One of the cool things about running a blog is that you occasionally get the pleasure of having advanced copies of books sent to you to check out. In this case, the book is Stumbling on Wins, the new book by Dave Berri and Martin Schmidt, authors of a book I reference a lot on this site: The Wages of Wins. So why am I telling you about this? Well, in addition to the copy that was sent to me, there were a couple copies to give away. So what better way to give these a copy away than to have a contest where you need to answer some stat related questions?
Here are the rules. I am going to ask 4 questions, and you can submit the answers in the comments (make sure you are using your correct e-mail address, because this is how I will be getting in contact with the winners). When you submit your answers you automatically get one entry, and for every question you get right, you get an additional entry.
So let’s say you get 3 questions right. You will have 4 entries in the drawing (the most you can get is 6). I will accept entries until 9:00 AM (48 hours) Wednesday morning, and will announce the winners around 10. Hopefully, if everything works out I will get the books out to the winners that day. Questions after the jump:
Larry Brown, who was there when the Meadowlands opened in 1980, will be coaching the Bobcats tonight in the last game there: One of the coaches who opened the Meadowlands in 1981, (first regular-season game Oct. 30, 1981), Larry Brown, will be on the sidelines for the last NBA game. He doesn't really remember opening the joint and doesn't recall it as a big deal. "Bruce Springsteen opened it [with six concerts], so you know that's big," Brown said.
Julian Garcia on the last game at the Meadowlands tonight: It is hard to imagine anyone shedding a tear over the Nets leaving an arena long considered one of the dreariest and most uncomfortable in sports. But not everyone is glad to see the Nets go, even if their fans will soon be treated to many of the same comforts that supporters of teams like the Mavericks have enjoyed for years.
Courtney Lee talking with his hometown Indy Star about his trade and season with the Nets: "It was a dagger at the beginning," Lee said about the trade. ". . . I was in the Finals a year ago, it was an unbelievable run, and once you experience that, you want to get back to it. I can't even describe how long ago that feels like."
In most basketball games, there's the big picture reason for the outcome - the overall theme of a game - and then the microcosm moment(s) where the momentum of the match-up officially swing in one team's direction carrying them to the finish line. What I found interesting about last night's 115-102 victory for the Indiana Pacers over the Nets was the fact that the big picture reason for the Nets loss and the microcosm moment where the game was officially lost were on totally opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of how a team can lose a game.
Let me explain. A quick look at the box score and a big picture statistic sticks out like a sore thumb for the Nets. They allowed the Pacers to score 60 points in the pain on only 12 fast-break points. This just reflects extraordinarily bad interior defense for the Nets. There were just way too many baskets for Indiana throughout the game where it was a one-on-one matchup for their offensive player right under the rim. Like at the 7:00 mark in the first when off of two free throws from Brook Lopez, Danny Granger beat the entire Nets team back down the court and was wide open under the rim for a dunk. The Nets appeared to have Courtney Lee guarding Grander early, and Lee lost track of him in these situations several times. With Lee, probably the Nets' best defender, having an off game like this, you just knew it was going to be one of those kinds of games defensively for the Nets.
Yet, even with these lapses, the Nets led by as many as 12 early, and even when Indiana started to make their move in the third quarter, the Nets hung around and stayed close to even until about the 4 minute mark where the microcosm moment was introduced. While it would have seemingly made more sense if the Pacers were able to go on their run by making a few uncontested baskets at the rim, they were actually able to sink the Nets for good from the outside. The Nets completely forget that Troy Murphy is one of those big-men who can shoot, and Murphy made them pay by hitting back-to-back treys, extending a Pacers lead from 2 to 8. While an 8-point lead wasn't insurmountable for the Nets a night earlier against the Bulls, playing the road-half of a back-to-back probably sucked the last bit of fight out of the Nets, and they were never truly "in" the game from that point forward.
So, while it may be easy on the surface to say the Nets lost this game because of their interior defense, I felt the nail in the coffin came on poor perimeter defense. In other words, it's the kind of game you expect the worst team in the league to lose, especially against a hot team like Indiana who are 9-2 in their last 11 and look a lot better down the stretch than how they've looked most of the season.
Well, the Nets really took it to a team that needed a win last night, proving me wrong on my prediction for the final 4 games. Let's see if they can do it again as they take on the Pacers. Both the Nets and the Pacers played a game last night, but the Nets were involved in a 2OT game with the starters (and T-Will) playing loads of minutes (they all logged 40+ last night). With the Pacers playing well and with the Nets' fatigued this could get ugly as Kiki and the Nets might have to rely on their bench to take this one. The Nets' bench can't really do that. Onto the lineups...
I said it in the last Thoughts, and I will say it again; at this point in the season, it really isn't about the wins and losses. These last few games are really about making sure the guys who are going to be on the team next year (we know who they are by now) finish up on a positive note. Brook Lopez, Terrence Williams, Devin Harris, and Courtney Lee all had really good games last night, so even if the Nets' would have lost against the Bulls, I would have been happy. With that being said, it sure did feel good watch the Nets play the role of the spoilers last night against the Bulls. A couple times in the second half (and in the overtimes), the Bulls looked like they flipped the switch, and each time I thought to myself "Welp, they were due for a run. I mean they are playing for something." Each time, I was expecting the Bulls to pull away for good. However, the Nets fought back each and every time, and that was pretty cool to see. It couldn't have been more evident in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter. The Nets had just let the lead slip out of their hands, but Derrick Rose missed a foul shot that kept the game within two. Instead of settling for a three, Courtney Lee attacked:
This aggressive move is what forced Brad Miller to help, and this help is what freed up Brook Lopez for the tip in dunk (which was definitely not goaltending). I couldn't be happier for Brook on this play. He has been the Nets' most consistent player (and the only player who has played in every single game this year) the entire year, so for him to finally have a moment like this made me feel good for him. You could tell that he was really excited, just by watching his reaction after the play.
The Nets again showed some resiliency in the first overtime. After quickly falling behind 7, the Nets fought all the way back to tie the game with 12 seconds left. The Bulls had the ball, and they put it in Derrick Rose's hands. Rose had killed the Nets all night up until this point:
Courtney Lee, without help, cutoff Rose's lane and forced him into a tough step-back jumper. The Nets then went into the second overtime and really took advantage of the Bulls' fatigue.
Moving on, we need to look at Terrence Williams' triple double. It is a great feat for a rookie (though it is the 4th time this year a rookie came away with a triple double), especially considering how far Terrence Williams has gone. Williams was tremendous throughout the game as he finished with 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists. You saw what kind of mismatches Williams can create in this game. The Bulls didn't really know how to match up with him, they tried Luol Deng to match with Williams' size. However, T-Will's ballhandling ability and athleticism allowed him to get by Deng whenever he wanted.
Terrence Williams REALLY wanted that triple-double last night: “I told my teammates: ‘I need one assist. I don’t care if you shoot it from halfcourt, just shoot it and make it,’” Williams said. “I threw Brook the lob and he put it in the rim and it came out. I was like. ‘It’s not meant to be. Then on the last play, I said, ‘Brook you should take off.’ He challenged and took off and I got the rebound.
Fred Kerber puts TWill's season in perspective: There was a time this season -- actually, several times -- when the Nets thought about sending Terrence Williams to the D-League. There also was a time when folks thought the Earth was flat and those new fangled computer gizmos were a fad.
Kiki Vandeweghe still has Yi's back, even if it looks like Kiki won't be back after this season: "He's still a young player," Vandeweghe said of Yi. "What he doesn't have is the background of the pickup games that all these other guys have. So he has to spend a lot of time working over the summer."
Courtney Lee has the right attitude about his unknown role with the team next season: “To me it’s about winning more than anything. If we can get two stars in here to go along with Brook (Lopez) — or if Devin (Harris) is back to go along with the three of us — I’d be very happy with that. I’m on board with anything, as long as we win.”
Is it possible for a team to permanently play in New Jersey after the Nets leave for Brooklyn? Commish David Stern doesn't heartily endorse it while talking to Dave D'Alessandro: The Commish, as usual, saw that one was coming, and he didn’t skip a beat: “All I can say is, given the difficulties in TV arrangements, sponsorships, and the number of teams in the market, it’s something that has to be analyzed.”
Neither team wanted to win this one, but alas there can't be any ties in basketball, so they kept playing...and kept playing until the Nets pulled away from the Bulls in double overtime to get the 127-116 win.
T-Will picked up his first career triple double going for 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists. He actually needed that one assist from the final 3 minutes of regulation on, but he didn't get it until the final seconds of the second OT.
Down 2 with only a couple seconds left, everyone thought the Nets were going to go for the three and the win. However, Courtney Lee attacked the basket, forced rotation, and Brook Lopez ended up with a tip-in dunk at the buzzer.
This little stretch of league pass games makes me oh so grateful for the announcing crew we have when we watch Nets games. The Bulls' announcers were terrible tonight, and Stacey King (their color man) even went so far to pretend to gag as the Nets missed a few free-throws. Really unprofessional, and in the end he ends up looking silly as the Bulls' choked multiple times late.
Brook Lopez has the tip I mentioned before, and he finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds.
Courtney Lee played well also. He scored 16 points, but the biggest moment might have came where he stopped Derrick Rose on an ISO with 12 seconds left. With no help.
The Nets outscored Chicago by 20 in the paint, by 10 in transition, and by 5 at the foul line. There is your game right there.
The Nets are coming off a pretty disappointing performance against the Bucks, and I expect that trend to continue tonight against the Bulls. It's not that the Bulls are much more talented than the Nets (I mean, they had tons of trouble beating a LeBron-less Cavs team), but they are fighting for something. That something is the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Nets on the other hand, don't really have nothing to play for. While they are playing looser (in my opinion), they aren't really playing with the same hunger as they were since they won magical #10. Playing looser is good in close games, but unfortunately the Nets haven't been in any recently. The Bulls are coming off a back-to-back while the Nets are coming off of a day of rest, so that may be a factor. Onto the lineups:
If you are a regular reader of the blog, you already know about the fantastic site HoopData.com (and seriously if you have never been there, you need to go...now). In addition to all of the stats that they provide, they also have a really cool feature called Motion Charts. These motion charts take all of the information they provide, and they display it in a way that makes it really easy to spot trends. They display three areas of statistics using motion charts; they are player stats, four factors, and what we are looking at today, shot locations.
Brook is a fantastic player, and his improvement this year over last year is fantastic. The main reason why is his improvement inside 10 feet:
This motion chart tells us that Brook Lopez is not only getting more attempts inside 10 feet, but he is shooting even better from this location. Last year, Brook was shooting 40% from this spot while shooting 2 shots per game. This year, Brook is taking 2.62 shots/game inside 10 feet while making 49% of his shots.
It'll be Yao vs. Yi in China during the preseason as the Rockets face the Nets (uniforms subject to change).
Evan Turner is ready to come to the NBA and lose: "I don't plan on losing, but if it happens I always say you have to pay your dues," Turner said. "The most important part is learning from your losses. You have to have confidence and be committed to the mission."
Remember when the Nets had 8 guys score in double digits. There was no question that was the main reason for the Nets big win against New Orleans. Well, last night, the lack of depth is what really killed the Nets. Outside of Devin Harris and Courtney Lee, nobody really did anything of note. In fact, other than those two guys, the Nets only had 1 more player in double figures. It was Yi, who finished with 11 points, but it was 2-8 shooting, and he really didn't have a major impact. Jarvis Hayes had a rough game, since he wasn't knocking down his shot. It is usually feast or famine with Jarvis, and last night was famine. Jarvis is a fantastic shooter, but he seems to go in those slumps where he just can't knock anything down, and that was the case last night. Brook Lopez also really struggled. Totally wasn't expecting that since Andrew Bogut was out, but Brook just didn't get into a rhythm offensively. As Jon noted in the comments, part of it had to do with Devin's hot start. The other part of it just has to do with the Nets' offensive strategy. It just never seems like getting Brook Lopez involved is a priority, and against a team that just lost their best defender in center Andrew Bogut, it's frustrating.
Trying to focus on the positive a little bit, it was good to see Devin Harris and Courtney Lee get it going. Now that the Nets have gotten their 1oth (and 11th) win to avoid infamy, the wins don't really matter. You want to see the guys who are going to be with the team next year finish on a good note, and seeing Courtney and Devin play well is the start of that. Both of those guys have been through so much in terms of slumps and injuries that if they can finish the year playing well, they can have something to work off of. Something to keep them motivated. On the flip side, I am not really worried about Brook Lopez finishing the year off slow (or slower than the beginning of the year), just because he has played so strong all year and never really had to face any injuries or adversity.