– Thunder’s suffocating defense (from Mike Prada, SBNation):
“January was the Month of Kevin Durant, and February is looking pretty good for the Oklahoma City Thunder superstar, too. Every night, Durant is scoring in ways nobody has since the height of Michael Jordan’s run, and every night he seems to find a way to top himself. He’s led the Thunder to 11 wins in their last 12 games despite not having Russell Westbrook by his side.
But we’d be remiss to not also note the other key in the Thunder’s rise: a shockingly good defense that has lately shut down even the very best offensive clubs in the league. For all Scott Brooks‘ (considerable) problems designing offensive sets that would get the most out of his team’s talent, he has done a masterful job on the other end of the floor, molding a supremely stifling unit. When wingspan, athleticism and execution come together, you get this Thunder defense.”
– Classic novel helped Shaun Livingston turn season around (from Tim Bontemps, NYPost):
” Livingston…wanted to repay the faith Kidd saw in him this summer, when he lobbied for Livingston to be signed as the team’s backup point guard behind Williams. He said the future Hall-of-Famer’s belief in him has been an inspiration for him this season.
“[It meant] everything,” Livingston said. “Everything. That’s why I want to continue to let people know that he definitely deserves some of the credit he’s getting because he was visionary in a lot of this.
“Maybe there are guys that can do this better than me, or that better than me, but how do they fit with this team? I think that’s kind of the way he looked at it. But I just try to show my gratitude by going out there and proving him right.”
He certainly has done so recently, moving into the starting lineup again when Kidd chose to downsize to the small-ball lineup that has led to so much success for the team over the last few weeks, something Livingston has been a huge part of. In addition to running the offense, the Nets have used Livingston as their defensive stopper at the other end, having him guard the opposition’s most dangerous offensive weapon.
““He’s so versatile out there. He can play the point guard or two guard, he can guard one through three or four … whatever we ask of him he’s given us. He’s sort of like a glue guy out there. Whatever we ask of him, he’s given the team.”
– Pelicans have found a surprising ironman in Eric Gordon (from Jimmy Smith, Times-Picayune):
” Who would have thought, 48 games into the 2013-14 NBA schedules, the most-tenured member of the New Orleans Pelicans – nee Hornets – injury list the last two years would be leading the team in minutes played this season.
And shooting guard Eric Gordon has also made among the fewest trips to the team’s bustling infirmary so far, missing just three games with a badly bruised right hip he sustained in a fall against the Sacramento Kings two days before his 25th birthday, which is also Christmas Day.
Heading into Wednesday night’s 105-100 victory over the Atlanta Hawks, Gordon had played a team-leading 1,435 minutes, the most he has logged since being traded to New Orleans in Dec. 2011.
Eric Gordon, iron man.”
– Takeaways from Heat-Clippers (from Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN’s TrueHoop):
– Heat Nudge Clippers (from J A Adande, ESPN):
Read it here: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/dailydime
– Jump Shot Scrutinization: Mike Conley (from Andrew Ford, Grizzlybearblues):
” Every single aspect of the NBA is broken down and dissected every day by front offices, scouts, writers, and fans. However, one aspect that is not talked about very much is shooting form. The problem with discussing shooting form is everybody has been taught a little differently. What constitutes the difference between a bad shooter, a decent shooter, and a great shooter in basketball? The answer to that question might surprise you.
Growing up, many are taught to shoot completely wrong, and that’s why even some NBA players have poor form to this day. Mike Conley is not one of those players. Conley possesses great shooting form, and the following paragraphs will lay out the techniques he utilizes to achieve his gorgeous shot.”
– DataBall (from Kirk Goldsberry, Grantland.com):
” With an ocean of new statistical information available, the NBA could be on the verge of understanding the value of every single movement on the court. Welcome to the era of Expected Possession Value (EPV).
” …our box scores undervalue the importance of the “little things” that players like Parker do and overvalue the most easily quantifiable events like made baskets and rebounds.
” If we applied this conventional basketball accounting to the game of chess, we’d assign far too much importance to the singular checkmate move, while entirely overlooking that move’s hugely relevant tactical precedents. Chess matches are rarely won or lost in one final action, and the same goes for basketball possessions. They are rarely decided by their terminal actions, and players like Parker or Chris Paul commonly put their teams in advantageous situations one way or another.
” If we can estimate the EPV of any moment of any given game, we can start to quantify performance in a more sophisticated way. We can derive the “value” of things like entry passes, dribble drives, and double-teams. We can more accurately quantify which pick-and-roll defenses work best against certain teams and players. By extracting and analyzing the game’s elementary acts, we can isolate which little pieces of basketball strategy are more or less effective, and which players are best at executing them.
But the clearest application of EPV is quantifying a player’s overall offensive value, taking into account every single action he has performed with the ball over the course of a game, a road trip, or even a season.”