Friday Night Notes

by Jeff Fogle 23. April 2011 00:29

It felt like old times Friday night in the NBA playoffs...with the Boston Celtics reminding everyone why they represented the Eastern Conference in two of the last three league finals...and the Los Angeles Lakers reminding everyone why they're the two-time defending champs.

Here are some notes on the three Friday games, and the late starter Thursday between Dallas and Portland...

Boston jumped out to a big lead. The Knicks got within striking distance before halftime. But, then Boston just obliterated them in the third quarter and that was the ball game. Some quick notes:

*Amare Stoudemire continued to be bothered by a bad back. He tried to work through it...but he played like a guy with a bad back! Amare was 2 of 8 from the field. He only had 3 rebounds in 33 minutes. And, he had a staggering plus/minus of -34 in a game New York only lost by 17. The Knicks might as well have put a scarecrow a few feet off to the side of the basket. Very bad luck for Stoudemire and the Knicks that the back became an issue so early in the series. The loss of Chauncey Billups was a big enough blow. Stoudemire's inury basically ended the series. It's not like Carmelo Anthony could score 40 points every night.

*During the day I put together some notes on Carmelo's past high's and low's in big playoff series. He has very high peaks, but he tends to blow hot and cold. No reason to run those now. He was just 4 of 16 tonight, and had a plus minus of -27 in 35 minutes. Now I'll only add that the great thing about stars who play defense is that defense generally doesn't blow hot and cold in the playoffs.   

*Boston was 14 of 24 on treys. Fantastic performance, but not something teams can really do on purpose. They got open looks and shot a bit over their heads.

*Rajon Rondo had a triple double highlighted by 20 assists. This is a catch and shoot team. He was flying all over the court. New York's defenders were a step slow through most of the first half...then got demoralized once the game got out of hand. Boston's frontline starters made them pay.

Not much reason to run team stats in a game like this. The fourth quarter was garbage time. Boston's going to look super-efficient because of the 58% mark on treys. They're a known quantity, and what we saw tonight was the high end of the known quantity.

It's possible to love this series because of the drama. It's possible to hate this series because it's not pleasing to the eye. Kind of fitting that the clincher for Atlanta was a banked in three-pointer in the final seconds.

Not going to post any team numbers here either. Too ugly! And, too inconsistent. If I saw something that told the story of the series, I'd run it. More clues might be in the shot location data, but Joe's had problems getting those to convert into a usable form this week.

Worth noting I think that Orlando is 19 of 73 on treys for 26% in the series. Atlanta is doing a good job of guarding the perimeter (as our pre-playoff defensive profiles suggested they might--second best in the East and third best of all 16 playoff teams in that regard). If Orlando isn't making treys, they're not much of a team.

A surprise based on regular season data that Orlando is trailing two games to one. They ended the season with a +5.5 margin average. Atlanta was at -0.8. Neither team was greatly impacted by moves at the trade deadline, so those were regarded by many to be reasonable representations. Atlanta matches up well, and that's tossed the math out of the window. Orlando's been favored in every game, but has yet to establish any meaningful statistical or naked eye superiority.

Sharp form from the Lakers on offense, as their main six guys all shot near 50% or better from the field.

Kobe Bryant: 10 of 20
Pau Gasol: 7 of 13
Andrew Bynum: 6 of 13
Ron Artest: 4 of 8
Lamar Odom: 4 of 8
Derek Fisher: 3 of 4

It's a bit of a shame that Kobe took 20 shots and had only 2 assists on a night where his teammates were shooting so well. But, he definitely had some high impact baskets when things could have gotten interesting (and was 4 of 7 for the night on treys). And, this was really the first time in the playoffs (and the first time in a few weeks!) where the Lakers looked like championship material. This was the Lakers of the 17-1 run after the All-Star Break. Kobe was the authoritative leader of that team tonight.

Defense was a bit of a concern during a relaxed third quarter stretch. New Orleans scored 12 points in the first three-and-a-half minutes of the period (the same pace as a 40-plus point quarter) to cut a 12-point halftime deficit to 60-54. The Lakers refocused, and would hold the Hornets to just three field goals over the final six minutes of that stanza...then only 18 points in the fourth quarter.

Of note:

*The Lakers have won rebounding in all three games.

*The Lakers have won treys by a combined 17-10 margin.

*The Lakers have forced 16 and 14 turnovers after the ridiculously passive series opener where they only forced three.

*Chris Paul was 9 of 13 from the floor Friday night, but it still wasn't much of a game.

It's now hard to see this series going past five games. The sleeping giant is awake again...

From the late game Thursday...

Dallas had its third straight sharp game from long range, which has helped throw a monkey wrench into perceptions that Portland was in better form entering the series.

Game One: Dallas 10/19 for 52.6%, effective rate 78.9%
Game Two: Dallas 8 of 19 for 42.1%, effective rate 63.1%
Game Three: Dallas 9 of 22 for 40.9%, effective rate 61.4%

Well, they are gradually cooling off...

It is good news for Mavericks fans that it's different weaponry making the treys each night. If one guy was shooting over his head, you'd have to assume a statistical crash was imminent.

Game One: Jason Kidd 6 of 10
Game Two: Peja Stojakovic 5 of 10
Game Three: Jason Terry 5 of 7

Having variety spreads out the defense and keeps them honest because they don't want to give any of these guys an open look (though the Blazers may just start crossing their fingers with Kidd based on his career curve). That's enough to clear out some room for Dirk Nowitzki to go to work inside the arc too. Dallas has shot 51% and 57% on two-pointers since that dismal inside performance in the series opener.

Of course, Dallas lost Game Three! So, even with Terry's heroics, it was Portland who finished on top to hold serve in what looks like it's going to be a very entertaining series.

The biggest stat of the night in terms of making a difference looks to be in the turnover category. Portland only lost the ball 9 times, their best effort thus far. Dallas got sloppy and lost the ball 16 times in a low-tempo game. Portland had a 16-11 edge in points off of turnovers, in a game they won by exactly five points. Mark Cuban has mentioned that category was a concern. Portland was second best in the regular season among the 16 playoff teams in forced turnover rate.

Back early Saturday evening to look at the afternoon results. The Chicago Bulls have a chance to be the first team through to the second round in an early tip at Indiana...

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