Are the New York Knicks For Real?

by Omar Shaik 16. November 2012 19:03

While it's still early in the NBA season, the New York Knicks have looked very impressive so far. Their performance is even more impressive when you factor in the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy on the NYC metropolitan area, prompting the cancellation of the Knicks' season opener against the Brooklyn Nets. Indeed, when the Knicks finally got on the court and blew out the Miami Heat, I wondered whether their energetic, feisty performance was a cathartic release of the city's frustration stemming from the hurricane. New Yorkers were in misery, and the Knicks were determined to give them something to celebrate.

As the Knicks continued to blow out 2011 playoff teams, my original hypothesis became increasingly less likely. No, the Knicks aren't simply playing hard for the beleaguered Sandy victims; they simply are very good. They are dominating on both ends, coming in first in Points Scored per 100 possessions and second in Points Allowed per 100 possessions through six games. They were the first team in the last 25 years to start 5-0 with double-digit victories. After narrowly defeating the Spurs on the road in a tough, playoff-like atmosphere, their average margin of victory is now 13.67 points, which is the best differential in the NBA. They are winning by the largest average margin in the NBA despite having played one of the toughest schedules. Their SRS (Simple Rating System), which incorporates both schedule strength and margin of victory, is an incredibly high 15.13, albeit only through six games. For comparison, the best full season SRS in NBA history belongs to the famous 72-win '96 Bulls, at 11.80.

Does this mean the Knicks are better than the '96 Bulls? Not even close in all likelihood, but it provides a good indication of just how shockingly dominant they've been in this young season. I say shockingly because it has been my conviction that any team built around Carmelo Anthony, because of his over-commitment to offense and under-commitment to defense, will always have an upper limit on its potential success. This conviction has served me well for the last 9 years, as Anthony's teams have alternated between mild success and unmitigated disaster.

This year could finally buck this trend. New York brought in multiple reputed defenders that could fit seamlessly into Coach Mike Woodson's defensive system, which was already one of the best defenses in the NBA last year. NBA teams primarily pay for points per game, so players who carry tremendous defensive value can often be signed for bargain-bin prices. Ronnie Brewer holds opposing players to a 36.1% FG%, according to Synergy Sports Technology, yet he's only costing the Knicks $1 million this season. To put Brewer's defense into context, note that All-NBA defender LeBron James is allowing players to shoot 31.3% against him.

Despite fielding one of the best defenses in the NBA last year, the Knicks parted with some of their worst defenders, such as Mike Bibby, Toney Douglas, and Bill Walker. They replaced them with better defenders in Brewer, Kidd, and Pablo Prigioni. Although Prigioni is new to the NBA, he has held opposing players to a 41% FG% so far, the same as Jason Kidd. The defensive emphasis from Coach Woodson has also influenced notoriously lazy defenders such as Carmelo, Felton, and J.R. Smith to buy in, at least so far. Indeed, Felton is holding opposing players to an even lower FG% than Brewer, at 30.9%, while Carmelo is holding players to a commendable 39%. Even JR Smith has been active defensively, as opposing players shoot 43% against him.

This defensive solidarity will be tested when Amare Stoudemire returns to action. Last year, the Knicks were significantly better with Carmelo, without Amare (+6.3 differential), than when they played together (-1.8 differential). Amare has suffered from major leg injuries throughout his career, which has sapped his lateral mobility, negatively affecting his defense. It could be a challenge for New York to maintain its league-leading defense with Amare playing extensive minutes. In addition, because some Knicks players are on the wrong side of 35, durability could become a concern, and their defensive tenacity could wane as the season moves along. It is also possible that the players' interest in exerting energy defensively could decline, too. This was a factor in their game against Orlando on Tuesday night, in which Carmelo repeatedly left shooters open and lost his player on back-cuts. This prompted Coach Woodson to call Carmelo over to scold him for these lapses, so it is uncertain whether Carmelo will actually play this level of defense for a whole year.

Even though the Knicks' defense was built by the GM to last, the offense remains unproven. Many players are scoring more accurately than they ever have. Jason Kidd shot 36% from the field over the last 2 seasons, and is somehow currently shooting 59%. This will not continue. Likewise, Ronnie Brewer is shooting 47% from 3, even though he has always struggled with his jump shot in the past. Ultimately, an offense that features Carmelo (Career FG% = 45.6%), Felton (41.2%), and J.R. Smith (42.8%) taking 50 shots a game is not likely to maintain its current top-7 FG% of 56%. In fact, last year the Knicks shot 44% as a team (18th in the NBA) with many of the same key players, so time will tell if things come back to Earth in New York.

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18-60, 18-64

by Jeff Fogle 19. April 2011 23:56

No, we're not talking about the Abraham Lincoln presidency. We're talking about the lack of weaponry in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Knicks not named Carmelo Anthony were 18 of 60 from the floor tonight in Boston. Magic not named Dwight Howard were 18 of 64 from the floor vs. Atlanta. Orlando won anyway!

(If you're a historical nitpicker, I know Lincoln was president from 1861 to 1865. Close enough!)

That strikes me as the biggest difference between the brackets here in the first few days of 2011 playoff action. Western Conference teams have a variety of weapons, and do their best to make sure those weapons have a chance to impact the game. Eastern teams spend a lot of time clanking shots!

You already know about 18-60 and 18-64. Also:

*If you throw out Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer, the rest of the Bulls were 15 of 56 Monday vs. Indiana.

*76ers not named Thaddeus Young were 19 of 59 Monday at Miami.

*Magic not named Howard or Jameer Nelson were 8 of 34 Saturday vs. Atlanta

*Four different Eastern teams have shot 39% or worse in a game thus far, and we're in the early stages of the first round where defense hasn't clamped down as hard as it will later on when everything is on the line.

It's not beautiful basketball in the East, but What Anthony and Howard accomplished tonight were things of beauty.

*Anthony scored 42 points and grabbed 17 rebounds as a one-man wrecking crew for the Knicks. Chauncey Billups missed the game with a knee injury. Amare Stoudemire could only play 18 minutes because of back spasms (and he was only 2 of 9 from the field because of the discomfort). We saw some of the worst of Anthony in Game One. Tonight the offensive superstar stepped forward and carried the load in valiant fashion.

*Howard scored 33 points and had 19 rebounds in Orlando's must-win victory over the Hawks. He was 9 of 12 from the field, and 15 of 19 from the free throw line. If he can shoot like that from the free throw line more regularly, the Magic may yet become relevant in the Eastern championship picture.

Let's run a few difference-making boxscore stats...

BOSTON 96, NEW YORK 93
Shooting Pct: New York 36%, Boston 47%
1's and 2's: New York 69, Boston 78
Turnovers: New York 12, Boston 10

I picked out the stats Boston won since they took the game. New York had an amazing rebounding performance, with a 53-37 edge overall...highlighted by 20 offensive rebounds and a 41.6 offensive rebound rate. New York also won made free throws 21-12 thanks to Carmelo's peak performance.

CONSISTENCIES IN THE SERIES

Treys: New York 8/23 and 8/25, Boston 5/13 and 6/11
1's and 2's margin: Boston by 11 and 9

FLUCTUATIONS IN THE SERIES

Rebounding: Boston by 10, New York by 16
Made FT's: Boston by 1, New York by 9

Kinda funny. Often you see treys fluctuate, while stuff like rebounding and FT advantages hold more firm because the power elements are more consistent.

Boston leads the series 2-0. But, it could easily be 2-0 the other way except for a couple of plays here and there.

ORLANDO 88, ATLANTA 82
Free Throws: Atlanta 11/17, Orlando 29/36
Rebounds: Atlanta 39, Orlando 52

You know...Orlando didn't have a lot going for them tonight outside those two stats! Atlanta won shooting percentage (40-35%), treys (7-5), and turnovers (15-16).

Rather than a key stat, the game...and ultimately the series may have swung on a key hustle play by J.J. Redick in the second quarter. With about 8:20 left, Atlanta held a 32-23 lead, and a cloud of doom had settled over the arena. It felt like Saturday all over again. Not much life from the Magic or the crowd. Jameer Nelson had just had a 4-foot shot blocked. JJ Redick stole the ball from Kirk Hinrich with a rolling floor burn flourish...kind of spinning on his torso at the same time to dish to Nelson for a layup.

It's hard to describe. And, if you see a replay it might strike you simply as a nice hustle play rather than rolling through a ring of fire. But, something about the spirit at that moment of time said "HELL NO, WE'RE NOT GOING DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT" in a way that everybody got. The crowd came to life. Credit the NBA-TV announers for noting at the moment that it felt like a tide turning play. Over the next few Orlando possessions:

Howard layup and a fist pump
Howard dunk and a crowd roar
Howard makes two free throws
Howard layup after two team offensive rebounds
Howard makes one free throw after two team offensive rebounds

ENERGY!

32-23 Atlanta was suddenly a 34-all tie. Orlando would end up leading at the half 48-42...making it 25-10 from the moment Redick dove on the floor. The second half was a 40-40 tie. That surge was the ballgame.

The series is now tied 1-1.

Joe tweeted that he probably won't be able to have the expanded boxscores up until morning. I'm aiming to be back around midnight with stats and notes from Portland/Dallas... 

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Overlooked: NY Stopped Running!

by Jeff Fogle 21. March 2011 23:53

I've been trying to catch up with the slumping New York Knicks. Like many of you, I was closely following March Madness over the weekend. I knew the Knicks were losing. I knew Carmelo Anthony was pouting, then hiding. I knew that the stars were talking about "needing time" and thinking more about "next season." The media and fans following the team have been documenting all of that. But, nobody's talking about something that seems very important in terms of the immediate and longterm future. The Knicks have stopped running!

I was browsing the great knickerblogger.net website today trying to get a read on the mood of avid Knicks follwers and fans. One theme kept jumping out. Fans were saying that the team had become boring to watch. Before the trade, the Knicks would play with passion, and at least put on a show when they were losing. Now, they were like too many other teams. Boring. Plodding. No fun to watch.

I went to the Knicks team page here at hoopdata to check out recent pace totals. It was as plain as day. For the season, New York is one of the fastest teams in the league, clocking in at 98.2 possessions per game though Sunday (click here for the latest pace factors, click on the category to sort). Tthe last there entries on the log Monday afternoon...92-92-92.

In fact, the change in form actually goes back longer than three games. But, it's hidden a bit by a 104 that pops up against fast tempo Indiana. Let's run some numbers.

Just After the Trade (opponent's seasonal pace thru Sunday):
99 possesions vs. Milwaukee (92.3)
106 possessions vs. Cleveland (96.2)
97 possessions vs. Miami (93.0)
102 possessions vs. Orlando (94.1)

Hold up here. New York was still running at this point. That's a characteristic of a Mike D'Antoni coached team. They play so fast they lift their opponents to a pace factor that's higher than the norm. Slowpokes Milwaukee and Miami shoot up to the high 90's. Cleveland and Orlando are closer to leage average. They shoot up into the 100's. D'Antoni teams run. In the first four games after the trade, they were still running.

Continuing in chronological order:

90 possessions vs. New Orleans (90.9)
94 possessions vs. Cleveland (96.2)
91 possessions vs. Atlanta (92.1)
101 possessions vs. Utah (94.2)
95 possessions vs. Memphis (95.1)
98 possessions vs. Dallas (92.6)
99.5 possessions in 2 games vs. Indiana (97.6)
92 possessions vs. Memphis (95.1)
92 possessions vs. Detroit (91.4)
92 possessions vs. Milwaukee (92.3)

It's like somebody flicked a switch. Instead of forcing D'Antoni's tempo on opponents...the Knicks were suddenly playing to their opponent's tempo. They'd play halfcourt games with halfcourt teams. They'd go along with a faster pace against somebody like Indiana. The only uncharacteristically fast games were against Utah...which was garbage time the whole second half, and Dallas, which saw both teams on night two of a back-to-back (and 4th game in 5 nights) and distinterested in defense.

Or, we can show it this way.

New York Pace Factors:
98.2 for the season (second fastest in the NBA)
96.5 the last 15 games (since the trade)
95.4 the last 7 games
92.0 the last 3 games

Monday night's game with Boston was another slow one that will be in the same neighborhood as the recent stragglers. Boston was at 92.8 for the year entering Monday. New York played to their pace.

The recent slump is not a case of the new Knicks having trouble adjusting to D'Antoni's style.  D'Antoni's style has been thrown out the window!

We're on the outside looking in. And, those on the inside aren't always open about what's happening when a switch gets flicked like this. This does seem like a meaningful development.

It's not like Carmelo isn't used to pace. Entering Monday action, Denver--his old team--ranked just behind the Knicks in the #3 spot in tempo at 98.0. Whether it's to save themselves for the playoffs, or because depth is lacking after the trade, or because somebody somewhere is being obstinate, a Mark D'Antoni team has stopped running. That's news.

Transition Points

*If you've read the mainstream recaps of Monday's Boston-New York game, you know that both Carmelo and Amare Stoudemire were held scoreless in the fourth quarter. New York led by 14 at the half, and by 6 after three quarters. Boston won the fourth quarter 33-17, the second half 59-35. Just a squash once Boston got serious.

New York is now 1-6 its last seven games, and lost the fourth quarter badly (26-14) in the game before that skid started (a 110-108 win at Memphis). If Toney Douglas doesn't hit a bunch of treys, the Knicks just aren't very scary.

*Denver returned home from an Eastern swing to obliterate Toronto 123-90. They were far from embarrassed in road losses to Orlando and Miami last week in a back-to-back. Stepping back down in class, they returned to their prior bullying form. The new Nuggets aren't having much trouble adjusting to their new team.

*New York and Toronto were both playing in back-to-back spots tonight against teams who were off on Sunday. Utah was as well, and they lost by 18 at Memphis. Sacramento was too, and they lost by 40 at Chicago. Let's throw in Golden State. They lost by 15 at San Antonio even though Tim Duncan left early with a sprained ankle. Only the Nets didn't lose big with a fatigue disadvantage, falling by only four points at home to Indiana.

If you're trying to statistically assess the punitive value of a back-to-back spot, remember that cumulative fatigue can create some very ugly results in the latter stages of the season.

*Stephon Curry only played 20 minutes for Golden State tonight. The game write-up didn't mention an injury. But, with the Warriors falling off the map lately (4-12 since the All-Star Break), an injury to Duncan is going to dominate the news.

Curry's poor defense is really exposed vs. quality teams. Tony Parker took 15 shots for the Spurs and had 15 assists in 34 minutes. Obviously Parker was getting a lot done vs. whoever his counterpart was at the time.

Golden State falls to 30-41 in what was supposed to be a turnaround year. Last year they were 20-51 after 71 games...so they actually have shown significant improvement. Estimates of 41 wins, or even 50 wins were way off base. Tough to make huge leaps forward without acquiring a superstar, or hiring one of the handful of coaches that can instantly install a stellar defense.   

*The NBA moved its TNT doubleheader from Thursday to Tuesday this week so as not to go up against the Sweet 16. Back late Tuesday to discuss Chicago/Atlanta and some other topics.

*All sorts of college basketball analytical strategies and methodologies took a hit in the first weekend of the Big Dance. Perhaps the next step in the stathead universe is to develop better ways to anticipate peak or valley three-point performance in the college game. Basic efficiency (points scored or allowed per 100 possessions) help you see peaks and valleys in the past. Is there a way to anticipate one or the other in a neutral site playoff style game?

Of note from the weekend:

--Florida State was 9 of 19 (47%) on treys in their upset of Notre Dame. The Irish were just 7 of 30 (23%)

--Arizona was 8 of 14 (57%) on treys in their upset of Texas. The Horns were just 3 of 14 (21%)

--Marquette was 5 of 11 (45%) on treys in their upset of Syracuse. The Orange were just 5 of 15 (33%)

--Ohio State was 16 of 26 (62% an a very high volume) in their obliteration of George Mason.

--BYU was 14 of 28 (50% and a very high volume) in their blowout of Gonzaga

--UCLA was 3 of 13 (23%) in a loss to Florida.

--Morehead State was 2 of 14 (14%) in a loss to Richmond

--Duke was 5 of 20 (25%) in a two-point win over Michigan where the Blue Devils were heavily favored.

What strikes the naked eye as great play or horrible play...and the gut as drama...is often just the roulette wheel of three-point performance playfully tinkering with the brackets...

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97 Free Throws In Orlando!

by Jeff Fogle 2. March 2011 00:52

Star of the game honors when to referees Jason Phillips, David Jones, and Curtis Blair, who called 56 personal fouls...and four technical fouls on individual players...in Orlando's 116-110 victory over New York Tuesday Night.

The teams combined to shoot 97 free throws. You may have read recent basketball coverage talking about how Derrick Rose has been attacking the basket more. The evidence for this was a string of games where he was shooting around 8-10 free throws. Knicks point guard Chauncey Billups SHOT 20 FREE THROWS Tuesday night!

One guy shot 20 free throws. The two full teams in the New Orleans/Toronto game only shot 15 apiece.

Amare Stoudemire went to the line for 14 free throws. The Knicks were 39-47 as a team. Orlando didn't make as much hay as they could have, shooting 36-50 from the charity stripe.

This obviously represents a relapse of the defensive issues New York was having vs. Milwaukee and Cleveland. Though, you don't know how much of that was officiating style rather than slow reactions on defense. Troubles returned on perimeter defense as well, with Orlando shooting 8 of 18 on treys for 44.4% (equivalent of 67% on two's). The Knicks weren't disappointing on the defensive boards though. So, it wasn't a full scale relapse in areas we discussed in prior articles.

Carmelo Anthony's right elbow "issue" may start to become a bigger story. He was just 8 of 24 from the floor Tuesday night, including 1 of 5 from long range. That's 2 of 9 on treys the last two games. He's only hit 41% of his two point shots since joining the Knicks, well below past norms. Though, he did face three very strong defenses in his four games in Knickerbocker blue.

The much discussed "Carmelo effect" for increasing his teammates' shooting percentages hasn't shown up yet. Knicks not named Carmelo are 105-246 from the floor over the last four games for 42.6%. The caliber of defenses may be an influence obviously. Let's see what happens when the schedule softens.

That won't happen just yet. New York hosts the best defense in the West according to reader DSMok's schedule adjusted data Wednesday night when New Orleans comes to Madison Square Garden.

Transition Points

*Dallas won a tester at Philadelphia 101-93. The Sixers were able to step up well in class with a recent home win over San Antonio. They couldn't duplicate the feat here.

I haven't had a chance yet to check in on Peja Stojakovic's contributions to Dallas since he joined the team. A quick check shows 15 of 44 on threys for a disappointing 34%. Peja is a career 40% shooter on treys. The reason he was acquired was to provide an outside threat.

Worse, that 15 of 44 represents two great performances (4 of 6 at Houston and 4 of 5 vs. Utah), and eight lousy ones. Peja is 7 of 33 for just 21% in the other eight games.

It's not hurting the team much, as Dallas keeps winning anyway. Dallas has time to be patient.

*San Antonio also has time to be patient. They've got a huge lead for best overall record, which gives them some leeway to pick their spots now that Tony Parker is going to miss some time with a calf injury.

You didn't get the sense Tuesday's visit to Memphis was a high priority game. No starter played more than 27 minutes in San Antonio's 109-93 loss. They can earn a split in their Tuesday-Wednesday back-to-backer with a win at lowly Cleveland. No harm no foul if they take care of business in that one.

Let's keep an eye on the Spurs to see if they pick any more spots to coast through.

*What happened to Golden State? Maybe their big victories just before the All-Star Break were just data points in the "good teams aren't as focused as they should be before the layoff" line of thinking.

Golden State successes 1/30 to 2/15:
Beat Utah 96-81
Beat Chicago 101-90
Beat Denver 116-114
Beat Oklahoma City 100-94
Beat New Orleans 102-89
Beat Utah 107-100

Hello! That's about half the Western playoff brackets and an Eastern power. The Warriors had the clear look of a team on the rise given that caliber of opposition.

Golden State since the Break:
Lost to Boston 115-93
Lost to Atlanta 95-79
Lost to Minnesota 126-123
Lost to Indiana 109-100

The Warriors are 0-4 since the break..being non-competitive at home against Eastern playoff teams, then losing to very poor Minnesota, and being a non-entity in the fourth quarter against an Indiana team who had just lost at home to Utah and Phoenix.

It's like they got 15 points worse!

David Lee was supposedly ready to be his old self. The break was supposed to help undersized Stephon Curry freshen up.

In tonight's 9-point loss to Indiana:
Curry -19 in plus/minus
Lee -14 in plus/minus

In that recent 16-point loss to Atlanta:
Lee -30 in plus/minus
Curry -27 in plus/minus

Golden State visits Washington (considered "the cure for what ails you" around the league) on Wednesday night.

*Top Wednesday games: Chicago at Atlanta and New Orleans at New York. Back before midnight with some notes on what happened in those matchups and elsewhere on the card.

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Knicks Can't Defend Worst Offenses

by Jeff Fogle 26. February 2011 00:57

Since the Carmelo Anthony trade, the New York Knicks have faced the two worst offenses in the NBA, and made them look like two of the best offenses in the NBA.

The standards for offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) heading into Friday action:

League Leader: Denver 109.7
League Average: 104.3

The two worst offenses in the league:
Milwaukee: 98.4
Cleveland: 98.6

New York opened the Carmelo-era allowing 108 points on 99 possessions to Milwaukee for a 109.1 efficiency mark. Friday night they allowed 115 points to Cleveland at an even faster pace, which will end up projecting in the same neighborhood once the numbers are in the books.

There were concerns about New York's defense after the trade, given the very poor defensive reputations of Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, the age of Chauncey Billups, and the general lack of emphasis on defense from head coach Mike D'Antoni. Thus far, those concerns have been justified. New York has turned the two worst offenses into the equivalent of league leaders. What's going to happen when they face GOOD offenses?!

Problem areas thus far:

Fouling
New York put Milwaukee on the line 32 times Wednesday Night, then saw Cleveland march to the line 44 times Friday. It's worth noting that some of that Cavs total was a garbage-time free throw parade as the Knicks had to resort to desperation measures. Cleveland ended 31 of 44, but it was 26 of 38 with 24 seconds to go.

Milwaukee: 25 of 32
Cleveland: 26 of 38 pre-desperation

The Cavs didn't exploit their free throw opportunities as well as they could have. Both teams attacked the basket knowing they'd earn some trips to the charity stripe.

Perimeter Defense
The Bucks and Cavs combined to go 17 of 44 for 38.6% from behind the arc. The two have combined to hit about 34% for the year. You don't want to judge this stat too harshly on two games because it's a fickle category. But, early returns suggest the Knicks aren't great at denying open looks from long range.

Defensive Rebounding
Cleveland had a stunning 19 offensive rebounds Friday, compared to just 29 defensive rebounds for the Knicks. Remember when Indiana was grading out so well in the low 30% range in offensive rebound rate right after Frank Vogel took over? Cleveland was a fraction under 40% in that stat tonight. The Cavs would win the battle of the boards 62-42 overall.

Oh, Cleveland is the third worst offensive rebounding team in the league this season.

It's only two games. And, there are going to be growing pains whenever new players are thrown together with little preparation. The Knicks are likely to get better as they get more acquainted with each other. The problem is, two bad defending bigs and an aging guard getting better acquainted may not help the defensive rotations that much.

Offensively, Carmelo backed off a bit so Stoudemire could get some more shots.

Stoudemire: 27 shots, 3 assists, 31 points
Anthony: 22 shots, 3 assists, 27 points

Nobody can complain about the offensive production so far. But, the offensive production was fine before the trade. As we mentioned last week, New York's recent slump featured a playoff caliber offense but one of the worst defenses in the league during that stretch. Nothing new to report. New York was 6-11 their prior 17 games before the trade. Splitting with 22-35 Milwaukee, and 11-47 Cleveland is a continuation of that form.

New York just played a composite 223-223 two-game tie with opponents who are a combined 33-82 this season. That's where they stand heading into Sunday night's game at Miami.

Transition Points:

*Big result for Utah Friday, as the Jazz rebounded from recent woes with a 95-84 win at Indiana. Great to see such defensive intensity when it was missing for so long. Indiana was 13 of 47 shooting in the first half! And, it's not like the Pacers were just firing up bombs that were missing. Indiana was 0-5 on treys, 13 of 42 on two-pointers in the first two quarters.

The Pacers did keep crashing those offensive boards though, posting a 35.1 offensive rebound rate. Tyler Hansborough had 6 by himself on a 1 of 11 shooting night. Was he just grabbing his own misses and missing again?

First win for Tyrone Corbin. New Jazz Devin Harris had 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in 29 minutes (but 5 turnovers). Derrick Favors only played 15 minutes. The bulk of great defense came from the guys who weren't defending during that stretch we documented a few weeks ago. Maybe we'll find out what was going on behind the scenes sometime before 2015!

*Detroit only played six guys tonight because of the veteran revolt earlier in the day. Elton Brand of Philadelphia had 20 points and 16 rebounds in 29 minutes against the makeshift lineup. Kind of gives you a sense of what would happen if a D-League team had to play in the NBA, though Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva might take exception to the comparison.

How would Cleveland or Toronto (3-19 its last 22 games) do in the D-League? Don't contract, relegate!

*Evidence of teams prioritizing certain games at the expense of others:

Chicago allowed 118 points to horrible Toronto the night before playing Miami
Miami allowed 113 points to horrible Washington the night after playing Chicago

It was Chicago 93, Miami 89 when the Eastern powers went at each other's throats.

Did you see the footage of Chris Bosh pretending he got nailed near the throat? (More the jaw really, but this was a more artistic digression!) Maybe the 1 for 18 shooting was just him selling the concussion.

*Going to put the Superleague on the back burner for some time, or bring it back later in a different form. Several Western teams have surged in recent weeks in a way that made excluding them kind of crazy. The Knicks recent woes suggest they're borderline in the East until they get things in gear.

One of the challenges for analysts in the coming weeks will be differentiating in the West amongst Portland, Memphis, Denver, New Orleans, Phoenix, and Utah in terms of how well they're playing at the moment. Maybe you can throw Houston and Golden State in there too even though Golden State hasn't looked good in a game and a half (as I write this) since the break. And, maybe even the LA Clippers when Eric Gordon comes back and the team isn't on the road every night.

*Big TV games this weekend are:

Boston at the LA Clippers Saturday night on the NBA Network
LA Lakers at Oklahoma City Sunday on ABC
New York at Miami Sunday night on ESPN
Atlanta at Portland Sunday night (later) on ESPN
Boston at Utah Monday night on the NBA Network

See you again Monday night for a review...

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