Nueva York...Same as Viejo York

by Jeff Fogle 23. March 2011 23:59

The name on the front of the jersey may have changed (for a night), but the same lethargic, down in the mouth New York Knicks squad that had been disappearing down the stretch lately did the same thing Wednesday in a 111-99 loss to the Orlando Magic.

Since there were a lot of similarites to the Boston game on Monday, there's no reason to dwell on the same old issues.

Fourth Quarter

Boston 33, New York 17
Orlando 32, New York 21

Second Half

Boston 59, New York 35
Orlando 56, New York 40

The Knicks call it a night once the game is on the line. It's as if they're afraid a strong finish will raise expectations. Better to keep selling the "we need time to gel, wait until next year" storyline. It may take time to gel. But, it doesn't take time to guard the basket with a passion or battle on the boards.

Opposing Bigs:
Kevin Garnett 10 of 15 shooting
Dwight Howard 11 of 15 shooting

Rebound Differential:
Boston 48, New York 38
Orlando 49, New York 35

ESPN color analyst Jeff Van Gundy was suggesting that it was unfair to expect the team to play like champions right away. Recent frustration (outrage!) from Knicks fans wasn't because the team wasn't playing at a championship level. It came from the lack of player enthusiasm vs. losing teams like Indiana (twice), Milwaukee, and Detroit. That set up the late game debacles...at home...vs. playoff caliber opponents. 

New York still isn't running (see Monday night's article). There were more possessions tonight, but Orlando is a faster team than Boston (89 possessions vs. NY), Milwaukee (92), and Detroit (92). The Magic were at 94.1 possessions per game coming in. Wednesday's final total will be in that neighborhood. New York is still playing to its opponent's tempo rather than forcing its own. If you were watching Wednesday's game on ESPN, you saw that Chauncey Billups seemed much more interested in setting up in the halfcourt than running a fast break. Nobody was arguing with him about it either, at least when I was watching.

The Knicks have a back-to-back coming up with Milwaukee (Friday) and Charlotte (Saturday). They've fallen behind Philadelphia in the playoff race, and currently sit in 7th place in the Eastern brackets.

Transition Points

*Philadelphia beat Atlanta Wednesday 105-100. Atlanta led much of the night, but the Sixers used a 22-6 run at the start of the fourth quarter to turn things around. The Hawks played much better here than Tuesday vs. Chicago...pretty much confirming that the blowout loss to Chicago was a tank job. Broadcasters are hesitant to use that phrase, or suggest a team is saving themselves for the second night of a back-to-back. Given Atlanta's very clear history this year of doing just that, you might as well just be honest and report it!

*The Miami Heat finally got a breather after finishing that long gauntlet we've been documenting. They had trouble finding any intensity Wednesday in Detroit. Miami trailed much of the night before rallying late for a 100-94 win. The Heat allowed better than 60% shooting in the first half...but trimmed that down 49% for the game after holding the Pistons to 13 points in the fourth quarter. Miami won the fourth quarter 25-13, which gives you a sense of what was lacking until then.

Mike Bibby of the Heat took a step backward after recent good showings. He was 1 of 3 on three-point attempts, and posted a -13 in plus/minus in 26 minutes...worst on the team by far.

Remember Richard Hamilton? He's been back in the Detroit lineup since March began after sitting in purgatory for several weeks. Rip scored 27 points on 9 of 16 from the flooor.

*Boston continued its inconsistent play of late, falling at home to Memphis 90-87. The Celtics are still trying to get their bench in sync with what's needed in the playoffs. The four anchors (Garnett, Peirce, Allen, and Rondo) all had positive plus/minuses. Everyone else who saw action was negative. All Memphis starters were negative, and the entire bench (who played) was positive.

*If there were any doubts about motivation to make the playoffs in the Indiana/Charlotte battle for 8th place in the East...those should be resolved now. Charlotte lost AT HOME 111-88, posting the standard non-hustle stats of teams trying to stay out of the way so they don't get hurt.

Two-Point Shooting:
Indiana 57%, Charlotte 47%

Rebounds:
Indiana 37, Charlote 28

Tyler Hansbrough of Indiana was 8 of 10 from the floor, and 8 of 9 from the free throw line. It's as if he was facing New York again.

*All the Eastern playoff teams except Chicago saw action Wednesday. We can now update the seeding picture.

Bracket Bound:

1...Chicago 51-19
2...Boston 50-20 (1 back)
3...Miami 49-22 (3 back of Chicago, 2 back of Boston)
4...Orlando 46-26 (they'll be 4th)
5...Atlanta 40-32 (likely destined for 5th)
6...Philadelphia 37-34
7...New York 35-36 (2 behind the Sixers now)
8...Indiana 32-40

On the outside looking in:
9...Charlotte and Milwaukee 28-42 (3 out of the playoffs)

Might as well update the records since the All-Star Break. Still a few teams stumbling:

Chicago 13-3
Orlando 10-5
Philadelphia 10-5
Boston 10-6
Miami 8-7
Indiana 8-10
New York 7-10
Atlanta 6-11

Charlotte is 4-10, Milwaukee 7-8 if you were wondering.

*Thursday is very quiet in the NBA this week. Most of the focus from basketball fans will be on the Sweet 16 games in New Orleans and Anaheim. Will skip Thursday, then be back late Friday to talk about highlights from a 13-game card that includues Philadelphia-Miami, Memphis-Chicago, and Milwaukee-New York. If some interesting stat developments pop up in the college games, I'll throw those in too...

Bookmark and Share DotnetKicks dotnetshoutout

Vogel's Pacers Crash Offensive Boards

by Jeff Fogle 9. February 2011 00:35

I was glancing over the Indiana Pacers' team page here at Hoopdata Tuesday afternoon, looking for clues besides an increase in pace that would explain Frank Vogel's 4-0 start. It was impossible to miss the dramatic increase in offensive rebound rate...

Heading into Tuesday's action, the league as a whole was grabbing 26.29% of available offensive rebounds (simply offensive rebounds divided by the sum of offensive rebounds and your opponents defensive rebounds). Under previous head coach Jim O'Brien, the Pacers were poor in this regard...down around 23.5%. There are 30 teams in the league. That would rank about 27th right now.

Offensive Rebound Rates in the first four games under Vogel:
36.6 vs. Toronto
38.1 at Cleveland
31.1 vs. Portland
37.5 vs. New Jersey

Best in the league right now is Portland at 30.22. So, you can see that Indiana is off the charts in this stat under Vogel.

Note that Indiana only cracked the 30.0 mark three times in its prior 30 games, before doing it FOUR TIMES IN A ROW!

Clearly, this is a point of emphasis for Vogel. But, also clearly, that was a soft four-game schedule outside of Portland. The Pacers may not be able to maintain that pace vs. better opposition. And, it's not like being great at offensive rebound rate is the secret to winning championships.

NBA Top Four
Portland 30.22
LA Clippers 30.18
Minnesota 30.06
Sacramento 29.87

If the Clippers, T-wolves, and Kings rank high in a stat...well, you catch my drift.

I don't want to suggest that Indiana is 4-0 because they're crashing the boards, or that O'Brien was insane because he de-emphasized the stat. What's clear about Vogel's Pacers right now can be summed in one word. ENERGY!

Indiana is sprinting up and down the floor...

Vogel's Pace Factors
104 vs. Toronto
102 vs. Cleveland
99 vs. Portland
93 vs. New Jersey (blowout vs. a slow team)

And, Indiana is attacking the offensive glass to an extreme degree rather than just standing around to see if a ball bounces to them. Put that on the court against teams who are just going through the motions, or who come in a bit flat-footed, and it can certainly lead to success over the short term. Maybe it's best to say that Indiana's dramatic increase in offensive rebound rate is partially a "symptom" of a new high energy approach rather than a "cause" of their 4-0 start...under a coach who emphasizes offensive rebounding much more than his predecessor did.

Tuesday Night, Indiana visited the Miami Heat...a team unlikely to just go through the motions. Miami is in the heart of a playoff chase, and Indiana beat them on this floor earlier in the season!

MIAMI 117, INDIANA 112
Fast Tempo (thru 3 quarters at least)
29.7 Offensive Rebound Rate for Indiana

The Pace Factor will register in the mid to high 90's when you see the game box here at the site Wednesday. Indiana led by as many as 14 points in the second half, possibly catching Miami a bit flat footed. But, LeBron James and his 41 points helped rally the Heat to victory.

Indiana just missed the 30.0 threshold in offensive rebound rate (though you can round up if you want!). Another very solid game on the boards. 

For now, the Pacers are playing with enthusiasm, energy, and a new level of confidence that should put them in good stead vs. poor teams just going through the motions. They gave Miami quite a thrill Tuesday, and may do that to a few more contenders. A month of decent results might be enough to clinch a playoff spot in the thin Eastern Conference. More about the race for the last few Eastern slots in future articles.

Transition Points

*Atlanta figured out how to take a week off before the All-Star Break even gets here. The Hawks basically no-showed a Tuesday Night game vs. Philadelphia, losing 117-83 at HOME vs. a team they were favored to beat (though not in blowout fashion because Al Horford was out with a bad back). They don't play again until Saturday. They really didn't play Tuesday night!

The Hawks only have three games between now and February 22nd. Truly an extended All-Star Break.

Is it fair to use the term "no-show?" Atlanta let Philadelphia shoot 61% on two-point shots (40 of 66), got outrebounded 50-34, and finished up in less than two hours and 20 minutes...about 10 minutes earlier than the norm. They were down 33-15 after a quarter, and 65-33 at the half. Anyone want to make the case Philadelphia is THAT good?!

Amazing, this wasn't Atlanta's worst home losing margin of the season. The Hawks dropped a prior no-show 100-59 to New Orleans (on night one of a b2b, where they came back to win night two in Washington)

*The LA Clippers dropped another road game Tuesday with a 101-85 loss at Orlando. Some quick Clipper records of note:

3-18 on the road
2-16 outside California
2-6 since Eric Gordon got hurt
5-7 since beating the Lakers

The margin for error was thin during the best of times, with basically a three-man team making a lot of hay during an extended period of limited travel. Now a two-man team is showing how far the franchise has to go before becoming anything beyond an alley-oop show.

Orlando was game three of an 11-game Clippers road trip that extends through the ASB (though the finale is in their home arena as a "road" team against the Lakers). The Clips take the floor again Wednesday in New York.

*Nice result for Memphis Tuesday night. After losing Monday to the Lakers, they rebounded on the road against rested hermit Oklahoma City (no games Monday or Wednesday) 105-101 in overtime.

That's a fatigue spot that had been burdening many a team in recent days...and an overtime win over the team that was supposedly invincible in overtime!

Memphis is 9-3 the last 12 games. One loss was to the Lakers, while another was on the road in overtime at Houston. Memphis is 10-3-3 at the end of regulation the last 16, meaning only three 48-minute losses in a larger hunk.  Oklahoma City joins Orlando on the recent list of impressive victims.

If Denver trades Carmelo Anthony, we'll have to think about bumping Memphis up to the Superleague...

Bookmark and Share DotnetKicks dotnetshoutout

Why Jim O'Brien Was Fired

by Jeff Fogle 1. February 2011 01:08

The day after Jim O'Brien was shown the door, the Indiana Pacers ended a six-week slump with a 104-93 Monday night win over the Toronto Raptors...

After starting the season 11-10, with extremely impressive road victories over Miami and the LA Lakers (!!), the Pacers had dropped 17 of 23 games in such ugly fashion that management decided a change had to be made. O'Brien had already been considered a lame duck coach because rumors suggested his contract wouldn't be renewed at the end of the 2010-11 campaign. The team was playing like the season didn't matter.

Last 23 Games:

Efficiency Averages: 99.1 on offense, 104.9 on defense
Efficiency Medians: 96.9 on offense, 103.3 on defense

(Efficiency is points scored and allowed per 100 possessions)

To give you some context, there is no offense right now in the league that's as bad as 96.9 in efficiency for the season. Cleveland was league worst at 97.1 entering Monday action. Milwaukee was second worst at 98.1. For more than a month and a half, Indiana had the worst offense in the NBA. I didn't see anyone report that in the mainstream media. But, THAT'S the crux of why he was fired. Even if management didn't sit around punching numbers into a calculator all day...the worst offense in the league is something they could see with their own eyes as they watched the games.

The defense, which had started the year very well (inspiring me to write about it at the time), had drifted back to about league average. You can't win with a horrible offense and an average defense. Maybe you're slightly better than New Jersey and Washington (two of O'Brien's six recent victims, with horrible Cleveland being another). You're not going to qualify for a playoff spot, even in the East where it's easier to get a seventh or eighth seed.

All of this was largely happening off the media radar. Indiana's just not part of the league's presentation right now. In fact, some were surprised because casual glances at the playoff picture showed that Indiana might still be a factor:

Eastern Race At Time of Firing:
7th spot: Philadelphia 21-26
8th spot: Charlotte 20-26
9th spot: Milwaukee 19-26
10th spot: Indiana 17-27

The Pacers were only two games away from the playoffs when O'Brien was let go. If you've mostly been watching football the past several weeks, it looks like Indiana fired a respected coach who was on the verge of making the playoffs! Instead, they fired a coach who's abysmal offense had just gone 6-17 to put the team in danger of not even competing for that eighth and final spot.

Note that Indiana's win Monday, coupled with a Charlotte loss at Utah, puts the Pacers just a game out of eighth place.

A win over Toronto doesn't mean you're ready to take the world by storm. But, new coach Frank Vogel (no relation, lol) will at least have a chance to turn things around and make a run at the Eastern playoffs.

Transition Points

*Charlotte's loss at Utah was a 83-78 yawner. But, it was notable because it represented another good defensive game for Utah!

We talked last week about the horrible defensive performances from the Jazz on their Eastern swing, then in TV games vs. the Lakers and Spurs. Two things happened after that Spurs game. Deron Williams had to miss some time with an injury, and the team started playing defense!

100 points allowed to Minnesota, 99.0 efficiency
96 points allowed to Golden State, 104.3 efficiency
78 points allowed to Charlotte, in what will grade out as one of the best defensive performances of the year obviously

That compares to:
116.1 defensive efficiency at Washington
104.4 defensive efficiency at New Jersey
119.6 defensive efficiency at Boston
103.2 defensive efficiency at Philadelphia
125.0 defensive efficiency at the LA Lakers
115.5 defensive efficiency vs. San Antonio

The six-game average was 113.9. The midpoints were the 115.5 and 116.1 marks.

It's dangerous to make knee-jerk reactions to something like this. But, obviously the team is playing MUCH better defense with Deron Williams in street clothes. Either everyone's rising to the occasion, or he wasn't doing as much as he should have been when the other team had the ball during that recent stretch.

*Utah's win was even more impressive because it came on night two of a back-to-back. Charlotte was in a hermit spot, meaning they didn't play Sunday, and won't play Tuesday. Other "hermits" vs. "b2b's" the last few days:

Monday:
Rested New Jersey beat tired Denver 115-99

Sunday:
Rested Phoenix beat tired New Orleans 104-102
Rested LA Clippers beat Charlotte 103-88

Saturday:
Rested Dallas beat tired Atlanta 102-91

Friday:
Rested Detroit almost upset tired Miami in an 88-87 loss
Rested Phoenix beat tired Boston 88-71

Some one-sided victory margins in there (with some big name teams going down), and Miami's close game was expected to be a blowout. There's a school of thought that says back-to-back fatigue becomes more of a factor the deeper you get into a season (because of cumulative fatigue in addition to short-term fatigue). Let's keep an eye on that between now and the All-Star break, when everyone will finally get a chance to rest up a bit.

*Orlando lost another game where three-point accuracy wasn't great and inside defense was soft...falling to Memphis 100-97 Monday night.

Treys: 8 of 32, 25% (38% adjusted)
2-Point Defense: 36 of 65, 55% allowed to Memphis

Hedo Turkoglu did make it to three field goals though. The Magic are almost an automatic loss if he only makes two or less. They needed a bit more from him tonight. Amazing...Dwight Howard played 45 minutes, yet the team still allowed a very high two-point percentage.

See you again Tuesday night...

Bookmark and Share DotnetKicks dotnetshoutout

The Indiana Pacers A Good Defensive Team?

by Jeff Fogle 14. December 2010 13:21

The Indiana Pacers are seen as a team that has to hit three-pointers to post impressive results. They’re not seen as great defenders, or very athletic. Sure, they have a few athletes. But, the team as a whole doesn’t seem to measure up to playoff contenders in terms of physicality, so they have to outshoot everybody.

 

If you see the Pacers win big, you naturally assume they hit a bunch of treys. That 144-113 victory over Denver earlier this season is a great example. Indiana made more treys in the third quarter than some teams make on a homestand…and finished 16 of 30 from long range.

 

Last week’s 124-100 rout of Toronto saw the Pacers make 13 of 26 from behind the arc. If the Pacers are winning, they’re hitting treys. That’s the generalization anyway.

 

What’s been ignored this year, because Indiana is such a low profile team, is that the Pacers have made significant strides on defense. Had their victories over Miami (93-77) and the LA Lakers (95-92) on the ROAD been national TV games, this would have garnered more attention.

 

DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY (points allowed per 100 possessions)

2008-09: 106.5 (19th in the league)

2009-10: 104.2 (15th in the league)

2010-11: 100.5 so far (9th in the league)

 

Moving into the top 10 is a big improvement. But, their current league ranking is actually misleading. The Pacers are playing BETTER than that lately. Indiana started the season very poorly on defense, but has really kick things up a notch in recent weeks. As I write this, Boston leads the NBA in defensive efficiency with 96 points allowed per 100 possessions. Note how often Indiana is playing top-quality defense of late. And, remember that 104 is about league average this year.

 

11/18 to 11/23: 94, 97, 81, 95

That’s four strong outings that include a big effort at Orlando, and that stunning upset of the Miami Heat. It’s basically a stretch where the Pacers had turned into the Celtics defensively!

 

11/26 to 12/1: 105, 96, 99, 122

Definitely a step back here, but the 122 came at Utah on night two of a back-to-back. It’s not uncommon to see defense disappear in fatigue spots…particularly on the road against top teams in the Western Conference (where the trips are longer). That 105 jumps out in a sequence with 90’s, but it’s just a shade worse than league average. Note that the 96 was the road victory over the Lakers.

 

12/3 to present: 104, 96, 102, 93, 102, 100

None of the six games was worse than average.

 

The three hunks combined give us 13 samples to look at. The median recent performance was a 97. Two of the five nights that exceeded 100 were the second night of back-to-backs. Give Indiana fresh legs, and they’re going to defend! And, based on what we’ve seen the last three weeks, they’re going to guard you even tougher than that 9th ranking in the league suggests. The Pacers won’t be bullied any more.

 

If this is a new characteristic of the team, the Eastern Conference playoffs just got a bit more interesting…

Bookmark and Share DotnetKicks dotnetshoutout

Who Should Start at Power Forward in Indiana?

by Eno Sarris 25. October 2010 13:50

There’s a job open in Indiana, and given their fast pace, three-heavy Jim O’Brien offense, fantasy owners should be interested. The competitors for the power forward spot there are Josh McRoberts and Tyler Hansbrough, two very different players, so it’s probable that one is more suited to the role than the other – and that we can use HoopData’s stats to figure out who that candidate is.

Next to them in the paint will stand Roy Hibbert, and although he’s been playing well this preseason, he does have some flaws to his game. Despite being large (7’2” and 278 lbs.), Hibbert is actually just an average rebounder for his position. He upped his total rebound rate (TRR) to 15.5 last year, and the average center sported a 14.8 rate. And that includes all of the centers in the game – if you sort for centers that played 25+ minutes a game, the average rebounding rate is 15.8. And he used to be worse.

So a strong rebounder in the four would be a good thing for this team, it seems. The problem is that neither McRoberts nor Hansbrough fits this need. McRoberts hasn’t seen a ton of minutes on the court, but in 12.5 minutes per game last year – the most in his career – his TRR was 13.2. Hansbrough’s, achieved in 17.6 minutes a game, was 14.8. The average power forward? 14.3 TRR (14.8 TRR for 25+ mpg).

But this is also a team that took the third-most threes in the league last year, so three-point shooting gives a slight nod in McRoberts’ direction. He hit 34.8% of his threes last year – barely above the break-even point (33.3%) – and once hit 38.5% of his threes at Duke. Then again, his last year saw him shoot 21.7% from three, so it’s no open-and-shut case even here.

McRoberts is only an inch taller than Hansbrough, but in one facet of the game he plays bigger. Last year, he was blocked on 8.9% of his shots – Hansbrough got rejected 13.8% of the time. Neither is particularly good at this facet of the game – the average is 6.6% at their position (6.3% for 25+ mpg) – but McRoberts is not a Blocks Allowed machine like Hansbrough. In fact, Hansbrough was 12th in the league in this dubious stat last year, and of the players ahead of him on that list, only Joel Pryzbilla and Chuck Hayes averaged more than 20 minutes per game. Whatever it might be, that's not 'playing large.'

Defense favors Hansbrough, though. The D was 1.45 points better than average with the Carolina option, while it was 1.67 points worse than average with the Duke option. For a team with a negative overall rating on defense but was also 15th overall in defensive efficiency per John Hollinger, it’s unclear how much of a priority this is. While it is worth noting that McRoberts was better than average in 2008-2009, that rating came in so few minutes (8.3) that it’s hard to put too much stock in it. The difference may be real - McRoberts has never had a reputation as a strong defender.

Unlike our first couple of spotlights, this one doesn’t have a neat ending. Both have shown the ability to score, but McRoberts has more range. Both are middling rebounders, but Hansbrough has the slight edge. Both aren’t monsters of the paint, but McRoberts doesn’t get blocked at twice the average rate for a four. Both are close to scratch defenders, but Hansbrough once again owns a slight edge. McRoberts has been starting in the preseason (6.2 rebounds in 22.6 MPG), but Hansbrough (4.5 rebounds in 18.75 mpg) was working his way back from injury and recently has been stealing time from him.

For fantasy owners in deeper leagues looking for value from their sleeper, McRoberts is the pick. Yahoo has Hansbrough ranked 178th going into the season, and McRoberts at 245th. If the race is as close as it seems here, that’s a lot of value going much later in the draft.

For Pacers fans wondering who their power forward should be, they’re just going to have to wait. More time on the court should sort out the difference between these two players when it comes to rebounding and defense, the two places where the edges are the slightest.

Bookmark and Share DotnetKicks dotnetshoutout
Archive | FeedSubscribe | Log in