Thursday, April 19, 2007

NBA Regular Season Review

PARTY LIKE IT'S 1994
First things first: congratulations to the long-suffering Warriors fans, one of the great fan bases in the league, for their team's first playoff bid in 13 years.

I'm an idiot for writing the other day that they hadn't been held under 110 since Mar. 20. I incorrectly read a game log that listed winning score first.

Now, that said, G.S. *was* only held under 110 twice in those last 13 games, and both times it was the mighty Spurs who did the trick. And they averaged an eye-popping 116.2 over those games.

Even more impressive than that number was the graphic that FSN Bay Area showed near the end of Wednesday's game: since March 12 (a span of 17 games in which they went 13-4), the Warriors played the toughest schedule in the NBA. I really can't wait for the Cuban-Nellie grudge match to get going.

SEASON WIN OVER/UNDERS: MIRACLE FINISH
Let's look back at The Painted Area's season predictions for a sec. I had something of a miracle finish to my picks for Season Win Over/Unders. Here were my recommended picks, with actual team wins in parens:

ATL Under 28.5 (30 - L)
CLE Over 49.5 (50 - W)
GOL Over 37 (42 - W)
HOU Over 46.5 (52 - W)
NOK Under 40.5 (39 - W)
NYK Over 31 (33 - W)
ORL Over 38.5 (40 - W)

6-1 overall, though with 4 of those W's by the skin of my teeth. Why am I not more excited? Well, what if I told you that the start of the NBA season correlated roughly with the onset of the ridiculous online gambling ban that Congress passed - do you understand what I'm saying? Sigh.

Still, at least I handily outpicked Bill Simmons, who went 4-6 with his O/U prognostications... though I guess that doesn't make me any better than the Sports Gal....

As far as our predictions overall... well, Jay Aych is my main man, but he let his pride in his shared North Country heritage with Rick Carlisle get the best of him with that pick of the Pacers to be the top seed in the East. But overall, I don't think we did half-bad.

PERSPECTIVE, PLEASE
Yes, overall this was a subpar season by NBA standards, mainly due to the volume of injuries to key players (see below). But let's not lose perspective here: the average NBA game is still a quantum leap more watchable than the average college affair because of the vast differences in basketball IQ and pure skill and talent. The Mavs-Suns classic played on the eve of March Madness was simply a different universe of basketball than the tournament games that followed.

Listen, I enjoy Kevin Durant as much as anybody, but I just couldn't watch those Texas games for too long - it drove me batty to see they had no discernible plan or systematic approach to get Durant the ball, and had guards with absolutely no idea how to run a team.

By contrast, we have Stevie Nash and the Suns in the league, who made the whole season worthwhile despite the injuries - they were exhilirating to watch en route to 110.2 ppg on remarkable shooting percentages of 49.4% FG, 40% 3PT, 80.8% FT. And they were part of my three favorite games of the year:
1. The best basketball game in the month of March: the 129-127 2OT classic win over Dallas on the eve of the tournament.
2. The 161-157 2OT classic over Jersey in the Swamp.
3. The 101-99 loss to Dallas which ended on a game-tying Nash-Amare alley-oop in the halfcourt P-n-R following by a Dirk buzzer-beater.

Beyond that, it was a welcome trend that there was more offense around the league this year - 8 teams over 100 ppg as opposed to 5 last year. Also, Atlanta was the lowest-scoring team at 93.7 - there were six teams below that number last season.

Golden State and Denver really revved up their running games - let's hope this trend continues (are you listening to me, Cleveland???).

INJURIES
As much as I think people are going overboard in bemoaning the regular season, there's no denying that injuries put a damper on the whole damn season. SI's Ian Thomsen did a nice roundup of the season, where he offered the All-Shaun Livingston Teams, as in guys who missed at least 25% of their team's games:

    First Team
    C Shaquille O'Neal, Heat
    F Lamar Odom, Lakers
    F Paul Pierce, Celtics
    G Ray Allen, Sonics
    G Dwyane Wade, Heat

    Second Team
    C Yao Ming, Rockets
    F Pau Gasol, Grizzlies
    F Rashard Lewis, Sonics
    G Joe Johnson, Hawks
    G Michael Redd, Bucks

    Third Team
    C Nenad Krstic, Nets
    F Kenyon Martin, Nuggets
    F Peja Stojakovic, Hornets
    G Jamal Crawford, Knicks
    G Sam Cassell, Clippers

    Honorable Mention: David Lee, David West, Trevor Ariza, Kwame Brown, Quentin Richardson, Brevin Knight, Tony Allen, Speedy Claxton, Luke Walton, Kyle Lowry, Joel Przybilla.
Pretty staggering - that's 9 of the top 31 ranked players on the PER leaders, with Chris Paul and Baron Davis barely playing enough games to miss this list.

Given all of this, I think that the single most amazing stat of the year was turned in by STAT (Standing Tall and Talented) himself: 82 games played by Amare Stoudemire. And those 82 were played quite well, to boot.

Congrats to Amare, and one big crow sandwich served to M. Haubs for writing this in his season preview:
"I hate to be a hater, but I must say that I'm pessimistic that a player who is so athletic can come all the way back after microfracture surgery. I wonder - if Amare can't come back - if we'll start to ask why the hell anyone would agree to the procedure. It just don't seem to work, y'know. Hope I'm wrong."
All in all, I'm quite happy to admit that I was indeed wrong.

AWARD RECAP
Here's a quick rundown of The Painted Area's picks for postseason awards. Check out these links for in-depth analysis, deeper lists, all-rookie and all-defense teams from Jay Aych:
Awards, Pt. I: Rookie/All-Rookie Teams, Coach
Awards, Pt. II: Sixth Man, Defensive Player/All-Defense Teams
Awards, Pt. III: MVP, All-NBA Teams, Most Improved
Also: M. Haubs' analysis of the MVP race/All-NBA teams


JAY AYCH
MVP/ALL-NBA 1ST TEAM
1. Nowitzki
2. Duncan
3. Nash
4. Bryant
5. James

ALL-NBA 2ND TEAM
McGrady
Marion
Garnett
Boozer
Bosh

ALL-NBA 3RD TEAM
Kidd
T. Parker
C. Anthony
A. Stoudemire
J. Howard

DEFENSIVE PLAYER/ALL-DEFENSE 1ST TEAM
1. Duncan
2. Bowen
3. Camby
4. Battier
5. Okafor

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Roy
2. Gay
3. Bargnani

COACH OF THE YEAR
1. Mitchell
2. Van Gundy
3. A. Johnson

SIXTH MAN AWARD
1. Ginobili
2. Barbosa
3. Maggette

MOST IMPROVED AWARD
1. K. Martin
2. M. Ellis
3. Calderon

M. HAUBS
MVP/ALL NBA 1ST TEAM
1. Nowitzki
2. Duncan
3. Nash
4. Bryant
5. James

ALL-NBA 2ND TEAM
Wade
McGrady
Garnett
Boozer
Yao

ALL-NBA 3RD TEAM
Billups
Arenas
Marion
Bosh
Brand

DEFENSIVE PLAYER/ALL-DEFENSE 1ST TEAM
1. Duncan
2t. Bowen
2t. Battier
4. Camby
5. Hinrich

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
1. Roy
2. Bargnani
3. Gay

COACH OF THE YEAR
1. Van Gundy
2. Mitchell
3. A. Johnson

SIXTH MAN AWARD
1. Barbosa
2. Ginobili
3. Stackhouse

MOST IMPROVED AWARD
1. K. Martin
2. M. Ellis
3. Jefferson


VICTORY!!!
Finally, I'm giving it my best Johnny Drama exclamation as my Jimmy Goldsteins outlasted Jay Aych's LarryMerchantMarines to claim the title in the fantasy league Chucky Brown Was Here. After edging Jay Aych by a scant half game in the regular season, and then leaving a certain smiling Cheesehead in my wake in the semis, I held off Jay Aych 5-4 in the finals, thanks in no small part to long-range shooting of one Walter Herrmann. Thank you Fabio!

OK, enough of this nonsense, it's PLAYOFF TIME, baby - the greatest sporting event in the world is about to commence. Let's get it on.

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