Paul floor

Obviously, there's no way I could not comment on yesterday's Game 7 showdown between Paul Pierce and Lebron James. It was, simply put, the most amazing two-man show I've seen in decisive Game 7 since...well...

The new Larry versus Dominique: The parallels are almost bizarre, aren't they? Both were Game 7s in Boston. One happened in the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals, the other in the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals. In both cases, the winner would move on to face the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. Both featured a Celtics superstar with a wispy porn-style mustache and a rival superstar who might be the most physically dynamic player in the league. If only Brian Scalabrine could have been on the active roster to fulfill Fred Roberts' "awkward white guy cheering from the bench" role, it would have been perfect. (Veal cheering in street clothes just isn't the same.)

In some ways, this duel was (please don't strike me down, Basketball Gods) even better than the Larry and 'Nique show. After all, Bird's performance in that classic Game 7 was just so-so -- and maybe even sub-par -- through three quarters before the Legend exploded in the fourth, scoring 20 points on 9-for-10 shooting. In this case, Pierce and James were both forces for each and every quarter. And whereas Larry spent most of his Game 7 guarding Antoine Carr while Kevin McHale checked Dominique, Truth spent most of his Game 7 guarding LeBron and vice versa.

The final tallies speak volumes: Paul (41 points, 13-for-23, 11-for-12 from the line, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals) and LeBron (45 points, 14-for-29, 14-for-19 from the line, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals). And then when you take into account the fact that they were guarding each other and the refs were letting a lot of contact go and it was a Game 7, well, those performances were truly legen...wait for it...dary.

As LeBron put it: "We both tried to will our team to victory and, just like Dominique Wilkins, I ended up on the short end and the Celtics won again. I think the second round of the postseason, Game 7, these fans will finally have an opportunity to forget a little bit about what Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins did and remember what Paul and LeBron did. This will go down in history." Amen.

Not the new Larry versus Dominique: But before we all get too carried away, let me state emphatically that this Game 7 did not equal that famous Game 7 from 1988. Why? Well, quite simply, because while Pierce and James stepped up and then some, their teammates, by and large, did not. Kevin Garnett finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, but he was, for the most part, an invisible man on the offensive end. Ray Allen (4 points, 1-for-6) continued to slump so badly that Doc Rivers exiled him to the bench for long stretches of the game. Rajon Rondo (4-for-11) couldn't hit a jump shot and had to be replaced by Eddie House late in the game.

Delonte West (15 points, 5 assists) was the best non-LeBron Cavalier, but he also committed 6 turnovers and missed a wide-open three with about a minute to go that would have tied the game at 91-all. As for the other Cavs, well, Zydrunas Ilgauskas (2-for-8), Ben Wallace (4 points, 4 rebounds), Sasha Pavlovic (3-for-8) Wally Szczerbiak (zero points, 0-for-3) could have all stayed home.

This was most certainly not the case in '88. First off, the two teams combined to shoot 59 percent from the field -- 72 percent in the fourth quarter -- and commit only 15 turnovers between them. And this was despite some intense, hands-all-over-everybody defense.

Kevin McHale was nearly as good as Bird, with 33 points (10-for-14), 13 rebounds, 4 blocked shots (and, naturally, zero assists). Danny Ainge had 13 points and 10 assists. Dennis Johnson finished with 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 8 assists (not to mention a huge steal-and-basket at the end of the third quarter). And Robert Parish added his typically solid 14 points (6-for-10).

Unlike LeBron, Dominique wasn't all on his own. Randy Wittman was red hot (11-for-13) and finished with 22 points. Doc Rivers (16 points, 18 assists) was fantastic. Kevin Willis had a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds). And Antoine Carr contributed 13 points and 4 rebounds off the bench.

That game was played at an extremely high level on both ends of the ball from tipoff to final buzzer, and both teams -- to a man -- stepped up. That fact, more so than even the back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth duel between the superstars, is why that Game 7 will forever been greater than the Game 7 that we were fortunate enough to witness last night.

But that doesn't mean that Paul and LeBron shouldn't go down as one of the great Game 7s ever.

LeBron James, quote machine: King James is freaking fantastic, no question about it. But his quotes are starting to get to me. He's been talking in third person more and more this season, and while he didn't do that last night, he still had to remind us that he may have lost, but he's no loser. "I have always been a winner, and I am a winner." He's right, you know. LeBron has won a championship at every level except college and the pros. Oh, and the Olympics and World Championships. But other than that...

Doc Rivers versus Mike Brown: These two men can thank Pierce and James for drawing attention away from their dreadful coaching. Doc brought in Eddie House for a short stretch during the first half, and House energized the Celtics and helped change the momentum. Then Doc exiled House to the bench until the closing minutes of the game despite the fact that the Cavaliers weren't even guarding Rondo and his faithless jumper. Why, Doc? Why? And as for Brown...well, methinks Danny Ferry should consider giving Avery Johnson a call.

Okay, now let's go back to Friday night.

Paul Pierce: He shot 5-for-15 and committed 6 turnovers. Hopefully he can redeem himself in Game 7. Oh, wait...

Ray Allen: Ray-Ray shot 3-for-8. He looks awful. He rarely gets open, and when he does, he's forcing his shots. The golden "3" has officially been removed from his locker.

Rajon Rondo: After a dominating performance in Game 5, Rondo got dominated by suck in Game 6: 2 points, 1-for-4, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 turnovers. This kid looked like just that: A kid.

Kendrick Perkins: He had more fouls (5) than rebounds (3), and he continues to move so slowly that Drew Bledsoe was laughing at his foot speed. Not a good sign.

Sam Cassell: DNP-CD. Doc has officially lost faith.

Wally Szczerbiak: The White Larry Hughes shot 2-for-11. He's about to lose his White Larry Hughes status, by the way. Soon he'll just be the Pat Garrity with better hair. Okay, much better hair.

Ben Wallace: Hm. Zero points, 0-for-3, 6 rebounds. Drew Gooden is laughing at this. You know he is.

Sasha Pavlovic: See what happens when you hold out, kids? You forget how to shoot (1-for-6).

Utah Jazz: Mehmet Okur and Deron Williams both had a chance to tie this game in the final seconds, but they both missed a three-pointer. That hardly mattered, though. The Jazz lost this game when they failed to capitalize on the opportunities they had in Game 5. And you could tell that they started Game 6 with a sense of panic. They looked scared of losing. And they got rattled when the Lakers jumped all over them. They tried to make a run in the third quarter, but when L.A. answered they to rattled again, forcing up threes in an attempt to get back quickly. The best example of this was a terrible jacked three by Andrei Kirilenko (of all people) off a busted play.

Of course, that three-point strategy got them back into the game in the fourh, so I guess you could say it "worked." And the patient almost lived. I guess it just goes to show how important it is to have a clutch superstar like Kobe -- who scored 12 points in the final quarter -- and savvy, unshakable veterans like Derek Fisher (16 points) and Pau Gasol (17 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks).

The Jazz are a young team, and they played like it. The Lakers are true championship contenders. And they played like it.

Carlos Boozer: Okay, can we please stop all of the Karl Malone comparisons until further notice? Boozer finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds, but he shot 5-for-16. Except for Game 3, Boozer struggled mightily to deal with the beating he was taking in the paint. Quite simply, the physical play of the Lakers took him out of his game. And say what you will about the Mailman, but he dealt with that kind of pounding every game of his career. And he loved it.

But it's more than that. I couldn't help but notice that Boozer was jogging downcourt on offense all series long. Malone never did that. He always sprinted out on the break, unless he was the outlet man, and he always got two or three easy baskets that way. Carlos would do well to copy that.

Tom Brady: Douche.

Brady

Yahoo!: I did not know that LeBron James played for the Utah Jazz. Thanks, Yahoo. And thanks to Colin G., Joe L., Maciek, Michael D. and (UPDATE!) Emma for jumping on this and sending me links/screen shots.

Awfulyahooagain

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30 Comments:
Blogger Wild Yams said...
Mr. Bawful, you missed something here:

"(LeBron has) been talking in third person more and more this season, and while he didn't do that last night..." Uh, you should check the earlier part of your entry for this quote: "these fans will finally have an opportunity to forget a little bit about what Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins did and remember what Paul and LeBron did." You did say "Amen" after that, and maybe it was a good quote, but LeBron technically did refer to himself in the third person yet again right there. Too bad we'll have to wait till the Olympics for more LeBron on LeBron quotes.

Got any predictions for Pistons-Celtics? Boston must win a road game in this round to advance, IMO. I think Detroit will win at least one in Boston (maybe only one, but they'll get one), so the Celtics are gonna have to sack up and finally bring it on the road to win. That's my prediction.

Anonymous mgoduke said...
wait, so did ben wallace have 4 and 4, or 0 and 6?

and,
how weird does it feel writing "Doc Rivers...was fantastic."?

Anonymous Dunpizzle said...
Avery Johnson for the Cavs!? Don't think so. His offense is just spread the floor and everybody beat their man one on one. Not much different than Mike Brown. And at least Dallas has several players that can do that. Cleveland only has Lebron, and while the other are good in some areas, beating their man one on one is not an area of expertise.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
wild yams -- I was saying "amen" more to the "This will go down in history" part than his talking in third person. Although I guess I should have busted him out for suggesting people should ever, for any reason, forget Bird versus Wilkins just because he and Pierce had a great Game 7 against each other. Should I forget about Russell versus Chamberlain because of Parish versus Kareem in the 80s? I mean, that's kind of silly.

The thing is, Boston really doesn't have to win a road game as long as they win all their home games. But...the turnaround from Game 7 to Game 1 of the ECFs is going to kill them. I really think they'll lose the first game, which means, as you say, they will need to win a road game.

But if they DO pull through and win the first two at home, I'll be damned impressed...

mgoduke -- Ben's 0 and 6 was from the Friday night game. Yeah, I know, I switched 'em around, but yesterday's Game 7 seemed more worthy of top billing.

And yes, it really does feel weird giving Doc props.

dubpizzle -- I was only kidding. That was the joke, you know? Brown is so bad we should call Avery.

Blogger Shrugz said...
Watching Brown's offence hurts the eyes

lebron gets ball behind three point line....create

Lebron gets the ball 20 feet from the basket.....create

too painful

Anonymous Greenroom said...
Actually, I think the Boozer/Malone comparisons are spot on:

Atrocious shooting from the field? Check.
Thuggish physical play underneath the basket? Check.
Disappearing in a critical playoff game/series when his team needs him most? Check.
No championships? Check.

Yep, looks like Boozer is following in the Mailman's footsteps nicely...

Blogger Wild Yams said...
There was a sequence at some point in the 2nd half yesterday which really had me appalled at Brown's coaching. The Celtics had just gone on a mini-run to put them up 6 or something like that, and Brown called a timeout to stem the tide, not an unusual coaching move at all. But while most coaches in that case will draw up a play that hopefully should get their team a good look, what the Cavs came out with was utterly horrid: they inbounded the ball to LeBron out by halfcourt, and he just dribbled the shot-clock down till about 7 or so, and then ran a short drive before attempting a jumper from around the top of the key. That was what Brown drew up?! Why call the timeout at all if that's what you're going to run? Did he just think his guys looked a little tired and needed a minute to sit? Did he think ABC was overdue for a commercial or something? It was absolutely the worst out of bounds play I've ever seen. Ever.

I have weird thoughts about Brown though. On the one hand, you see stuff like that, or just how the Cavs routinely run everything on offense, and you can see that it appears he doesn't know what the hell he's doing. Yet the Cavs have had moderate to above-average success with a team that basically features a bunch of crap plus LeBron. The inclination is to just give LeBron all the credit, but LeBron also plays like an idiot on occasion (the above play is a good example, regardless of whether Brown drew it up as such or not). Are the Cavs scrubs better than we all think? Is LeBron so good that he's single-handedly carrying one of the worst collection of stiffs to some modicum of success? Maybe it's just that Boston this year and Detroit last year (and this year too, probably) are just horribly coached as well. Well, we all know that's true. It's very confusing.

BTW, my above comment was just to point out that LeBron did refer to himself in the third person yesterday. I had no issue with anything he said other than that, I am just sick of him always referring to himself as "LeBron".

Blogger Basketbawful said...
greenroom -- I have to call bullshit here. First of all, Malone's career FGP is 51 percent, and his true shooting percentage is near 60.

Second, Karl's subpar performances in the Finals against Dennis Rodman's WWE-style defense is largely responsible for this myth of his playoff disappearances.

I have a longer Malone post planned for later this summer, but here are some examples of how Karl performed in big playoff games in which the Jazz were eliminated:

1. In 1993, the Jazz were eliminated in the deciding Game 5 in Seattle. Karl had 26 points (10-for-19), 12 rebounds and 2 assists.

2. In 1994, the Jazz were eliminated in the WCFs on the road by the eventual champion Rockets. Karl had 31 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists and zero turnovers.

3. In 1995, the Jazz were once again eliminated by the eventual champion Rockets. This time, Karl had 35 points (10-for-21), 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. He even hit 1 of 2 threes.

4. In 1996, with the Jazz facing elimination at home against the Sonics, Karl had 32 points (13-for-22), 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals. That followed another elimination-game performance in Seattle of 29 points (11-for-21) and 15 rebounds.

5. In 1998, in that famous Jordan-pushoff Game 6 of the Finals, Malone had 31 points (11-for-19), 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Yeah, he got stripped by Jordan to set up that final play...but he hardly disappeared. And of course, Karl had poured in 39 in Chicago to force the Game 6...

So please, greenroom, I would really appreciate it if you and everybody else stopped mindlessly accusing Malone of big-game disappearances without having jack to back it up. Karl came through in plenty of big games. But people only remember the failures because he never won a title.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Mike Brown is awful on offense, no doubt, but it was their defense that kept them in the game. For all his faults, Brown turned Wally freaking Sczerbiak (I'm sure I butchered his name) into the a defensive stopper against Ray Allen. That's worth volumes.

I think what Brown needs more than anything is just an offensive-specialist assistant coach and some kind of offensive scheme that LeBron is willing to buy into. They should also run the fastbreak more. I mean, if they had just two more measly layups they would have won that game.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I cant beleive how overrated last nights game has become already. firstly it was a horrid series, and secondly there was no change in play from the rest of the series, just the missed shots were made. People were missing open looks all over the place. Pierce and LeBron were the only players to turn up making half their teams points. Lastly Ben Wallace was on the court, 'Nuff said.

Blogger Justin Sane said...
I think the Cavs posed a bigger threat to the Celtics than the Pistons do. The Cavs have The One Guy who everyone needs to play against, who always gets the calls their way, and who is just so good that you spend your whole time worrying about him.

Detroit doesn't have that. The Celtics style of team defense makes a lot more sense against the team offense of Detroit.

Now, this is all with the Fatigue setting turned Off....

Blogger Wild Yams said...
My perception of Malone's supposed playoff failings were always limited to the very end of games. Malone was an incredibly consistent performer, in both big games and regular season games, and could always be counted on to come up with big plays, consistent scoring, and all around good play. I really felt like the only weakness he had was performing if the game was on the line, and usually Stockton would take those shots or make those plays anyway (Stockton, on the other hand, was a phenomenal clutch performer). Malone getting stripped and missing the two "the Mailman doesn't deliver on Sundays" free throws are the two main examples I can think of choking with the game on the line; but in all honestly the vast majority of players, even superstars, don't come through too often in the clutch. It's truly a rare few who consistently do perform well in those situations (Bird, Magic, Jordan, Kobe, Horry, etc). Malone definitely has an unfairly earned reputation for coming up small in big games the way Boozer did this postseason.

Speaking of Boozer, my suspicion is that he suffered a very bad back injury at some point in the last two months and that is why his play dropped off so sharply. That nothing was ever really said about about it is just typical Sloan "no excuses" basketball. On one hand you have to respect the not complaining, but on the other hand, I could see Boozer continuously wrapping his back, and feel like if he really was playing through a serious injury he shouldn't get raked over the coals too much. Look at the leeway Kobe got in Game 4 for having his back injury so widely known about. Boozer came up plenty big in last year's playoffs, so it's definitely too early to start calling him a choker.

Blogger Austen said...
Anyone else think the NBA itself deserves a "Worst of the Weekend" for putting an Enver Nugget (Marcus Camby) on the All NBA Defensive First Team?

Blogger stephanie g said...
The duel between Pierce and James was certainly entertaining but unlike the Bird-Wilkins duel it seemed most of the heavy scoring and back and forth action went on in the third quarter. I remember a sequence in the fourth when Lebron hit back to back threes (and almost made a third) and Pierce answered but that's just about it, whereas the classic Boston-Atlanta game had its superstar awesomeness concentrated into the fourth quarter for maximum excitement.

Anonymous DM said...
No kidding, austen. And they also put CP3 in the second team.

CP3 is a great player, but he never seemed a lockdown defender to me. Maybe it's the steals?

Anonymous Emma said...
Hey, how about some credit?

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=10135659&postID=6991206695200422404&isPopup=true

Is it because I didn't call you "Mr. Bawful"? :P

Anonymous Emma said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
austen -- Yeah. Yeah, I agree...

stephanie g -- How's it goin' girl? And yeah, you're right. In fact, the more I compare last night's duel to The Duel, the former comes up short.

dm -- I agree. CP3 shouldn't have made the AD team. It's all about the steals, kind of like Michael Williams back in the day.

emma -- Terribly sorry. I'm going to add you!

Blogger Wild Yams said...
CP3 making the AD 2nd team is definitely about the steals, just like Camby making the 1st team is all about the blocks. What is so bizarre about steals and blocks is that even though they're thought of as the main two defensive statistics, they usually are extremely misleading about how good a defender a player or team is. For instance, the Nuggets led the league in both steals and blocks this year, yet were widely considered one of the worst teams in the league (outside of the Nugget fanbase, who kept pointing to some bizarre stat that they felt had them in the top 10). Camby's blocks and Paul's steals further illustrate the disconnect between exceeding in those categories and being a great defender, as does all the years Allen Iverson led the league in steals.

One interesting thing about the AD 1st team this year is something I've somewhat suspected for a while: the idea of a good defensive point guard is something of a myth. This year's 1st team is 4 forwards and Kobe Bryant, meaning the smallest guy on the team is 6'6. Point guards, especially small ones, are just never going to be good defenders. Gary Payton was a great defensive PG, but he was 6'4; same with Jason Kidd at 6'5. The criticism of Paul's defense as an argument against his MVP bid this year I thought was crap. As a small PG, he shouldn't be expected to be a great defender, because defense is definitely an area where height is a much bigger advantage than it is on offense. Trying to discount Paul as the MVP this year based on his defense is as baseless as trying to say Kobe didn't deserve it cause he wasn't averaging 10 assists/game. Small PGs aren't gonna be great defenders, just like shooting guards aren't gonna get double digit assists. It's the nature of the position.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
yams -- Well said, on every point. Paratrooping for blocks and gambling for steals does not a great defense make (as I tried to point out time and time again over the course of the season). Nor, as you rightly point out, should people expect PGs to be lockdown defenders. Each position has very distinct responsibilities. The PG is supposed to bring the ball up court, orchestrate the offense, and stick open Js. The SG is supposed to score and defend opposing perimeter players. Cs are supposed to rebound, block shots, defend the paint, and so on.

One byproduct of the Jordan Era is this notion that the only truly great players are the players who can do everything at the highest possible level...even though that's never totally happened.

Jordan was close during his prime, but he was a dreadful three-point shooter (32 percent lifetime) and also had the tendency to hog the ball at times. Kobe's in the Jordan mold, and is himself a 34 percent career three-point shooter. He's also had issues with ball-hoggery and, during certain stretches, is a gambler on defense.

Bird was nearly perfect in his prime, but was slow, relatively unathletic, and wasn't a terrible strong individual defender. Magic wasn't a great outside shooter (although he developed a consistent set shot) nor was he a strong defender. Shaq couldn't hit freethrows, nor could Chamberlain, Russell wasn't an offensive force, Dave Cowens had a limited low post game. So on and so forth.

There is no perfect player. All players should be judged by how they play their position and how that contributes to the overall team dynamic.

Blogger Austen said...
Wild Yams, wasn't Stockton considered an excellent defensive point guard, to the extent actually that opposing players found him "dirty"?

Blogger Wild Yams said...
I definitely agree that the notion that great players should have "no weaknesses to their game" is way, way overhyped. It's a nice bonus if your center can get you 4 assists a game, but if he's getting you 20 & 10 with 2 blocks, you probably don't care that much if he's only getting 2 assists a game. Same with point guards and defense.

For years I've heard people say a team needs "a lockdown defensive PG" so they could handle Steve Nash or Tony Parker or now Paul or Williams or any other great PGs, but the reality is that first of all, you can't shut down those players, and secondly, the only guys who have a shot of doing so are probably players who have a size advantage. A truly great PG can't be "shut down" in the same way any other position can be, because if a PG attracts a ton of defensive pressure and is able to use that to get good looks for his teammates, then it doesn't matter if his own scoring is down. If you look at Paul and Nash the last couple years, arguably the best way to defend them is to just let them go and try to guard everyone else, cause those guys are marginally less effective as being scorers than distributors.

At the same time, if a PG really is severely limited in what he wants to accomplish, it's almost always a total team effort simply because you have to not only shut him down but you have to shut everyone else down as well. Most PG defenders will try to apply a little pressure out by the top of the key, but they usually get run off a screen or switched in a pick and roll, and oftentimes it's up to the team's interior D to prevent a layup line to the rim.

The people who were denigrating Paul's defense this year... what were they expecting him to do? Were they expecting when he was matched up against Nash or Williams that he would suddenly turn into Scottie Pippen on Magic Johnson or something? Honestly, who wants the guy who makes everything go on offense to expend that much energy on D anyway? A defensive specialist like Bowen or Bell or Posey can play that way, putting all of their efforts into defense, because on offense all they really have to do is just roam around the perimeter and hope their defender leaves them to double someone else. It's the same reason that Duncan and Garnett frequently have games where their teams win but where their point totals are not that impressive: cause they're doing so much else out there to facilitate everything else that if they poured all their energy into scoring, all that other stuff would suffer.

The Jordan Era, or even Jordan himself I guess, has really skewed that perception of players nowadays. That's why you get people continually harping on Garnett for not taking over, or for Nash not being a great defender or whatever. Jordan similarly changed the perception that the team's best player needs to be the team's best scorer. My personal pet peeve about this whole "no weaknesses" player is the multitude of great versatile players who insist on thinking they're also great 3-pt shooters when in reality they are not. Vince Carter, LeBron, Carmello, Lamar Odom, T-Mac, etc. You mentioned Kobe as being only a 34% 3-pt shooter, but IMO a lot of that is because he just takes tons of ill-advised 3-pt shots (with a guy right in his face), but compared to those other guys, Kobe generally will hit it if he's left wide open, much like Jordan in his last couple years in Chicago. One of the best things about David West, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan is that those guys recognize what their actual effective range is and don't get caught up in thinking they need to also prove they can drain the three. It's refreshing to see any great player know that part of what makes him great is playing his game, rather than the game the media wishes he could play.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
yams -- More great stuff. You hit pretty much everythign. I...I don't even have anything to add. I'm speechless.

Well, except one thing, that being shot selection IS a component of three-point accuracy. Because just like Kobe, most of the guys you mentioned -- VC, LeBron, Carmelo -- shoot more forced threes under pressure than open threes. I would guess that all of their percentages would increase drastically if they only took wide open and relatively uncontested three-pointers.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Austen, Stockton is the all time steals leader, but he never was a 1st team All Defensive player (he was 2nd team 5 times), and he actually only led the league in steals twice, and was in fact only in the top 3 in steals 6 times in the 15 seasons he played. Stockton's "dirtiness" was more attributed to a comment by Dennis Rodman (he called Stockton the dirtiest player in the NBA), but a lot of that was more due to the extremely hard picks that Stockton would set, mainly on offense. Stockton was definitely one of the better defensive PGs of his era, but he was not a lock down defender or anything like that. Once again, I think his lack of height was probably a key factor in that. When people talk about the great defensive guards of the 90s, you hear Dumars, Payton, Jordan and guys like that, but I don't generally hear Stockton lauded much as being a standout defender.

About 3-pt shooting, I guess the thing I was trying to say was that IMO Kobe has much worse 3-pt shot selection than the other guys listed. With the other guys, taking a bad 3-pter often is just taking one at all, since they're not really great shooters from that distance. For instance, the Celtics in this last series and the Spurs in last year's Finals mainly backed off LeBron and dared him to shoot those threes. Either because LeBron was stupid or just because nothing else was really available to him, he frequently did end up shooting those threes, and he ended up missing them. The same is true for guys like Odom or T-Mac. With Kobe, on the other hand, just backing off and daring him to shoot threes is a bad strategy because he'll probably hit a lot of them. Kobe actually has a very accurate 3-pt shot. The difference with his poor decision making when it comes to shooting threes is that he'll sometimes attempt ones that are well behind the arc, just because the defender hasn't closed on him yet, or he'll take them with a guy literally right up in his face. IMO these are "ego shots" for Kobe, as he tries to prove he's great or whatever, and almost always to the detriment of his team.

I think teams know well enough at this point that to just leave Kobe alone by the perimeter is a mistake, so he doesn't need to drop a three on them here and there to remind them of that, but rather he just does it out of pride and/or ego. Kobe, like LeBron and Odom and TMac and Vince etc is much more effective driving to the basket or posting up and distributing. I think all of these guys fall prey to wanting to prove they can kill you from the perimeter as well as on the drive, when in reality out of that group I think Kobe's the only real threat to actually do so. He just wants to prove something more: that he can do it even if you double team him aggressively beyond the 3-pt line, or that he can do it from a couple feet behind the arc. As anyone who watches him do this can tell you: it's incredibly stupid to even bother to attempt that. Why try to make things harder for yourself and your team if you don't need to? Part of being a great player should be the ability to recognize the most efficient way to do something, and to me this is the most glaring weakness in Kobe's game simply because it is so inefficient.

Anonymous AK Dave said...
Wild Yams-

I agree wholeheartedly on the point about your PG expending energy on defense and trying to do everything well.

I lived in Chicago for a time and it drove me batshit crazy to watch Kirk Hinrich try to be Superman every night. He was very good at defending against larger swingmen like Dwayne Wade and Ray Allen, so they basically gave Hinrich the task of: 1)playing the point 2)defending the other team's best 2-guard one-on-one 3)hitting open 3's and running off screens for open jumpshots. So he was supposed to be Steve Nash, Richard Hamilton, and Bruce Bowen all rolled into one (whoah... that's a scary thought... what would THAT look like?)

The result was disastrous. Captain Kirk did well for about a year and a half, and played awesomely for the US Olympic team in the Summer of '06, but he was essentially run ragged to the point that his 3-ball was hitting everywhere but the bottom of the net and he couldn't elevate enough to finish his drives to the basket. Having to play hard on defense, play the point, AND create offense is not something that many people can do for long stretches. It beats you down. Suddenly a 40% 3-point shooter was missing everything and the city of Chicago was calling for his head (Chicago fans are a fickle lot).

Anyway the moral of the story is: don't try and do absolutely everything all the time- just do a few things well and let the game come to you. Of COURSE Steve Nash and Tony Parker are poor defenders- they're SHORT!! But that doesn't mean that they can't fulfill their duties to the team. Those duties just need to be clearly defined.

The real problem is that we are spoiled by the Magics and Jordans and Birds to where we expect ridiculous efforts every game from players that just aren't built like those guys.

Great thread today- good stuff!

Anonymous james said...
Ben Wallace:

There was this one possession just about in crunch time of game 7. Sasha Pavlovic gets the ball in the left corner with a Boston defender running to him to recover. Instead of hoisting the 3, he passes to a WIDE OPEN ben wallace on the left block, with KG in the middle, running toward him to recover. Ben Wallace passes out to Lebron, instead of driving or taking the open shot (both of which he probably would have missed anyway (and both of which drew gooden could have converted)) who bricks a 3.

You gotta look at the jersey number before you pass Sasha.

Blogger 80's NBA said...
bawful...

"5. In 1998, in that famous Jordan-pushoff Game 6 of the Finals, Malone had 31 points (11-for-19), 11 rebounds and 7 assists. Yeah, he got stripped by Jordan to set up that final play...but he hardly disappeared. And of course, Karl had poured in 39 in Chicago to force the Game 6..."

I would like to add that the "strip" that lead to the push-off shot on the other end was entirely John Stockton's fault. When that first happened, I like millions who were watching blamed Malone. But in replays, and specifically in the replay angle from Stockton's point of view, you can see Jordan sneaking back-door and just waiting for the pass to come to Malone so he could take it away. Watching the replay over and over again, I just can't understand why the greatest assist-man ever threw the ball in there. Of course Bob Costas, and I think Doug Collins, didn't acknowledge that bad pass at all.

Also, although not in an elimination game, Malone bricked those 2 free throws at the end of Game 1 in the '97 Finals that would have sealed the win, and would have put the series on a totally different path (seeing that the Jazz also won games 3 and 4). Maybe they still wouldn't have won the series, but who knows?

Blogger 80's NBA said...
I just thought I'd add a little 20th Anniversary Man Love Sentiment, courtesy of Kevin McHale, talking about Larry Legend's performance in that Game 7...

"Sometimes after Larry plays a game like this it makes me think ahead. I'll be retired in Minnesota and Larry will be retired somewhere in Indiana, and we probably won't see each other much. But a lot of nights I'll just lie there and remember games like this, and what it was like to play with him."

Blogger Doug H. said...
In retrospect, I don't think Mike Brown did that bad a job in Game 7. Wallace was his usual offensive offensive self, but a large part of KG's disappearing act was because he had Big Ben all over him everytime he touched the ball. As for leaving Sasha in, he might've been the relative best of four bad options: Sasha, a cold Wally, a dust-covered Devin Brown, and Amon Ones.

Of all the games to not have Boobie. And that's the story of our season right there. Ugh.

Anonymous Emma said...
Thanks, Mr. Bawful. Now my name shall live on in the annals of Basketbawful history.

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