Thursday, November 22, 2007

Another big deficit...and this time a loss

In case you missed it, one game after coming back from a huge deficit, the Sixers found themselves in a big hole again the other night against the Washington Wizards. Only this time they weren't able to rally, losing 116-111.

The Inquirer's write-up gives a good sense of how quickly things got out of hand:

This was a competitive game for most of the first half. When Miller hit a layup with 4 minutes, 1 second left, the Sixers trailed by just 46-42.

The game then got away in the ensuing four minutes when Washington finished the half on a 14-2 run to take a 60-44 lead.

Things only got worse in the third quarter, when the Wizards scored one uncontested basket after another.

I was hopeful that the big come-back against Portland the other night would be a shot in the arm for the Sixers, but apparently not so much. Ugh.

Making this game a little different from the Sixers other big losses is that the main culprit was their defense instead of their offense. Throwing the numbers from the boxscore into our spreadsheet, we can see that the Sixers' offense actually had its best performance of the year--putting up an offensive efficiency rating of 109.7. The flip side is that the defense also had its worst performance of the year-- clocking in with an efficiency rating of 126.3.

How bad was this performance on the defensive end? The worst defensive efficiency rating posted by the Sixers in their previous nine games was a 113.5--given up in the first game of the year against the Raptors. In one game the Sixers managed to have their 2nd worst forced turnover rate of the season (13.1%), the worst defensive true shooting percentage (64.5%), and their 2nd worst defensive rebound rate (67.7%). I know the Wizards are generally considered a good offensive team, but they aren't this good! (Especially not with Arenas missing the game with an injury which was later revealed to require surgery and will keep him out for 3 months)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Time to get in your All-star ballot!

Apparently the NBA all-star ballot for the 2007-08 season has been released, and it's brewing up some controversy (see item five).

First, let's just agree on one thing: it is way too early for anyone to be voting for all-star starters. No team has played more than ten games yet, and the all-star game doesn't occur until after most teams have played 50 games. Does anyone really believe that they've seen enough basketball to say right now who the best players over the first half of the season have been? I didn't think so. Anyone who votes right now deserves to have their vote thrown out (unless they vote for a Sixer, in which case it should count twice...).

The absurdity of the NBA's voting makes me want to support the effort to get Shane Battier and Antoine Walker voted as all-star starters...

The biggest absurdity, by far, on the all-star ballot is that Antoine Walker is listed as a guard. No one thinks he's a guard. He was an undersized power forward for most of his career, but he also occassionally played small forward. He's never played shooting guard, and he never will. The reason he's listed as a guard? Apparently, Ricky Davis was going to be listed in that spot before being traded for Walker, so the people in charge of the ballot just moved Walker into his slot.

Wow. That was lazy. (On a related note, I had no idea that a group of sportswriters was in charge of determining who, and at what position, will be listed on the all-star ballot. The league isn't capable of handling this internally? Or do they just want to be able to pass on the blame?)

The omission of Devin Harris from the ballot entirely is also absurd. By my count, he's better than thirteen of the twenty-four guards listed on the western conference ballot. Apparently he pissed off the wrong sportswriters.

Finally, I think it's absurd that Tim Duncan was listed as a center, rather than a power forward on the ballot. Sure, he spends some time in the pivot, particularly at the end of games, but not that much. Most of the time he's on the floor, he's playing with a true center. And that's been true for his entire career-- first with David Robinson, then Rasho Nestorevic, and now Fabricio Oberto and Fracisco Elson. He's also been listed as a forward on the all-star ballot every year of his career until now.

Duncan will still clearly be an all-star (even if Yao Ming wins the fan voting, Duncan will without a doubt be selected by the coaches as a reserve), so this "controversy" isn't really that important. That said, I think the debate over Duncan's position does bring into relief something I've thought for awhile: the way the positions in the NBA are split between guards, forwards, and centers doesn't really match the way most NBA teams are constructed these days.

For the most part, I tend to think of NBA teams as having "Bigs" (centers and power forwards), "Swings" (small forwards and shooting guards), and "Points" (point guards). I just think the difference between power forwards and centers is generally much smaller than the difference between power forwards and small forwards. And the same is true with the difference between between point guards and shooting guards compared to shooting guards and small forwards.

I'm watching a rerun of the Spurs-Rockets game at the moment (or I was, when I first drafted this post), so let's take these teams as examples. For the Spurs, Oberto and Elson are nominally the centers and Duncan is nominally the power forward. Is there really a difference between these players (besides skill level)? Bruce Bowen is called the Spurs small forward while Manu Ginobili is their shooting guard, but Bowen generally guards the other teams best perimeter scorer, regardless of whether he is listed as a shooting guard or small forward. Tony Parker, on the other hand, is clearly a different type of player than either Ginobili or Bowen.

For the Rockets, Yao Ming is clearly an interior player. And because he's 7'6", I guess he is a bad example for my cause. That said, Chuck Hayes, the Rockets starting power forward, also is exclusively an interior player--he's much more similar to Yao Ming than he is to Shane Battier (although clearly shorter and less skilled than Yao). Battier is the Rockets small forward, but his game (perimeter defense, three-point shooting) is much more similar to that of Tracy McGrady than it is to that of Chuck Hayes. Battier and McGrady function for the Rockets in a similar fashion to Bowen and Ginobili for the Spurs. Mike James/Rafer Alston are different types of players, and serve as the Rockets point guards.

Are there still combo guards in the league? Absolutely (Charlie Bell on the Bucks is the first one that comes to mind, but someone like Brandon Roy might also fit the bill). But for the most part, I think these players are less common than players that split the difference between being
shooting guards and small forwards. Are there also combo forwards in the league? Again, absolutely (Al Harrington comes to mind). But I think these types of players are much less common than players that split the difference between being centers and power forwards (now I'm watching a rerun of the Lakers/Pistons game, or I was when I reached this part of my first draft, so I'm watching Kwame Brown and Rasheed Wallace right now--both of whom split the center and power forward position).

I guess all of this is just a way of saying that I find the normal position distinctions (the ones used on the NBA all-star ballot) to be odd considering the ways I think the positions on the court are actually used.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

What a comeback!

I have no idea what happened in the game against the Trailblazers on Friday night. I was checking the scores at work, and when I saw how big the deficit was at the end of three quarters (17 points) I stopped checking. Then when I checked the scores on Saturday, I saw that the Sixers had somehow come back to win, 92-88. Wow.

Just one of those games where the second team gave the team energy and production when the first team didn't have much to give. Igoudala helped seal the comeback, but it was definitely a night to thank the second unit.

The Sixers have needed a bit of a shot in the arm after the last couple of games, so hopefully this was it. Not a perfect game-- the boxscore shows that the Sixers turned the ball over on 23% of their possessions-- but their true shooting percentage was above 56% (our highest of the year by far), and they dominated the glass (80% defensive rebound rate, 33% offensive rebound rate).

After our last couple of losses, it's nice to get a win...even one that looked improbable three-quarters of the way into the game.