Observation Deck (cont.)
Posted: Monday April 30, 2007 12:18PM; Updated: Tuesday May 1, 2007 1:28AM
San Antonio's Bruce Bowen is hounding Nugget guard Allen Iverson to the tune of 40.3 percent shooting and 23.7 points per game. But as a result, Carmelo Anthony is flourishing. The Nuggets scorer is throwing in 28 a game, and he's made 6 of 11 three-pointers (after hitting 40 of 149, 27 percent, during the regular season). Better yet, Anthony is pulling in 10 rebounds per contest, after a tough regular season that saw him go months without a double-double.
It isn't first-time playoff jitters, or shot-happy point guards, or a lack of energy --- the real reason Toronto's Chris Bosh is having an up-and-down postseason is the defensive play of New Jersey's Jason Collins. Bosh is averaging just under 18 points per game on 43 percent shooting, down from a regular season that saw him throw in 22.6 points per game while making half his shots. Though Bosh has had his moments during Toronto's first-round series, Collins' athletic defense, exemplary footwork and exquisite timing has kept the Raptor big man from taking over.
Collins continues to be underrated. We're not saying he should be playing 30 minutes a night; his pathetic offense and poor rebounding can hurt a team in the long run. But he's as good a defensive player as this league boasts. The idea that he garnered zero Defensive Player of the Year votes (or, one less than Kobe Bryant), that hurts.
Of course, 'Melo could average 38 a game, and he wouldn't top the sort of series Jason Kidd is having. In case you forgot: 13.8 points per game, 13.5 assists per game, 11.2 rebounds per game. And just 12 turnovers in 147 minutes.
New Jersey's depth is suspect, Richard Jefferson is gimpy and inconsistent, while Vince Carter nearly defines mercurial -- it's apparent Kidd must produce a superhuman postseason for the Nets to make an extended run.
Looks like the Nets are making an extended run.
You may not see him again until next October, so behold the steady Antonio Daniels while you can. The Washington guard is averaging 11.7 assists for a Wizards team struggling to score without its two best players, and he's turned it over just five games despite having the ball in his hands on nearly every possession and playing 46 minutes a game.
The Wizards may get swept by the Cavaliers on Monday night, but the team's offensive showing has to bode well for the future -- especially if they turn in another defensive stinker in 2007-08. In spite of a rash of players getting extended touches for the first time all season (or, in their career), the Wizards are turning the ball over just 7.67 times a contest, best in the playoffs thus far.
They run, scramble, and have the Mavericks on the ropes, but the Warriors are no Phoenix Suns clone. Don Nelson's crew is averaging just 14.3 assists per game, lowest among playoff teams, just about half of Phoenix's league-leading 28 per game. The mark is just another way of pointing out how much Nellie loves his one-on-one mismatches.
Random underrated 1970s big man signing that probably only entertains me: Rich Kelley at Sunday night's Mavericks/Warriors thriller.
A recent trend you shouldn't pay much attention to: commentators pointing to field goal defense allowed as a way of gauging defensive aptitude.
Now, it certainly helps a team's defensive case if it holds the opponent to a certain mark from the floor, but it's far from an end-all stat. For instance, Chicago led the NBA in field goal percentage allowed during the 2005 and 2006 seasons, but were those Bulls teams the best defensive team in the NBA? Hardly. Scott Skiles' team sent its opponents to the free throw line at an alarming rate, and its rash of turnovers on the other end allowed for several extra possessions per game in which the opponents could throw in a bucket or six. Neither of these realities can be accounted for when pointing to field goal percentage defense.
At the end of the day, just go with points allowed, adjusted for pace, as your end-all. Ironically, Chicago led the NBA in that stat in 2006-07, despite finishing second to the Houston Rockets for the lead in field goal percentage defense. The difference this season? More calls going in Chicago's favor, and less chance for the opponents to alter the score from the line.