Pacers, Blazers,Hack-a-strategy, Basketball IQ, D. Jordan, Ibaka, Embiid, AD

- Pacers ride George Hill’s career night, big stand to win over Blazers (from Ben Golliver, Sports Illustrated):

The Pacers defeated the Blazers 118-113 to even the season series at one game apiece. Indiana improved its league-best record to 39-10 with the victory. Portland dropped to 35-15 with the loss

Read Golliver’s game story here: http://nba.si.com/2014/02/08/pacers-blazers-george-hill-roy-hibbert-paul-george/

- ‘Hack-a-Jordan’ clouds Clippers’ win (from J.A. Adande at ESPN’s TrueHoop:

” At some point, the NBA needs to care enough about its product to eliminate the loophole in the rules that allows games to degenerate into nine players standing around watching the league’s worst free-throw shooters take foul shots, while draining the sport of all its athleticism, skill and entertainment value.

That’s the only thing to take away from the Los Angeles Clippers‘ 118-105 victory over the Toronto Raptors. Well, you could also take away that Blake Griffin has gotten really good at basketball, but that should have been evident before tonight.
It’s also been obvious for more than a decade that intentionally fouling players who don’t even have the ball has been a detriment to the sport, but the NBA continues to allow these travesties.”

Read it here: http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/65861/hack-a-jordan-clouds-clippers-win

- On the Basketball IQ of 21-Year-Olds (from Dan Clayton at Salt City Hoops):

” Basketball, it turns out, is complicated.

I mean, there’s a more simplistic, linear way to approach it1, but in the NBA, that route hardly ever makes you very good. Reaching a special level (see: San Antonio Spurs) requires developing a mental reaction time that turns every one of your opponent’s decisions into a sucker’s choice — which of us would you like to allow to take a wide open shot?

Not every NBA player understands the game at that level and at full game speed2. And because of a lot of the ones who haven’t mastered that yet are younger than those who have, we tend to fall for this tempting (but faulty) syllogism that youth is equivalent to a lack of understanding of the game’s intricacies.

It’s a convenient bit of shorthand. It can be a mouthful to say that a team’s offense/defense struggles because it relies on players who haven’t yet learned to read the slew of variables that can influence a single 4-second span of basketball. So we take a shortcut: they struggle because of their “youth.”

But “unready” is not the same as “young.” Plenty of experienced guys

play a far less cerebral game, and plenty of youngsters quickly learn how to make reads at NBA game speed”

Read it here: http://saltcityhoops.com/youth_syllogism/

- Q&A: DeAndre Jordan and the evolution of an NBA big man (from Matt Moore, CBSSports.com):

” Jordan sat down this week with CBSSports.com to talk about his continued evolution, the confidence Doc Rivers gives him, the verticality rule” and more

Read the interview here: http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/24434608/eob-qa-deandre-jordan-and-the-evolution-of-an-nba-big-man

- Without Westbrook, Ibaka Keeps Soaring (from jeff Caplan at NBA.com):

” Ibaka and Russell Westbrook have developed such a lethal connection that when the point guard left the lineup after the Christmas Day game to undergo a third surgery on his right knee, there was some trepidation that Ibaka’s offensive contributions would suffer.

That has not occurred because Ibaka and Kevin Durant have been terrific together.”

Read it here: http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2014/02/07/without-westbrook-ibaka-keeps-soaring/

- Why Joel Embiid stands above the pack in the 2014 NBA Draft (from Jonathan Tjarks at SBNation):

” When the season started, Joel Embiid was the other star freshman on the Kansas roster. A 19-year old from Cameroon who started playing basketball three years ago, Embiid was widely seen as a project, a raw big man still years away from thinking about the NBA.

Boy, have things changed. While he is nowhere near his ceiling, Embiid has shown more than enough in his first season at Lawrence to have NBA executives salivating. He is the rare prospect actually worth tanking to get, and he’s now seen as the likely No. 1 pick.

How did this rise happen?”

Read it here: http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2014/2/7/5389764/joel-embiid-kansas-nba-draft-2014-profile

- Blazers F Nicolas Batum Defends Opposing Point Guards (from Dane Carbaugh, Blazersedge.com):

” Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts has taken to putting small forward Nicolas Batum on opposing point guards early in games. Batum’s long wingspan allows him to muck up passing lanes as teams try to start their offense.

The Blazers like to fight over the top on all pick-and-roll plays, and with Batum trailing his arms allow him to contest shots from behind and cause backside pressure for shooters.

It also allows for situational switches that wouldn’t be possible with a smaller guard defending. On wing screens, it allows Batum to switch with Wesley Matthews, where the size disparity between wing and guard doesn’t create a mismatch.

Damian Lillard is aware of the strategy, and told Blazersedge on Feb. 2, “A lot of teams run the pick-and-roll with the three and the one and we want to be able to switch that.”

Read and view it here: http://www.blazersedge.com/2014/2/7/5391028/playbook-breakdown-nicolas-batum-handles-guarding-the-point

New Orleans’ new era: Fight or flight? (from Kevin Arnovitz at ESPN’s TrueHoop):

“For all the dealmaking, recruitment and asset management that go into building a winner in the NBA, the most reliable way to engineer a contender is by the sheer luck of the draft. More specifically, landing the top pick when a surefire superstar is on the board.

In the spring of 2012, six months after Chris Paul departed for Los Angeles, the Pelicans lucked their way into Anthony Davis. They didn’t have an owner at the time, nor more than 650,000 television households in their market, but they had the No. 1 pick.

Davis has lived up to it thus far… He’s an intuitive pick-and-roll player with good hands and good timing. He’s a gazelle in transition and a lethal cutter in the half court. He drains 43 percent of his midrange shots, and few in the NBA gets to the line at a greater rate than Davis, who converts 76.6 percent of his shots when he’s there. So long as he maintains his health, he’s poised to be one of the five most efficient offensive players in the game for the next dozen years.

That’s just the appetizer because defense projects to be Davis’ greatest long-term asset. At 20, he isn’t yet the quickest decision-maker on the floor, but he’s just getting started on a team that can’t keep a healthy lineup together. When it comes to basic pick-and-roll stuff, matching up with a perimeter ball handler off a switch and shot-blocking instincts, he’s already proficient and getting better.

Davis’ presence alone puts the Pelicans at a sizeable advantage over the overwhelming majority of the league. For at least the next five years, they get the chance to construct something special with Davis, and it doesn’t matter that they play in a tiny television market that’s expressed a longtime indifference toward NBA basketball. Bring them a dynamic top-five superstar and they’ll start following.

A cornerstone like Davis provides a firm foundation, but plenty of organizations have botched the task of building up from there.”

Read it here: http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/65814/new-orleans-new-era-fight-or-flight

- Lillard, Aldridge and Blazers defiantly winning with their brand of basketball (by Shlomo Sprung, SheridanHoops):

Read it here: http://www.sheridanhoops.com/2014/02/07/lillard-aldridge-and-blazers-defiantly-winning-with-their-brand-of-basketball/

We will have Bonus Coverage with more stories later today so stay tuned.

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