27 December 2011

The NBA is back

Just an amazing video.

Basketball is back! Weekly thoughts on the season to follow.

For now, here are some abbreviated random impressions after two days.

1. The Lakers are done for this season. This predictably makes me happy.

2. The Heat look pretty darn good.

3. I know Rose looks really good, but I can't forget LeBron absolutely shutting him down in the playoffs last summer. And if the Bulls are counting on Boozer to be an integral part in their success, they have another thing coming.

4. Jimmer playing well for the Kings. Hitting more shots than he's missing, dialing in from long range, making some nice passes, etc. He'll stick around.

5. The Celtics are old.

6. If I'm Orlando, I trade Dwight for a collection of good players. This seems to have paid off for Denver, who look great in the aftermath of the Melo trade to the Knicks.

7. Lob City is gonna be fun. Chris Paul tossing it up to two of the most talented dunkers in the league night after night is fantastic.

8. Finally, the Jazz will be good, not great. Looking forward to seeing Favors and Enes and Hayward develop, while hoping Miles and Harris can hold it down.

Good to have the NBA back. The lockout wasn't positive for anyone.

10 December 2011

December thoughts

1. Woo the NBA is back! Can't wait for opening day on Christmas, and anticipate the wife will get mad at me for watching so much basketball.

2. BYU lost to TCU, beat Hawaii and are on their way to the Armed Forces Bowl to play the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes later this month. BYU could very well win 10 games this season to add to the list of mediocre seasons that seem great because the team had double-digit wins. Blegh.

3. Jake Heaps is transferring from BYU after it became apparent Riley Nelson will start next season. In my opinion, BYU chose to win now against bad/middling opponents while having no chance against great football teams. Dealing with the growing pains/mental issues of someone with the tools to make all the throws necessary is too hard, too time consuming, too frustrating.

I hope I'm wrong about Nelson, I really do. He looked pretty good against Hawaii, and that play where he ducked the pressure and threw a perfect pass to Hoffman for a touchdown in the third quarter was a thing of beauty. I'm just not convinced he can do it against Boise State in Boise, or Notre Dame in Indiana, or Utah at Rice-Eccles or Georgia Tech in Georgia (all games BYU has in 2012).

But hey, Riley will look great against Washington State, Weber State, Idaho and St. Winifred's School for the Blind in Central Texas. And BYU will get 8-9 wins, all will be well in Zion, hooray.

Then Nelson graduates and BYU is stuck with a starting QB with little to no experience for the 2013 season.

In short, I think it was a bad idea for Heaps to transfer, and I think it was a bad idea for BYU to choose Nelson over him.

4. David Stern blocking the Chris Paul-to-the-Lakers trade is annoying and seems unnecessary. If the Lakers think they can get it done with an aging Kobe and breaking-down Paul, minus Gasol and Odom, so be it. There's no way they were getting a Bynum-for-Dwight Howard trade, so the dream of Kobe/Paul/Howard was never coming true. If I'm Orlando, I look for another superstar trade chip to get in exchange for Dwight, even if it's not a center.

19 November 2011

Football in November

Image from www.bloodrunsblue.com

BYU is down four to Utah State with under two minutes to go, backed up nearly to their own endzone. Jake Heaps has struggled mightily against the Aggies tonight, leading to Bronco and Doman to decide to bench Heaps and bring in Riley Nelson to play against his old team.

Riley manages to bring the Cougars 99 yards for the game-winning touchdown, bedlam ensues, and my brother Seth and I look at each other with worried looks on our faces.

We knew one thing: Nelson is fool's gold.

Good enough to beat bad teams, will never, ever be the reason BYU beat a great team, or even a very good team. His throwing ability has improved this season from last, but he still has low arm strength and extremely questionable decision-making skills.

Heaps has not been much better this season, and definitely deserved to be benched. But for the long term, Heaps is the answer.

As evidenced last week, Lark is not going to take this team anywhere, and if he gets playing time over Munns, Munns has got to be even worse.

What a bad quarterback situation we have in 2011.

Then Riley broke a rib against the mighty Vandals and it looks like it's Heaps' show the rest of the way. He looked fine against Idaho, but let's be honest; it's Idaho.

Tonight's game against New Mexico State is actually a bit intriguing. This may be BYU's closest match in an opponent since that Aggie game in September. While these Aggies are only 4-6, they can put up points. They dropped 28 on Minnesota (in a win), 42 on New Mexico and 48 on Fresno State. While none of those may be good teams, it still shows these guys can get the ball in the endzone, and seem to be improving over time.

New Mexico State seems like a passing team, with 23 of their touchdowns coming through the air, but they can also run, with 14 of their scores coming on the ground. I worry most about BYU's pass defense, and firmly believe that if I were an opposing offensive coordinator with a quarterback worth a darn I'd pass 95% of the time against this Cougar team. Idaho, unfortunately, does not have a quarterback worth a darn, and you saw the results.

So on a snowy night in Provo, it's going to come down to whether or not the Aggies can pass well enough to score versus BYU, and whether Heaps can overcome his mental issues.

In trying to think of a prediction for this game, I realized I'm honestly unsure of what to expect, which is kind of nice after a few weeks of pre-determined outcomes.

Go Cougars!

30 September 2011

Friday night again

Utah State at BYU! 6:00 p.m. at LaVell Edwards Stadium! Be there!

A grudge match of epic proportions. Utah state beat BYU down handily last year, 31-16,  and it really wasn't even that close. They were up 24-3 at the half and shut the offense down, letting their running backs run the clock out, and they ended up averaging 4.1 yards a carry as a team for the game. 

In other words, BYU was outclassed big time. 

I'd like to say I expect the Cougars to destroy the Aggies, but the odds of that are bad. Utah State is averaging 42 point a game, and while a lot of those came against a bad Weber State team and a really bad Colorado State team, it still shows these guys can move the ball. Quarterback Chuckie Keaton is averaging 4.3 yards a carry and completing 67% of his passes. Running back Robert Turbin is getting 5.7 yards a pop and running for 121 yards a game.

In short, the defense will be tested this week. 

The Aggie defense, on the other hand, is not as impressive. Giving up 34 points to the Rams? Ouch. Here's hoping Heaps and company can get on track for the first time this season. Might we see THREE offensive touchdowns tonight? We can only hope.

I expect another exciting game thanks to a poor offensive showing, culminating in a closer-than-we'd-like win over the Aggies, 24-21. 

Finally, I have decided to award the Amazon.com gift card to Steven Johnson, who was the only person to predict Utah would beat BYU in the comments of the original post. The card is on its way, Steven, and I hope it will bring you joy as you think about how you picked against your beloved team.

Go Cougars!

26 September 2011

Bad offense = fun?

Photo: Cool slideshow at byu.edu

The Friday night home game against the UCF Knights turned out to be a pretty good one. After the Knights steamrolled BYU's defense on their first drive, I was worried this would be a rout, but then the defense showed up, and despite a few miscues, played pretty well the rest of the night.

Thank goodness for Hoffman's returned kickoff for a touchdown, or this game could have turned out very differently, and Heaps' bad performance would have gotten a lot more scrutiny.

But here's the deal: Heaps plays better, BYU wins 40-17, and I'm yawning in the fourth quarter.

As it was, it was pretty much down to the wire, as UCF had the ball with over a minute to go with the chance to tie it. My brother Josh mentioned it was an exciting game more than once.

So maybe this year won't be a season of a few tough games and mostly cupcakes. I expect the game against Utah State this Friday to be a tough win, if not an outright loss, and who knows if Jake's errant passes will keep Idaho State, San Jose State and Idaho (yes, BYU plays both bad Idaho teams) in the game longer than they should be?

The home schedule may turn out to be far better than everyone expected when it was announced.

Other random thoughts from Friday:

1. Kyle Van Noy is a beast. The play where he ran down UCF's quarterback from about 15 yards out was a thing of beauty. You can tell the QB is thinking he just bought some time to find a receiver by rolling out, and then KVN is there in about .3 seconds for the sack. Here's the play:

Out of nowhere.

2. BYU's defenders sure are injuring a lot of opponents this season. Several running backs, a few wide receivers, and quarterbacks have been taken out more than once after getting hit by a linebacker or safety. While I like the intensity, I think I'd take a little less oomph if it meant fewer blown coverages and missed tackles. Wrap up first, blow up second.

3. The offense still can't score. They had one long drive for a touchdown Friday, and their other TD came after getting a very short field thanks to a muffed punt reception (shades of the Utah game).

4. Riley Stephenson had the game of his life. I've never seen him absolutely boom so many punts in one game before, and winning the field position battle was a major reason for BYU's win.

5. On that vein, Justin Sorenson was great. Three out of four kickoffs were downed in the end zone, and the one that was returned only made it out to the 16 or so. He was also nails on his one field goal. I hope they let him try one from 50 yards plus; I think he can get it.

6. UCF's running backs were great. Big, strong, tough to take down, kept moving their legs. One day BYU will get a back like that. Juice and DiLuigi are nice and all, but not really starting talent for a Top-25 team (not that BYU is a Top-25 team).

7. Jake was bad. Under 50% completion percentage, one pick (not exactly his fault, but it was not a great throw) and one near pick (see previous parenthetical comment) and missing on third down throws all night. His overthrow of a streaking Jacobsen let the entire stadium down. Kid has all the tools, and I hope he can put it together, but how many games is he going to be subpar?

8. The offensive line has issues. Their run blocking was atrocious most of the game, and they get blown up by opposing defensive lines enough that Jake feels like he's going to get killed all the time. Accurate or not, it's not good for your quarterback to be that jumpy. I know there are injuries, but it seems the last three years we've heard how amazing the O-line will be, and then they're fat, slow and not particularly able to shove people out of the way. Something big needs to change here.

Finally, something something Big 12 invite something. Cougarboard's been all abuzz about some rumored interest the Big 12 has in inviting BYU to the conference, but you know my take on non-news: I hate it. I'll talk about an event once an event has happened, not before. Call me crazy, but I enjoy discussing facts rather than freaking out over potential future happenings.

Utah State preview later this week. In short, the Aggies are schizophrenic.

23 September 2011


So, how about that game on Saturday? I stayed until the end with my two brothers and sister, and boy howdy did it get comical towards the end. Though I guess that first Utah touchdown was pretty funny, in retrospect. 

In short, that was one giant fail by every part of the BYU team. Offense was terrible, defense was great in the first half and got run over in the second, special teams was bad. 

I'm not sure Utah is as good as they looked in that game, and I'm not sure BYU is quite as bad as they looked, but they may be close. 

Anyway, I'm still trying to figure out who won the Guess the Score contest. I had some people comment on my Facebook status announcing the contest on my blog, and others who posted their guesses in the comment field of the actual post. 

Give me a couple days to figure it out.

As for today's game, I expect a tough game. UCF beat Boston College 30-3, then lost 17-10 to Florida International. Depending on which team shows up tonight, this could be another bad game. However, it is a long road trip for the Knights, and that always helps.

Go Cougars! Commit fewer than 8 turnovers this week, and I'll count it as an improvement.

14 September 2011

No time to say hello, goodbye...

Image courtesy The Salt Lake Tribune

Let's just say working two jobs is doable most times, and intensely stressful at others.

Some points:

1. BYU always, always seems to drop a winnable game on the road early in the season. See: Boise State 2004, Boston College 2005, Arizona 2006, Tulsa 2007. So dropping a game against Texas in September in Austin is par for the course, I guess. Still, having a big halftime lead and then seeing the offense self destruct for the remaining 24 minutes was pretty troubling. From reports I've read, it seems Heaps was panicking quite a bit during that half, immediately dumping it down to a running back or wide receiver in the flat and rarely looking beyond them, regardless of the amount of real pressure he was facing. That, and apparently Doman is still a true believer in Anae's super-ultra conservative offense when holding onto a lead. Get up 10 points in the second quarter? Time to shut it down for the night and hope the defense can play like supermen for rest of the game. Ugh.

2. BYU vs Utah already? If the first two weeks of the season have shown us anything, it's that both of these teams' offenses are bad and both defenses are pretty impressive. I expect a 7-3 final outcome, with the lucky team coming out on top. Whoever gets that crucial recovered fumble or a punt returned for a touchdown, that kind of thing.

And, as is custom, I am holding another Guess the Score contest for this year. Place your guess for the final score in the comments, along with how many yards Heaps will throw for. The winner will get a sparkling new $10 Amazon.com gift card!

May the odds be ever in your favor.

05 September 2011

That did not go as expected

I Facebooked after the game that this was a heart attack on a stick. BYU's dominance of time of possession and  total yards gained offset completely by a 13-0 score to begin the fourth quarter... then finally a nice touchdown pass from Heaps to Apo with 9:00 left in the game, capped off by the best defensive play I've seen from BYU in years where Kyle Van Noy blows up the QB, strips the ball, recovers the fumble and scores the winning touchdown.

It was a somber affair at my house for most of the game, but when KVN made that play, all seven of us watching exploded, probably scaring our neighbors to death and giving them the idea to hold a revenge party at 11:00 p.m. last night.

Season-saving play, in my opinion. How many times have we seen good BYU teams sink their seasons by dropping an early road game to Boston College, Arizona, etc. etc.? It was an ugly win, to be sure, along the lines of the famous Ugly Choke Job Salvaged by Miracle Vegas Bowl, but a win's a win, and I'm encouraged by the improved play of Heaps in the second half of the game.

He definitely needs to work on not staring receivers down, which is odd since I remember him doing a great job looking safeties off a few times last year, but maybe it was just nerves.

Anyway, the defense was amazing, the offense showed up just enough to get the win, and I'll take it.

Here's a highlight by Cougarboard's Furious Monkey:

BYU at Ole Miss 2011 by Furious Monkey from Furious Monkey on Vimeo.

I'm absolutely worried about Texas now, but if the defense can shut the Longhorns down, maybe BYU can squeak out a win.

Go Cougars!

03 September 2011

Go Cougars!

BYU football is finally back! It feels like last season was another life, it was so long ago, but football had returned, and that is awesome.

Short Ole Miss preview today: Ole Miss has a great run game and not much else. I expect the Cougars to be able to pass on them all day, but if the Rebels are able to get ahead early, thanks to some jitters on BYU' s part, they may be able today to control the ball and limit the Cougars' offensive chances to get back in it.

I double don't worry much about the famed SEC speed, but the weather may be a big concern... playing in 150% humidity is no joke, and I hope the coaches did everything they could to prepare BYU for the challenge.

I expect to see Heaps hit Apo and Hoffman for at least one touchscreen each, and the defense to record at least 4 sacks. This will be a big litmus test for the team; a convincing win here will make me believe they can best Texas handily, while a struggle will be cause for a lot of worry.

That said, I expect a win.

BYU 38, Ole Miss 24

28 August 2011

It's almost time

For the 4 of you who read my blog, I apologize for neglecting my duties the last few weeks and months. The lack of posts can be blamed on a few things:

1. Summer is boring for sports. You'll notice a similar pattern of neglect in past years from June to August.

2. The NBA is locked out, and this depresses me. I think we're going to lose the entire season, despite what David Stern is saying in interviews. 

3. I've been working two jobs since mid-July, and any free time I've had has not been allocated to blogging. 

So there you go. That said, football season starts like tomorrow (note: not tomorrow) and I'll be sure to blog the Cougars' games if nothing else. 

To tide you over until then, here are some highlights from the 2010 season, which started terribly and ended okay.

I'll toss up a season preview/talk about Ole Miss a bit sometime this week.

Go Cougars!

15 June 2011

A report from Jimmer's workout in Salt Lake

Photo: Francisco Kjolseth - The Salt Lake Tribune

Cougarboard.com member cougsrule posted a detailed analysis of Jimmer's workout for the Jazz earlier today. Obviously he's a huge BYU fan, so take this for what it's worth, but he came away very impressed.

I had the opportunity today to watch the Kemba vs Jimmer workout at the Jazz Practice facility. Here is what I saw.

Conditioning: Jimmer was in the best shape of all those at the workout. I don't know if altitude had anything to do with it, but all the players looked winded, except for Jimmer. You could see the other players huffing and puffing and Jimmer was breathing effortlessly. Kemba was not as in as good of shape as Jimmer.

Court length speed: Kemba is very fast up and down the court. Jimmer is also very fast up and down the court, but Kemba is a little quicker, not much though.

Lateral speed: Actually Jimmer looked much quicker than Kemba in lateral movements. Not only that, but like his uncle Lee Taft has said he is very efficient with his motions. There is really no wasted motions in his movements. He was able to get by every one that guarded him and more importantly he was able to stay in front of everyone he guarded. Impressive.

Shooting: Jimmer is by far the better shooter. In fact it is not even close. There was one point where Jimmer went 36/40 from just inside the 3 point line. It was insane. It was swoosh, swoosh, swoosh....Not much rim contact. So impressive. Kemba didn't shoot well. In fact it was horrid at times. He did catch fire on some NBA threes during one drill where he went 7/10. Other than that I was calculating that he shot about 34% to 40% on the day. Jimmer shot 85% to 90% for the day. Huge difference. This was so evident.

Dribbling: Kemba is a fast dribbler, but his ball control isn't refined. He was very loose with his dribbling and I could see this being a problem for him at times. Jimmer's ball handling was excellent. His crossovers, quick step, and moves to the hoop where really impressive. He looked really quick and fast today.

Passing: Jimmer had some nice passes into the big men setting up layups. They were the kind of passes that made you say, "Wow"! Kemba passed well, but nothing overly impressive.

You can read more of his thoughts here.


Infographic on The Jimmer. In recognition of him working out for the Jazz today.

As I've already said, I think Jimmer will be just fine in the NBA. Deadly accuracy from range, mental toughness, a nice crossover, strength, agility and creativity to get to the rim and finish... it will work out for him. Whether or not he'll ever be an All-Star, I don't know, but I expect he'll have a better career than Adam Morrison.

13 June 2011

Post-mortem Finals thoughts

AP Photo

1. After watching LeBron disappear earlier in the series, I was convinced he'd be back with a vengeance. This was not the case. Whether it was Dallas' zone defense, Marion's attempts at shutting him down or some mental breakdown, LeBron never jumped to that high level great players have in big moments. A disappointment in every way.

2. The Mavericks are possibly the only example in NBA history of a championship team with only one bonafide star. Who is Dirk's second banana? Terry? Kidd? Barea? None of these guys are All-Stars, thought they each had their times when they played well. It's amazing.

3. And Dirk wasn't exactly a virtuoso out there this series. He shot 41% from the field, 36% from deep and snagged 9.7 boards per game. He did hit an amazing 97.8% of his free throw attempts, but he didn't up his game like many of the great stars have done on the league's biggest stage. Game 6 was won mostly thanks to his role players, as he only connected on 30% of his shots (1-7 from deep) and scored 21 points. That said, Dirk hit shots late, when they mattered. Just a weird NBA champion overall.

4. This is the last professional basketball we will see for a good long time. The draft will be fun to watch, and maybe we'll have some summer leagues (?), but if the players and owners can't figure this out soon, we may miss half of the 2011-2012 season or more. Glad it was a hard-fought Finals.

5. It appears Rick Carlisle will get the recognition he's been working for all these years. His coaching was superb the entire series, and the way he managed to get his offense working against the vaunted Miami defense was impressive. And that zone... just shut down Wade and LeBron from time to time. I bet everyone in the East will work on implementing a zone defense in the offseason.

6. Good for Mark Cuban. The guy is often annoying and over-the-top, but he cares about his team a lot more than most NBA owners do. For him to see a championship resulting from his years of hard work and stress was good. Wouldn't mind him being the owner of the Jazz.

That's about it. Time to focus on the draft, then the imminent arrival of college football and we're back into the swing of things. Happy summer, everyone!

10 June 2011

Jimmer and the draft

Here's one outsider's (non-Mormon, non-Utahn) perspective on Jimmer as he works out for different NBA teams in the days leading up to the draft.
As a Mormon who played at a school that suspended a top player for having sex, Fredette seems to have a squeaky clean image as a nice young boy who just wants to play basketball. But he's actually pretty brash, both for moments like this one and the way he plays on the court. At BYU, Jimmer was a gunner at BYU who took shots that once got Allen Iverson(notes) termed a ballhog who wouldn't ever learn to play within a team structure. The man plays with brass balls; nothing about his style suggests humility or aw-shucks wonder at getting the chance to play a child's game on a huge stage.
Good to see people are recognizing his mental toughness and confidence. If professional sports has taught us anything, it's that ability can be (and often is) trumped by the mind. Kwame Brown, LeBron James, Ryan Leaf, Karl Malone... all of these names bring to mind immensely talented players who fell short due to mental breakdowns.

I think Jimmer will be just fine in the NBA. Will he be the league MVP? Probably not, but he can shoot, handle the ball and pass well. The shooting alone should be enough to guarantee his spot on a roster for years to come, because who doesn't need someone who can hit 30-footers? If Eddie House can remain in the league, so can Jimmer.

And his craftiness around the rim and a quick crossover and first step will be enough to get him layups from time to time, in addition to preventing all but the best defenders in the league from just getting up in his chest and daring him to shoot.

Of course, considering the state of the NBA, we probably won't even have a 2011-2012 season, so seeing Jimmer on an NBA court won't happen for a good long while.

09 June 2011

How the DVR kills sports

I like Chuck Klosterman. While he's most well-known for his writing (Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Eating a Dinosaur), I was introduced to him because he's a frequent guest on Bill Simmons' podcasts. He has a very analytical mind, and is constantly challenging Simmons' arguments and why Bill feels the way he does about things. It's kind of exhausting to listen to, and it bugs Simmons sometimes, but I like it.

Anyway, these two get along so well that when Simmons started Grantland.com, a place for columns and essays about sports and popular culture, he immediately grabbed Klosterman and made him a consulting editor.

Klosterman's first contribution to the site is titled "Space, Time and DVR Mechanics" and is about how watching sports has to be a live experience or it's pretty much terrible.
It doesn't matter how much I sequester myself or how thrilling the event is — if I know the game has finished, it's difficult to sustain authentic interest in what I've recorded. I inevitably fast-forward to the last two or three minutes (even when I have no vested interest in the outcome). Since I'm watching the game purely for entertainment, it shouldn't be any different from the real thing. It should, in fact, be better, just as it's more enjoyable to watch self-recorded episodes of Frontline or Storage Wars or any other traditional show that lives inside my DVR. In theory, I should be able to enjoy every single game I want to see, on my own schedule — all I need to do is avoid the Internet for a few hours and not glance at the ESPN ticker on public TV screens. But it never works: I get home, I start watching the recent past, and I find myself rushing toward the present.

So why is this?

It's a question I've asked myself a few times. With my NBA League Pass, I was able to watch games from previous days, but I rarely, if ever did. And if I did load up the previous night's games, I found myself fastforwarding a lot, like Klosterman mentions.

Read the rest of the column, you won't regret it.

If I can't grow up to be Bill Simmons, Chuck Klosterman is a fine second option.

Oh hey, Game 5 all of a sudden


Whoops, kinda checked out there for Games 2-4. To make up for it, here are my random thoughts on the series so far:

1. Where on earth did LeBron go in Game 4? He refused to attack the basket, settled for 3-pointers and didn't seem all that engaged on defense. I've defended him through thick and thin these last few years, but Game 4 was terrible. He shows up in any way, shape or form on Tuesday and the Heat win, go up 3 games to 1 and have a 99.9% chance of winning the series. Instead, LeBron seems entirely disinterested. I don't get it. I have read arguments that he's just tiring out... he's averaging 44 minutes per game in the playoffs, and getting virtually no rest in the second halves of these games.

2. You can't allow game-winning layups in the NBA. You especially cannot allow them in the Finals. If I'm coaching Miami, I send help as soon as Dirk makes a move towards the hoop in that situation. I don't think he's a good enough passer to find the open guy, and once he's barreling in there I think the help man can pick up a charge.

3. Can we stop anointing NBA players who have a good game while sick? Yes, Michael Jordan destroyed the Jazz in the Finals while he apparently was on his deathbed. And yes, Dirk had a fever with a cough on Tuesday. He shot 31% from the field, however. Yes, going 9-10 from the line and hauling in 11 boards was nice, but it wasn't exactly a superhuman performance.

4. Remember when I wrote that Miami's lack of an actual offensive system would hurt them eventually? I figured it would catch up to them sooner than now, but the day has arrived. Miami's continual fail over the last 5-10 minutes of the fourth quarter is killing them. If their offensive ineptitude isn't costing them games, it's letting the Mavs get into a position to potentially win.

We'll start with a basic play-by-play of Miami's offensive possessions over the final six minutes and 50 seconds (of Game 4):

Missed jumper, missed jumper, turnover, turnover, turnover, missed jumper, missed jumper, missed jumper, missed layup, two made free throws, missed jumper, one made free throw, dunk, missed jumper.

Bottom line, when it's crunch time, the Heat are falling apart. That's gotta change.

5. Dear Chris Bosh: It was nice of you to show up for the first half of Game 4. But would it kill you to score in the second? Dude was terrible, taking really long jumpers and turning it over in the fourth.

6. Dear Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers: Your jobs are to hit open 3-pointers. That is it. If you go a combined 2-8 from deep, you might as well not be there.

7. Deshawn Stevenson, what has happened to you? You shot a very meh 37% from deep during the regular season, but in the Finals you're hitting fully 56.3% of your attempts from out there. 56%! Your form is ugly and I never expect the ball to go in, but wow are you on fire.

8. Mr. Barea, congratulations on scoring 8 points on 3-9 shooting. This was by far your best showing in the Finals... apparently the Heat play better defense than the Lakers, eh?

9. Finally, way to step into the Wayback machine, Shawn Marion. You're averaging 15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and a block per game, while shooting 52% from the field and 90.9% (!) from the line. You're playing much, much better than I expected you to. If the Mavs win this thing, they should give you an extra big piece of the Credit Pie.

Before Game 4, I believed the Heat were winning the series in 6. But now, with the incredible Shrinking LeBron/Miami offense and the continued great play of Marion, I honestly have no idea who will walk away with the trophy.

Let's say Miami in 7. I can't imagine the Heat will fail this much down the stretch for two of the next three games.

01 June 2011

Game 1 recap

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

This was eerily similar to Game 5 in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Heat played it close or were down most of the game, then turned it on and smashed their opponent into the ground late. And just like Chicago, Miami shot poorly, but their own defense kept them in the game to allow them a shot at closing it out strong.

Despite my belief that Dirk is unstoppable, he is apparently pretty stoppable. Sure, he scored 27, but he was only 7-18 (38%) from the field. He hit all 12 of his free throws, which was nice, but he couldn't match LeBron and Wade's flurry late.

Shawn Marion had a great overall game, but disappeared in the fourth. When Marion in probably your best player, you're not going to win.

And really, who else did anything for Dallas? Barea was 1-8. Jason Terry scored 12 points in the first half, but ended with those same 12 points on 3-10 shooting. Peja was 0-3.

Meanwhile, LeBron was consistently good, ending with 24/9/5 on 56% shooting. His thunderous dunk in the fourth quarter was just part of a bunch of back-breaking plays, but boy was it impressive.

Wade struggled at times, but finished with 22/10/6 on 47% shooting, really a testament to how well he played when they needed him to show up.

You'll notice those two combined for 18 rebounds. When your perimeter players are corralling boards like that, you're in a good spot. Bosh added nine, and Haslem and Miller combined for 11, helping Miami get a 46-36 edge in that category for the night. They also grabbed 16 rebounds to Dallas' 6, a major factor in any win, but especially in the Finals.

In all, I don't see what Dallas can do. Kidd played Wade fairly well defensively, but in the fourth, Dwyane showed he can rise up and shoot over him any time he wants. LeBron scored from everywhere, and Bosh owned the first half.

If the Heat can continue to force Dirk into quick shots and make him extremely uncomfortable, look for this to be a short series, as no one else will get it done for the Mavs.

It's amazing the turnaround the Heat have made in close games. During the regular season they dropped close contest after close contest, and were labeled as a team of chokers by many.

Now? When it counts? Wade and LeBron turn on the afterburners and bury people. Remember when I said in the playoffs it often comes down to who can score on this one possession? These two have somehow managed to figure out whose turn it is to rip the heart out of the other team, and there's no bickering about who gets the alpha male status. It's kind of amazing. For all intents and purposes, LeWade killed Dallas last night, not the two separate players.

Hubie Brown was on Mike and Mike this morning talking about how impressive the Heat's defense has been lately. Since getting blown out in Game 1 of the Chicago series, they've given up 75, 85, 93, 80 and 84 points. In today's NBA that's ridiculous. Dallas averaged almost 104 points per game against a good defensive squad in Oklahoma City, but the Heat just throttled them.

We're probably seeing the start of a Miami dynasty here, and while I'll probably be sick of these guys in two or three years, right now I'm a fan.

31 May 2011

Finals Preview

I can't wait for Game 1 between Miami and Dallas tonight. Shoot, I was up at 4 a.m. today to get to work and won't be home until 5:30 and I'll still watching it live. As mentioned previously, I fully expect these games to be knock-down, drag-em-out fistfights from now until the series is over. It may not go seven games, but I want the ones we do get to be epic.

Here are the five factors I think are important in this matchup.

1. Who wants it more? Dirk needs a ring to validate his career, unfair or not. James needs a ring to even enter the discussion of "Who is the greatest player of all time?" Jason Kidd has little to no time left before he retires; you know he'll give everything he has. Wade has less motivation than some, but Wade at 80% motivated is better than Jason Terry at 100% motivated.

But still, Wade and Haslem have titles. No one in Dallas has one, and that counts for a lot. And it's not like there will be first-Finals jitters for the Mavs, either. Dirk, Terry, Kidd have all been here before, and they know how intense the pressure is and how bright the spotlights are. Most importantly, they know how bitter it is to come this close and go home losers.

Advantage: Dallas

2. Dirk vs. The World: Dirk has been unstoppable this postseason, scoring 28.4 points per game while shooting 51.7% from the field, 51.6% from deep and 92.9% from the line. Those numbers are ridiculous all the way around. Great FG% for a center. Amazing FG% for a 3-point specialist. Free throw shooting in the realm of Larry Bird.

Which is not to say he hasn't been defended well. Often he's shooting with a hand in his face, fading away on one leg, as that's the only position the defender has given him. And it still goes in. A lot. The question is: can anyone on the Heat slow Dirk down, and, if they cannot, do they just let Dirk get his 30 and stop everyone else?

I think we'll see the Heat switch between using LeBron, Haslem and maybe even Joel Anthony in a one-on-one matchup against the German. I doubt we'll see a zone, as Dirk has been doing well finding open shooters and the Mavs are hitting 38% from deep this postseason. I'm not sure any of these players will slow Dirk down, but I think LeBron has the best chance. He's too quick for Dirk to get around, has good height and a great vertical. After watching him destroy Derrick Rose in conference finals, I think James may do okay here.

But in the end, I bet they just let Dirk get his and focus on making the rest of the Mavericks take difficult shots.

Advantage: Dirk. Long-term advantage: Heat.

3. Battle of the old point guards. Jason Kidd has 18 years of NBA experience under his belt. Mike Bibby has seen better days and has been around for 13. These guys will be guarding each other a lot, which should lead to some questions. "Is Bibby scoring 15 ppg in the Finals after averaging 3 ppg in the previous 15 games due to his newfound offensive prowess? Or is it because Kidd can't stop anyone from doing anything these days?"

In short, whichever old dude can get it done will be a huge contributor to his team. Both of these teams are good defensively, and an extra 3 from Kidd or layup from Bibby here can be huge.

Kidd may be older, but he's playing better (10 points, 7.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds per game) than Mike (3.6 points, 1.2 assists, 1.2 rebounds per game) these days. I'll give the edge to him hitting some clutch 3's and stripping Bibby for a crucial turnover or two.

Advantage: Dallas.

4. Does Barea run wild? In 17.5 minutes per game, he's scoring 9 points and dishing out 3.5 assists. He's hitting 43% of his shots overall and 31% from deep. I give you these numbers to show A.) He's not as amazing as you may think from watching ESPN and B.) There's a reason he only plays 17 minutes per game. That said, he provides a big boost off the bench and can really frustrate defenses while providing a spark to the Mavs as a whole.

Do the Heat just stick LeBron on him and say "Go for it, little man?" Again, watching him shut down Rose was eye-opening, and if he can stay in front of the MVP, he should be able to stay in front of the best pickup player ever in the history of mankind.

Sorry, Jose, your days are numbered.

Advantage: Heat

5. Who stops the three-headed monster? I imagine Chandler will work on slowing Bosh down, which is fine, except Bosh plays outside the paint, which will drag Tyson away from the hoop, giving LeBron and Wade free reign to waltz in for a dunk whenever they feel like it.

And why are these two waltzing into the paint? I answer your question with another questions: Who does Dallas have that can remotely slow down either of these guys on the perimeter? Can Shawn Marion do it? Okay, let's say he can keep one of them in check. Who handles the other? Jason Terry? DeShawn Stevenson? Peja? I don't see it happening. What this boils down to is either Wade or LeBron getting a green light to attack the hoop for pretty much the entire game.

Dallas may try a zone and dare James Jones and Mike Miller to beat them, but while Miller is hitting a whopping 21% of his deep attempts (27% against Chicago), Jones is a blistering 45% from downtown in the playoffs. Considering Miller will likely be shooting against Peja or Kidd, I think his numbers will improve, meaning a zone is an invitation to a barrage of 3's the likes of which helped Dallas sink the Lakers.

In the end, it's been a rare game where Bosh, Wade and James all have bad performances at the same time. This was the case in Game 5 against Chicago, but the Heat's defense kept them in it long enough that some game-saving heroics were possible at the end.

For them to have four games of stinkitude? I can't believe it will happen.

Advantage: Miami.

Final Finals prediction: Heat in 6. Weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth commence from people who had no problem with Boston winning the 2008 title.

27 May 2011

Heat! Mavericks! Tuesday on ABC!

And with a blocked 3-point attempt from Derrick Rose last night, we have our NBA Finals matchup set.

I watched the fourth quarter of Game 5, and was struck by how similar it was to Game 5 in the Dallas/OKC series. Young team is up late, the lead seems fairly insurmountable, and the veterans get it done, closing on a huge run to win it all.

LeBron hounded Derrick Rose into a 1-10 shooting night, including blocking that series-clinching 3-point attempt.

James also held Rose to 6.3% shooting in the series when guarding him directly.

Six point three percent? Holy moley!

The rest of the Bulls were no better. Boozer made one of his six shot attempts. Deng was 6-17. Ronnie Brewer was the only Bull to shoot near 50%, and hit four of his five, including a huge 3-pointer late to give the Bulls a (presumably) comfortable lead.

When Ronnie Brewer is your best shooter, you know things are going poorly.

Up until the last five minutes, no one for the Heat was playing well, but LeBron added two deep shots, Wade hit one and got to the hoop at will and that was that. This game demonstrates the amazing utility of great defense. If your shots aren't falling and you can't stop anyone, you're going to lose by 20. But if your shots aren't falling and you can lock down your opponent, you'll be in position to win the game. The Heat only scored 83 points on 39% shooting as a team, horrible numbers. But they held the Bulls to 80 points on 35% shooting, so they are on their way to the Finals.

Want to read a bitter and sarcastic take on the Heat making it to the Finals? You're in luck!

As a mini Finals preview, what strikes me the most is the lack of young talent on either team.

Dallas has Dirk (13 years), Kidd (17! years), Terry (11 years), Peja (13 years), Marion (12 years), Haywood (10 years), Chandler (10 years). Even DeShawn Stevenson has been in the league for 11 seasons now. J.J. Barea is the youngest player to get any playing time for the Mavs, and he's got five years under his belt now.

The Heat run out James, Bosh, Wade, James Jones and Haslem (all at eight years now), Mike Miller (11 years) and Mike Bibby (12 years). Joel Anthony is their lone young gun getting time in the playoffs (four years).

That is a whole lot of combined experience for both teams. I give the edge to Dallas in this area, as head coach Rick Carlisle has coached 1,181 regular season games (60% winning record) and 93 playoff games (52% win percentage).

I admit not knowing much about Rick besides the fact that he looks like Jim Carrey.

It's not like he's bounced around a lot, either. He's coached for the Pistons, Pacers and Mavericks. He doesn't make the news for being a great coach or a terrible coach. He's not the Bobby Knight type or the legendary type like Jerry Sloan or Greg Popvich. He just keeps on keepin' on, taking his teams to the playoffs sometimes and winning more than he loses.

In contrast, Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra might as well be a teenager. He has 246 regular season games under his belt (60% win rate) and 27 playoff games (59% win rate).

Anyway, this should be a great series between two teams that know how to win. Wade might have the edge here, being the only star with a ring, though I don't imagine Dirk or James will choke here. They've shown great poise in finishing off good teams to get to this point, and I expect barnburners from Game 1 on. You hear me? Barnburners!

25 May 2011


Well, that was somewhat anticlimactic.

Yes, both Conference Finals Game 4's went into overtime, but the results mean our Finals matchup is virtually locked in.

Teams up 3-1 in the NBA playoffs have won 96% of the time. And nothing I've seen from either Oklahoma City or Chicago makes me feel they can win three games in a row against Dallas/Miami.

Honestly, I feel that a lot of this boils down to poor point guard play. I know I've ranted about this before, but Westbrook and Rose are shoot-first point guards who have no ability/desire to actually run an offense, especially in late-game situations.

The one game OKC has won in the conference finals, Westbrook sat the entire fourth quarter. Coincidence? He's shooting 34% from the field, 28% from deep and has 21 turnovers to 19 assists. That is absolutely horrific. Yet, in a late-game situation when the Thunder need a bucket, he insists on driving on 5 players and/or attempting a difficult jumper. It's maddening.

Same story for the reigning MVP. Rose is shooting 39% from the field, 22% from the 3-point line and has a vaguely not-terrible assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.6. Last night, in a must-win for his team, he shot 8-27 overall, 1-9 from deep with 7 turnovers and only 6 assists. Poor decision making abounds.

For example, here's Derrick Rose's attempt at a game-winning shot last night.

Seriously? You come out of a timeout, come back to the court with 8 seconds on the clock, and that's what you run? Isolation of your 6'3" point guard against the 6'9" freak of nature that is LeBron James? What were you expecting to happen, Tom?

Now, neither player's supporting cast has been lights out. For all the love Kevin Durant gets, he's shooting 43% in this series, and has hit only 4 of his 25 shots from long range. Meanwhile, in Rose Land, shooting specialist (translation: he can't do anything else) Kyle Korver has hit 27% of his shots and 3 of his 11 attempts from deep, while center Joakim Noah is hitting at a 29% clip... an egregious failing considering he never wanders farther than four feet from the hoop.

So the fact that the Thunder and Bulls are each staring at the precipice of failure isn't all on the heads of their young point guards, but their performances grate on me more than Boozer's (continued) lack of defense or Mike Bibby's lack of lateral quickness.

If neither OKC or Chicago make it to the Finals, this will be yet another year that a team featuring a non-elite point guard wins the title. Outside of Rajon Rondo and possibly Chauncey Billups, no elite point guard has won an NBA championship in the last 20 years. The Lakers did it with Derek Fisher. Spurs with Tony Parker. The Heat with Gary Payton, and the Bulls with Derek Harper. The Rockets used Sam Cassell and Kenny Smith.

Not since the 1990 title went to the Pistons, and point guard Isiah Thomas, has an all-time great at that position won it all.

No Steve Nash. No John Stockton. No Chris Paul. No Deron Williams.

This year, either Mike Bibby or Jason Kidd will get a ring. And while Kidd is definitely one of the all-time greats at the point, he's also definitely on the tail end of the tail end of his career.

Looking back at the assist leaders for the last 10 NBA regular seasons, it's a list of never-won-it-all players. Andre Miller. Baron Davis. Stephon Marbury.

This is an interesting phenomenon. Should NBA GM's avoid drafting or trading for serviceable point guards, and look for elite big men and wings instead?

Are the Jazz better off with Favors and Harris rather than Deron? Will Chicago ever get it done with Rose? Is facilitating your team's offense well really that important?

It bears watching in the coming seasons, in my opinion.

20 May 2011

Dallas/OKC Game 2

Much like the Heat were able to do in the East, the Thunder came out and stole home court advantage from the Mavs last night. It was a fun game to watch, as both teams shot well and the first quarter was a flurry of great passes and alley-oop dunks (thrown by the 43-year-old Jason Kidd) that got everyone excited. Marion in particular threw one down that I was amazed he was able to catch. I guess the Matrix still has it to some extent.

The big story here is that OKC starting point guard Russell Westbrook sat on the bench the entire fourth quarter, along with three other starters, and KD finished the game out with Eric Maynor, James Harden, Nick Collison and Daequan Cook.

Now, I really like Maynor, and think he'll be a good starting point guard one day, and James Harden was certainly on fire last night (scoring 23 points), but Collison? Daequan? Wow.

I have to wonder if Thunder coach Scott Brooks got tired of watching Westbrook try to win games by himself in the fourth, completely ignoring everyone else (including Durant). Shoot first point guards never go anywhere (exception: Allen Iverson in 2001), and they especially do not work when they aren't the best player on the team. In Oklahoma City, that's Kevin. And Westbrook needs to figure that out or he's going to find himself traded.

In other news, Dallas scored 100 points and lost. This is mostly because they let OKC shoot 55% from the field and 38% from downtown. That 55% shooting percentage was given up by the Mavs only once before this season, showing just how bad defensively they were.

Dirk scored 27 points on 10-17 shooting, but a lot of people are saying he needs more touches for Dallas to be successful. Not sure if this is the case, as OKC is clearly keying in on him and daring everyone else in a horse uniform to beat them.

Regardless, the Thunder have the upper hand now, but I'm not convinced they'll end up going to the Finals. These teams are pretty evenly matched, and I can't wait for Games 3-7.

19 May 2011

It continues

Heat/Bulls tied 1-1 after two games in Chicago.

Mavs up 1-0 after the first game in Dallas.

Haslem returning to the Heat was a huge deal in their Game 2 win.

Dirk was unconscious in the first game of the Western Conference Finals.

Both Derrick Rose and Russell Westbook continue to shoot poorly in the playoffs. Is it too much to ask that our superstar point guards hit around 45-50% of their shots in the postseason? Westbrook is at a disgusting 39.5%, while Rose is shooting 41%. Derrick is also hitting a full 25% of his 4-point attempts, while Russell is shooting 31% from deep.

I know these are supposed to be the guys of the future, but Nash, Paul and Deron are all good-to-great shooters. Having your point guard jack up shot after shot and miss way more than he makes has got to hurt the offense. Either Rose and Westbrook need to tone it down and stop shooting so much or they need to start hitting more.

In other news, here's a great breakdown of Game 1 of the Dallas/Oklahoma City series.

I love stuff like this. I never see it when I'm watching, but having someone break it down is really helpful, and it makes me watch for things the next time I catch a game.

Can't wait for game two of Dirk vs. KD tonight. I thought I'd root for the Thunder no question during this series, but the Mavs are playing so well I can't help but like them a bit, too.

10 May 2011


Can we ask for anything more from these playoffs? We had an overtime Heat win followed by a triple overtime game in Oklahoma City last night, and the Hawks are giving the Bulls everything they can handle while Memphis plays the Thunder tough even in losses.

Even the Boston/Miami series, which the Heat lead 3-1, had an epic game in Boston where Rajon Rondo came back from a dislocated elbow and Garnett and Pierce submitted all-time great-level games in a big win.

Quick looks at all four series:


Unfortunately for the original Big 3, they couldn't sustain the level of play they exhibited in Game 3 and will most likely lose the series now. That Game 3 required Garnett and Pierce to play out of their minds while James, Bosh, and to some extent Wade, all had terrible performances. That wasn't going to happen again.


Derrick Rose continues his campaign of shooting poorly and hoping no one notices. In Game 4 he scored 34 points on 35% shooting. His assist numbers were great, but the dude needs to get others involved even more if he can't be more efficient than that.

Here's what the Bulls offense looked like in the fourth quarter (of Game 4):

Carlos Boozer missed layup; Rose made 10-footer; Rose made 14-footer + 1 free throw; Rose made layup; Rose missed layup (blocked by Teague); offensive rebound; Rose missed 14-footer; offensive rebound; Rose missed 8-footer; Rose missed layup; Kyle Korver made 17-footer (Rose assists); C.J. Watson turnover; Taj Gibson 2-for-2 at the line; shot clock violation; Rose turnover; Luol Deng missed three-pointer; offensive rebound; Rose made 7-footer and the foul; Rose misses free throw; Rose made layup; Rose missed layup; Rose missed 6-footer; Rose turnover; Salvatore’s blown call; Korver missed three-pointer; Deng made layup (Rose assists); Korver turnover; Rose made layup.

In summary: The Bulls' fourth quarter offense consisted of only 2 assists (both by Rose), 4 free throw attempts, 5 turnovers and 17 field goal attempts...12 by Rose.

That's just bad basketball.

Also in this game, referee Bennett Salvatore took some heat for initially calling a foul on the below play then changing his mind.

Salvatore initially blew his whistle and raised his arm as if to call a foul, but then ran to the scorer's table to wave it off.

And despite the complaints I've read, that was the right thing to do. Rose created the contact with Crawford there; if anything it was an offensive foul and I'm sick of players who create contact getting rewarded.

I have no idea who will win this series. The Bulls are the better team when it's actually, you know, a team, but if Rose keeps dominating the ball I like Atlanta's chances. Josh Smith is playing well, and Joe Johnson is tearing it up, averaging 21 ppg on 54% shooting overall and a blistering 66.7% shooting from deep.

Memphis-Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City had three last-second shots last night, and all three were terrible. Luckily this didn't come back to bite them in the end, but I have to wonder about their coaching.

Russell Westbrook is going to the Derrick Rose of Point Guards Who Shoot Too Much, as he took 33 shots last night, 13 more than Durant, and recorded only five assists. To be fair, he shot much better than Rose (45%) but come on, dude. Pass the rock and maybe you don't need three overtimes to beat Memphis.

Marc Gasol is a beast. Last night he had 26 points and 21 rebounds (10 offensive) on 55% shooting. Z-Bo 34 and 16 on 36% shooting, but mostly made up for that by hitting 16 of his 17 free throw attempts. The guards for Memphis aren't nearly as good, but maybe in the playoffs it's all about the bigs.

Another uncertain series. I'd like to give the nod to the Grizzlies, considering their dominance down low, but Game 7 is in Oklahoma, and that's a big deal. I'm just rooting for exciting games the rest of the way.

Los Angeles Lakers-Dallas

And I've saved the best for last. Considering the current state of the Jazz, my enjoyment of this NBA season was tied directly to the odds of L.A. winning their third title in a row. While the Lakers had their bad moments during the regular season, they were still favorites to win it all, and my happiness was in dire jeopardy.

Then the Mavs swept L.A. and absolutely crushed them doing it.

All is well.

I mean, the Lakers even came off as completely classless in the series loss, thanks to Artest, Odom and Bynum all behaving badly at points. I couldn't have asked for more.

So I'm basking in the glow made possible by Jason Terry playing out of his mind for this series and Dirk being Dirk. Sure, the Lakers will probably trade Matt Barnes and a couple draft picks to Orlando for Dwight Howard, but right now, the franchise is in shambles.

I'm sure David Stern is quaking in his boots at the prospect of an Atlanta-Memphis Finals, but it'd be a fun ride to get there.

03 May 2011

Upset upsets upsets!

Major upsets across the NBA in this, the second round of the playoffs in 2011. The Grizzlies stuck it to Kevin Durant and his Thunder in Oklahoma City, Dallas overcame a 16-point deficit to beat the Lakers in L.A and Atlanta has a 1-0 lead on the Bulls going into Game 2 Wednesday.

The significance? 76% of Game 1 winners in a 7-game playoff win the series. Past indicators are no guarantee of future performance, but that's a pretty hefty stat. And the trends we saw in these first games (Boozer can't really score on Zaza/Horford, Perkins could not handle Z-Bo, Dirk was unguardable at the high post) are not likely to change.

A Dallas/Memphis conference finals would not shock me. Nor would a Miami/Atlanta final in the East. Or a Boston/Atlanta final, to tell the truth, although Boston is in an 0-2 hole). The parity here is kinda shocking. No team looks complete, they all have weaknesses they're trying to hide.

In other news, Derrick Rose won the MVP award today. Now, I know it's a regular-season award, but boy howdy are his stats atrocious in the playoffs so far. He's at 38% shooting overall and 23% from deep against the Pacers and Hawks.


To be fair, the other young and seeming heir to the point guard throne, Russell Westbrook, has also been struggling, and since he has Kevin Durant to pass to, it seems an even more egregious sin than Rose's wanton chucking.

Anyway, it's been one heck of a postseason. Here's to another few weeks of great basketball.

29 April 2011

Elimination Thursday report

Things certainly felt... final last night in the National Basketball Association.

1. Dallas beat the Blazers 103-96, in Portland, to win the series 4-2. My original prediction had Portland winning in 7 games, as I assumed Dallas would get good numbers from Dirk and not much else. Turns out, Jason Terry scored 22 and Marion contributed 16 points on Thursday, two players I didn't expect that much from. Meanwhile, Wallace, Aldridge and Matthews had good games, but the team as a whole only made 5 of their 21 3-point attempts, and while their percentages of 44% from the field and 80% from the line aren't terrible, especially for the playoffs, they let the Mavs shoot 50% from the line and Dallas made 86% of their freebies.

Looking at the series stats, Portland didn't play poorly, Dallas just played better. Close series, and the horses came out on top. Sometimes that's the way it falls. And for Dallas to close it out on the road is kind of impressive. I had them getting smoked by the Lakers in the next round, but now I kind of feel like they can win a game or two.

2. The Lakers beat up on the Hornets last night, in New Orleans, 98-80. Paul submitted a nearly superheroic line of 10 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds, but he needed a real superheroic performance to get the win. Poor guy got very little help in this series; Trevor Ariza shot 41%, Marco Bellinelli was 39%, Jarrett Jack shot 35% and Paul's lone bright spot was Carl Landry's 45%.

Anyway, LA is huge and a matchup nightmare for anyone. Sorry, Hornets. Get some better pieces around Chris Paul.6%

3. Atlanta finished off the Magic 84-81, to win the series 4-2. Another outcome I failed to predict, and what's funny is I gave a lot of credit to the Hawks... I just assumed Dwight would go crazy and his shooters would be average. Instead, Redick hit 35% of his shots (6% from deep!), Jason Richardson was a 35% shooter as well and Turkoglu hit 30% of his looks (23% from deep). As a team they hit 26% of their 3-pointers, while letting the Hawks hit 36% of theirs, including Crawford's blistering 45%.

Tough luck, Orlando. Better luck next year.

In other news, Real Salt Lake got beat 1-0 by Monterrey (a club team from Mexico) in Sandy, Utah. If Real could have scored a single goal, they would represent North America in the World Club Championships or something, which would have been cool and maybe I would have become more interested in soccer. As it was, they got shut out, at home (did I mention that a tie would have been as good as a win? Silly soccer), and went home losers. Tough break for those who hope American soccer can take off.

27 April 2011

The Jazz are fine

It seems a lot of the Jazz talk on the radio this offseason has been doom-and-gloom type stuff. Lots of complaining about losing Deron, about the team's record over the last half of the season and a longing for the good ol' days when the Jazz were in the Western Conference Finals.

My response? That's ridiculous. It's no secret I was tired of the Deron/Boozer/Okur trifecta as early as 2008. That nucleus was good for 50 wins and absolutely no chance at an NBA championship. The team's ceiling had been hit. Everything from that point to the Deron trade was just treading water.

The Jazz team right now is not good enough to win a championship either, but the difference is, they are far from reaching their ceiling.

For starters, hey, the Jazz actually ended up with Derrick Favors! He's 6-10 and 246 lbs. at 19 years old. Kid works hard, as evidenced by how built he is. Had 17 points and 8 boards against Tim Duncan (okay, the ghost of Tim Duncan) and the Spurs earlier this month. He shot 51.7% from the field this season and 59% from the free throw line. He averaged 8 points and 5 boards with a block for the Jazz, all while playing less than 20 minutes a game.

In short, I think this kid is going to be a monster on both ends of the floor. Not just an offensive player, like Boozer. Not just a defensive player, like Fes (to whatever extent he is a defensive player). A complete big man, the likes Utah has not seen since Karl left for L.A. retired.

Losing Deron hurts, but I think getting Harris and Favors (along with some draft picks) was more than a fair trade at this point. Harris is a very serviceable point guard, and I don't see him as a weak spot for the Jazz at all. The blossoming of Hayward into a good-maybe great? guard has been surprising, but if continues on his upward trajectory he might turn into the slashing/shooting guy on the wing Utah's been needing for decades.

Slap on a good-to-great center in Jefferson and Millsap as a 6th man/small forward and that's a good starting five. Maybe they'll be as good as the 2008 Jazz team, maybe they'll be worse in the end. But maybe they'll be better, and that's what I'm focusing on.

I do wish this draft were better, as it appears to be worst possible time to get lottery picks in the 6 AND 12 spots. That said, there are always diamonds in the rough, and we don't know for sure who will pan out and who won't.

In addition, the Jazz have tons of cap space to work with, thanks to Andrei's $17.8 million contract finally expiring.

And I may be a BYU homer, but I'd be fine with the Jazz picking Jimmer at 6. If he can score 50 points in college when being double teamed, he can score 10-15 in the NBA when he'll be single covered at best. And if he's playing with two legit low-post options in Favors and Jefferson? Kick it out to the Jimmer and start running the other way, because he'll hit at least 50% from deep when he's wide open.

To sum up, if I can't root for a team that is dominant (2006 BYU, 1996 Jazz), I'd rather cheer for a team with the potential to get there than one with no shot at it.

The Jazz are fine.

25 April 2011

BYU basketball is popular

In case that's hard to read, it's a chart of the highest-rated sports broadcasts on cable over the last month. Up top? BYU vs. Florida in the Sweet 16. Not bad. People love the Jimmer.

Of course, it ended up being one of the worst games of his career, but still.

Here are the highlights.

Weekend NBA updatery

1. Sorry, Denver, but your scrappy "no real star, who you gonna guard?" offensive just isn't enough to make it past the Thunder. Durant and Westbrook didn't have the best games Saturday, and in fact, OK City went over 6 minutes of game time without scoring at one point and the Zombie Sonics still won. J.R. Smith was not fouled on the final shot... it was amazing defense from Harden and Smith should have passed it once it was clear he wasn't getting anything close to a good look. Thunder up 3-0.

Prognosis: goodbye Nuggets.

2. The Celtics completed a sweep of the Knicks Sunday. I would feel sorry for the fans in New York, but most of them are also Yankees fans, so whatever. Not all that surprised the pairing of Amare and Carmelo didn't exactly take off, but you'd have thought they could at least win one game. The Knicks as a whole might have had a chance to win some games if they'd played some defense, at least. Boston spent most of the second half of the season struggling to score on anyone, but Ray Allen shot 65% from deep against them on the series and Pierce was at 50%. Add in Rondo's freakish triple double of 15 points, 11 rebounds and 20 assists in Game 4 and you have a pretty big bag of defensive fail.

[Rondo joined] Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and LeBron James as the only players in NBA history to record six career playoff triple doubles.
A Mike D'Antoni leading a team known for poor defense? Whodathunk? Boston wins 4-0. Prognosis: the Celtics need to look this good against a team that cares about the other end of the floor before I'll take them seriously.

3. Portland beat the Mavs Saturday behind Brandon Roy's 18 fourth-quarter points. Dallas shot only 40% as a team, and while Portland only made 42% of their looks, Nowtizki's 20 points weren't enough. Like I said, both teams have their flaws, and it's going to be a close series. Tied 2-2.

Prognosis: Dallas wins.

4. The Sixers beat the Heat Sunday to extend the series at least one more game. In a nutshell, Wade and LeBron had great games and no one else showed up for Miami. Bosh: 5-12 and 5 rebounds. Bibby: 0-6. Chalmers: 3-9. Jones 1-3. Just an ugly offensive showing for the Heat's role players. The Sixers weren't exactly on fire themselves, but rookie Evan Turner scored 17 on 7-13 shooting to help Elton Brand's 15 points, and they got it done. Heat up 3-1.

Prognosis: good job showing some life, Philly, but it's not enough in the long run.

5. Similar story for the Magic and Hawks. Dwight continues tearing it up (29 points, 17 rebounds and 2 blocks in Game 4) but his supporting cast is terrible. Turkoglu shot 2-12, including a last-minute 3 attempt at the end of the game. Jameer Nelson was 3-12 and Redick shot 0-6. In fairness, the ghost of Gilbert Arenas did score 20 points on 9-18 shooting, but if not for this unexpected good night from him, the loss would have been much worse than three points. Apparently the strategy of "get a dominant big man and surround him with shooters" doesn't work if your shooters can't shoot. The Hawks had four guys in double figures, including the red-hot Jamal Crawford, who is averaging 24 ppg and 47% shooting from deep for the series. Atlanta leads 3-1.

Prognosis: Atlanta is scrappy.

6. Derrick Rose's bad shooting numbers finally caught up to him as the Pacers beat the Bulls 89-84 Saturday. Rose shot 6-22 from the field, bringing his series average to 29 ppg on 35% shooting overall and a blistering 17% mark from deep. He was outscored by Deng, Boozer and Noah, while taking several more shots. Rose himself was 1-9 from deep... someone needs to tell this kid to stop jacking them from behind the line. You don't see Rajon Rondo doing that, do you? He knows his limitations and doesn't hurt his team by shooting from range. Anyway, Hibbert and Granger both had double-doubles in the close win. Chicago leads 3-1.

Prognosis: it'd take a miracle for Indiana to win, especially considering Mr. Stern has no intention of his league MVP getting ousted in the first round. Sorry, Hoosiers.

7. Memphis punked the Spurs for the second time in three games Saturday behind Zach Randolph's 3-pointer with less than a minute left to put Memphis up four. Here's how improbable that shot was: Zach was 8-21 on the night and had only hit 8 of his 43 three-point attempts on the season. Duncan afterwards said he didn't think Randolph would shoot it from there, and he had every reason to think that, but sometimes the basketball gods smile on otherwise poor shooters. Ginobili and Parker combined to shoot 10-24 from the field and Duncan only scored 13 points on 11 shots. Pau's little brother contributed an efficient 17 and 9 in the win. Memphis up 2-1.

Prognosis: San Antonio is old, but they'll figure it out.

8. And the cherry on top of a good weekend in NBA basketball: Kobe Byrant shoots 5-18 and spends the night yelling at his teammates in a classic Lakers loss to the Hornets. Chris Paul was brilliant, racking up a triple double line of 27 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists and flat out destroying anyone who tried to guard him. He got good help from Trevor Ariza, Carl Landry and Aaron Gray, as the team shot a relatively blistering 44% from the field. The Lakers had five guys in double digits, but Gasol only pulled down 4 boards and Odom was 1-7 from the field. Series tied.

Prognosis: CP3 can't keep it up forever, but look out for the Thunder, Laker fans.

22 April 2011

Some statistical analysis

My buddy Stu took some time to compile the average years played in the NBA for each team in the league. I told him if he sent me the data I'd blog it, so here I am.

To begin, here are the numbers:

Sacramento: 2.57 24-58
Minnesota: 2.69 17-65
Washington: 2.80 23-59
Toronto: 3.06 22-60
LaC: 3.21 32-50
Houston 3.26 43-49
Golden State: 3.5 36-46
Portland: 3.571 48-34
Cleveland 3.6 19-63
OK City 3.714 55-27
Memphis: 3.66 46-36
New Jersey: 3.73 24-58
New Orleans: 4.06 46-36
Indiana: 4.13 37-45
San Antonio: 4.73 61-21
Denver 4.78 50-32
Utah 4.9 39-43
NY: 5.0 42-40
Philadelphia: 5.06 41-41
Phoenix: 5.21 40-42
Detroit: 5.26 30-52
Charlotte: 5.40 34-48
Milwaukee: 5.42 35-47
Chicago 5.46 62-20
Atlanta 5.714 44-38
Orlando: 5.923 52-30
Dallas 7.8 57-25
Boston: 8.26 56-26
Miami: 8.26 58-24
LAL 8.5 57-25

Boy that is ugly. Maybe if I were better with Excel I could manage to make it look prettier.

Anyway, the last stats class I took was my senior year of high school, so let's see what I can do.

For starters, the top seven teams are in the playoffs. The bottom seven teams are out of the playoffs. Milwaukee has the honor of being the oldest team in the NBA to not make the post season, while the Blazers are the youngest.

Two jumps up from Portland we have the Thunder, who are not only super young, but also a real threat to win the West. Meanwhile, the Pistons, Bobcats and Suns struggled mightily while being older than most teams in the league.

Obvious outliers (oooh a fancy stats term):

-Houston because they are so young but still almost managed to sneak into the playoffs.
-Portland for being so young and so good.
-OK City for the same reason as Portland, only moreso.
-San Antonio for winning 61 games while having the average experience of squads like the Pacers and Nuggets. I had no idea Duncan, Parker and Ginobili were surrounded by such relative newcomers.
-Detroit for having as much experience as the Knicks and Jazz but winning only 30 games total. They've got three guys with over 11 years of playing time and can't even make the playoffs. Of course, who can blame them when these three guys are Ben Wallace, Tracy McGrady and Richard Hamilton?

What does this show? Well, my poor methodology displays the fact that unless you get super lucky in the draft and end up with really young studs like Oklahoma City, having experience on your team definitely helps you reach the top of the NBA standings.

Unless it doesn't. Then you probably made some bad signings somewhere along the way.

Feel free to forward this invaluable information to and NBA GM's you know.

And if any of you are stat heads, feel free to enlighten me to hidden nuggets of information I may have missed. I can offer temporary, limited fame!

19 April 2011

NBA ramblings

-So the Heat smacked the Sixers around for a while last night, and when all was said and done they led the series 2-0. Philly shot 34% for the game, despite a decent night from Evan Turner. If the Heat win it all this season, it's going to be on their defense, and their defense looked good here.

-Also last night, the Bulls toyed around with Indiana some more and ripped their hearts out for the second time in two games. Derrick Rose continued his ways of shooting poorly from the field and earning a ton of trips to the free throw line. Boozer showed up, scoring 17 points and pulling down 16 boards. Granger led an amazingly balanced effort in scoring from the Pacers, as nine players scored at least 6 points, and one more scored 5. If nothing else, this series might give Indiana fans some hope for next season.

The Rose thing is interesting. Normally I hate it when a player scores 25+ on 40% shooting, because hey, if the entire team shot that poorly, they'd definitely lose, right? Scoring a lot in an inefficient manner isn't that impressive. But with Rose, his free throw attempts and conversion rate are so high it almost offsets it. Would I like to see him hit more of his shots? Yeah. But if he keeps forcing people to foul him, and then keeps making 12-13 from the stripe like he did on Monday, I'm willing to overlook the field goal percentage mark a little.

-The NBA said "Oh yeah, that was totally offensive interference on Kendrick Perkins that one time."
Had the officials whistled Perkins for an illegal touch, the Nuggets would have gotten possession with a one-point lead and just over a minute remaining in regulation; instead, the Thunder took a one-point advantage and held on for a 107-103 win to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round series.
Ouch. That said, this was one bad call, one moment in the game that didn't go Denver's way. The night was made up of thousands of moments, and if any of them had gone differently, maybe that offensive interference call wouldn't have even mattered. If there were three, four, five egregiously bad calls, then you can complain, Nuggets. But one call? Play better for the first three quarters and make the score late so lopsided in your favor that bad calls don't even matter. Good luck in Game 2.

-Dwight Howard won his third Defensive Player of the Year award in a row. As Ball Don't Lie wrote,
...you should probably be up for putting Dwight Howard's grinning mug up on Mt. Rushmore for leading this group of sieves to the third-best defense in the NBA in 2010-11.
Spot on. That the Magic were that effective on defense with Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson covering the perimeter, then Dwight was simply transcendent this season.

Here's hoping he gets some help in Game 2 against the Hawks tonight.