I have a theory I think of as the scorer’s paradox. If you, as a defender, make a scorer think they can beat you without having to work too hard, they’ll often work less — and take lesser shots because of it. Two years ago, Kris Humphries stopped Carmelo Anthony — and almost every other great scorer — nearly every time Anthony was isolated on him; not because Humphries was “The Melo Stopper,” but because Anthony took low-percentage midrange shots against Humphries instead of working for more efficient shots.
Carlos Boozer has hit fadeaway jumpers at an excellent rate in the first two games of this series, and against the Nets all season. But those aren’t highly effective shots to bet on — for one, they don’t draw fouls, and they rely on a player shooting off his normal balance.
Brooklyn Nets fans were aghast at how well Boozer seemed to tear Evans apart, but Evans’s limited athleticism may have helped goad Boozer into taking those shots. In their final regular season game, Boozer shot 8-11 from outside the paint — a very good number, and not one you want to give up.
But players don’t shoot 8-11 outside the paint often, particularly not on the shots Boozer chose. In the first half of Game 1, Boozer only scored two field goals with Evans as his primary coverage — both fadeaway jumpers — and while Boozer got better looks against Evans in the second half, the rout was already on.
Evans did a solid job of keeping Boozer out of the paint, and because of his 6’8″ frame, Boozer was able to loft jumpers over him — which, in the long run, may not be a bad option for the Nets defensively. (One added benefit: this also, for the most part, keeps Boozer off the glass in those situations.) When Blatche was switched into single coverage with Boozer in those short stretches, Boozer was able to catch the ball much closer to the basket, which meant he had more effective, closer looks, even against the taller & longer center.
Is Blatche the answer?
Blatche could learn a lesson in annoyance from Evans, who on this (somewhat unique) possession, annoyed Boozer all the way down the floor and didn’t allow him to set up:
Blatche is an intriguing matchup to put on Boozer if he can display the type of control that hasn’t exactly typified his career. Boozer is one of the league’s worst defenders — even the Bulls, one of the best defenses in the league by design, are around league-average when he’s on the floor — and that’s thanks to both Boozer’s commitment to misread off-ball situations and his general lack of defensive acumen in on-ball situations. While Evans is not the right player to make the Bulls pay for Boozer’s offensive flaws, Blatche is just that player — provided he doesn’t give up even more on defense.
If the Nets can continue to keep Boozer out of the paint — whether that’s with Evans, Blatche, Lopez, or anyone else — and shooting fadeaway shots, they’ll have a better chance at limiting points. If Blatche can keep track of Boozer and keep him from posting up inside the paint, that may be their best shot at two-way success.