After the Jazz beat the Hornets by 26 points last night, someone on the tee-vee flashed a graphic that showed Deron is now 9-2 head-to-head against Paul.
I can't figure this out. Paul's stats are better than Deron's, especially this season with Deron's injury. I think the Hornets are a better team than the Jazz, as evidenced by their better record last season and this one. So why does it seem Deron has Paul's number?
Let's look at the last five games between the two teams. The Jazz have won four of these.
Jan. 7, 2009: Paul racks up 26 points, but dishes out an uncharacteristically low seven assists. Deron hands out eight, but scores only eight points. The difference was the supporting cast. Okur and Millsap both scored 20+ points, while the next highest scorer for the Hornets was West with 13 points. The Jazz shot 52% from the field, compared to 44% for New Orleans. The Hornets played the second game of a back-to-back after beating the Lakers.
April 8, 2008: Jazz win 77-66 in Louisiana. Deron and Paul have similar lines: Deron shot 2-11 on his way to four points and 16 assists, while Paul also shot 2-11 on his way to four points and nine assists. Okur is the stud for Utah, scoring 22 points and pulling down 17 boards, while the Hornets get 14 and 7 from West. The Jazz shoot an abysmal 43% from the field, but the Hornets outgun them by shooting 36%.
Feb. 29, 2008: The Jazz lose 110-98 in New Orleans. Deron went for 22 and 10, Paul racked up 24 and 16. Okur is again dominant, with 23 points and 13 rebounds, but David West matched him with 25 and 13 of his own. Boozer was quiet, and scored only 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting. This game really came down to 3-point shooting, as the Jazz connected on only three of their 16 attempts, while the Hornets hit on nine of their 20 shots from deep. Janero Pargo had three of these, and ended up scoring 15 points in 23 minutes.
Feb. 2, 2008: 110-88 Utah win in Salt Lake City. Deron scored 29 points on 11-13 shooting and handed out 11 assists. Paul shot only 3-11, scored six points and dished out six assists. The Hornets shoot a blistering 55% from the 3 (10-18), but the Jazz manage to hit 14-22 for a mind-boggling 63%. Boozer scored 19 and pulled down 17 boards while that Pargo guy scored 24 points in 27 minutes for New Orleans. Again, 3-point shooting seems to be the difference here.
Nov. 23, 2007: Deron had a quiet 12 points and seven assists in the 99-71 win. Paul scored 15 and six turnovers to go with his six assists. The difference maker for Utah was Booz, who got 19 and 16, while West got 18 and 14 for New Orleans. Six players scored in double figures for Utah. Once again, 3-point shooting was a major factor, as Utah won the battle, going 8-for-14 compared to the Hornets' 1-for-17. The poor display from downtown helped New Orleans to a 33% field-goal percentage on the night, while Utah shot 47%.
A few things I gleaned from looking at the stats:
1. Number of 20 point, 10 assist games from Deron: 2. From Paul: 1. Neither one really dominates here.
2. 3-point shooting is huge. Jazz percentage from downtown in four wins: 47% (31-66). And that same number in their loss: 18% (3-16).
3. Paul doesn't get a lot of help against Utah. Even when he does well, no more than one or two of his teammates really go off. That said, in these five games, Paul has averaged 15 points and nine assists. Hardly vintage CP3. He's averaging 21 and 12 over the last season-and-a-half.
4. However, Utah blew the Hornets out three of those wins. That means Paul was probably sitting through most, if not all, of the fourth quarter. Less playing time = lower numbers.
I'd like to see a playoff series between Utah and New Orleans. Could Paul adjust to whatever Utah is doing to stop him over seven games?
I remain unconvinced that Paul is head-and-shoulders better than Deron, like some argue. For example, ESPN's Bill Simmons. However, I believe Simmons is trolling Jazz fans in his recent crusade against Deron. Sure, he thinks Paul is a better player than Deron, but not to the extent that Paul is in a different universe. He just likes getting angry letters from Jazz fans who don't get that.
In case you were wondering.