Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2015 NBA Playoffs – 11 Days In: Rockets Brickin’, Grizzlies Scufflin’

Day 11 of the 2015 NBA Playoffs saw the Houston Rockets become the fourth team to qualify for the conference semi-finals, and the San Antonio gain a leg-up in the battle to become their next foe by again snatching home-court advantage from and a 3-2 series edge over the LA Clippers.

Houston Rocket coach Kevin McHale had settled on a nine-man playing rotation for his squad’s opening-round clash with in-state rival Dallas. His choice of shooters, though, seemed to be inviting craft Maverick Head-man (and former teammate) Rick Carlisle to implement that increasingly nefarious strategy of benign but purposeful fouling – as opposed to the anything-but-benign variety practiced Sunday by the Cavs’ J. R. Smith.

Four guys in that rotation shot 61 percent or below from the “charity” stripe during the regular season: Dwight Howard (53), his back-up-du-jour Clint Capela (17), along with forwards Josh Smith (52) and Terrence Jones (61). Only six of the 13 active players topped 70 percent for the year.

As a team, Houston ranked No. 27 in foul shooting, one spot above the Clippers (whose fatal flaw may be costing them their opportunity to advance).

Ironically, the Mavs didn’t commit their first team foul until midway through the fourth quarter in the close-out fifth game. Tough to play the hack game if you’ve not gotten yourself into the Bonus.

Is this sort of “shooting most foul” an unintended (though perfectly logical) consequence of the aggressive eschewing of the mid-range jump shot?

As the Warriors Wait…

Despite the loss of their floor leader, budding star Mike Conley, the Grizzlies seemed poised to finish off their sweep of Portland Monday night when a 14-footer from Courtney Lee, the only Memphis starter on the floor, provided them a nine-point cushion 23 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Even after a 6-0 Blazer run five minutes later (spurred by the re-entry of Damian Lillard), the return of the starting frontcourt appeared to right the ship with a quick Marc Gasol hoop.

Alas, the tide had already turned.

Memphis had followed up Lee’s hoop with eight empty possession in their next nine tries. The starters were able to click on six of their final 13 offensive efforts, but could muster up only four defensive stops during that closing stretch.

Poor Mike Conley. He was already rehabbing a bad foot. Now he’s out indefinitely following facial surgery, already a scratch for Game 5.

Beno Udrih, who’d missed Game 3 with an ankle problem of his own, and Nick Calathes filled in with 25 points on 9-20 shooting and but three turnovers Monday. A reprise of that performance and some home cooking may be enough to send the Griz on to the second round.

And speaking of home cooking, did you see where second-year Blazer guard C. J. McCollum scored 44 points on 16-26 shooting in Games 3 & 4. He’d made just four of 21 field goal attempts in Tennessee.

Final Thought: The Rockets’ Red Glare

There are moments when the physical gifts of Dwight Howard are flabbergasting, even in subtle ways that don’t make it into the box score. He gathers in an uncontested defensive rebound. Without bringing down the ball or even “stepping into” it, he effortlessly throws a two-handed outlet pass to a teammate – at the opposite foul line.

Equally flabbergasting is Big Dwight’s post offense. There’s a certain rhythm (a wee bit of the Dream Shake?) when he turns over his right shoulder and shoots with his left hand. He looks smooth … But on his right-handed shots, he still looks a big-breed pup growing into its body.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A “Pause” in Today’s NBA – A “Pause” in Yesteryear’s

Video review, in theory, is the elixir to all that is amiss in big-time sports. The all-seeing eye-in-the-sky reveals exactly what happened and, most often, when. In-game injustice, whether purposeful or accidental, is expunged from the sports scene.

So, too, on occasion is compassion.

Take, for example, the third quarter’s closing seconds in yesterday’s Wizards-Raptors Game 4. Upon further review, it was determined that both Bradley Beal’s jump shot and the touch-foul assessed to Toronto’s Gervais Vasquez came prior to the expiration of the shot clock.

The subsequent free throws pushed the Wizards’ game total over 100 and lead over 30 – already ahead 3-0 and playing at home.

I’m reminded of an old Dave Zinkoff story.

Back in the day of a Celtics-Sixers, Russell-Chamberlain annual playoff showdown, the C’s were once forced into a late-game time-out by a lead-usurping run by the homeboys. Zinkoff, the legendary Philadelphia PA announcer, remained silent as the Philly Phaithful kept up their racket. As the TO was ending and crowd settling down, the Zink audibly cleared his throat and, in that booming but deliberate delivery, proclaimed, “As I was trying to say, Boston … calls … tiiiiime!” Naturally, the sound and fury re-erupted.

The Washington fans can be forgiven for relishing their moment yesterday … but it’s unfortunate that proper officiating procedure created accentuated agony for the poor Raptors.

[A competent youth-ball official would have found a way NOT to put a team through such a delay – and would have been correct in so doing.]

Wizard coach Randy Wittman was taking no chances or prisoners. Until garbage time set in for real, Coach had trimmed his rotation to eight players.

John Wall controlled the tempo from the start, ably spelled by Ramon Sessions. The Truth, Beal, even Drew Gooden sniped away from deep. Porter’s youthful energy, Nene’s veteran savvy.

And did you see the Polish Hammer haul in a lead pass, out-maneuver two defenders, and spin in a reverse lay-up pilfered directly from a Paul Silas highlight reel.

At the end of the day, Dwane Casey’s squad appeared to have too many guys willing to make the extra pass, but not enough guys looking to take the big shot.

Quick Takes from Playoff Weekend No. 2

n  Who the heck is Nick Calathes? (And just how deep do the Grizzlies go in their backcourt, anyway?)
n  The first Celtic-Cavalier match-up next season will be interesting, I should imagine.
n  The Nets have posted a higher rate of converting their possessions than have the Hawks in all three games so far. The Wizards ought to be licking their chops in anticipation of a match-up with their division rival.
n  Will the real San Antonio Spurs please stand up!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

NBA’s “Polish Hammer” Keeps Hitting the Nail on the Head for Wizards

Admit it, fellow hoops junkie. When first you heard the term “gortat,” you imagined it was either an exotic French pastry or (if a person) some Prussian field marshal from the Ottoman Empire.

But it’s been nearly a decade now since Marcin “The Polish Hammer” Gortat became an NBA commodity – six years since he began to gain notice as a valuable back-up big man for an Orlando Magic squad built around Dwight Howard that reached the Finals. He has subsequently been packaged into two multi-player trades, first with a first-round draft choice, and then for one.

Not bad for a dude chosen fourth from last – and ironically right after the selection of current Raptor Amir Johnson (by Detroit) – in 2005 by Phoenix and immediately shipped off to the Magic for a bag of practice balls (actually for future considerations).

And last night Ivan Putski, er … I mean, Gortat dropped 17 points in the first half alone on a desperate Toronto team competing for its playoff life. No wonder Marcin’s current employer in our nation’s capital rewarded him with a multi-year, big dollar contract extension last year.

In Game 2, Raptor head man Dwane Casey seemed determined to play to and through big post Jonas Valanciunas. In his hour of need, though, he turned to his stud, DeMar DeRozen who responded with a 32-point effort (albeit on 29 shots). Johnson, starting for the first time in the series, responded with 14 points on six-for-seven shooting. But for the second time in this series, the Raps failed to make 40 percent of their field goal attempts.

Toronto forged ahead by a single point three times in the second half, for the final time with six minutes remaining. Appropriately, that advantage was soon erased when John Wall set up Gortat from point-blank range for the last of his 24 tallies. The Big Pole was on the receiving end of eight of the Wall’s game-high 15 assists.

It was left to Old Man Pierce to deliver the last rites of a 106-99 victory, notching eight of his 18 points in the game’s final two minutes, including a pair of three-point dagger (the first set by Gortat).

Having both enjoyed a sweet victory (over Chicago) and endured a bitter defeat (at the hands of a vulnerable pack of Pacers) a season ago, Washington played the first half of its schedule like a team on a mission, winning 69 percent of their games. An abysmal (5-14) third six-weeks raised doubts, significantly lowering their profile. But in the season’s final 42 days, the Wiz righted the ship to the tune of 12-9.

Hmm, 12-9? Not a Hall of Fame run, by any means…

But one that can getcha to the Finals.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

“Five” Seeds in the Catbird Seat?

In today’s NBA, the No. 5 seed in a conference playoff bracket can be a very advantageous spot to occupy – prime real estate, so to say.

Your first-round opponent is likely to be the division champion with the poorest record. You can even, like this year’s Grizzlies, own the home-court advantage.

The second round would bring the top seed – often a squad constructed more for success over the course of a long season than for a short series, maybe thin on playoff experience and thus (by definition?) vulnerable.

The betting favorite (LBJ) and/or the defending champs, a team on the rise? Check the other side of the bracket.

In the East, the Wizards utilized Paul Pierce will (Game 1) and youthful backcourt skill (Game 2) to exploit their edge in “Been There, Done That.” They’ll attempt the same shell game in Round 2, presumably against the surprising Hawks.

Out West, Memphis and San Antonio actually tied for fourth, But Northwest Division champion Portland (with but one more victory than No. 7 Dallas) can, by rule, be seeded no lower than fourth. So instead of an opening-round slugfest with the Spurs – that duty’s been delegated to the Clippers – the Griz have drawn the Blazers, who seem never to have recuperated from the loss at the season’s three-quarter pole of steady wing Wes Matthews, a mere .500 team since then.

Not even a slow start, a first-half goose-egg from stud Zach Randolph, and a foot tweak to another point guard (Beno Udrih) could deter a double-digit half-time Memphis advantage in Game 2 last night. The Grizzlies executed Coach Dave Joerger’s offense with less than a ten-point lead for but five – count ‘em, FIVE – second half possessions in polishing off a rather pedestrian 97-82 pasting.

Old School Basketball 101 contends that a playoff series hasn’t really begun until the home team loses. If true, then 2015’s opening playoff homestands included 13 preliminary matches.

The Grizzlies’ 2013 run to the Conference Final keeps them well aware of the grind that is the NBA post-season. They will be looking to get things started for real during this weekend’s business trip.

Deuces may be Wild, Sevens and Elevens Lucky, but these Fives can be Deadly.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It’s Only Green Lights and Alrights for Wheeling Wizards

“The game’s to 21 – 11’s a shutout.”

Does anyone else recall that sort of condition that we’d sometimes put on our childhood competitions – ping pong, air hockey, hoops, whatever?

Even as kids we seemed to know that playing out the string in a one-sided match quickly becomes more chore than joy.

So, should “three” be a shutout in a seven-game series? (Should the team trailing have the option to resign?)

Of course, such a thing could never happen in the NBA – or any other pro sport. It fits neither the business model of any league nor the mental make-up of any of these athletes – except perhaps Rajon Rondo these days.

History reveals to us that NBA teams who begin a seven-game series 2-0 eventually advance an almost unbelievable 94 percent of the time – a good omen for the four teams  (three more could turn the trick tonight) who’ve held serve at home thus far.

Even better omen for the Washington Wizards, who hold the same advantage courtesy of two road triumphs. (Indeed, the Wiz have now won eight of their last nine playoff “roadies.”)

Unlike Game 1, in which Paul Pierce and the veteran bigs did the heavy lifting, it was the young bucks, particularly Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr, who led the way.

Also unlike Game 1, two of the better offensive units during the season showed us why. Each team improved both its shooting percentage and rate of conversion by more than 10 percent over the first game’s lackluster numbers.

The strategic decision to get big center Jonas Valancuinas more involved offensively and some less-than-tepid early Wizard shooting got the Raptors out to a quick 12-2 advantage.

At that point, the Wizards decided to enter the fray and slowly worked their way back into the game. They’d gotten within five (31-26) by the end of a lively first quarter, and drew even midway through the second.

Beal was the man of the hour. He missed a three-pointer on the team’s opening and closing possessions of the second quarter. In between, he converted seven consecutive field goal attempts, tallying 20 of his game high 28 points prior to the intermission. By then, the Wizards had gained control at 60-49.

Sensing desperation, Toronto made its run early, slicing the margin to 63-61. But on the heels of a momentum-breaking time-out, the Wizards converted on their next four possessions, sparking a 10-0 run and restoring a comfortable lead that would peak at 29 and never again reach a single digit.

Wizard coach Randy Wittman had been equally persuasive with his troops during an early first-quarter time-out as they clicked on six straight trips down the floor following that little strategy session.

Washington’s Under-25’s – John Wall, Beal and Porter – combined for 69 points, 20 assists (17 for Wall) and 15 rebounds (9 for Porter).

Toronto All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, again hampered with foul trouble, misfired on seven of ten shots in just 27 minutes.

The Series resumes Friday in DC – unless Toronto decides two is a shutout. Before pulling that trigger, the Raptors should consider one final piece of recent history: the Wizards lost four of their five home playoff games in 2014.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Grizzlies Shine in Weekend of Romps

Lop-sided victories are hardly uncommon in the opening weekend of the NBA playoffs. Superior teams, at times vastly so, playing at home – that’s gonna happen. Five of the eight openers were decided by double-digits.

Oddly, two of the three exceptions were the eight seeds, New Orleans and Brooklyn. (The Nets actually out-executed the Hawks, 46 conversions to 44.) The worst drubbing of the weekend was administered to the defending champion Spurs by the Clippers, 107-92.

But the most dominant performance was turned in by the Memphis Grizzlies. Their lockdown on Portland induced but 34 percent shooting and a mere 41 conversions (in 101 possessions), resulting in a 100-86 victory.

The Blazers had parried a hot (10-2) Memphis start to pull within four points with a minute to go in the first quarter. Three minutes and a 17-3 run later, the lead (which would peak at 29 and still surpass 20 halfway through the fourth quarter) stood at 18.

Back-up point guard Beno Udrih contributed 11 of his team-high 20 points during this crucial run.

Even more encouraging to Coach Dave Joerger than the easy win was the physical health of his squad. Mike Conley and Tony Allen each provided 20+ minutes returning from injury, and Marc Gasol showed no ill effects from a recent ankle tweak.

Quick Takes

n  San Antonio has struggled defending the three pointer all season (No. 24 in the league). The Clippers drained 10 of 18, a whopping 56 percent.
n  On the other hand, if Houston can continue to stroke threes at a 40 percent clip (10-25), watch out!
n  Cleveland delivered the most efficient offensive performance, converting 56 percent of their possessions. Their 13 treys was also a weekend high.
n  In losing efforts, the Spurs and Blazers combined for 33 offensive rebounds on 122 misses.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Wizards-Raptors Game 1: Paul Pierce Comfortable Donning the “Black Hat”

Jitters, jigs and old-school jumpers.

The NBA Playoffs for 2015 have been launched – north of the border in front of a chanting and (appropriately enough) snow-white clad throng in a place called Jurassic Park. The home crowd was pumped from the opening bell. Methinks I detected a bit of WWE in the cadence and content (We the North?) of their participation.

Unfortunately, the league’s fourth-best scoring team (Raptors) and sixth-best shooting team (Wizards)both fell victim to that amorphous entity called playoff pressure, neither shooting 40 percent on the day. The game’s first points – on a twisting, leg-splaying Terrence Ross jumper from the left wing – set the tone. Shots, including a good many free throws, were accompanied by so much body language that this game needed a soundtrack (Spike Jones and His City Slickers, perhaps).

The teams managed but two field goals apiece and 12 overall points before a mandatory time-out mercifully interrupted the flow(?). More familiar rims and a boost from the second unit (especially ex-Rocket Patrick Patterson) kept Toronto in front by a possession or two through the game’s first 18 minutes, the crowd heartily cheering on the efforts of the home-town “baby-faces.”

Perfect time for a run-in by the nefarious “heel” faction. That fiendish Paul Pierce, who’d been so brashly doubting the Raptors’ “It” factor ,re-entered the fray and immediately put the good guys in peril. His ten-point flurry sparked a 17-6 closing run and a four-point halftime margin in favor of the foreign intruders.

The wily Wizards, perhaps finally realizing that they’d knocked off the gritty Bulls in an opening-round series last year, kept both the Raptors and their crowd at bay, building a lead that peaked at 74-59 on a Drew Gooden put-back with 8:43 to go. Veteran posts Gooden and Nene Hilario spear-headed a 61-48 shellacking on the glass. Their 11 (of a team 19) offensive rebounds exceeded by one the entire Toronto roster.

At this point, our hardwood tag-team match was set up for the familiar “hot tag” and strong surge from the fan favorites. The Raptor reserves again rose to the occasion, chipping away at the lead and ultimately evening the contest on a last-minute three-pointer by Greivis Vasquez, who responded with a crowd-pleasing shoulder shimmy.

Vasquez’s vamping, alas, would be the last highlight for the home team, who would squander five possessions and launch seven errant shots before finally scoring four-and-a-half minutes into the overtime session. By then, Washington had executed their way to three conversions and a five-point edge.

It was most fitting that Pierce bookended the Wizards’ OT scoring with a three-point dagger and pair of free throws, posting 20 for the day. The trey was set up by a clutch offensive rebound and dish from Bradley Beal, who’d shared with backcourt mate John Wall the most miserable of shooting days (11-41).

Coach Dwane Casey and his Raptors can hang their hat on that strong fourth-quarter run, during with they held a Wizards line-up that included Pierce to eight points in nearly nine minutes, and on their five double-digit scorers.

Game 2, indeed the very series, may hinge on which point guard, Wall or Kyle Lowry (who fouled out late in the fourth quarter), can best regain his mojo on the heels of a poor performance.

For one day, though, Jurassic Park was held hostage by a dinosaur heel who most certainly still has “it.”

Monday, April 13, 2015

NBA Final Week Pre-Playoff Musings: A Fart or Two from an Old Brain

Back when he was stumping for his memoir at the birth of this NBA season, our sport society’s Curmudgeon- Emeritus, Bob Ryan, seemed to relish scoffing at the very notion of championship prognostication. “Tell me who’s gonna be healthy when the playoffs start…” disclaimer notwithstanding, the old Scribe did anoint the defending champion Spurs the favorites.

My early-season expectations/hunches centered around two teams, both of whom seemed to be upwardly mobile in the matter of contention and either of whom could be poised to break through to the championship round of the post-season. Since neither of these teams play in a particularly media-friendly market, I mischievously began to conjure up reasons to believe both could reach The Finals.

My prospective finalists are the Wizards and the Grizzlies – nirvana to Sesame Street fans of the letter “Z,” huh?

No wonder Mr. Ryan’s thoughts emanate to millions and mine remain mere Straight Lines.

Best Case Scenario – Memphis

Unlike the syncopated Three (pointer) Step preferred by most of the league these days, the battle-tested Beale Street Bunch dances to a mellow old-school blues beat, eschewing the trey more than any other team, been playing that way for nearly a decade now (remember Marc  Iavaroni, Grizz Fan?).

Memphis can finish seeded anywhere from second to sixth (except fourth, Portland’s locked in). Health, though, may be the biggest immediate concern – three rotation players are currently hobbled (Conley, Allen and now Gasol). Dropping to the fifth seed could be the most beneficial thing that could happen. The Grizzlies would hold home-court advantage over Northwest champ Portland.

Handling the Blazers would set up a second-round match-up with Golden State, very likely to have been unchallenged by a callow New Orleans squad. Now, despite all the Warriors’ recent success, this is a franchise that has not reached a conference final series since our nation’s bicentennial celebration and would be celebrating just their third playoff victory this century. These veteran Grizzlies – the “kid” point guard is in his seventh year – can, if healthy, make the moment too big for the Splash Brothers and their rookie head coach with their style and guile.

Mr. Ryan’s Spurs will probably have navigated past the Rockets, Mavs and/or Clippers on the other side of the bracket for a re-match of 2013. That’s certainly no cake-walk, but stranger things have happened.

Best Case Scenario – Washington

Since the three-point field goal was introduced to the NBA game, the Wizards/Bullets have won a grand total of three playoff series, one of them a best-of-three. Outside a four-year stretch of .500+ ball under home-towner Fast Eddie Jordan, this team has been no less than a doormat for a quarter-century.

But due to health (Indiana, Chicago) or insurrection (Miami), the East seemed extra wide-open this year, as Atlanta decided to jump up and prove. As the game’s best player acclimated to familiar surroundings but new teammates, the Wizards, Hawks and Raptors made hay during the season’s first twelve weeks, collectively winning nearly 75% (90 of 125) of their games.

Then Coach Wittman’s crew simply forgot how to win games – old habits die hard, huh? They lost 11 of 13 games in 30 days and dipped off the radar. But since the onset of March, they’ve lost consecutive games (albeit four in a row) only once. Throughout their struggles and beyond, Washington continues to rank in the top ten in both FG offense and FG defense.

While their flashy young backcourt garners headlines and old-head Paul Pierce dominates microphones, there’s a veteran presence on this squad that emanates from the likes of Nene, Marcin Gortat, Drew Gooden, even Spurs-ex DeJuan Blair.

A reprise of last season’s “4” vs. “5” encounter with Chicago leading to a second round match-up with the Hawks seems inevitable. The James Gang figures to be awaiting the survivor, barring an unexpected Canadian sunset.

The Wizards advanced further in the post-season last year than any of these teams.

Parting Poot

In this year of the “Tank,” wouldn’t it be fitting if both Boston and Brooklyn were to get on a roll and meet in the Conference Final – or maybe Milwaukee?

Uh-oh, I’m feelin’ a new Final. How’s about Lionel Hollins against the team he’d taken to the Conference Final two years ago – ya know, right before they canned his arse?

If you smell what Rock’s abacus is cookin’!!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Ever Wonder Why the Same Few Officials Work All the Big Games?

To what extent is an elite college basketball referee overworked through the course of a season?

In other words, doesn’t the same little clique of officials, in one formation or other, seem to call every heavily hyped, high-profile game? And aren’t there certain refs with whom even a casual channel-hopper regularly crosses paths – up and down your cable dial and from all corners of the hoops world?

The situation is hardly novel, nor is it exclusive to the men’s game. Dee Kanter, one of the pioneers among female NBA officials, has deemed an ample slate of Division I work a better gig – with no apparent impact on her WNBA employability.

Periodically, a call for reform is sounded, the need to limit the frequency of an official’s assignments, maybe some restriction on the amount of travel. Heck, coaching icon Bob Knight, until recently occupying first chair in the curmudgeon section of the ESPN orchestra, can deliver a diatribe at the drop of a hat.

Inevitably, the moment passes and “official” existence keeps on truckin’.

Equally inevitable is the fact that these arbiters of our games can and do at times overwork themselves – physically, emotionally or both – to the point of ineffectiveness. This certainly seemed to be the case during the latter stages of the NBA’s recent season of condensed play.

In this world of ours, so data-centric and analytical, I can’t help but wonder if anyone’s tried to put a ruler to the “fatigue factor” for these so in-demand whistle-tooters.

In a recent piece for The Roar, David Friedman postulates that minutes played (i.e. work rate) is a more accurate indicator of a player’s value than some of our new-fangled scales of performance evaluation.

Here’s an idea – maybe someone in a Statistics class somewhere could do this as a project.
Each game in the NCAA Tourney’s Round of 64 uses a separate trio of referees; that requires 96 officials. It shouldn’t be too cumbersome to obtain a record of the extent and competitive level of each one’s work.

As Mr. Friedman argues, the extent to which one is actually participating in the action is an accurate (and reasonable) standard of measure.

And rest assured, no ambitious official turns down work.

When one chooses to pursue seriously the craft of “calling good ball well,” the goal is to become THE guy to officiate THE game. One is also taught that every game is important to those involved, thus deserving of one’s best effort.

The better officials (all sports, all levels), the ones who keep getting to call THE game even as the schedule wanes and the games grow few, take pride in such consistency and regularity of work. It’s ingrained in the culture if not the mental make-up of an official. I have little doubt that Joey Crawford genuinely believes, however preposterous it may sound, that he’s THE guy for all 1200+ games every season

That particular manifestation of ego, present to some degree in any official worth his/her salt, is the cost of engaging in an avocation where a common standard of proficiency is that one go un-noticed.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Technologically Enhanced Officiating

The game officials for this week’s NCAA Final are drawing criticism over an inefficient use of video review in awarding a late possession to Duke on a ball that was shown to have been last touched by Blue Devil Justice Winslow.

Of late, ref-bashing has ranked second only to NCAA denigration on the Media Gripe-o-meter – at least since the NFL’s Eddie Haskell-wannabe Commissioner has been able to keep a relatively low profile currently.

On the play in question, it is not at all unreasonable to think that, in real time, six eyes might not get a clear view of the ball and all those fingers. There’s a lot going on out there on that court.

Less conceivable is that those six eyes could not adequately fixate upon a courtside TV monitor to determine the interaction of ball and hands. Is their image less precise than what the Average Joe sees in his home – or what the fans in attendance are provided on video boards? That seems implausible at this point in time and at such a major event. (But an event under the aegis of the NCAA, so yanevano!)

Is it possible that those six eyes were never provided the definitive look? I know the network uses a lot of cameras at an event of this magnitude, but there can’t be that many, can there?

With whom is the lead official communicating on that headset? Just who is it that’s orchestrating those “second looks” – is the TV production crew pulling double duty, or are separate personnel in place to handle those nuts and bolts?

The NBA now manages all in-game video reviews from a centralized facility in New Jersey – someone in Secaucus is on the other end, working pro-actively to provide the crew with the best view of the play. The NHL has been reviewing and verifying every single goal from its fortress in Toronto for years now.

Perfection – especially when it comes to the monumental task of calling good ball well – is a myth. (Never trust the umpire who says, “Haven’t missed one yet!” – and really believes it.)

Sensor- and robotic-technology may ultimately evolve to where they’ll eliminate the human element – indeed maybe the human entirely – from the officiating of our games … at least the most important ones. A computer or hybrid purveyor of Art-Official (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!)Intelligence will interpret all this data instantaneously and render rulings accordingly. (An unintended consequence of this eventuality will be the elimination of the need for flopping.) 

In the meantime, the unintended consequences are more likely to resemble this week’s “growing pain.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

NBA 2014-15 21-week Power Ratings

As April Fool’s Day approaches, those rambunctious Denver Nuggets are now eligible to break huddles with a “One, Two, Three, THREE WEEKS” chant. As of last Thursday, exactly 21 days remained on the NBA schedule – 1,071 of the league’s 1,230 regular-season games (87.1%) were in the books, an average of 71.14 per team. Teams have played roughly 7,000 possessions, Utah’s 6,623 (93.3 per game) the low, Phoenix’s 7256 (100.8 per game) at the top. About a third of the teams convert half or more of their possessions, led by the Clippers’ .522. No team makes half its field goal attempts.

That per-game discrepancy in possessions between the fast-paced Suns and plodding Jazz is about the same when it comes to free-throw attempts. The atrocious Knicks, amongst their other faults, have attempted the fewest free throws (1,369 – 19.0 per game) in 21 weeks of NBA action. Sacramento (2,088 – 29.4 per game) has shot the most.

Here’s a little numerical oddity about the Kings and Jazz. It could be argued that these are this season’s two best rebounding squads. Each ranks in the top ten in both their own Offensive Rebounding Percentage and that of their opponents, the lone members of that particular club. Alas, each also ranks in the bottom ten in both their own Turnover Percentage and the rate of the other guys, the lone members of that club as well.

Ratings reflect play through Wednesday March 25. (The Criteria is explained below.)

No. 1 Golden State Warriors (4)
[21-week ESPN rating: 1
18-week Abacus rating: 1
15-week Abacus rating: 1
12-week Abacus rating: 1
9-week Abacus rating: 1
6-week Abacus rating: 1
3-week Abacus rating: 5]

58-13, .817; 1st in Pacific Division / 1st seed / 1st overall
KK:  +22; (24 Road Wins – 2 Home Losses) / No. 1 overall
CQ:  +40; (.510 [3rd] - .470 [1st]) / No. 1 overall
SPOR-t:  +51; (573 [6th] – 522 [3rd]) / No. 1 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Warriors rank No. 1 in both FG offense (.479) and FG defense (.424).

No. 2 Memphis Grizzlies (12)
[21-week ESPN rating: 3
18-week Abacus rating: 2
15-week Abacus rating: 2
12-week Abacus rating: 2
9-week Abacus rating: 3
6-week Abacus rating: 2
3-week Abacus rating: 1]

50-22, .694; 1st in Southwest Division / 2nd seed / 3rd overall
KK:  +15; (23 Road Wins – 8 Home Losses) / No. 3 overall
CQ:  +30; (.506 [6th] - .476 [3rd]) / No. 2 overall
SPOR-t:  +36; (565 [11th] – 529 [6th]) / No. 4 overall
Abacus Revelation: The possession-conscious Grizzlies rank sixth in both taking care of the ball (.138) and forcing turnovers (.161) defense – also in rate of conversion (.506).

No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers (20)
[21-week ESPN rating: 7
18-week Abacus rating: 3
15-week Abacus rating: 5
12-week Abacus rating: 8
9-week Abacus rating: 9
6-week Abacus rating: 8
3-week Abacus rating: 19]

47-25, .653; 2nd in Pacific Division / 5th seed / 5th overall
KK:  +10; (20 Road Wins – 10 Home Losses) / No. 6 overall (tied)*
CQ:  +25; (.522 [1st] - .497 [20th]) / No. 3 overall
SPOR-t:  +33; (574 [5th] – 541 [8th]) / No.  5 overall 
Abacus Revelation: Clipper opponents have attempted the second-most free throws (1850) in the league.

No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers (27.5)
[21-week ESPN rating: 2
18-week Abacus rating: 9
15-week Abacus rating: 13
12-week Abacus rating: 17
9-week Abacus rating: 12
6-week Abacus rating: 10
3-week Abacus rating: 12]

47-26, .644; 1st in Central Division / 2nd seed / 6th overall
KK:  +12; (21 Road Wins – 9 Home Losses) / No. 4 overall (tied)
CQ:  +12; (.510 [4th] - .498 [21st]) / No. 8 overall
SPOR-t:  +12; (583 [3rd] – 571 [24th]) / No. 8 overall (tied)*
Abacus Revelation: Over the past three weeks, Cleveland more than doubled its opposition output in three-point FG’s, 130 – 61.

No. 4 San Antonio Spurs (27.5)
[21-week ESPN rating: 5
18-week Abacus rating: 6
15-week Abacus rating: 7
12-week Abacus rating: 7
9-week Abacus rating: 11
6-week Abacus rating: 4
3-week Abacus rating: 10]

45-26, .634; 3rd in Southwest Division / 6th seed / 8th overall
KK:  +10; (18 Road Wins – 8 Home Losses) / No. 6 overall (tied)*
CQ:  +16; (.500 [10th] - .484 [8th]) / No. 6 overall (tied)
SPOR-t:  +29; (551 [17th] – 522 [3rd]) / No. 6 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Spurs have eased their way into the top ten in both offensive and defensive rates of conversion.

No. 6 Atlanta Hawks (31)
[21-week ESPN rating: 4
18-week Abacus rating: 4
15-week Abacus rating: 4
12-week Abacus rating: 5
9-week Abacus rating: 8
6-week Abacus rating: 13
3-week Abacus rating: 15]

54-17, .761; 1st in Southeast Division / 1st seed / 2nd overall
KK:  +19; (24 Road Wins – 5 Home Losses) / No. 2 overall
CQ:  +21; (.494 [14th] - .473 [2nd]) / No. 4 overall
SPOR-t:  -12; (530 [25th] – 542 [11th]) / No. 23 overall
Abacus Revelation: Atlanta’s Achilles’ heel remains rebounding – they rank in the bottom ten in both Offensive Rebounding Percentage (.213) and that of their opposition (.269).

No. 7 Oklahoma City Thunder (34.5)
[21-week ESPN rating: 8
18-week Abacus rating: 7
15-week Abacus rating: 10
12-week Abacus rating: 11
9-week Abacus rating: 14
6-week Abacus rating: 22
3-week Abacus rating: 28]

41-31, .569; 2nd in Northwest Division / 8th seed / 12th overall
KK:  +5; (14 Road Wins – 9 Home Losses) / No. 11 overall (tied)
CQ:  +11; (.500 [11th] - .489 [12th]) / No. 9 overall
SPOR-t:  +44; (585 [2nd] – 541 [8th]) / No. 2 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Thunder averaged 14 offensive rebounds a game over the past three weeks – they rank second (.287) currently.

No. 8 Washington Wizards (35.5)
[21-week ESPN rating: 14
18-week Abacus rating: 8
15-week Abacus rating: 6
12-week Abacus rating: 4
9-week Abacus rating: 4
6-week Abacus rating: 5
3-week Abacus rating: 4]

40-32, .556; 2nd in Southeast Division / 5th seed / 13th overall
KK:  +4; (15 Road Wins – 11 Home Losses) / No. 13 overall
CQ:  +16; (.499 [12th] - .483 [7th]) / No. 6 overall (tied)
SPOR-t:  +39; (558 [12th] – 519 [2nd]) / No. 3 overall
Abacus Revelation: The streaky Wizards still rank in the top five in both FG offense (.464) and FG defense (.437).

No. 9 Dallas Mavericks (36.5)
[21-week ESPN rating: 11
18-week Abacus rating: 5
15-week Abacus rating: 3
12-week Abacus rating: 2
9-week Abacus rating: 4
6-week Abacus rating: 3
3-week Abacus rating: 2]

45-27, .625; 4th in Southwest Division / 7th seed / 9th overall
KK:  +8; (20 Road Wins – 12 Home Losses) / No. 9 overall
CQ:  +19; (.507 [3rd] - .488 [12th]) / No. 5 overall
SPOR-t:  +7; (567 [8th] – 560 [20th]) / No. 13 overall (tied)
Abacus Revelation: The Mavs struggle to defend the 3-point shot, ranking No. 25 (.362).

No. 10 Houston Rockets (43.5)
[21-week ESPN rating: 6
18-week Abacus rating: 10
15-week Abacus rating: 9
12-week Abacus rating: 8
9-week Abacus rating: 10
6-week Abacus rating: 9
3-week Abacus rating: 3]

48-23, .676; 2nd in Southwest Division / 3rd seed / 4th overall
KK:  +12; (22 Road Wins – 10 Home Losses) / No. 4 overall (tied)
CQ:  +1; (.484 [23rd] - .483 [6th]) / No. 15 overall
SPOR-t:  -7; (542 [21st] – 549 [12th]) / No. 20 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Rockets have launched over 350 more treys than any other team.

No. 11 Chicago Bulls (50.5)
[21-week ESPN rating: 10
18-week Abacus rating: 13
15-week Abacus rating: 11
12-week Abacus rating: 12
9-week Abacus rating: 7
6-week Abacus rating: 11
3-week Abacus rating: 8]

44-29, .603; 2nd in Central Division / 3rd seed / 10th overall
KK:  +7; (21 Road Wins – 14 Home Losses) / No. 10 overall
CQ:  +5; (.501 [9th] - .496 [18th]) / No. 11 overall (tied)
SPOR-t:  -5; (567 [8th] – 572 [25th]) / No. 19 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Bulls are worst in the league at forcing turnovers (.122).

No. 11 Toronto Raptors (50.5)
[21-week ESPN rating: 12
18-week Abacus rating: 12
15-week Abacus rating: 8
12-week Abacus rating: 6
9-week Abacus rating: 2
6-week Abacus rating: 7
3-week Abacus rating: 7]

42-30, .583; 1st in Atlantic Division / 4th seed / 11th overall
KK:  +5; (18 Road Wins – 13 Home Losses) / No. 11 overall (tied)
CQ:  +4; (.511 [2nd] - .507 [27th]) / No. 13 overall
SPOR-t:  +3; (579 [4th] – 576 [27th]) / No. 15 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Raptors rank in the bottom four in FG defense (.462) and opponent rate of conversion (.507).

No. 13 Portland Trail Blazers (51)
[21-week ESPN rating: 9
18-week Abacus rating: 11
15-week Abacus rating: 12
12-week Abacus rating: 10
9-week Abacus rating: 6
6-week Abacus rating: 5
3-week Abacus rating: 9]

45-25, .643; 1st in Northwest Division / 4th seed / 7th overall
KK:  +10; (17 Road Wins – 7 Home Losses) / No. 6 overall (tied)*
CQ:  -4; (.486 [22nd] - .490 [13th]) / No. 18 overall (tied)*
SPOR-t:  -4; (549 [20th] – 553 [15th]) / No. 18 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Blazers are third-best in the league at defending the trey (.333).

No. 14 Milwaukee Bucks (54.5)
[21-week ESPN rating: 22
18-week Abacus rating: 16
15-week Abacus rating: 14
12-week Abacus rating: 15
9-week Abacus rating: 16
6-week Abacus rating: 16
3-week Abacus rating: 13]

35-36, .493; 3rd in Central Division / 6th seed / 16th overall
KK:  +1; (15 Road Wins – 14 Home Losses) / No. 14 overall (tied)*
CQ:  +6; (.483 [24th] - .477 [4th]) / No. 10 overall
SPOR-t:  +7; (537 [23rd] – 530 [7th]) / No. 13 overall (tied)
Abacus Revelation: Taking care of the ball (No. 29, .172) should be high on Coach Kidd’s fix-it list moving forward..

No. 15 New Orleans Pelicans (55)
[21-week ESPN rating: 15
18-week Abacus rating: 14
15-week Abacus rating: 14
12-week Abacus rating: 13
9-week Abacus rating: 13
6-week Abacus rating: 14
3-week Abacus rating: 11]

37-34, .521; 5th in Southwest Division / 10th seed / 15th overall
KK:  +1; (14 Road Wins – 13 Home Losses) / No. 14 overall (tied)*
CQ:  -1; (.505 [7th] - .506 [24th]) / No. 16 overall
SPOR-t:  +12; (587 [1st] – 575 [26th]) / No. 8 overall (tied)*
Abacus Revelation: The Pelicans need to rise from the bottom quartile in FG defense (.456).


Fans and pundits alike are singing the praises of rookie Golden State coach Steve Kerr. His high-scoring Warriors lead the Association in overall field goal shooting as well as 3-point shooting. Defensively, they also rank first and fifth respectively in those categories. (Only the Hawks and Bucks have matched this achievement.) Perhaps we should, though, detain Kerr in the Mt. Rushmore Green Room a bit longer. The bastions of the Bay Area, under the helm of the deposed Mark Jackson, turned that very trick last season as well. The only other coach who can make that claim goes by “Pop” – and he still has a job.

No. 16 Utah Jazz (58)
[21-week ESPN rating: 13
18-week Abacus rating: 17
15-week Abacus rating: 20
12-week Abacus rating: 23
9-week Abacus rating: 22
6-week Abacus rating: 25
3-week Abacus rating: 22]

31-40, .437; 3rd in Northwest Division / 11th seed / 18th overall (tied)*
KK:  -5; (14 Road Wins – 19 Home Losses) / No. 19 overall (tied)**
CQ:  +5; (.497 [13th] - .492 [14th]) / No. 11 overall (tied)
SPOR-t:  +24; (573 [6th] – 549 [12th]) / No. 7 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Jazz have become the league’s best offensive rebounding team (.289).

No. 17 Charlotte Hornets (65)
[21-week ESPN rating: 21
18-week Abacus rating: 15
15-week Abacus rating: 16
12-week Abacus rating: 16
9-week Abacus rating: 24
6-week Abacus rating: 24
3-week Abacus rating: 21]

30-40, .429; 4th in Southeast Division / 10th seed / 21st overall (tied)
KK:  -5; (14 Road Wins – 19 Home Losses) / No. 19 overall (tied)**
CQ:  +2; (.480 [28th] - .478 [5th]) / No. 14 overall
SPOR-t:  +12; (523 [29th] – 511 [1st]) / No. 8 overall (tied)*
Abacus Revelation: The Hornets are best in the league at boxing-out (.200), worst at long-distance shooting (.315).

No. 17 Phoenix Suns (65)
[21-week ESPN rating: 17
18-week Abacus rating: 19
15-week Abacus rating: 17
12-week Abacus rating: 14
9-week Abacus rating: 15
6-week Abacus rating: 15
3-week Abacus rating: 18]

38-34, .528; 3rd in Pacific Division / 9th seed / 14th overall
KK:  +1; (17 Road Wins – 16 Home Losses) / No. 14 overall (tied)*
CQ:  -4; (.493 [16th] - .497 [19th]) / No. 18 overall (tied)*
SPOR-t:  -2; (555 [16th] – 557 [18th]) / No. 17 overall
Abacus Revelation: After making over nine treys per game at the midpoint, the Suns were down to six over the last 10 games (Weeks 19-21).

No. 19 Indiana Pacers (72.5)
[21-week ESPN rating: 16
18-week Abacus rating: 18
15-week Abacus rating: 19
12-week Abacus rating: 22
9-week Abacus rating: 21
6-week Abacus rating: 23
3-week Abacus rating: 23]

31-40, .437; 4th in Central Division / 8th seed / 18th overall (tied)*
KK:  -5 (13 Road Wins – 18 Home Loss) / No. 19 overall (tied)**
CQ:  -6; (.481 [27th] - .487 [10th]) / No. 21 overall (tied)
SPOR-t:  +11; (533 [24th] – 522 [3rd]) / No. 11 overall (tied)
Abacus Revelation: The Pacers’ FG defense (.435, No. 3) and protection of the defensive backboard (.220, No. 2) have been stout.

No. 20 Miami Heat (77)
[21-week ESPN rating: 18
18-week Abacus rating: 20
15-week Abacus rating: 21
12-week Abacus rating: 21
9-week Abacus rating: 23
6-week Abacus rating: 21
3-week Abacus rating: 14]

33-38, .465; 3rd in Southeast Division / 7th seed / 17th overall
KK:  -2; (16 Road Wins – 18 Home Losses) / No. 17 overall (tied)
CQ:  -2; (.494 [16th] - .496 [19th]) / No. 17 overall
SPOR-t:  -31; (527 [26th] – 558 [19th]) / No. 25 overall (tied)
Abacus Revelation: All season, the Heat have wallowed in the bottom ten in both securing (.228) and preventing (.264) offensive rebounds.

No. 21 Boston Celtics (79.5)
[21-week ESPN rating: 19
18-week Abacus rating: 23
15-week Abacus rating: 22
12-week Abacus rating: 25
9-week Abacus rating: 19
6-week Abacus rating: 18
3-week Abacus rating: 17]

31-40, .437; 2nd in Atlantic Division / 8th seed / 18th overall (tied)*
KK:  -5; (13 Road Wins – 18 Home Losses) / No. 19 overall (tied)**
CQ:  -11; (.482 [26th] - .493 [15th]) / No. 24 overall
SPOR-t:  -0; (550 [18th] – 550 [14th]) / No. 16 overall
Abacus Revelation: At the 12-week mark, Boston ranked 26th in 3FG defense (.368); nine weeks later the C’s are No. 8 (.340).

No. 21 Detroit Pistons (79.5)
[21-week ESPN rating: 23
18-week Abacus rating: 21
15-week Abacus rating: 18
12-week Abacus rating: 20
9-week Abacus rating: 26
6-week Abacus rating: 29
3-week Abacus rating: 27]

27-44, .380; 5th in Central Division / 12th seed / 23rd overall
KK:  -9; (12 Road Wins – 21 Home Losses) / No. 23 overall (tied)
CQ:  -6; (.488 [20th] - .494 [16th]) / No. 21 overall (tied)
SPOR-t:  +11; (567 [8th] – 556 [16th]) / No. 11 overall (tied)
Abacus Revelation: The rugged Pistons rank third in the league in Offensive Rebounding Percentage (.278).

No. 23 Brooklyn Nets (89)
[21-week ESPN rating: 20
18-week Abacus rating: 22
15-week Abacus rating: 23
12-week Abacus rating: 24
9-week Abacus rating: 18
6-week Abacus rating: 19
3-week Abacus rating: 15]

30-40, .429; 3rd in Atlantic Division / 10th seed / 21st overall (tied)
KK:  -2; (18 Road Wins – 20 Home Losses) / No. 17 overall (tied)
CQ:  -10; (.491 [19th] - .501 [22nd]) / No. 23 overall
SPOR-t:  -38; (540 [22nd] – 578 [28th]) / No. 27 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Nets rank in the bottom ten in both securing (.237) and preventing (.268) offensive rebounds.

No.24 Sacramento Kings (91)
[21-week ESPN rating: 24
18-week Abacus rating: 24
15-week Abacus rating: 25
12-week Abacus rating: 19
9-week Abacus rating: 17
6-week Abacus rating: 12
3-week Abacus rating: 6]

26-45, .366; 4th in Pacific Division / 13th seed / 25th overall
KK:  -11; (10 Road Wins – 21 Home Losses) / No. 25 overall
CQ:  -4; (.503 [8th] - .507 [25th]) / No. 18 overall (tied)*
SPOR-t:  -11; (556 [15th] – 567 [23rd]) / No. 22 overall
Abacus Revelation: The strong-rebounding Kings stand No. 8 in Conversion rate (.503).

No. 25 Denver Nuggets (96.5)
[21-week ESPN rating: 25
18-week Abacus rating: 25
15-week Abacus rating: 24
12-week Abacus rating: 18
9-week Abacus rating: 19
6-week Abacus rating: 17
3-week Abacus rating: 24]

27-45, .375; 4th in Northwest Division / 12th seed / 24th overall
KK:  -9; (11 Road Wins – 20 Home Losses) / No. 23 overall (tied)
CQ:  -19; (.488 [21st] - .507 [26th]) / No. 25 overall
SPOR-t:  -13; (550 [18th] – 563 [21th]) / No. 24 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Nuggets rank No. 10 in both Offensive Rebounding Percentage (.261) and turnover rate (.141).

No. 26 Los Angeles Lakers (101)
[21-week ESPN rating: 30
18-week Abacus rating: 26
15-week Abacus rating: 26
12-week Abacus rating: 27
9-week Abacus rating: 27
6-week Abacus rating: 26
3-week Abacus rating: 29]

19-51, .271; 5th in Pacific Division / 14th seed / 27th overall
KK:  -16; (8 Road Wins – 24 Home Losses) / No. 27 overall
CQ:  -20; (.493 [17th] - .513 [28th]) / No. 26 overall
SPOR-t:  -9; (557 [13th] – 566 [22nd]) / No. 21 overall
Abacus Revelation: The Lakers have been one of the more sure-handed teams all season, currently No. 5 in turnover rate (.134).

No. 27 Orlando Magic (104.5)
[21-week ESPN rating: 27
18-week Abacus rating: 27
15-week Abacus rating: 27
12-week Abacus rating: 26
9-week Abacus rating: 24
6-week Abacus rating: 20
3-week Abacus rating: 20]

22-51, .301; 5th in Southeast Division / 13th seed / 26th overall
KK:  -14; (10 Road Wins – 24 Home Losses) / No. 26 overall
CQ:  -21; (.483 [25th] - .504 [23rd]) / No. 27 overall
SPOR-t:  -31; (525 [28th] – 556 [16th]) / No. 25 (tied)
Abacus Revelation: The Magic need to improve those bottom ten rankings in 3FG offense (.351) and 3FG defense (.370).

No. 28 Minnesota Timberwolves (114)
[21-week ESPN rating: 29
18-week Abacus rating: 28
15-week Abacus rating: 28
12-week Abacus rating: 28
9-week Abacus rating: 28
6-week Abacus rating: 27
3-week Abacus rating: 26]

16-55, .225; 5th in Northwest Division / 15th seed / 29th overall
KK:  -20; (7 Road Wins – 27 Home Losses) / No. 29 overall
CQ:  -24; (.492 [18th] - .516 [30th]) / No. 28 overall
SPOR-t:  -49; (557 [13th] – 606 [30th]) / No. 28 overall
Abacus Revelation: Minnesota ranks fifth in creating second shots (.273) but dead last in preventing them (.278).

No. 29 Philadelphia 76ers (115)
[21-week ESPN rating: 26
18-week Abacus rating: 29
15-week Abacus rating: 29
12-week Abacus rating: 29
9-week Abacus rating: 20
6-week Abacus rating: 30
3-week Abacus rating: 30]

18-54, .250; 4th in Atlantic Division / 14th seed / 28th overall
KK:  -18; (6 Road Wins – 24 Home Losses) / No. 28 overall
CQ:  -34; (.450 [30th] - .484 [9th]) / No. 29 overall
SPOR-t:  -62; (479 [30th] – 541 [8th]) / No. 30 overall
Abacus Revelation: Give the scrappy Sixers some credit – they’ve cracked the top ten in defensive efficiency (opponents’ rate of conversion).

No. 30 New York Knicks (119)
[21-week ESPN rating: 28
18-week Abacus rating: 30
15-week Abacus rating: 30
12-week Abacus rating: 30
9-week Abacus rating: 29
6-week Abacus rating: 28
3-week Abacus rating: 25]

14-58, .194; 5th in Atlantic Division / 15th seed / 30th overall
KK:  -21; (5 Road Wins – 26 Home Losses) / No. 30 overall
CQ:  -62; (.452 [29th] - .514 [29th]) / No. 30 overall
SPOR-t:  -57; (526 [27th] – 583 [29th]) / No. 29 overall
Abacus Revelation: Among their many woes, the Knicks have attempted the fewest free throws (1369) while yielding the fourth most (1811).

Power Ratings --The Measurement Instrument

Our team-ranking tool utilizes four elements. Two scales are based solely on team wins and losses; the others are measures of the efficiency of team performance in comparison with the competition. 

First, we’ll simply use win-loss record irrespective of conference.

The second criterion will be the difference between a team’s road wins and its home losses. Since this cute little metric is said to be a personal favorite of veteran NBA coach George Karl, let’s call this the Karl Kount (KK).

Criterion No. 3, Conversion Quotient (CQ), involves the rate at which a team converts its possessions into a successful field goals or free throw attempts. Like the KK, the computation is simple subtraction—a team’s rate of offensive efficiency minus that of the opponent.

Lastly, please allow Abacus to introduce the “SPOR-t” score. SPOR-t stands for “Shooting Plus Offensive Rebounds minus turnovers.” Add a team’s FG percentage and its offensive rebounding percentage (o. boards divided by the sum of those o. boards and the opposition's d. boards). Then subtract the percentage of a team’s possessions lost to turnovers. For example, a team shoots field goals at a .488 clip, offensive rebounds at a rate of .199, and commits a turnover on .143 of its possessions. So its SPOR-t is (488+199-143) or 544. Once again, our measurement will be the difference between the SPOR-t scores of a team and its opposition.

We’ll rank the teams from 1 to 30 in all criteria and simply add up the rankings. Low score wins, naturally.