +39
One of the two 284 102.3 108.1 96.3 +11.8 +58

With a second center in the game, the Rockets can’t space the floor for their ball-handlers. Here’s James Harden running a side pick-and-roll with Asik and with Howard’s man in position to help in the paint.

20131102_hou_side_pnr

If you replace Howard with Francisco Garcia or Omri Casspi and place him on the left wing, Harden has a much clearer path to the basket … or one of the shooters is wide open behind the 3-point line.

Asik is a very good player and deserves to play more than 12 minutes per game, especially considering how much he’s being paid. But Howard is going to play 36 minutes a night and it’s getting harder to justify playing the two together as it’s basically putting the Rockets in a hole every game. Only the Knicks have been worse in the first six minutes of games (minus-35.4 NetRtg) than the Rockets (minus-35.1, scoring a paltry 79.0 points per 100 possessions).

The two-center combo may have already reached the end of the line. On Tuesday against the Raptors, Asik was on the bench to start the third quarter, marking the first time both centers weren’t on the floor to start a half. Going forward, McHale isn’t sure what he’s going to do, as Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle writes.

“That big lineup – I am 50/50 on that,” McHale said. “It takes time, and the chemistry has to get better. Every time I think I am done with it, they do something that makes me want to keep trying it.”

Ultimately, this has to end with a trade. As nice as it is to have Asik as Howard’s back-up, the Rockets would be a better team if they could trade Asik for a 30-minutes-per-game forward who can shoot and defend. Greg Smith isn’t on Asik’s level, but he can hold down the fort for 12 minutes a night. In fact, the Rockets were a plus-5.4 per 100 possessions with Smith on the floor last season.

Anthony and Bargnani struggle to fit together

Minutes: 133
Pace: 94.8
OffRtg: 97.6
DefRtg: 118.0
NetRtg: -20.4
+/-: minus-52

Oof. The only two-man combinations that have been worse are in Utah, Sacramento, Milwaukee or Detroit.

You expect the offense to come around somewhat as Anthony’s shooting improves, but Bargnani still doesn’t space the floor as well as guys the Knicks lost this summer, or pass the ball very much. In six games, he has five assists and four secondary assists. It’s early, but Anthony has shot better with Bargnani on the bench than with him on the floor.

Of course, the defense is the much bigger concern. Even in 41 minutes with Tyson Chandler on the floor with Anthony and Bargnani, the Knicks’ defense was terrible. Now, Chandler’s out for 4-6 weeks and … yikes.

The Knicks have allowed 114.8 points per 100 possessions with Bargnani on the floor and just 91.1 with him on the bench. We’re at the point where one good or bad half can skew those numbers a bit, but they’re damning just the same.

To be fair, Kevin Garnett has a pretty bad on-off-court DefRtg discrepancy – +11.0 – through his first six games with Brooklyn. It’s not nearly as bad as Bargnani’s +23.7, but still worth noting.

Interestingly, Bargnani has played just 10 minutes with Anthony on the bench. Mike Woodson might experiment with staggering their minutes more, but that would require having another healthy big man he could trust. And right now, the only other bigs on the roster are Cole Aldrich, Kenyon Martin and Amar’e Stoudemire. Two of them have minutes restrictions and the other is Cole Aldrich.

That Chris Smith still has a roster spot at this point is probably twice as amazing as the idea of giving up three Draft picks to take Bargnani’s contract off Masai Ujiri‘s hands.

Three guards in the Big Easy: Holiday, Evans and Gordon

Minutes: 51
Pace: 98.4
OffRtg: 99.0
DefRtg: 105.8
NetRtg: -6.8
+/-: plus-1

It’s a little surprising that the Pelicans’ three guards — making a combined $36 million this season — haven’t played much together. At this point, Evans is getting paid $12 million to play a little less than half the game. The trio averaged just over five minutes of floor time together in New Orleans’ first four games and have played about 10 minutes together in each of the last three.

Anthony Morrow‘s hot start has probably been a factor. When you have a guy shooting 63 percent from 3-point range and showing signs of an expanded off-the-dribble game, you want to make sure he gets his minutes too.

Either way, it’s hard to make any judgements regarding the Holiday-Evans-Gordon trio. The Pelicans have had good and bad stretches (both offensively and defensively) with the three on the floor together.

Two-point-guard combinations

Most of these sample sizes are very small, but here are some early numbers from a few two-point-guard combinations worth keeping an eye on…

On-court efficiency, two-PG combos

Team Combination GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
CHI Hinrich & Rose 6 48 108.8 81.0 110.5 -29.5 -37
CLE Irving & Jack 8 101 94.3 86.2 91.3 -5.1 -8
DEN Lawson & Miller 6 70 101.3 97.5 96.0 +1.5 +3
DEN Lawson & Robinson 4 42 103.3 102.3 110.3 -7.9 -3
DEN Miller & Robinson 6 66 95.3 83.3 95.2 -11.9 -14
HOU Beverley & Lin 5 61 104.4 107.6 90.2 +17.5 +14
MEM Bayless & Conley 5 39 100.4 118.7 95.8 +22.9 +18
NYK Felton & Prigioni 5 74 93.8 91.7 89.9 +1.9 -4
OKC Jackson & Westbrook 4 22 106.6 133.2 92.4 +40.8 +19
ORL Nelson & Oladipo 8 81 102.5 106.9 88.5 +18.4 +21
PHX Bledsoe & Dragic 4 70 94.8 110.2 101.1 +9.1 +11
POR Lillard & Williams 7 105 96.6 111.6 111.4 +0.2 +11
SAC Thomas & Vasquez 5 44 94.8 101.6 92.2 +9.4 0

Pistons’ Sluggish Start Prompts Change




VIDEO: Josh Smith’s early season highlights with the Pistons

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — A blockbuster free-agent/trade summer doesn’t always deliver the desired results come the start of the regular season, at least not immediately.

The Detroit Pistons are living that reality after just seven games. Pistons coach Mo Cheeks benched veterans Chauncey Billups and Josh Smith at the start of the second half of Tuesday night’s rout at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, inserting youngsters Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Singler in their places, respectively.

This season was supposed to mark a shift in fortunes for the Pistons, an escape from the grips of the lottery and a move back into the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference. The summer additions of Billups, Smith and point guard Brandon Jennings was the masterstroke that was going to jumpstart that process.

But so far … it’s just not happening. The Pistons are 2-5 and showing no signs of being the playoff outfit some of us assumed they would be. In addition to chemistry issues that need to be sorted out, they’re also the worst defensive team in the league.

Losers of four straight games, Cheeks is rightfully trying to get out ahead of what could be a bigger problem. If his intent was to light a fire under his veterans, mission accomplished. If it was to point out to veterans and youngsters alike that no one is safe from being removed from their spot in the starting lineup or rotation, no matter how big a name or reputation they have, then he should be commended for taking that sort of stance this early in the campaign.

Cheeks said he wasn’t trying to send a message by singling Smith and Billups out, but did offer up specifics for Smith to shake out of his mini-funk, telling Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News:

“He has to get involved in the offense, get some offensive rebounds, run the floor, get some post-ups,” Cheeks said of Smith. “Get your hands on the ball and things will change for you.”

To his credit, Smith handled it like a pro, something that his critics probably didn’t expect given his history of clashing with authority during his formative stages in the league. Instead, he put the onus back on the leaders in the locker room and pointed out their lack of focus and attention to detail on the defensive end:

“Just gotta cheer my teammates on. You can’t focus on decisions people make, higher than you. You have to adjust around it and as long as I’ve been in this league, that’s what I’ve been willing to do — learning to adjust.”

With investment the Pistons have made in Smith, knowing that they have to make decisions on the long-term futures of young bigs Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, everyone needs to maintain the proper perspective on things during the start.

Smith is averaging 15.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks so far this season. He’s been a factor. The Pistons, however, need him to be a force. They need him to lead the way in the frontcourt. They need his play, his all around abilities and particularly his penchant for facilitating from the point-forward position, to bolster the production up front.

With Jennings returning from injury, Smith was bound to lose some of that freedom he enjoyed in the first few games of the season. So ultimately, it’s up to Cheeks to make sure all of the pieces fit and the Pistons don’t lose any more ground in the Eastern Conference standings.

So if a change is needed after this sluggish start, even a minor one at halftime of a road game in mid-November, so be it. Better to fix it now than have to worry about it later.

Back And Forth With Bones: Nuggets-Jazz

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Back and Forth With Bones is an e-mail exchange between NBA.com’s John Schuhmann and NBA TV’s Brent Barry during a Monday night game. This week, they sat down (Schuhmann at home in New Jersey, Barry in the studio in Atlanta) to watch the 0-7 Utah Jazz try to get off the schneid, hosting the 1-4 Denver Nuggets on NBA TV.

Pre-game

Schuhmann: Hey Bones, tonight we have the Nuggets and Jazz, who are arguably the two worst teams in the league right now. There are better games on League Pass, but this one isn’t without some intrigue.

Denver has obviously undergone a stylistic change under Brian Shaw. After attempting over 45 percent of their shots from the restricted area each of the last two seasons, they’ve attempted just 32 percent of their shots from there this year. They’re down to 10th and 20th in fast break points and offensive rebounding percentage respectively, after leading the league in both of those categories last year.

Their frontcourt rotation has been a mess without Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler (who is supposed to return tonight). I believe Shaw wants to work the offense through their bigs, but I don’t see any bigs on that roster that can function as a focal point offensively.

Meanwhile, I thought the Jazz would be better defensively after seeing their numbers with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter on the floor last season, but they rank 27th on that end, unable to get boards or keep their opponents off the line. Offensively, Gordon Hayward has the goods, but this team can’t hit a shot from the outside.

So, questions for you:
1. Are you on board with what Shaw is trying to do? Is it just a matter of time (and health) before the Nuggets get on track, or do they need to get back to running and attacking the basket?
2. Do the Jazz have more ability to be a decent offensive team (maybe the shots will start falling at some point) or a decent defensive team (as the bigs develop)?


VIDEO: Jazz broadcaster David Locke discusses Utah’s tough season

Barry: The Jazz are absolutely horrible at getting ball to go through the hoop, important that you can do that — it is called scoring. Last in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.

They’re getting exposed at point guard and can’t put pressure on opposing teams, most of which have pretty good ones, especially in the West.

It’s new territory for the team in terms of bearing heavy minutes, when and how to conserve legs and effort. Bigs worried about picking up scoring takes away rebounding focus. It will be interesting to see if they play confident or embarrassed to open up the game.

For the Nuggets, Shaw is still trying to find rotations that mesh with injuries to key players (Gallo, Kenneth Faried and now JaVale McGee). There’s no way Denver can play through bigs, so it will be interesting to see how Brian is managing the guard play.

Ty Lawson is playing a ton of minutes. Randy Foye next, but top three gunners are Ty (85 FGA), Nate Robinson (45), and Foye (44). They’re losing a bit of a defensive mentality/flexibility with Corey Brewer and Andre Iguodala gone.

Karl loved misfits, mismatches and mental games. It’s hard for new coach to get there without a better understanding, but even tougher when the old coach won a bunch too!

1st quarter

The Jazz got off to a strong start, scoring 26 points on a stretch of 16 possessions in the middle of the first quarter. The Nuggets shot just 8-for-21 in the period, but were only down six.

Schuhmann: The Nuggets are trying to post up Faried early on. I don’t get it.

Barry: And apparently are afraid to touch the paint on the defensive end. Some of the possessions are leaving them with bad floor balance and Jazz looking to run with purpose to score to start a game they really need to win.


VIDEO: Derrick Favors gets up to reject J.J. Hickson

They need a release from the winless start and a close game doesn’t do it.

Schuhmann: Turnovers have been an issue for the Jazz – 2nd highest rate in the league – and they don’t have any through 18 possessions. Favors looks more comfortable in the post than any of the Denver bigs.

Barry: Great patience vs. Mozgov. Fatigue moves the last two, but he responds with a block.

Barry: Good first quarter, but guys got a little tired for Jazz. Feels like Denver got away with one.

2nd quarter (UTA leads 26-20)

The Jazz scored on just three of their first 14 possessions and committed seven turnovers in the period after committing none in the first. The Nuggets had turnover issues of their own, but went on a 19-8 run late in the period to take a five point lead. Four points from Hayward made it a one-point game at the half.

Schuhmann: The Denver offense looks best when Lawson is attacking off the dribble. Not sure what else they can rely on.

Barry: They’ve just lost a lot of dynamic play on the wings with Brewer/Iggy gone and utility/tough matchups in Chandler/Gallo. You can see how they bog down.

Barry: But I do see signs of DHO (dribble hand-offs) and use of the pinch post in the Nuggets’ offense.


VIDEO: Andre Miller loses Jamaal Tinsley with a crafty crossover move

Schuhmann: That move by Andre Miller made my night.

Barry: And his.

Barry: Interesting for Utah to try to take advantage of Hayward in the post on Miller when doubles don’t result in anything good, because the Jazz can’t shoot it from distance.

Schuhmann: 10 combined turnovers in first six minutes of the second quarter. I’m starting to understand why these teams are a combined 1-11.


VIDEO: J.J. Hickson posterizes Jazz forward Marvin Williams

Halftime (DEN leads 46-45)


VIDEO: First half highlights from Nuggets-Jazz

Schuhmann: The Nuggets got things going in the second quarter when they – one – took care of the ball and – two – attacked the basket. 19 of their 26 points came in the paint or at the line.

Barry: And there lies the problem. Kanter and Favors will need to learn how to patrol and control the lower defensive box. Tonight, they are not having to deal with stretch bigs. It’s a technique/muscle game that they are struggling with.

Barry: Some worrisome numbers from PG for the Jazz. Lawson’s numbers at the half (eight points and six assists) might end up being more than the Lucas/Tinsley combo for the game. No playmaking to promote flow for the Jazz. All plays on one’s own to score.

3rd quarter

With the Jazz continuing to struggle offensively, the Nugget built a seven-point lead. But Favors scored seven straight points late in the period to keep it close.

Schuhmann: Lots of Favors in the post again. No double-teams = no ball movement. Denver willing to live with single coverage everywhere.

Schuhmann: Jazz had some pick-and-roll success in the third with a couple of nifty big-to-big passes between Favors and Gobert. Gets the defense moving more than straight post-ups.

Barry: When you can load up elbows and boxes the Jazz have very little room to find offense.

4th quarter (DEN leads 70-68)

The Jazz took a brief lead on an Alec Burks three-point play, but the Nuggets answered with a 10-1 run and scored 13 times in a 15-possession stretch to put the game away.

Barry: Penalty at 10:18 for the Jazz.


VIDEO: Nate Robinson lobs and Kenneth Faried finishes it off

Barry: Great dime by Nate. Pressure mounting on the Jazz, 0-7 and being down at home. Expect some roster change out of this timeout as Ty won’t want to put more pressure on guys to finish it out.

Barry: And there they are…

Barry: Offensive rebounds are crushing the Jazz.

Schuhmann: Yep. Pick-and-rolls are putting their bigs out of position.

Barry: But no reason to be extended that far. Strange injury to Manimal, if he doesn’t come back Utah will have a chance.

Barry: More Dre. Good call by B-Shaw.

Barry: Andre is fantastic… Great drive and shot before Gobert could get feet set to block. And Manimal is back. Not good for the Jazz.

Barry: Utah bigs just seem unaware of how far they are extending. They’re opening up drives and offensive rebounds for Denver. For the last three minutes, Ty can dictate tempo, whereas Utah has no point.

Final: Nuggets 100, Jazz 81


VIDEO: Nuggets pick up road win in Utah

Lawson led Denver with 17 points and 10 assists. Faried added 15 points and 13 rebounds and Miller added another 15 points off the bench for the Nuggets, who had a 48-36 advantage in the paint, a 52-35 advantage on the glass, and a 23-16 edge at the free throw line. Favors finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, but the Jazz shot a brutal 3-for-17 from 3-point range and are shooting 23 percent from beyond the arc through eight games.

Schuhmann: It’s tough to score with no penetration and no shooting. We saw some decent post-ups from Favors, but the bigs don’t demand a double-team down there.

Denver looked good when they went to last year’s formula of dribble penetration from the point guards and crashing the glass, though with Brewer and Iguodala gone, they’ve lost a lot of their potency on the break. I’m not a fan of trying to work through Faried or Hickson in the post, but they went away from that in the second half. Of course, we can’t really evaluate their D from a game against the Jazz.

Barry: No, but the Horns set seemed to open up basic opportunities for Denver. They will look much different when they have a full complement of players.

But the Jazz have reasons for concern, as Trey Burke is not going to come in and take the Western Conference PG position by storm.

Nets Trying To Find A Rhythm


VIDEO: Nets fall short to Nets in overtime

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Last season, the Brooklyn Nets won 20 of their first 22 games against teams that didn’t make the playoffs. This season, the Nets are already 1-3 against that same group.

Now, the teams they’ve lost to – Cleveland, Orlando and Washington – are all improved. And it’s possible that more than one of them will make the playoffs this year. The Magic have shown an ability to defend at a high level, the Cavs upgraded their roster, and the Wizards are healthy, with a young and improving backcourt.

But none of the three have a winning record through the first 11 days of the season … and neither do the Nets after blowing an eight-point, fourth-quarter lead in Washington on Friday.

The Nets did beat the Heat last Friday and have a chance to knock off the unbeaten Pacers on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV) in Brooklyn. A 2-0 mark against the two best teams in the Eastern Conference would certainly make up – at least in terms of the team’s psyche – for the three losses to the teams that picked 1, 2 and 3 in the Draft this past June.

But at some point, Brooklyn needs to find some consistency and maybe an identity while they’re at it. Defense was the bigger concern entering the season, but offense has been the bigger issue through the first five games. Through Friday, the Nets rank 22nd in offensive efficiency, scoring just 98.4 points per 100 possessions. Their All-Star starting lineup – maybe because it’s only played 48 minutes together in five games – is scoring at that same rate.

It’s not time to panic, but it is time to figure some things out. ESPN New York’s Ohm Youngmisuk was in Washington with some quotes from a frustrated Kevin Garnett, who has shot *14-for-46 (30.4 percent) thus far…

*Garnett, listed at 6-11, has taken 32 shots from mid-range and five from the restricted area.

Saturday, the Nets get an opportunity to bounce back and measure themselves against the Indiana Pacers, a team that will stand in their way of trying to get to the NBA Finals.

But the Nets won’t even sniff the Eastern Conference Finals if they don’t start figuring out how to play more consistently and put away the Wizards and Magic.

“This is our issue right now,” said Garnett, who finished with four points on 2-of-11 shooting in 24 minutes. “We’re trying to figure it out. It’s not so simple to hit a button or say this is it.”

Unfortunately for the Nets, they have to go through early growing pains before they will truly know how they stack up against Indiana, which only looks like its getting better and better at 6-0.

“We’re dealing with multiple things here,” Garnett said of what the Nets need to improve on. “When we win, obviously it looks good. But teams are making adjustments to us as far as systematically defensively. Offensively, I don’t think we’re in a rhythm.”

“Obviously it’s a process,” Garnett added. “It’s not an easy process trying to figure it out. [Some] nights it looks great. Some nights it looks like tonight: pure crap.”

It may just be a case of sustaining how they play early on. In their five games, the Nets are a plus-24 in the first quarter (with the league’s sixth-best first-quarter offense), but a minus-7 in the second, a minus-6 in the third, and a minus-19 in the fourth.

Nets coach Jason Kidd is still determining how his rotation is going to work out. As noted above, the starters have played just 48 minutes together. Kidd has, at times, gone with a full second unit, but has also used all kinds of mixes between the starters and reserves. He obviously wants to preserve his starters’ minutes, but all the mixing and matching may be preventing the different lineups from finding that rhythm they’re seeking.

Saturday provides another opportunity to figure things out, but the No. 1 defense in the league will not make it easy.

Improved ‘D’ Fuels Quick Start For Bobcats, Suns And Magic

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — It’s early.

But the Philadelphia 76ers aren’t the only surprise team of the 2013-14 season’s first 10 days. The Charlotte Bobcats, Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns – three teams projected by most to finish in the in the bottom five of the league – are all 3-2 entering Friday’s 12-game slate.

When we look at these three rosters, we see a lack of talent. And from that we can predict that they will struggle offensively. But team defense is another story, especially when you have a new coach, like in Charlotte and Phoenix. Organization and energy on defense can help teams with limited talent overachieve. And defense is the common theme in the early success of these three squads, though one of the three has been much more successful on that end of the floor.

Again, it’s early.

But the Magic, Suns and Bobcats rank third, eighth and 13th in defensive efficiency, respectively. And they all rank among the six most improved defensive teams from last season.

Here’s a closer look…

Charlotte

DefRtg: 100.4 (13th)
Improvement: -8.6 (6th)

The Bobcats’ wins have come against the Cavs, Knicks and Raptors, by a total of 13 points. So just like last year’s 7-5 start, there’s a fool’s gold element here.

In only one of their five games – the win over Cleveland – have they held their opponent under a point per possession. And the Cavs currently rank 29th in offensive efficiency. Bobcats opponents have been a hair less efficient (100.3 points scored per 100 possessions) in their 20 games not against Charlotte.

That doesn’t mean that the future Hornets don’t have anything to feel positive about. They had a hobbled Al Jefferson for just their first game and scored 107 points per 100 possessions over their last two wins. Once they add a healthy Jefferson to their Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions pick-and-rolls, the offense should be even better.

And long term, the Cats will be more organized defensively under Steve Clifford than they were under Mike Dunlap. The early defensive numbers are a little inflated though.

Phoenix

DefRtg: 96.4 (8th)
Improvement: -9.3 (5th)

The Suns have beaten Portland, Utah and New Orleans by a total of 22 points. And they also hung in with the Thunder and Spurs on the road. Their opponents have scored 100.0 points per 100 possessions in their 18 games not against Phoenix.

The Suns had the worst 3-point defense in the league last season and were particularly bad at defending the arc (41.5 percent) with Michael Beasley on the floor. There’s definitely an addition-by-subtraction element here.

They’ve also improved quite a bit on the glass, ranking 11th in defensive rebounding percentage (74.8 percent) after ranking 23rd (71.9 percent) last season. More playing time for the Morris twins has helped in that regard. The Suns have grabbed 75.4 percent of available defensive boards and allowed just 90.6 points per 100 possessions in 148 minutes with one of the two twins on the floor.

Time will tell if Jeff Hornacek‘s defense will continue to hold up, but the signs are good so far. They host the Nuggets and Pelicans this weekend and could face their toughest defensive test on Wednesday, when they visit the Blazers, who currently rank sixth offensively.

Orlando

DefRtg: 94.8 (3rd)
Improvement: -11.9 (1st)

Of the three teams, it’s the Magic who have looked most legit, with wins over the Pelicans, Nets and Clippers by a total of 49 points.

Last season, the Magic defense was strong early in the season, but collapsed after Glen Davis got hurt. So the prospects of them being a decent defensive team while Davis was still recovering from foot surgery were not good. But here they are at No. 3 in the league, having held the Pelicans, Nets and Clippers under 90 points per 100 possessions.

Both Brooklyn and L.A. spoke about a lack of effort in their games in Orlando. The Nets were probably feeling themselves after last Friday’s win over the Heat, and the Clippers were maybe looking forward to their own game against the champs.

But Orlando’s defensive numbers are pretty darn impressive anyway. The Pelicans, Nets and Clippers scored a combined 89.5 points per 100 possessions against Orlando, compared to 108.0 in their other 12 games. L.A. currently ranks No. 1 in the league offensively.

Orlando opponents OffRtg

Team vs. ORL Other games Diff.
Indiana 101.0 99.4 +1.6
Minnesota 103.5 94.1 +9.4
New Orleans 91.4 103.7 -12.2
Brooklyn 89.0 102.5 -13.4
L.A. Clippers 88.0 114.5 -26.4
TOTAL 94.8 103.4 -8.5

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

The Magic are forcing 1.2 more turnovers per 100 possessions than they did last season, but the early improvement has been mostly about shot defense. And there’s multiple elements to that.

They’re defending the rim better, defending the 3-point line better, and allowing less of those high-efficiency shots. Only 48.1 percent of their opponents’ shots have come from the restricted area or from 3-point range, the second-lowest rate in the league. Last season, that number was 56.7 percent, the 14th lowest rate in the league.

Of Brooklyn’s 89 shots in Orlando last Sunday, 50 came from between the restricted area and the 3-point line. On Wednesday, it was 55 of the Clippers’ 95 shots.

The Magic had a multiple-prong game plan against the Clips, and it worked. First, they sagged deep on Chris Paul‘s pick-and-rolls.

20131106_paul_sag

Paul stepped into some easy elbow jumpers, but the sagging strategy prevented him from getting past the Magic big men and really compromising the Orlando D.

Second, they dared Blake Griffin to shoot from mid-range.

20131106_griffin_space

Griffin was 3-for-13 from outside the paint before that game, but shot an impressive 7-for-13 from mid-range on Wednesday. Still, he got just three shots at the rim.

Finally, the Magic cross-matched in the backcourt, assigning Jameer Nelson to defend his old teammate J.J. Redick. And Nelson did a fantastic job of running Redick off the 3-point line. Here are a couple of examples…


Redick is a great shooter from everywhere, but three is greater than two, so if you can force him into more mid-range shots than threes, you’re doing your job. On Wednesday, Redick was 1-for-5 from 3-point range and 3-for-8 from mid-range.

One more time: It’s early. But an ability to execute a defensive game plan against a great offensive team like that early in the season is a good sign for the Magic defense.