The Fundamentals: What’s holding back DeAndre Jordan on defense?
• In his last four games played, Anthony Davis has totaled an ungodly 25 blocks — eight against the Cavs, seven against the Magic, six against the Bulls, and four against the Spurs. Only one other team (San Antonio) has registered 25 blocks in its last four games.
• At what point do we start worrying about Marc Gasol’s rebounding? He’s never been great on the glass, but over a three-year span Gasol’s total rebounding percentage has dropped from 14.3 to 13.1 to 11.3. Injury obviously comes into play with Gasol’s current rebounding numbers, but it certainly seems noteworthy that a seven-footer known for grit and grinding is basically rebounding at the level of Andrea Bargnani.
• I’m still amazed that 57.2 percent of Pero Antic’s field goal attempts this season have been three-pointers, putting him right in line with the Hawks’ long-range specialists. Along with Mike Scott taking 31.3 percent of his shots beyond the arc and Paul Millsap a solid 18 percent, Atlanta has most of its current rotation of bigs stretching the floor.
NOTES FROM AROUND THE ASSOCIATION
1. Depth helps stave off Raptors’ demise
The Raptors’ decision to trade Rudy Gay both made Kyle Lowry a more valuable basketball player and a less invaluable one. The former should be obvious at this point; Gay’s absence has freed up Lowry’s work in the pick-and-roll, facilitating his return to All-Star-worthy (if not All-Star) production. As far as the latter, let’s not forget that the Gay trade also landed Greivis Vasquez — far and away the Raptors’ best Lowry alternative this season.
Toronto tried D.J. Augustin at that position initially, and eventually gave minutes to Dwight Buycks and Julyan Stone in trial runs. Nothing really worked, making Lowry’s status on the team utterly essential; had he gone down with injury, Toronto likely would have plummeted through the Eastern Conference ranks.
On Monday night, though, Lowry exited a game against the Jazz with pain in his right knee and did not return. Toronto responded by outscoring the Jazz by 19 points with Lowry out of the game, ensuring that a collapse was never really a possibility. There’s a discrepancy in team quality between these plucky Raptors and the wayward Jazz, but this was a solid statement all the same from a team that as of a few months ago would have fallen apart without the stability that Lowry provides.
2. Timofey Mozgov, skywalker
Oh, if only.
3. Keep on, Mike Miller
Courtney Lee and James Johnson have both been unexpectedly wonderful for the Grizzlies, but a moment of appreciation is due to the 33-year-old Mike Miller, stopgap extraordinaire. While still on the cusp of retirement, Miller has already logged his highest minutes total since the 2010-11 season at a position of noticeable weakness for Memphis. Quincy Pondexter’s season-ending injury made Miller’s three-point shooting all the more important, while Tony Allen’s absence has further strained the Grizzlies’ wing rotation. Miller has been solid throughout, registering the fourth-most minutes on the team and posting the second-highest effective field goal percentage.
Miller was situationally useful for Miami in recent years, but to go from spot duty to a consistent 22 minutes a night is a big jump. That his body is holding up so well under those circumstances is a welcome surprise, not to mention an essential part of the Grizzlies’ persistence in the playoff race. It’s gotta be the energy drinks.
4. Cleveland’s new dark age
A sad reflection of the Cavs’ season: Jarrett Jack logged 40 minutes against the Mavs on Monday and I see no reason to complain. That’s entirely too many minutes for Jack to be logging at any one time (particularly with C.J. Miles on the floor for just 13 minutes on the night), but with an offense this gross and against an opponent with such a problematic backcourt, why not let it ride with Jack and see where he takes you?
(The answer, apparently, is to a 17-point loss.)
5. Stephen Curry with the overzealous scoop shot of the year
Was going back through some of Stephen Curry’s shots from this season and found a personal favorite: The rare layup attempt that clears the backboard:
Statistical support for this post provided by NBA.com.