Posts Tagged ‘playoffs’

Blogtable: Playoff Tweaks

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes 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.

Baseball just added another wild-card team to its playoffs, setting up a one-game winner-take-all between wild cards. Any ideas to spice up the NBA postseason?

Steve Aschburner: I’ll give you one old idea, one new and neither necessarily original. I liked the old best-of-five format in the first round – it made 1-8 or 2-7 upsets more feasible and it forced an urgency on the whole tournament that got everyone’s juices flowing. Then I’d like to see the entire 16-team field seeded regardless of conference affiliation. The schedule this season has been a crazy quilt anyway, so it would be the perfect postseason in which to introduce such a format. If the people’s choice for a Finals would be Miami vs. Chicago, why should that have to happen one round early? (I know, OKC is absolutely worthy, too. This is just a fer-instance.) Combine these two format changes and you’d get the bottom teams out quickly while amping up drama in those 8-9 and 7-10 matchups.

Fran Blinebury: Make the first round shorter again.  Live really dangerously and go back to the best-of-3 mini-series.  The top seeds still won the overwhelming number of series, but it was always fun to see them sweat.

Scott Howard-Cooper: No spice. Playing the games will be enough, just as it was last season and the season before. Miami, defending-champ Dallas, Chicago, OKC, L.A. x 2, San Antonio – just play the games. Baseball: The people who brought you an All-Star game with ridiculously high implications for an exhibition event and has different rules in different leagues. Nothing to poach there. (more…)

Strictly Grizzness

Charles Barkley predicted that the Memphis Grizzlies would be the fourth No. 8 in playoff history to pull off a first-round upset. With the Grizzlies up 3-1 on the San Antonio Spurs, Charles is looking pretty smart right now. But as it is with all of Charles’ predictions, you can’t help but wonder if he really believed that, or if it was just Charles being Charles.

I’m sure there are also a lot of Grizzlies fans out there that believed in their team. No offense to them, but I take that as biased optimism. Maybe I’m wrong, but I wonder if those fans would have purchased tickets for the conference semifinals if they were non-refundable.

Me? I picked the Spurs in five. And clearly, I was wrong.

Now, I was well aware that the Spurs never played consistent, championship-caliber defense all season. And that Memphis (eighth in the league, allowing 102.5 points per 100 possessions) was a better defensive team than San Antonio (11th, 102.8).

But the Spurs still won 61 games this season with Tim Duncan playing fewer than 30 minutes per game. And they were much better defensively (99.5 points allowed per 100 possessions) with Duncan on the floor.

The Spurs went 2-2 against the Grizzlies in the regular season, but they were similarly better with Duncan on the floor, outscoring Memphis by 6.0 points per 48 minutes in his 96 minutes. Duncan’s presence clearly helped neutralize Zach Randolph, who shot just 40 percent in those 96 minutes.

So the logic in picking the Spurs was that, with more minutes from Duncan than they got in the regular season, they would be more consistent, especially defensively.

Of course, Manu Ginobili‘s elbow injury has obviously been a factor in this series. Ginobili missed Game 1 and has been relatively ineffective offensively over the last three games, shooting less than 40 percent for the series.

Our own Fran Blinebury is covering the series and wrote this after Game 4

It’s looking like there will be at least another series and another few weeks to continue celebrating this delightful Memphis story that has hips shaking the way they did when Elvis was still living at Graceland.

But if the impending demise of the Spurs was, in a circle of life way, inevitable, certainly nobody saw the end coming with such swiftness.

“Surprising, but in my case I feel disappointing,” Ginobili said. “I felt we were gonna bounce back emotionally, physically after the loss of Game 3. But it was all theirs, that emotion, that edge.

“We went down 10-12 and our eyes couldn’t see the fire that would say, ‘We can make it.’”

The Grizzlies are the official team of the Hang-Time Blog. So rather than lament Ginobili’s health or focus on the demise of the Spurs, here we’ll celebrate what the Grizzlies have become, which is a TEAM in every sense of the word.

The Grizzlies are where they are mostly because of the improvement they’ve made defensively. They ranked 24th in the league in defensive efficiency last season, and only the Chicago Bulls improved more this year.

The Grizzlies’ offensive efficiency didn’t improve from last season, but they changed their ways a bit. For three straight seasons (2007-08 through 2009-10), the Grizzlies ranked last in the league in assist rate, assisting on fewer than half of their baskets in that time.

This year, they moved up only one spot in assist rate (to 29th), but their 5 percent jump from 47.9 to 52.8 was the highest in the league. And now, in this series against the Spurs, the Grizz are assisting on 58.2 percent of their field goals, the fourth-highest rate in the postseason.

And oh yeah … We can’t forget that the Grizzlies are doing this without Rudy Gay, their most talented player.

This series isn’t over, and we definitely can’t count out the Spurs. But clearly, some of us underestimated the Grizzlies.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

StatsCube: The Knicks’ One-Man Show


With Chauncey Billups and Amar’e Stoudemire out with injuries, Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks back from an 11-point deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter of Game 2 in Boston on Tuesday, before falling to the Celtics 96-93.

It was an amazing performance on a big stage. And how well the Knicks performed with such a depleted lineup could only make you shake your head.

But the idea of the Knicks playing well with only one of their three stars on the floor isn’t new. It’s actually been happening since they acquired Anthony.

“Right when I heard that Stoudemire was out,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said after Game 2, “I turned to Lawrence Frank and said, ‘Oh jeez, they’ve got us right where they want us right now.’”

Perhaps Doc had using NBA.com StatsCube before the game, because the numbers show that the Knicks have played better with just one star on the floor…

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Billups Likely to Miss Game 2

BOSTON – The New York Knicks will likely be without Chauncey Billups for Game 2 of their first round series with the Boston Celtics on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, TNT).

After suffering a strained left knee late in the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ 87-85 victory in Game 1 on Sunday, Billups is officially listed as “questionable” for Game 2. And the way both Billups and Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni talked about it, a status of “doubtful” may be more appropriate.

D’Antoni said that Billups playing in Friday’s Game 3 in New York was “more of a probability.”

“I think everything is up in the air, day-to-day,” Billups added after the Knicks practiced without him on Monday. “I’m hoping for tomorrow. I don’t know if that will happen. I don’t even know if it’s realistic. But obviously, if it’s not tomorrow, I’m hoping for the next opportunity.”

If Billups can’t go, Toney Douglas will start in his place and Anthony Carter will see more playing time backing Douglas up. Douglas started in place of Billups in a six-game stretch in early March, when Billups was sidelined with a thigh bruise. The Knicks went 4-2 in those games, giving D’Antoni some confidence that they could survive without Billups on Tuesday.

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StatsCube: Boston Bench to Blame


BOSTON – The biggest question heading into Game 1 of the first round series between the Celtics and Knicks (7 p.m. ET, TNT) is whether or not the Celtics can “flip the switch” one more time. As they did a year ago, the Celtics struggled down the stretch of the regular season, losing 11 of their final 21 games.

And while Rajon Rondo hasn’t looked himself and Ray Allen‘s shooting has dropped off, the Celtics four All-Stars aren’t really to blame for their team’s struggles. Boston has still been pretty good with their big four on the floor, especially defensively.

Celtics’ efficiency since All-Star break

All-Stars on floor Min. Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Diff.
4 613 109.8 95.5 +14.3
3 185 100.3 99.2 +1.1
2 173 100.0 106.5 -6.5
1 195 87.0 103.5 -16.5
0 182 92.7 95.5 -2.8
Less than 4 735 95.0 101.1 -6.1

Off. Eff = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions

The problem isn’t really with the big four. It’s with the guys coming off the bench. If we look at the Celtics’ numbers before the All-Star break, we see that there wasn’t nearly as big a drop off.

Celtics’ efficiency before All-Star break

All-Stars on floor Min. Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Diff.
4 911 111.2 97.3 +13.9
Less than 4 1695 101.8 97.6 +4.2

If you compare the big four’s numbers together before and after the break, you see that their offensive production has dropped off a bit, but they’ve more than made up for it with their defense.

So when the Celtics open the postseason against the Knicks tonight, the guys that really need to flip the switch are the ones coming off the bench.

***

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Kobe Captains The “Weird”

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Kobe Bryant has been on quite a roll the past few days, making headlines for all sort of things good and not so good.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson garnered his fair share of the spotlight the past couple of days as well.

But today’s winner in the Lakers’-In-The-Headlines competition is Bryant, who admitted to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times that, “this team is so weird.”

That’s one way of describing the two-time defending NBA champs on the eve of what could be their third straight march to the title. But with the Hornets up first, Bryant is no doubt wondering what his “weird” team will show us next:

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Dunleavy Is Finally Free

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If you’re talking about active players that have been in the NBA the longest without so much as sniffing the playoffs, leave Mike Dunleavy out of it.

He’s free now.

The Pacers forward will make his playoff debut Saturday when he and his teammates travel to Chicago for Game 1 of their first round series against the Bulls. It’s going to be a glorious day for Dunleavy, whose playoff drought lasted a staggering nine years. More from my main man Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star:

After nine years, 627 regular-season games and a major knee operation, Dunleavy will make his playoff debut when he comes off the bench in Game 1 against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday at United Center.

“It felt like a long time in some regards, but in some ways it’s gone fast,” said Dunleavy, who trailed only former Pacer Troy Murphy for most games without reaching the postseason. “Realistically, looking back, I don’t feel like I’ve been on a playoff team.”

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Andy & Landry Rock Times Square

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – One of the perks of the Knicks locking down their playoff berth early is that we don’t have to wonder what will become of The Andy & Landry Show.

(With apologies to Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups and the rest of the crew but these kids are hilarious.)

Knicks rookies Andy Rautins and Landry Fields (we discussed the show, and other things, with him on Episode 51 of the Hang Time Podcast) have been cracking us up here at the hideout lately with their adventures. In their latest episode, the fellas invade Times Square to hang out with the Naked Cowboy, among others.

Watch here, if you dare!

They’ve done a little speed dating, too … pure comedy.

You’ve got to love rookies!

Playoff Picture Taking Shape

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Spurs have the top spot in the Western Conference locked up.

The Hornets’ ticket to the postseason has been punched. The Pacers are in, too. Wednesday night’s action around the NBA cleared up a few outstanding issues in regards to the playoffs.

Things are finally taking shape.

There’s only one spot left, the eighth and final slot in the Western Conference. And the Hang Time Grizzlies have it within their grasp — they can lock up the spot with a win over Sacramento on Friday night.

We still don’t know exactly how the playoff matchups will play out, there is still plenty of jostling being done in the bottom halves of both the Eastern and Western Conference standings. But we could have all 16 playoff teams locked in before the final weekend of the regular season is 12 hours old.

A few notes, quotes and an opinion or two after eyeballing as much of Wednesday night’s action as we could …

Heat Limping Without Wade

All this LeBron James-for-MVP talk has overshadowed an equally impressive season by Dwyane Wade. Just how different are the Heat without Wade in the lineup? They found out last night when they lost to the Bucks while he sat our resting a bruised thigh. The Heat has a 5-8 record when James, Wade or Chris Bosh doesn’t play or doesn’t finish a game due to injury.

ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst offered up a rather pointed analysis of the Heat’s current state of affairs (you can cover your eyes now, Heat fans):

If the Heat win their last four games, their huge free-agent haul will have meant a grand total of 11 more regular-season wins than the expiring free-agent crew Wade carried around all of last season in overachieving purgatory.

Unless the Celtics lose twice and the Heat win out, adding James and Bosh will have earned the Heat a mere two higher seeds in the standings, unimpressively going from No. 5 to No. 3. Indeed, the playoffs are the time for salvation, but the data doesn’t add up to an inspiring projection.

“What does the 2 seed guarantee you?” asked James, who had 29 points and eight assists in the loss.

“It doesn’t guarantee you win the series. … I’m a prime example. The last two years, I have been the first overall seed of everybody, all 16 teams, and it didn’t pay off for us.”

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Bulls Chasing The Spurs For No. 1?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If nothing else, you have to admire the ambition of these upstart Chicago Bulls.

Being the top team in the Eastern Conference is just a part of their end goal for the regular season. Reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer insists they are also chasing the Spurs for the top record in the league, with just a couple of weeks left in the regular season:

“We’re trying to win as many games as we possibly can because we know it’s a tough race in the East,” Brewer said after Monday morning’s shootaround. “We’re not just striving to be the first in our conference. We’re trying to go out there and get the Spurs and have the best overall record in the league.”

They have a 3.5 games behind the Spurs heading into tonight’s action, the Bulls host Philadelphia (8 p.m. ET on NBA TV) and the Spurs host Portland at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Their home records are almost identical (32-4 for the Bulls and 33-3) for the Spurs. And they split their two regular-season meetings. So now all they have to do is make it through the playoffs in their own conferences for any of it to matter.

But again, you have to admire the ambition of Brewer and the Bulls, who have yet to win a playoff series as a group.