NBA Six Pack: Two Immortal Power Forwards
HOOPSWORLD’s Senior NBA Analyst Tommy Beer takes you through his most recent musings on the National Basketball Association in this latest installment of the NBA Six Pack…
1. The Resurgence of Two Immortal Power Forwards
Over the past 15 years, few players have been as dominant at their respective positions as Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. In fact, not only are Timmy D and KG two of the greatest players of their generation, it could be argued they are two of the greatest power forwards in the history of the sport.
Father Time has done his best to slow down these two all-time greats, but as competitive and skilled as both these players are, we shouldn’t be totally shocked they have somehow managed to push back the clock. Nonetheless, considering both Duncan and Garnett have already celebrated their 36th birthdays, it is amazing to witness their production this postseason.
Pundits have often predicted that Tim Duncan was running out of gas and would no longer be able to produce at an elite level. As it turns out, reports of Timmy D’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Duncan’s regular season numbers don’t jump off the page at you because he is played a career-low 28.2 minutes a night, but he remains remarkably efficient and effective. Duncan’s per-36 minute averages have an All-NBA First Team feel to them: 19.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks.
Compare those numbers to his per-36 averages from the 2005-2006 season (when Duncan was a spry 29 year-old): 19.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.1 blocks. Incredible to think Duncan has managed to top his efficiency six seasons later. This postseason, thanks in large part to the rest Head Coach Gregg Popovich has given him over the past five months, Duncan is still dominating the paint on both ends of the floor. Duncan’s consistently stellar play has been a major reason why the Spurs have coasted through the first two rounds of the playoffs, sweeping both the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers. In fact, dating back to late January, the Spurs are a remarkable 52-7 over their last 59 games and have lost back-to-back contests just once in that four month span. Duncan is obviously a key cog in the Spurs phenomenal success.
Out East in Boston, Duncan’s contemporary, Mr. Kevin Garnett is also back playing at an incredible level. The Celtics were struggling and wallowing in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference until Doc Rivers inserted KG as the starting center around the All-Star break. Garnett’s effort and energy were essential in the C’s climb back amongst the East’s elite; the Celtics eventually captured a fifth straight Atlantic Division crown. Over the second half of the season, KG averaged 17 points per game, while also grabbing 8.5 rebounds and dishing out 3.2 assists.
Once the postseason arrived, Garnett took his game to the next level. Through 12 playoff contests this year, KG is averaging 19.3 ppg (on 51.3% shooting) and 10.6 boards. Amazingly, those number compare favorably to this production back in 2007-2008, when Garnett and company carried Boston to an NBA championship. That first season in Celtic green, KG averaged 20.4 points (49.5 FG%) and 10.5 rebounds. Moreover, in his previous two postseasons (2009-2011 – a total of 32 games), KG was limited to 15 ppg and 8.4 rpg.
While his statistics are obviously impressive, it is the unmatched energy and passion he plays with every time he steps on a basketball court that we’ll likely remember most about Garnett long after he hangs up his Nike’s. Incredibly, that fire is burning as brightly as ever right now…
2. I’ll probably miss anyway – why risk hurting my FG%?!?
There was 0.9 seconds left on the clock near the end of the first quarter of Game 5 in Miami on Tuesday night. LeBron James had just sunk a three-pointer, putting the HEAT up by six points, 26-20. However, LeBron’s did NOT sink his bucket at the buzzer. There was nearly a full-second left on the clock, plenty of time to for a Pacer player to catch an inbound pass and heave the ball towards Miami’s basket. So what does Indiana do? Nothing. Check out this YouTube clip, and you’ll see Danny Granger, the Pacers leading scorer, literally walk off the court without even looking at the inbounder. The clip gets cut off there, but Tyler Hansbrough follows suit and does the same thing. Eventually, Lou Amundson passes the ball to Leandro Barbosa (one of the few Pacer players left on the floor), who doesn’t get a shot off in time.
And this phenomenon is by no means limited to just the Pacers on that one possession. Watch games closely, and you see it more times than you can count. Already this postseason, I have seen Rip Hamilton and Kobe Bryant commit the same offense.
This has become a league-wide epidemic, which is maddeningly frustrating for those that have noticed.
Why not attempt a half-court heave in that situation? How many times do we see NBA games decided by just a few points? What on earth do you have to lose? The only answer is a missed shot might reflect poorly on a player’s individual stats, by driving down their FG%. And if that’s the only reason for not launching a prayer from 70 feet away, well, then that really no excuse at all…
In the regular season, it’s bad enough. But in a playoff game, with potentially the season on the line, that’s simply an egregiously selfish act.
The other situation you often see is a player “accidentally” wait that extra half-second, and release the “impossible” shot right after the buzzer sounds, at which point the ref waves off the shot attempt, and their precious FG% is protected.
Look, it’s obviously extremely unlikely that one of these shots would ever drop. In truth, there’s a slim chance the ball even hits the rim, let alone goes in. But the fact remains: There is a chance, albeit a small one, to score three points for your team in an NBA playoff game. And there is no valid reason not to at least attempt a shot in that situation.
3. Tweets of the Week:
- @SethDavisHoops: RT @TheBigLead: most popular link from the weekend: http://is.gd/fDh5W1
- @BobsBlitz.com: Staples Center time lapse change from LA Kings to LA Lakers to LA Clippers http://goo.gl/fb/0PSnu
- @basquiatball: Hubie brown should narrate books on tape but convert them all to the second person. “They call you Ishmael, okay?”
- @EricStangel: Siri, can you have the person responsible for the annoying Siri ads fired?
- @NBA: Talk about a free throw distraction! #NBAPlayoffs http://t.co/mfIqRKZA
- (Tweeted during that ugly Sixers-Celtics Game 6) – @russbengtson: Even Allen Iverson thinks these two teams need practice.
4. Quote of the Week:
Courtesy of KG once again: “This goddamned crowd here sparks you,” Garnett said of the Garden crowd. “… This crowd is ridiculous, man. I love it. It’s like taking a cold shower, stepping into a freezer that’s below 60. I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you want the feeling, try it out, come back and let me know.” How do Philly fans compare? “Not even close,” said KG. “Not even close. You got fans, and then you got fairweather fans. Take it how you want.” (via the WEEI.com Greenstreet blog)
5. Dunk of the Week:
Kobe turns back the clock with a vintage reverse:
Bonus - Top Alley Oops of 2012:
6. Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Week:
* From Elias: Dwyane Wade scored 41 points as the Heat eliminated the Pacers in Game 6 of their second-round playoff series after LeBron James dropped 40 points in the pivotal fourth game of the series, also at Indiana. James and Wade were the first pair of teammates to each post games of 40 or more points within the same NBA playoff series since the Spurs’ Tim Duncan and Tony Parker did it in their first-round series victory over Phoenix in 2008. Wade and James were the first NBA teammates to each turn the trick on the road within one playoff series since Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon and Sleepy Floyd did it against Dallas in the first round of the 1988 playoffs. Olajuwon and Floyd did the Heat’s duo one better, scoring 42 and 41 points, respectively, in the same game (a 119-108 victory at Dallas in Game 2).
* The 76ers and the Celtics played a dramatic, if somewhat ragged, Game Six of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series, with Philadelphia finally outlasting Boston, 82-75. The 76ers made only 17 of 28 free-throw attempts (60.7 percent), connected on only one of nine three-point shots (11.1 percent), and were out-rebounded, 48 to 37 – yes, those were the statistics of the winning team. Since the NBA instituted the three-point field goal in 1979, Philadelphia became the first team to win a playoff game in which its free-throw percentage and three-point field-goal percentage were so low and it had a doubled-digit deficit in rebounds.
* With the Celtics’ Game Six loss in Philadelphia on Wednesday night, Doc Rivers is now 2-13 (.133) as an NBA head coach in road games in which his team had a chance to clinch a playoff series. He has surpassed Jack Ramsay (1-6) for the lowest career winning percentage in potential series-clinching road games among all NBA head coaches who appeared in at least five such games.