Observations from Game 1 Spurs victory over the Heat

Spurs fans have to be happy after Game 1, but we all know you can’t project out the entire series after one game. The NBA playoffs are all about adjustments as we saw in the Indiana series, and now we’ll see what Erik Spoelstra has planned for game 2.

– We’ve all seen Miami come back again and again after a tough loss, so we should expect to see some adjustments for Game 2. That said, San Antonio is much more experienced and consistent that the Pacers. They anticipate adjustments and can respond in kind. The Spurs will be tough to beat if they play like they did last night and start hitting their threes. That said, Lebron mysteriously stayed away from the post last night. Let’s see if Spoelstra adjusts the offensive game plan.

– Fatigue was a factor for Miami. Of course that has a lot to do with the Indiana series, but the Spurs know how to run a defense ragged. The aggressive Miami defense that often destroyed the Pacers in the half-court wasn’t as effective against an efficient Spurs team that had only four turnovers. It’s not a good sign that he had to ask Spoelstra for a breather at the end of the third quarter.

– Lebron played well last night, but he certainly wasn’t in “beast mode” against this defense. The Spurs clogged the lane and dared Lebron to dish to his teammates. They’re happy to watch Chris Bosh launch threes, especially in crunch time. We’ll see whether Lebron can find a way to take control. This series looks like a great challenge for him.

– If Lebron, Wade and Bosh all play well, Miami can beat anyone any night of the week. But Wade and Bosh have been inconsistent, and that creates huge problems for Miami. The Miami bench has also been erratic. Shane Battier was on fire last year, but this year he’s basically been benched in favor of Mike Miller, who is a huge liability on defense. Meanwhile, the Spurs are more disciplined, efficient and experienced. They’re also deep, and even though Spoelstra has established himself as a very good coach, Gregg Popovich is the best in the business. Tony Parker is clearly on his game, and Tim Duncan continues to play at a high level. Manu Ginobili has yet to get hot.

– Basically, the Heat have to play well to win this one. That may sound obvious, but the point is they can’t expect the other team to self-destruct at times in the face of their defense. Indiana played a great series and almost beat Miami, but they’re still young and erratic, and their offense would disappear at times. Frank Vogel did a great job, but he had no clue when to call a timeout against the Heat onslaught. Popovich doesn’t make those mistakes. He knows how to control a game and stop a run.

So let’s see how Miami responds. If history is a judge, the Spurs will have their hands full in game 2, not that they won’t be ready.

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What kind of point guard WAS he?

My post from a few days ago was relatively well-received at reddit, and one of the readers there said that he’d like to see the same graph for some of the all-time great point guards.

So with a little help from Basketball-Reference.com, I compiled a list of (all?) the Hall of Fame point guards: Oscar Robertson, Lenny Wilkens, Bob Cousy, Jerry West, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Dennis Johnson, Tiny Archibald, Calvin Murphy, Pete Maravich and Walt Frazier. Unfortunately, the NBA didn’t start keeping track of turnovers until the 1977-78 season, so there’s no assist-to-turnover data for the first four (Robertson, Wilkens, Cousy, West) and the data for Archibald, Murphy, Maravich and Frazier is incomplete, so I could only use their post-1977 numbers.

I also compiled a list of the top non-HOF point guards who are both retired and still active: Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson, Steve Nash, Gary Payton, Rod Strickland, Maurice Cheeks, Terry Porter, Tim Hardaway, Andre Miller, Muggsy Bogues, Kevin Johnson, Derek Harper, Stephon Marbury (yes, Stephon Marbury), John Lucas, Norm Nixon, Mookie Blaylock, Sam Cassell, Avery Johnson, Baron Davis, Nick Van Exel, Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups and Mike Bibby. All of these players have at least 5,400 career assists, which seemed to be the cutoff for players I was interested in using for this study.

Lastly, I added seven of the top current point guards who have yet to break the 5,400-assist barrier: Tony Parker, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams and of course, Chris Paul.

I first tackled this subject two years ago, and settled on the shot-to-assist ratio to determine whether a player is “pass-first” or “shoot-first.” The higher the number, the more of a “shoot-first” player he is. To determine whether or not a player is “turnover-prone,” I calculated each player’s assist-to-turnover ratio. The higher the number, the better the player is at taking care of the ball, relative to what he’s asked to do as a playmaker for his team. The graph takes a gentle downward slope because assists are part of both calculations. (Note: While I do like FGA/A as the criteria for shoot-first/pass-first, I am not completely sold on A/TO as the criteria for turnover-prone. Perhaps (A+FGA)/TO would show shoot-first guards in a better light? Maybe I’ll try that next year.)

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What kind of point guard is he?

The Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose shoots a free throw while playing the San Antonio Spurs during the fourth quarter of their NBA game in Chicago February 17, 2011. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

We hear it all the time. NBA analysts call one point guard “pass-first” and another “shoot-first.” Or they say one guy is “turnover-prone” while another “takes care of the ball.” But really, what makes a player a “pass-first” point guard? How carefree must he be with the ball to be considered “turnover-prone”?

I first tackled this subject two years ago, and settled on the shot-to-assist ratio to determine whether a player is “pass-first” or “shoot-first.” The higher the number, the more of a “shoot-first” player he is. To determine whether or not a player is “turnover-prone,” I calculated each player’s assist-to-turnover ratio. The higher the number, the better the player is at taking care of the ball.

I narrowed the list of players to 33, one for each team plus a few extra for teams like Cleveland, Sacramento and Denver, who have a couple of players manning the position. I also added eight prospects (indicated in green) just to see where a few of the younger guys land. Here’s the graph — it’s small, but if you click it, you’ll get to a bigger version:

So the pass-first/shoot-first aspect goes left to right, and the turnover-prone players will be towards the bottom, while the guys that take really good care of the ball will be up top. Players indicated with a blue diamond are in the Top 10 in this group in Efficiency Per Minute. I set the axis for each category at the average of the 33 players in question, so 1.97 for FGA-to-assist and 2.70 assist-to-turnover.

Two years ago when I conducted this study, seven of the top 10 EPM performers were in the top left quadrant (pass-first, takes care of the ball). This year, only five of the top 11 (I included both Rondo and Calderon, since they tied for #11) are in that quadrant. This is due to the emergence of three shoot-first, (fairly) turnover-prone guards who are emerging as stars: Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry.

A few takeaways:

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Tony Parker at LAVO All-Star party in Vegas

While the vast majority of NBAers are in Los Angeles for the All-Star Game or at home enjoying a few days off with the family, newly-single Tony Parker was in Las Vegas for a party at LAVO. Here are a few pics.

Tony Parker to the Knicks? Just ask his wife…

Happy couple Eva Longoria and husband Tony Parker enjoy the USA vs France basketball game in NYC, NY on August 15, 2010 where they watched Hollywood husband Lamar Odom play and were joined in the seats by director Spike Lee. Fame Pictures, Inc

Per the NY Post

The couple was at sold-out Red Bull Arena last night in Harrison, N.J., to watch their friend Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls lose 1-0 to the L.A. Galaxy.

Asked if Parker’s presence meant he was coming to New York, she responded, “No, we’re just here watching [Henry].”

Asked if her husband wanted to come to New York, she quickly flashed a smile, nodded her head and said, “Yes.”

The Knicks’ dream would be to acquire Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, but unless Paul forces a trade, the earliest he could sign outright would be the Summer of 2012. Parker wouldn’t be a bad backup plan if it looks like Paul is going to stay put in New Orleans.

Parker will be 29 next summer and has had trouble staying healthy. He has missed 49 games over the last three seasons. He definitely has the speed to run D’Antoni’s system, though I don’t know if he has the vision. He has never averaged more than seven assists per game, and isn’t the traditional pass-first point guard.

However, if he’s the third wheel behind Melo and Amare, I’m sure he would adjust. It’s just that Stoudemire is so good on the pick-and-roll and Parker isn’t the greatest passer in those situations.

Parker just has one year left on his contract and will be a free agent next summer.

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