Thoughts on OKC-Memphis, Indiana-New York, NBA names, and more

There’s no smooth way to introduce this, so I’ll resort to issuing a warning: it’ll become evident by the very end how bored I was while writing some of this up. Just trust me on that. Here’s what I came up with anyway:

Last thoughts on the first round

For Chicago, Jimmy Butler played every second of Game 6 and 7 versus Brooklyn. He wasn’t subbed out, ever. Kobe’s jealous.

Here’s a video of the 19-0 run Boston pulled versus New York:

In my post reflecting on the first round, I wrote this year might be the one where Kevin Harlan’s hair lights on fire. Had he called that Knicks-Celtics game, it surely would’ve happened.

Moving on

As unfortunate as the Russell Westbrook knee injury has been, it’s been fun to see what Kevin Durant is capable of when he’s the first and second option on offense. Since Westbrook’s injury, he’s averaged 35.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. 2006 Kobe is jealous.

Durant’s shooting percentages vary, with making 29 percent from the arc but 50.9 percent overall. He’s 85.7 from the line, which is below his 90.5 percentage from the regular season, but he’s getting to the line 10.2 times per game. That’s about an extra attempt than his regular season average. It’s a decent tradeoff.

Derek Fisher has to make just about every three he takes to justify playing his flop-heavy defense. Well, he’s made 58 percent so far. Good enough.

One of Memphis’ weaknesses on offense is making threes. They’re 24th in that area when it comes to shooting percentage, but the results have been pretty good when they make as many or more than their opponent, at least in the regular season. They were 9-1 when they made as many threes as their opponent, with the loss coming to the Clips. When they made more threes than their opponent, they were 19-6. Three losses came to Denver, one to the Clips, one to Oklahoma City, and one to, um, Washington? Huh?

It’s been a little different in the playoffs. Memphis is 1-1 (won Game 4 vs LAC, lost Game 2 vs LAC) when they’ve tied their opponent in threes made. Durant’s go-ahead bucket in Game 1 also put Memphis at 1-1 when they’ve made more threes than their opponent. Their win came in Game 6 versus the Clippers. We’ll see if that statistic changes throughout the series.

One last Memphis stat: in the Western Conference semifinals, Marc Gasol is knocking down one referee per game:

+1 for Bill Kennedy doing a reverse somersault.

Moving on to Indiana and New York. There was some talk, at least on Twitterslovakia, that the Knicks have nowhere to go but up as far as their shooting is concerned. In Game 1, Carmelo Anthony, Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton, and J.R. Smith combined to shoot 39.3 percent (26-66) from the field, 33 percent from 3 (5-15), and 16-19 from the line.

Smith’s shooting numbers since coming back from his suspension: 12-42 from the field, 6-17 from 3 and 14-18 from the line. He did have a huge layup + foul in Game 6 at Boston, but other than that he’s been forgettable. Also, Jason Kidd has been ghastly, going 3-12 from the arc and 3-18 total.

So the talk of Melo and the Knicks backcourt struggling is true, but Indiana didn’t exactly light it up either. In Game 1, the trio of David West, Paul George, and George Hill combined for 39.1 percent (18-46), 4-16 from 3, and 13-15 from the line. The contributions from the rest of the Pacers set them apart in the first game. D.J. Augustin, for heaven’s sake, came into Game 1 shooting below 30 percent in the first round against the Hawks and 35 percent for the whole season. He was 5-6 with four threes yesterday. During the season, Augustin took more than five shots 19 times. He only shot 50 percent or better in four of them.

Lance Stephenson has been a beast on the boards, logging more rebounds (61) than points (58). His defensive rebounding percentage versus the Hawks was 24.7, higher than the regular season percentages of Tyson Chandler, Andrew Bogut, and David Lee. Surely, that percentage went up after yesterday’s 11-point, 13-rebound (11 defensive) performance. Still waiting for it to update on Hurry up.

Update: that number jumped to 26.1 percent. When comparing defensive rebounding percentages in the playoffs, his rate surpasses the likes of Omer Asik, Andrew Bogut, and Larry Sanders.

And then there’s Roy Hibbert. Yesterday was proof that +/- differentials have their flaws. Hibbert was -1 in that area, but his defense was brilliant while chipping in on offense at just the right times. He logged 39 minutes. It was the second-highest total all year and second-highest of his postseason career, behind 39 minutes and 53 seconds against Miami in game 6 last postseason.

As Indiana has their hands full trying to defend Melo, so too will New York when trying to defend David West and Roy Hibbert. I predicted them to either lose to New York in five or beat them in six. It’s basically the difference between the unselfish, quick-ball-movement Knicks and the iso-heavy, this-is-why- I-don’t-like-you Knicks. It’s not like Indiana lit it up against Atlanta either, needing six games to finish them off.

If I had to pick between Melo and Paul George, I’d take George. Besides being six years younger, he’s more of a complete player. I know it’s crazy when thinking about defense, but it’s half the game and George has been terrific on that end. As a team, Indiana leads the league in defensive rating by nearly three points, 95.4 to Memphis’ second-place 98.1. When George is on the court, it drops to 94.9 but rises to 97.9 when he’s on the bench. A three-point swing on a team like Indiana’s has a little bit more weight.

But Melo attracts more attention. When he creates for others, the team is fun to watch and a little more likeable. Will we see that Knicks team this series or will they flame out versus Indiana?

This makes me feel a little better about my playoff predictions:

And last and definitely least, in one of the more degenerate statistics I’ve discovered, eight out of the top 30 players, according to ESPN’s #NBARank from April, have two first names. The list: Zach Randolph, Paul George, Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and LeBron James. What it all means: I need to get out more.

It’s pretty embarrassing to take a whole five minutes to research that, so I’ll deflect the attention back to Charles Barkley, who nearly broke a couch while trying to tackle Shaq Saturday night.


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