The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Nets 117, Suns 109

Well, I’m an idiot. I wrote a bunch of bullet points during the third and early fourth quarters, before the Nets became AWESOME CONQUERORS. Somehow, I failed to anticipate them following an 18 point quarter with a 43 point quarter. Here are those, rest of the thoughts to follow:

– Shaq looked moderately better tonight than he did against the Heat, but the only real reason for the difference was Steve Nash, who unlike apparently everyone else on the Suns roster can throw a decent entry pass. The Nets defended the big man the same way the Heat did, largely fronting him with Brook Lopez. They did send double teams much more quickly than the Heat did because Shaq was getting more touches in decent positions.

– Bobby Simmons was covered for large chunks of time by Steve Nash, which is a PG renowned for bad defense trying to guard a big small forward. Simmons’ final line: 24 MP, 2-8, 1-5 from 3. 5 points. I believe he only posted Nash up once or twice, which is not a good sign; neither is that Lawrence Frank was the one to move away from the mismatch, pulling Simmons for Jarvis Hayes.

– Yi Jianlian vs. Ryan Anderson is an interesting contrast to watch on the court. If you want to understand the term “basketball IQ”, and why it can’t really be taught, watch this pair for a game or two. Anderson has good anticipation and is a pesky, ball-slapping defender without gambling excessively. He moves well on the court especially without the ball, sensing where to be in order to give the ball the option to move to him, and his athleticism is good enough for his shot to make him a threat. Yi, meanwhile…well, some men you just can’t reach. There was a stretch of this game in the first half when, in a span of 4 minutes, he managed to botch two handoffs, wildly overpersue several non-shooters on the perimeter and collide with his own man trying to defend a screen/roll. All night he would ball watch and pay no attention to his man when his man was moving without the rock, and that man was AMARE STOUDEMIRE. This led to several colossal dunks, as did Yi’s habit of alternating between charging the man and getting blown past on the dribble, and laying 6 feet off and watching an easy jumper go it.  Oh, and on one play in the 4th quarter he misjudged a screen/roll so badly that he, zealously closing down the man setting the pick, was whistled for a foul when he wildly swung his hands into the ball carrier who he was totally oblivious to. I recognize Stoudemire is as hard a man to guard as there is in the league, but this was still tragic stuff. He’s twice the athlete Anderson is and almost as good a shooter, but he’s just not got an intuitive understanding of the game.

– It’s also worth noting that Anderson had a crappy shooting night (4-10, 04 from 3), but never let that effect the effort he put out in other aspects of the game. That sounds like a little thing, but for a lot of guys and most rookies it’s rare. Brook Lopez has been the same way.

– Lopez twins guarding each other: high comedy. They were going at each other in the exact manner you would imagine they did as kids in the driveway, with about twice as much energy and thrashing about as the standard cagey, coiled-spring NBA matchup. These two desperately trying to dunk on each other was the easy highpoint of the game.

The real story of the night ended up being Devin Harris, however. 47 points in 41 minutes, 14/25 from the field, 17/17 from the line, 2/3 from beyond the arc, 7 boards, 8 assists, only 4 turnovers, and he ended his post-game interview with “Thundercats, hoooooo!” This is a great, great man. He’s totally come into his own this year, putting up a PER of 26 and change over a previous career high of 17ish, and a huge part of that is a TS% of 60.2%  over two previous years at just about 57. He still has excellent quickness and ability to draw contact, but he’s also got far more confidence in his jumper which makes him truly deadly. Throw in that he’s slashed his turnover rate while using far more possessions than ever before and you have a guy whose individual play is suddenly at an elite level. When you take those numbers in the context of the way he’s made the Nets his team, and the way he carries them in games like this, and you start to realize that he’s in the process of making the leap from good sideman to potential franchise player. If this is truly his new performance level, he’s probably one of the 5 best points in the league.

Oh, and he’s signed for a good contract for the next 4 seasons after this one. And the Mavs still owe the Nets an unprotected first from the deal which brought him to town. And the Nets, in their rebuilding year, are above .500 (for the moment). Not. Too Shabby.

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December 1, 2008 - Posted by | The Nets | , , , , ,

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