Web Site: http://www.alltimehoops.com
Bio: Ian Parfrey is the author of Ten Thousand Minutes: Pro Player Rankings 1952-2012. His next project is a history of Brooklyn basketball. He's also an avid rec softball player who gets at least 500 at bats a year. He was born in East Flushing, Queens, and now lives in Greenpoint with his wife and daughter.
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By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
When Greivis Vasquez drilled a three to give the Raptors their only lead of the fourth quarter, the Nets didn’t panic. Instead, their veterans went to work. After baskets by Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett (his only one of the game), Paul Pierce made four straight shots to put Toronto away.
The Raptors got almost nothing from their leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan, who missed his first 8 shots, and finished with a quiet 14 points on 3-of-13 shooting. DeRozan attempted one shot in the game’s final 6:54, a meaningless dunk in the closing seconds. It was his first playoff appearance.
The most obvious storyline in this series is the experience gap between the two teams, and sure enough, it proved to be a deciding factor today.
Beyond that, the Nets decisively won the turnover battle, 17-8. Both teams are excellent at forcing turnovers, but the Nets’ ball-handling and passing was superb today. The Nets were out-rebounded 45-37, but they allowed only 8 offensive rebounds, and came close enough to breaking even on the boards.
Having taken home-court advantage from Toronto, the Nets are sitting pretty. But there are two areas of concern going forward. One is the bench play– the Nets bench shot 7-of-23, including 0-of-12 from deep, and they were outscored by Toronto’s backup point guard, Greivis Vasquez, who had 18 points and 8 assists. Marcus Thornton scored one point. Mirza Teletovic had two. Mason Plumlee had 2 points and 5 fouls in 12 semi-effective minutes. Andrei Kirilenko, for reasons unknown, didn’t play at all.
The other is Jonas Valanciunas. The Toronto center shredded the Nets’ front line for 17 points and 18 rebounds, while the Nets’ three-headed center (Garnett, Plumlee, Blatche) combined for 12 points and 8 fouls. If the Nets continue to effectively shut down the Raptor guards, this won’t be a problem. But you have to figure that Toronto will make some adjustments, and DeRozan and/or Kyle Lowry will go off in at least one of the upcoming games.
While it’s hard to draw plus-minus conclusions from a single game, the Raptors were +5 with Patrick Patterson at power forward, and +3 with both point guards, Lowry and Vasquez, on the floor. Both of those lineups should give the Nets matchup problems, and we’ll probably see more of them in game two.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
To beat the Raptors, you have to understand them. And in some ways, they are the most enigmatic team in the East. They don’t really have strengths or weaknesses. They have the NBA’s #10 offense, and they have the NBA’s #10 defense.
The Raptors foul a lot, but even that is part of the plan. Like the more-elite defenses in Indiana and Chicago, they’ll keep you off the three-point line, and they’d rather give up two free throws than a layup. They don’t have a Roy Hibbert or a Joakim Noah to terrorize teams around the basket– this is kind of a recurring theme about this team– but they make do surprisingly well with what they have. Their big men are solid defenders, and Kyle Lowry is pretty good at bothering opposing point guards. The Raptors, led by Lowry’s 121 steals, are one of the better teams in the league at forcing turnovers.
Let’s talk about Lowry for a second. In the mother of all contract years, he averaged 17.9 points and 7.4 assists, doing most of his damage after the Raptors traded Rudy Gay (and then almost traded Lowry to the Knicks). Lowry’s game took a big step forward almost across the board. He shot the ball at career-high levels of efficiency, and ran the offense better than he ever had, too, posting a career-low turnover percentage. He even finished the regular season on a tear, averaging better than 25 points in his final five games.
The Nets have, in some ways, a very similar team to Toronto’s. They also force a lot of turnovers and commit a lot of fouls. On the plus side, the Nets have a far more experienced, battle-tested team, and on the minus side, the Nets have had season-long issues with rebounding the ball.
Head to Head Comparisons
Center: Kevin Garnett hasn’t looked too great since returning from a back injury. Jonas Valanciunas is a load to handle in the paint, though he’s not terribly consistent. He had 20 points and 13 rebounds in one of the Nets-Raptors meetings in the regular season, and scored in single digits in the other three. Advantage: Raptors.
Power Forward: Paul Pierce can guard bigger guys, and most bigger guys can’t guard him. Amir Johnson is a hustle player with a nice touch around the basket. I’d be far more worried about the damage Pierce can cause if he gets loose. Advantage: Nets.
Small Forward: Joe Johnson had a very efficient year shooting the ball, and playing him at the three helps to hide his defensive weaknesses. Terrence Ross‘s role in the Raptors’ offense mostly involves standing outside and waiting for open threes. He did have a 51-point game earlier in the year. Advantage: Nets.
Shooting Guard: Shaun Livingston surprised everyone, probably even himself, by starting 54 games this year, and becoming an integral part of the Nets’ second-half charge. DeMar DeRozan is the Raptors’ leading scorer, at nearly 23 points per game. DeRozan’s not a great shooter, but he’s a big guard that the Nets will have a difficult time matching up with physically. Livingston may end up on Lowry instead. Advantage: Raptors.
Point Guard: This is the first year in their respective careers that anyone would pick Kyle Lowry over Deron Williams. Williams battled ankle troubles all year long, and didn’t have the numbers (or the impact) anyone expected of him. A resurgence from D-Will would tip the scales heavily in the Nets’ favor, but for now, I have to call it like I see it. Advantage: Raptors.
Bench: Both teams are pretty strong in this department. Expect the Nets’ reserves to be led by Mason Plumlee (who should see most of the minutes at center) and Marcus Thornton. Andray Blatche seems to have found his way into Jason Kidd’s doghouse again, and it remains to be seen if the talented but inconsistent forward gets to play ahead of Mirza Teletovic.
The Raptors’ bench was acquired in the Rudy Gay trade. Combo forward Patrick Patterson is their top offensive threat, Greivis Vasquez would start at point guard for some teams, and Tyler Hansbrough is a pain in the neck on the boards. Advantage: Even.
Coaching: Jason Kidd is a rookie, but he spent the last few years of his career understudying Rick Carlisle, and probably coached last year’s Knicks. Kidd made some major adjustments to get the Nets back into contention in the second half. This is Dwane Casey‘s first winning team, and his first playoff appearance, in five seasons with Minnesota and Toronto. The Raptors play better than the sum of their parts, which speaks well for his coaching. Advantage: Even.
Intangibles: The Nets have championship experience in Pierce and Garnett, and most of their other veterans have lengthy playoff resumes as well. The Raptors are a very young team– Lowry, at 27, is their oldest starter. I have to think the huge disparity in experience works in favor of the Nets. Advantage: Nets.
The Nets and Raptors split their games this year, with one Raptors blowout, and the other three games decided by a total of 7 points:
Nov 26, Nets 102-100, in Toronto. Andray Blatche led the Nets with 24 points, while DeRozan and Lowry combined for 51 for the Raptors.
Jan 11, Raptors 96-80, in Toronto. A tired Nets team playing their fourth game in five nights ran out of steam. DeRozan torched the Nets for 26.
Jan 27, Raptors 104-103, in Brooklyn. Lowry went off for 31, Pierce had 33, and the game was decided by a bad D-Will turnover and a Patrick Patterson short jumper.
Mar 10, Nets 101-97, in Brooklyn. Pierce hit a late three to seal the win, and the Nets held DeRozan to a quiet 14 points.
In conclusion, there’s no reason to think this won’t be a good, well-played series, with a good chance of a happy ending for Nets fans.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey and Jason Schott – BrooklynFans.com Reporter / Assignment Editor- @JESchott19
#1 Indiana Pacers vs. #8 Atlanta Hawks
Paul George and the Indiana Pacers were 46-13 on March 2, and have stumbled badly down the stretch. Up until then, they were a defensive juggernaut that scored enough points to win. For the past six weeks they’ve been a dysfunctional mess. The Hawks are only in the playoffs because the bottom half of the Eastern Conference was even more awful then they were. That said, forward Paul Millsap has carried the team on his back after a season-ending injury to Al Horford, and the Hawks have racked up some impressive victories recently.
JS: This one could go six or seven games, as Indiana limped to the finish and the Hawks actually won some games towards the end to make it. That being said, the Pacers are still the number one seed and will win this in five games.
IP: As bad as the Pacers have become, the Hawks shouldn’t pose a serious threat. This series is an excellent chance for the Pacers to re-discover their mojo. Pacers in six.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 Charlotte Bobcats
Bad luck for the Bobcats. They draw the defending champs instead of the free-falling Pacers. The ‘Cats are fun to watch, mainly because Al Jefferson is unstoppable in the paint, and you’ve never seen an NBA team that depended this heavily on Josh McRoberts. The Heat have turned “flipping the switch” in the playoffs into an art form, though with Dwyane Wade struggling through an injury-plagued season, LeBron cruising for most of the year, and their bench aging to the point where they missed Mike Miller, they’re not quite the team they were in 2012 and 2013.
JS: I think the Bobcats can take this the distance. Miami will have a hard time guarding Big Al Jefferson at center, and will have a hard time keeping up with Kemba Walker and Chris Douglas-Roberts, similar to the problems the Nets had with them this season. Heat in seven.
IP: The Bobcats are going to be nothing more than an appetizer for the Heat. They might win a game.
#3 Toronto Raptors vs. #6 Brooklyn Nets
The Raptors rode their sound fundamentals, career years from their starting backcourt, and the addition-by-subtraction trade of Rudy Gay to the Atlantic Division title. The Nets, meanwhile, recovered from a terrible start to become one of the league’s best teams in the second half. This matchup will be previewed in greater detail here later, of course.
JS: The Nets and Raptors split the season series, so they are pretty evenly matched. The Nets have far more playoff experience than Toronto, who was last in the postseason in 2007, losing to Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets in Round One. Nets in seven, and a crazy path to get there, which would be par for the course the way the season has gone.
IP: There is some upset potential here, if you consider a Nets win an upset. The Raptors are a good team, but not a terrifying one, and the Nets clearly preferred this matchup. This should be a very closely fought battle. Nets in seven.
#4 Chicago Bulls vs. #5 Washington Wizards
The Bulls are the playoff team no one wants to face, thanks to their smash-mouth defense and the unusual skills of Joakim Noah. The Wizards, led by John Wall, are talented but inconsistent, which doesn’t sound like a way to beat the Bulls.
JS: This is going to be the toughest series in round one, as these are both big teams, with Joakim Noah squaring off against Marcin Gortat. Chicago’s experience will be the difference. Bulls in six.
IP: On the surface, you have to like the disciplined– if ugly– style that Chicago plays. It’s perfectly suited to the playoffs. The key to stopping Washington is to stop John Wall, and I’m sure Tom Thibodeau knows that. Bulls in six.
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #8 Dallas Mavericks
The Spurs somehow won 62 games in the tougher conference, despite being older than dirt and coming off of a crushing Finals loss. The Mavericks are a nice story, with Dirk Nowitzki leading a bunch of guys no one wanted (Monta Ellis, Sam Dalembert, etc) to the last playoff spot in the West.
JS: The Spurs are far more talented than Dallas, who was lucky to make the playoffs this year. Spurs in four.
IP: This will be a fun series, just to watch Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki battle each other. These are two well-coached teams, but the Mavs can’t guard anyone, and that will be their undoing. Spurs in five.
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #7 Memphis Grizzlies
Last year, OKC minus Russell Westbrook lost to the Grizzlies in the second round. This year, they’ll have a (mostly) healthy Westbrook to complement Kevin Durant. The Grizzlies, like Chicago, just keep grinding, and they shook off a bad start to reach 50 wins.
JS: This is not your typical 2-7 matchup, and Memphis, like the Bulls and Nets, turned it on after January 1st when they got healthy. Grizzlies pull off the upset in seven games.
IP: Any series with Memphis in it is borderline unwatchable. This year’s Thunder are better than last year’s, and they’re going to want revenge. They get it. Thunder in six.
#3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #6 Golden State Warriors
The Clippers had a terrific season with Doc Rivers. They’re deep, they play both sides of the ball, and they’re a constant highlight-reel dunk threat. The Warriors have had some dysfunction, mostly among the coaching staff, but at the end of the day, they still have Stephen Curry and his insane deep shooting abilities.
JS: The book on beating the Clippers is still the same, shut down Blake Griffin, and Curry will know how to limit Chris Paul, who has battled a shoulder injury all year. Golden State in six.
IP: This shouldn’t be a first-round series. While I like the Clippers’ chances of going all the way, they’ll be tested right off the bat here. Stephen Curry is capable of winning this series all by himself. The Clippers enjoy a matchup advantage here though, as the Warriors’ best wing defender, Andre Iguodala, will be guarding their third option, and their best interior defender, Andrew Bogut, is battling a broken rib. Clippers in six.
#4 Houston Rockets vs. #5 Portland Trail Blazers
Love him or hate him, the arrival of Dwight Howard has made the Rockets serious contenders, as they now have an inside force to complement their awesomely bearded leading scorer, James Harden. The Trail Blazers have two 20-ppg scorers in LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, but they’re mediocre defensively, and they’ve been a .500 team over the last six weeks.
JS: This could be the most entertaining of the first round series, with some old-time scores like 140-136 as both of these strong offensive teams like to play a fast, up-tempo style. Houston in seven.
IP: This could really go either way, though Houston has home court and momentum on their side. Portland’s best hope is if Robin Lopez can battle Dwight Howard to something resembling a draw. Rockets in seven.
JS: Rockets over Nets. The Rockets are the team in the strong Western Conference that impresses me, and they have a great mix of big men like Dwight Howard and Omer Asik to complement strong play at guard from Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons. The Nets strike me as an all-or-nothing team, that if they win Round One, they can get to The Finals. Brooklyn will have to probably beat Miami or Chicago in the Eastern Finals to get here, and they have shown they are up to the task. They are the deepest team in the East, but in a Finals matchup, Houston will have just a bit more to prevail.
IP: Clippers over Heat. Miami looks more vulnerable now than at any time over the last two seasons. I don’t see how any of the East teams are going to get it together enough to beat the Clippers, Thunder, or Spurs. The Clips now have a coach worthy of their roster in Doc Rivers, and Blake Griffin has arrived as a legitimate superstar.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
Or, how the Knicks’ season descended into disaster:
June 3– Jason Kidd retires, depriving the Knicks of their best “coach on the floor.” Kidd accepts the head coaching position in Brooklyn a week later.
June 27– The Knicks select Tim Hardaway, Jr., with the #24 pick. It’s the smartest thing they’ll do all year.
July 1– Knicks acquire former #1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani from the Raptors for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson, and worst of all, their unprotected 2016 first-round pick.
July 4– Knicks re-sign J.R. Smith.
July 5– Pacers sign Chris Copeland to an offer sheet, Knicks are capped out and unable to match.
July 15– J.R. Smith has a significant surgery on his left knee to repair the patellar tendon and meniscus. Supposedly the Knicks knew about this when they offered him a 3-year contract. The Knicks also sign Ron “Metta World Peace” Artest.
Sept. 6– J.R. Smith is suspended 5 games for failing a drug test.
Sept. 11– J.R. Smith’s brother Chris is invited to training camp.
Sept. 26– GM Glen Grunwald is replaced by Steve Mills, for reasons we will probably never know.
Oct. 25– The Knicks make their final training camp cuts. Ike Diogu, Chris Douglas-Roberts, C.J. Leslie, Josh Powell, and Jeremy Tyler are sent packing. Cole Aldrich, Toure Murry, and Chris Smith make the team. To add insult to injury, Smith’s contract is 100% guaranteed if he spends one day on the regular season roster.
Oct. 30– The Knicks win their season opener, 90-83, over the Milwaukee Bucks. In an ominous sign of things to come, the Knicks blow a 25-point lead and barely hang on for the win.
Nov. 5– Tyson Chandler fractures his leg in a collision with Charlotte’s Kemba Walker. The Knicks lose that night, and drop 10 of their next 12.
Nov. 10– J.R. Smith makes his season debut, less than four months after major knee surgery, and scores 5 points on 1-of-9 shooting in a 120-89 loss to the Spurs.
Nov. 15– J.R. Smith is fined $25,000 by the league for threatening Detroit guard Brandon Jennings on Twitter.
Dec. 8– The Knicks suffer their worst loss of the year, a 114-73 blowout at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
Dec. 12– The Knicks are rumored to have interest in trading for Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry. Ultimately, the Knicks balk at sending Toronto another first-round pick. Lowry proceeds to have a career year, and lead the Raptors to the division title. Whoops.
Dec. 18– Tyson Chandler returns to action after missing 20 games. The Knicks are 6-14 without him and 7-17 overall.
Dec. 31– The Knicks cut Chris Smith to make room for Jeremy Tyler. Smith played two minutes of garbage time in a Knicks uniform, without recording a point, rebound, or assist, and for that made nearly half a million dollars. You’re wondering why the Knicks’ chemistry was toxic this year? Start there.
Jan. 8– J.R. Smith is fined $50,000 by the NBA for attempting to untie the shoelaces of opposing players during free throw situations.
Jan. 22– Andrea Bargnani tears a ligament in his elbow when he falls down on an awkward dunk attempt, ending a mostly unsuccessful season for him.
Jan. 24– Carmelo Anthony scores 62 points on 23-35 shooting as the Knicks beat the Charlotte Bobcats. Anthony sets the team scoring record, as well as the Madison Square Garden scoring record, and a personal best. The Knicks’ record is 16-27.
Feb. 1– Kenyon Martin, the team’s best veteran defender, is shut down for the season with a chronic ankle injury.
Feb. 24– The Knicks waive Ron Artest and Beno Udrih. They are replaced on the active roster by an even less promising pair of retreads, Shannon Brown and Earl Clark. This was the only trade-deadline move the Knicks made.
Feb. 25– Raymond Felton is arrested for allegedly pointing a gun at his soon-to-be-ex-wife.
Mar. 3– The Knicks lose their 7th straight game, to the Detroit Pistons. Their record stands at 21-40. They will go on to win 8 in a row to charge back into the playoff race.
Mar. 4– Chris Smith is waived by the Knicks’ D-League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, after averaging 8 points on 35% shooting in 23 games.
Mar. 18– Phil Jackson agrees to become the team’s top basketball executive. Jackson’s role will be similar to Pat Riley’s in Miami, and his presence gives some hope that the Knicks won’t be this awful forever.
Apr. 4– The Knicks suffer a heartbreaking 90-89 loss to the Washington Wizards at home. Bradley Beal hits the game-winner with 22 seconds left, and J.R. Smith misses a three at the buzzer. It will take another week, but this loss effectively kills their playoff chances.
Apr. 12– The Knicks are eliminated from playoff contention when the Atlanta Hawks beat the Miami Heat.
Apr. 15– The Knicks and Nets will meet in a game that’s meaningless for both teams, amid rumors that the Knicks are about to sign Lamar Odom…
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
The Knicks took care of their end tonight, beating the Toronto Raptors on the road, 108-100. However, the Hawks’ victory over Brooklyn reduces their magic number to one. If the Hawks win again, it’s over. If the Knicks lose once, it’s over.
Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 30 points, and Amar’e Stoudemire had what was probably his best game of the season– a throwback 24-point, 11-rebound performance.
It was a close game most of the way. The Raptors led by two at the half, and took their biggest lead early in the third, 53-45, on a triple by DeMar DeRozan (26 points). Carmelo Anthony then put the Knicks ahead for good with a basket in the closing seconds of the third quarter.
Down the stretch, it was Stoudemire who kept the Knicks safely in front. He hammered down a pair of high-flying dunks on consecutive possessions that put New York up 100-89 with 4 minutes to play, and scored 8 points in the quarter.
The Knicks withstood 15 threes by the Raptors, and a 14-point, 21-rebound effort from second-year center Jonas Valanciunas.
It may all be for naught if the Hawks somehow beat Miami tomorrow, or if the Knicks lose to the Bulls on Sunday.
With most of the playoff seeding set, the Knicks can’t count on teams trying very hard to beat Atlanta– the Nets rested their starting backcourt, and their third- and fourth- string point guards played heavy minutes.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
The Atlanta Hawks won their 35th game Wednesday night, 105-97, over the Celtics, and needed a few late 3-point bombs from Kyle Korver and a throwback performance from Elton Brand to do it.
Yes, the Hawks are bad. But it’s not entirely their fault. They’ve managed to unload Joe Johnson and Josh Smith in the last two offseasons, and rebuild while remaining competitive, thanks to some smart free agent work– for example, Paul Millsap was signed for 2 years and $19 million, and has delivered far more production than Smith at a lower price.
One thing they couldn’t withstand was a season-ending injury to Al Horford on December 26. Atlanta has gone 19-30 since Horford’s injury, including a 1-14 stretch spanning most of February. Since then, the Hawks have been getting by on a center timeshare of 35-year old Elton Brand, and the “Macedonian Monster,” Pero Antic. Both guys have played well, but they can’t fill Horford’s shoes.
The Hawks, of course, lead the Knicks by two games with four to play. Since the Hawks hold the tiebreaker, the only scenarios which would result in the Knicks making the playoffs are a) if the Knicks win all 4 of their games, and the Hawks win one or fewer; and b) if the Knicks win 3 of 4, and the Hawks lose all of their remaining games.
This places the Knicks’ chances somewhere between slim and none, and makes Friday’s contest between the Hawks and the Nets of vital importance to the Knicks. The Knicks will be in Toronto, playing the division-leading Raptors. If the Nets and Knicks both lose, the Knicks will be eliminated.
Meanwhile, the game is all but meaningless to the Nets, who are pretty comfortably locked into the #5 seed. Jason Kidd made it apparent that seeding didn’t matter to the Nets when he pulled two-fifths of his starting lineup for last night’s loss to the Magic. The Nets would rather be healthy and well-rested than make a futile run at the division title.
Knowing that, who’s going to play Friday night? You could make a good case for holding out Deron Williams, who has scored more than 13 points once in the last 8 games. If Pierce and Livingston’s injuries are real, there’s no reason to rush them back for this either. The Nets have no reason to help the Knicks secure a playoff spot. None at all, rivalry or no rivalry.
In fact, if there was ever a night to root against the Nets, this is it.
By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
Time is running out for the New York Knicks. This afternoon in Miami, they got off to a hot start, taking a 16-3 lead, and then battled gamely for almost three quarters before fading down the stretch and losing another game they needed to win.
LeBron James led the way with 38 points, and Mario Chalmers added 15 for Miami. The Knicks trailed 66-64 with two and a half minutes left in the third quarter, before the Heat ran off 11 straight points. The Knicks battled back on the hot shooting of J.R. Smith (32 points and a franchise record 10 threes), but could not get any closer than six points, and ultimately lost, 102-91.
Carmelo Anthony, battling a sore shoulder, was once again a complete no-show. Melo scored only 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting, and has now scored 23 points and shot 9-of-31 over the Knicks’ last two games, both losses.
The Atlanta Hawks, now up 1.5 games for the final playoff spot, are in Indiana later today.