What We Learned – East

Part II. – EAST

We thought…the Bulls would dominate the Pacers in a series sweep and enter the second round as the hottest team in basketball.
The Bulls could and probably should sweep the Pacers. But let’s not pretend this has been a cake walk for the Bulls. Derrick Rose has been fantastic – as good as advertised. Fans have been chanting MVP since January and yet he still manages to live up to the hype. I have never seen that type of athleticism from a point guard. But speaking of hype, where is this defensive prowess from the Bulls that I have been hearing about all year. The stats tell me it’s there. But I don’t see it in this series. I see a team struggling to defend a simple pick and pop with Darren Collison and Tyler Hansbrough. I see a team who could easily be down 0-2 in this series if not for a Pacers team losing a 10 point with three minutes remaining in game 1 and a Darren Collison sprained ankle in game 2. Frank Vogel has his Pacers team playing hard on every possession. We were told the Bulls would do the same. Yet in game 2, coach Thibs admitted during an in-game interview on TNT that his team lacked energy all night. Look, it is human nature to underestimate an 8 seed. So game 1 was understandable in a way. But two nights in a row? Shouldn’t happen. Not from a championship contender. The Pacers have a bunch of athletes and hard nosed players that will not lay down for anybody. I give them credit for making the Bulls earn every bucket. Vogel has earned the right to remove “interim” from his title.

We thought…the Sixers missed a golden opportunity in the final 14 days of the regular season to move up in the standings and avoid the Heat.
The Sixers won 41 games because they were more athletic and simply out ran you for 48 minutes. Unfortunately for the Sixers, they ran into a Heat team that employs three guys who are more athletic and who can out run them for 48 straight. The Sixers lost this series in the regular season. Imagine this young squad going up against an old and vulnerable Celtics team? Frustrating. Look, the Sixers were not going to win this series. And we also knew it could get statistically ugly for some guys. Andre Iguodala, you may want to look away.

Iggy’s stats:
GM 1: 37 mins: 2-7 FG, 4 pts.

  • 2-3 @ the rim
  • 0-1 10-15 feet
  • 0-1 16-23 feet
  • 0-2 from 3
  • True shooting percentage: 28.6%

GM 2: 36 mins: 2-8 FG. 5 pts

  • 0-1 @ the rim
  • 0-0 10-15 feet
  • 2-5 16-23 feet
  • 0-2 from 3
  • True shooting percentage: 28.2%

Now to his credit, Iggy is also averaging 7.5 rbs and 8 asts in those two games, which makes him so very frustrating. He’s a hell of an athlete, and should have gotten stronger consideration for defensive player of the year. But only attempting four shots at the rim and only one from 10-15 feet in two games is just mind boggling to me, ya know considering he can’t shoot. This tells me he can’t get to the rim on his own. Collins needs to draw up more plays that can get Iggy to the rim or to the free throw line. Settling for long two-pointers and threes is a win for the defense and Collins knows it.

We thought…Toney Douglas would be an X-factor in this series.
And that was before Chauncey Billups went down with a leg injury. Coach Mike D’Antoni listed Billups as “very questionable” for game 2. Toney Douglas moves from the bench to the starting lineup for at least game 2 against the Celtics. What does this mean? Well, it may allow D’Antoni to run more with Douglas at the helm for the Knicks. Billups could be back for game 3 but Douglas has experience filling in for Billups. He started 9 games for the Knicks this year, but in the six he started from March 2-10 when Billups was out with a thigh injury, Douglas averaged 16.8 pts and 6.8 asts a game and the Knicks went 4-2. For the year, the Knicks averaged 108.3 points per 100 possessions. In the six games Douglas started, the Knicks scored 116.5 points per every 100 possessions. Yes, Douglas can fill it up, but is he physical enough on the defensive end to contain Rajon Rondo? While the Knicks were more offensively efficient when Douglas started, they gave up more points defensively when he started as well. The Knicks gave up an average of 106.9 pts per every 100 possessions for the year. When Douglas started, that number rose to 110.4.

Douglas’ move to the starting lineup hurts the Knicks already weak bench. Anthony Carter will provide the toughness and Shawne Williams, another predicted X-factor, will have to provide instant offense for the Knicks when the starters get a blow.

We learned…the Magic made a massive error in committing to Gilbert Arenas.
Gilbert Arenas’ contract:

  • 2010-2011: $17.7 million
  • 2011-2012: $19.2 million
  • 2012-2013: $20.8 million, player option
  • 2013-2014: $22.3 million

Gilbert Arenas played 12 minutes and scored six points in the Magic’s game 1 ten point home defeat to the Atlanta Hawks. If I’m GM Otis Smith, I’m nervous. If I’m Dwight Howard, I’m bolting.

We learned…Jermaine O’Neal is alive and Shaq isn’t.
Last week, I asked if the two O’Neals could form one decent starting center for the Celtics. After game 1, it looks like Jermaine O’Neal may be able to do it all by himself. Charles Barkley noted that Jermaine went to see legendary NBA trainer Tim Grover during his latest stint on the injured list at the end of the year. Jermaine looks like he lost weight and is moving particularly well. Kudos to Jermaine for putting in the effort to get back on the floor. Going 6-6 from the field gave the Celtics an unexpected but much needed lift in game 1. Can he sustain throughout the playoffs? If he does, I need to get Tim Grover’s number.

We learned…Carmelo Anthony wants the ball in crunch time…and that may not be a good thing.
I wrote yesterday how Carmelo Anthony wanting the ball in the closing seconds may not be a good thing for the Knicks. Statistically, he is one of the best in the league in crunch time. I point to Henry Abbott’s blog detailing how Carmelo is 47% in shots with the game on the line, which is number one in the league. But you should also take those stats with a grain of salt. Kobe Bryant, who I consider the ultimate closer, was behind guys like Glenn Robinson, Eddie Jones and Damon Stoudemire on that same list. Why? Well Kobe shot only 31.3% in “game on the line” situations. But he also took the most shots (115) of the entire group. Melo had taken 44 when Abbot compiled his stats in January of this year. I’d take the experience over the percentages. Kobe took 71 more shots with the game on the line in his career than Melo. Those are 71 more experiences to recall, 71 more defensive reads, 71 more coaching tendencies to soak in, 71 more times a team has asked you to put them on your shoulders.

So yes, we learned Carmelo wants the ball in crunch time and that statistically he should be the one taking the shot. But what we saw in Game 1 wasnt a facade. Ray Allen hit the big shot, not Melo. In my mind, Melo isnt 47% with the game on the line. He’s 0%. But game 2 could be different. And it looks as though D’Antoni is more than happy to give Melo another chance, at least according to the NY Daily News. If it was my call? Give me a pick and pop with Amare. Thanks.

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