Here’s a preview of tonight’s #UTAatSAS game:
Archives For Tim Duncan
The Jazz’ 94-82 loss to the Spurs Friday night was painful to watch. It wasn’t a horribly played game, necessarily, but it felt like the Jazz had opportunities to take the game over, but didn’t want to. I’m not doubting the team’s resolve to win, but I am disappointed in their inability to put a collective foot on the throat of their opponent… especially in Energy Solutions Arena. Good teams win at home. Really good teams win at home and on the road. If the Jazz want to continue to be taken seriously, they need to start finishing these types of games against good teams at home. Here are some overall thoughts on the game:
- The Jazz started slow. Again. It took over four minutes for the Jazz to score their first points. It’s starting to get frustrating to watch the Jazz starters start so slow. The running joke is that they need a warm up quarter to really get going, and that seems more and more to be the case. By the time the second half rolled around, the Jazz were right there with the Spurs… so what happens if they actually play a complete game?
- Someone on the Jazz, at some point, has GOT to box an opposing player out. It wasn’t the three pointers that killed the Jazz, and it wasn’t Tim Duncan (although he was great). It was Utah’s inability to stop the Spurs second chance point opportunities. This has been the most disturbing theme of the 2010-11 season.
- The second chance points aren’t due to a lack of effort. The Jazz have guys under the basket during the shot… but fundamentally they are making HUGE mental mistakes. The first thing you learn in team basketball is that when the shot goes up, you box out your man FIRST, THEN you go get the rebound. Unfortunately, it looks like the Jazz are looking to rebound first, so their men are left to wander free and grab errant rebounds. I don’t know how many times we’ve seen three or four Jazz jerseys under the basket, yet still seen an opposing team’s jersey fly in and take the offensive board.
- Parker’s ability to penetrate into the paint is impressive… and annoying.
- The Jazz keep giving games away. In the past two losses, I never felt like the Jazz were getting dominated, or that they couldn’t win. I have got the feeling that the effort isn’t always there to finish the game.
- The Spurs feel boring to watch because they aren’t all that flashy and they beat you by doing everything just a little better than you. It’s like playing your older brother in the backyard. Take a look at the following statistical categories:
- FG%: Spurs: 43.9% Jazz: 41.9%
- 3Pt%: Spurs: 25% Jazz: 21.4%
- Blocks: Spurs: 4 Jazz: 3
- Turnovers: Spurs: 13 Jazz: 14
- D-Reb: Spurs: 30 Jazz: 26
- Al Jefferson got schooled by Tim Duncan. Duncan may be getting old, but he is so fundamentally sound that you have to respect him wherever he is on the floor. The thing with Duncan is that his game is based on hours of honed practice and it’s turned him into a fundamentally sound machine. His game is not an athletic one, which means that he’ll have more longevity then a player that depends on pure athletics to get the job done.
- The Jazz have mental lapses on defense. It’s not like their defense is bad every time down the floor. It’s pretty good 80% of the time. It’s just that other 20% that ends up killing them. Help defense is the major problem, and when they play against penetrating guards, it really shows up. The bigs need to protect the paint better and work on their rotations.
In the final days leading up to regular season action, SCH will be posting divisional previews of the top teams in all six NBA divisions. Come back early and often for updates.
Tim Duncan v. Al Jefferson & Company
Tim Duncan (AKA the Big Fundamental, AKA a quiet, boring, dominant MVP) is getting old. He’s 34 years old and this will be his 14th season in the league. For his career, he’s averaged 21.1 points per game to go along with 11.6 rebounds. Much to the chagrin of John Stockton and Karl Malone, David Robinson pegs Duncan as the best power forward ever to play the game (for a extended discussion comparing Duncan and Malone, check out this posting). Duncan is a lock for the Hall of Fame, for sure. Last season, his numbers dropped a bit, but he still averaged 17 points and 10 boards. He may be getting old, but don’t count him out – his fundamentals serve him well, on both offense and defense.
In the sweep-clenching game last year, Duncan scored just 14 points (leaving his career point total at 19,999 – he’d pass 20K two nights later against Houston). In that effort, Duncan went 1-5 against Millsap (for 2 points) and 1-7 against Okur (for 5 points). Against other defenders, Duncan went 3-3 for 7 points. Al, Paul, Memo and company will guard Duncan by committee, as usual. The youth and depth of the Jazz ought to translate to reduced output from the Senior Statesman from San Antonio.
Tony Parker v. D-Will
When healthy, Tony Parker must be included in the discussion of the top five point guards in the league. Unfortunately, Mr. Eva Longoria watched a good chunk of last season from the bench. Never finding a rhythm during the year, he posted average numbers – 16 points and 5.7 dimes. A breakout season may be looming – his contract expires at season’s end and Parker will be playing for a raise. If he stays healthy, he ought to have a pretty decent year. Playing against Utah in only 3 of the 4 games last season, Parker averaged 21 points and 3.3 assists. Parker gives up nearly 30 pounds to D-Will, so look for D-Will to work him into the paint and find the open man once the double-team comes. Deron didn’t dominate him as he could have last year, but he was the far superior play-maker. If this matchup is decided on the court (rather than by injuries), this should be fun to watch.
High Notes | Low Notes
Like Boston, San Antonio is flirting with the upper-age-threshold for success. The starting five for the Spurs (Parker, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, and Duncan) combine for 53 seasons of NBA experience. Granted, there are still some miles on their collective tires, but the tread is starting to wear thin. Despite their age (or because of their experience), the Spurs advanced to the Western Conference Semi-Finals last year, only to be swept by Phoenix.
This team is good. The organization is sound. Coach Pop knows what he’s doing. The players know that they are on a perennial playoff team that can contend for a title. Unless their age and/or injuries catch up with them, San Antonio will continue to be a winner.
The Spurs lead the all-time series 82-72. Prior to last season’s four-game sweep on the Spurs, Utah hadn’t won in San Antonio since February 28, 1999. It was the first season-sweep of the Spurs since 1993-1994. During that dominance of the Jazz, the Spurs reached Dynasty-Status, winning championships in 1999 and 2003 on the backs of Duncan and the Admiral David Robinson, and ‘chips in 2005 and 2007 with stars Duncan, Parker and Ginobili (“GINOBILI!”).
Jerry Sloan and Gregg Popovich are the two longest tenured coaches in the league. Though the coaching carousel continues each season, the benches in San Antonio and Salt Lake City never seem to change.
Tim Duncan was one of three players to post their 20,000th career point last season. Joining him in the feat were Dallas’ Dirk Nowitski and Boston’s Ray Allen.
Notorious sixth-man Manu Ginobili will actually start for the Spurs this year. He started only 21 games last season when filling in for an injured Tony Parker. Much like Sloan, Coach Pop likes to toy with the line-up. Don’t be too surprised if Manu returns to the bench, but still puts up starter’s minutes.
Many think that the window on their dynasty is closed. With a elite head coach like Pop and quality, veteran talent, they could still surprise some people this season. My best guess, though, is that age and injuries will keep San Antonio from seriously challenging in the West once the playoffs roll around. The Jazz only face the Spurs three times this season (twice in Utah). I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that San Antonio will steal one from Utah at home (maybe on Jan. 26th after the Jazz fly in late from a game against the Lakers on Jan. 25th?). Utah showed us last year that it is capable of winning in the Alamodome – Utah takes this series 2-1 this year.
Contact Jefferson W. Boswell at jeffersonboz [AT] gmail [DOT] com
Karl Malone was gracious and humble as he was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame this weekend. His incredible accomplishments over a long NBA career are well documented and as John Stockton mentioned, they seem even more incredible as the years pass by.
It seemed strange, then, to follow the jokes and put-downs that showed up during the ceremony on Twitter and in the comments sections of most of the stories. Clearly Malone’s past mistakes are not forgiven by many. On the basketball side, many people seem to remember Malone as someone who would carry a team to the playoffs, and then disappoint. Few took the time to give him credit for carrying assorted rosters of cast-offs and has-beens deep in the playoffs. Pau Gasol couldn’t even win a single playoff game when he was the alpha dog in Memphis. Unfortunately for Malone, his basketball epitaph for many will be the two missed free throws in Game 1 of the 1997 Finals and the infamous turnover right before Jordan’s game winning (offensive foul) shot in the 1998 Finals.
We have had plenty of time since Malone retired to forget a lot of games and maybe our memory has failed in us. Have we been unfair to Malone? Is he the best power forward of all time? Maybe we remember the bad. So let’s beat this dead horse: Here is the case for and against Karl Malone as the best power forward of all time:
The case for Karl Malone as the best power forward of all time:
When you look at Karl Malone’s stats compared to Tim Duncan it is hard to make the case that Duncan is a better player that Malone. Why? Because it is hard to make the case that many players are better than Karl Malone by looking at the stats. He is 2nd all time in career points and 3rd all time in win shares (an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player) with more win shares than everyone but Kareem and Wilt. Tim Duncan would need 6 more years of his average production to equal Malone. As it currently stands he is still isn’t within shouting distance of the Mailman. However, any Duncan supporter might bring up the fact that of course Malone’s career numbers would be better because he played 19 seasons. If we take that away and just compare averages here are some points in favor of Malone:
- Scoring: Malone averaged 25 points per game. Duncan 21.1.
- Efficiency: Malone shot 51.6% from the floor and 74.2% from the line. Duncan’s respective numbers; 50.8% and 68.7%.
- Reliability: Malone’s work ethic and incredible conditioning was legendary and that shows in the numbers. He played in 99.3% of the Jazz possible games during his 18 year career in Utah . Duncan so far with San Antonio has only played in 94.5% of the possible games. Over an 82 game NBA season that means that Malone would play in about 4 more games than Duncan.
- Longevity: The same conditioning led him to be able to play for so long at such a high level. Not to say that Duncan can’t do that, but let’s see if he is still playing as effectively as Malone was when he was 39 and still contributed 11.1 wins (10th in the league) to the 2002-2003 Jazz team.
- Front line help – Sure this is a little subjective, but I think that playing with the Greg Ostertags and Felton Spencers of the world didn’t help Malone quite as much as playing along side David Robinson helped Duncan.
The case for Tim Duncan as the best power forward of all time:
Even the most pro-Duncan fan has to respect and take note of points made above in terms of strong regular season production over a long period of time. However, those battles aren’t something that even really interest Duncan fans since they have the following points in their favor:
- NBA Titles: 4 > 0. While basketball is a team game it is common practice to assign more credit to individual players who help the team win. Duncan ’s teams have won in the playoffs and he has received his share of praise for those accomplishments.
- Playoff Stats: This is where Malone fans might wish the stats contradicted common viewpoints, but unfortunately they don’t. This is where the questions above about how maybe our memory has failed in us in remembering Malone’s playoff performance get answered. Unfortunately for Jazz fans the answers aren’t good and they are the main reason why I think someone can make the case for Tim Duncan being the best power forward of all time. Malone’s numbers dropped across the board from the regular season to the playoffs. He shot considerably worse (from 51% to 46%) in the playoffs and his WS/48 minutes dropped from 0.205 to 0.14. Compare this with Duncan who had almost identical shooting percentages and WS/48 numbers. One thing to consider is that Duncan has more Win Shares (28.6 compared to 23) in the playoffs despite playing in 23 fewer games. Those are just a few stats that I researched, but they all paint a very similar picture. Just like it is hard to make the case that Duncan was better than Malone in the regular season, it is also look like it is hard to make the case that Malone was better than Duncan in the playoffs.
Those are the arguments for both sides. As a Jazz fan I tend to side with Malone. While the playoff stats was something that was tough to digest (again since I had to live though it the first time) it still doesn’t completely overshadow Malone’s incredible career.
I would like to congratulate Karl Malone for his induction to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. You are the greatest power forward of all time in this biased Jazz fan’s mind.