Fast Break

 —  March 23, 2005

So many interesting things to write about. So much work to force me to do it in bullet form.

• Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Lakers let Utah shoot 62.5% (eFG%) in the first half and 64% for the game last night, when their season average is 47.3%. Gordan Giricek poured in a career 22 for Jazz — I’m a big NBA fan and I had to look up who this guy was. The reason the Lakers are not going to the playoffs is they can’t play defense. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

• Great note from the smart people at HoopsAnalyst:

No one has really noticed but for the first time in NBA history, three teams (Wolves, Lakers, and Pacers) that made the Conference Finals or higher will likely not make the playoffs. Only twice in the last 15 years has even one team not made the playoffs after making the NBA’s final four. In the history of the NBA, never has more than one team not returned to the playoffs after making the final four the previous year.

• Who do you think is the best clutch player in the NBA? Did you guess Manu Ginobili?

That’s what Roland Beech over at 82games.com found with a fascinating three-part breakdown of the best clutch players in the NBA. I know, you’re thinking Kobe should be above Ginobili, but we’ve discussed before that Kobe’s clutch numbers aren’t that great.

The 82games piece found Kobe takes more shots and scores more points in the clutch than any other player in the NBA. But this season Kobe has run hot and cold in the clutch — we remember the Charlotte game and forget games like last night when he disappeared down the stretch. Kobe has shot only 37.1% in the clutch this season.

Beech figured out players PER during clutch moments in the game, that player’s opponents PER (is our person all offense and no defense in the clutch?) and added +/- to the mix and came to a final answer. The result was Ginobili came out on top, with Stoudemire and Nash from Phoenix second and third. Kobe came in 21st overall.

Really interesting stuff. Take the time to read all three parts.

• I know Sports Guy beat me to this yesterday, but let me add to the chorus — I think Fever Pitch is going to be painful. And I hope it flops at the box office.

I read Fever Pitch last year and, while it may not be the most accessible of Hornby’s works (at least to an American audience not intimately familiar with English soccer) it is a great portrait of how fans feel their fortunes rise and fall with their favorite team. It speaks to the role sports can play in a person’s life. It talks of how bringing a significant other into your life changes your views but not your passion for a team. Like all his books, it is a classic male confessional and very funny.

The movie — based only on seeing the commercial — looks like a “chick flick” with the story told though the eyes of the female character (Drew Barrymore). That is such a bastardization of Hornby’s basic premise they should change the movie’s name and not associate it with his book at all. It may not even make my Netflix queue at this point.

• Bad news for the Spurs without Duncan out, likely until the playoffs start. And it’s bad news for more reasons than just Duncan’s MVP chances (he was my first choice so far, too). The loss of Duncan almost assures that the Spurs will finish the season as the second seed in the West, not the top seed.

The road for the Spurs to the finals from the two seed is much tougher. First, there is a good chance that they will face the red-hot Denver Nuggets in the first round (two vs. seven seed). While the Spurs should still win, bringing Duncan back will take some adjusting and the Nuggets could exploit that inefficiency and make it an interesting series.

Then in the second round, rather than the winner of the Kings/Maverick’s series, the Spurs likely will get the Sonics. Of all the teams in the West, I think it is the Sonics that could give the Spurs trouble. The Sonics like the pace slow and shoot very well in the half-court offense — they play the game the way the Spurs like and play it well. Now, the Sonic’s defense is weak, so I’d still pick the Spurs, but that makes two rounds where the Spurs are going to have a real fight on their hands. And they haven’t even played the Suns yet.

Watching the playoffs is going to be an interesting experience this year, not having a rooting interest myself.