Your Ad Here

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Lakers Are Really The Best Now

Of the top three teams in the current NBA standings, the Cleveland Cavaliers seem to have the most impressive record. They have yet to suffer the same losses that Boston and the Lakers have had.

The Celtics have two losses against teams that are below .500--Golden State Warriors (10-25) and Indiana Pacers (12-21). The Lakers also lost to two losing teams--Sacramento Kings (8-26) and the same Pacers team that beat Boston.

And Cleveland? All their five losses were against winning teams (Boston, New Orleans, Detroit, Atlanta, and Miami). Moreover, the Cavaliers are still unbeaten at home, winning 17 straight while Boston and the Lakers have one home loss each. Impressive, huh!

Nahhh! If you look closer, you'd notice that their records are more a result of their "friendlier" schedules than their being a stronger team. Of the Cavaliers' 27 wins, only seven are against winning teams. Of the seven, only two were road wins.

Compare this to the Celtics' seven home and three road wins and the Lakers' most-impressive 12 wins (five on the road) against teams above .500. Please see my previous article for more on this assertion.

The Lakers might have won more games had Phil Jackson allowed Kobe Bryant to play the kind of minutes that Lebron James is playing. Remember their 1-point loss in Indiana? It was a won game that was lost when Kobe was resting on the bench. Even Jackson admitted it was a coaching mistake, he vowed he'd play Kobe more in the fourth quarters of their succeeding games.

The Cavaliers play for the best regular-season record by keeping James on the floor for a few more minutes than necessary. That's why they have the best point differential record and a few more blowout games.

A few more minutes for a few more points from your best player wouldn't hurt, would it? No wonder Lebron is the NBA's leading scorer.

Incidentally, the Celtics are also playing like the playoffs have already started by playing their “big three” extended minutes.

Phil Jackson is more concerned about preparing his team as a potent group for the playoffs than boosting his best player's statistics. He's probably the only coach in the league who gets a bit frustrated when his best player scored 40 points in just 31 minutes saying that Bryant “tried to do too much” in the fourth quarter in their “win” against the Utah Jazz the other night.

Wow! Can you imagine Mike Brown or Doc Rivers saying things like that about their best players? Only the highest paid NBA coach can do that!

James averages 36.7 minutes per game this season compared to 36.3 for Pierce and 35.4 for Kobe. Not much, you'd say. But the disparity in their playing times is more prominent in their crucial games.

Lebron had 9 games where he played 40 minutes or more including a 46-minute game in a loss in Atlanta and 43 minutes each in back-to-back games against Miami. He even played for 43 minutes in Oklahoma!

Yes, that's right! Forty-three big minutes against 4-and-30 Thunder! What was it with the Thunder that made Mike Brown so nervous that he wouldn't take Lebron out of the game even when his team was leading by 14 points in the last 2 minutes?

The Celtics are even worse. Or better if you feel that grinding it out in the regular season is more important than preparing your team for the playoffs and risk losing some games by giving playing time to your supporting casts.

Paul Pierce had played a staggering 14 games in which he played 40 minutes or more including a four-game stretch against Toronto, Atlanta, Denver (a loss) at home and in Milwaukee. And another three-game stretch in home games vs. New Orleans and Utah and a road win in Atlanta.

Oh, I thought Boston didn't have one MVP--they've got three!

Well, the other MVP, Ray Allen, also played nine 40+ minute games including a three-game stretch in a loss to Denver (yes, the same game where Pierce played 41 minutes), a road game against the Bucks, and home game against the Knicks.

Boston even had a game where all of their “big three” played more than 40 minutes--a narrow 122-117 win in Indiana. Pierce played for 44 minutes, Garnett for 42, and Allen for 41 in avenging their 16-point road loss early in the season.

In a stark contrast, Kobe Bryant only played four 40+ minute games. One of those games, of course, was their Christmas day match up against the Celtics where he played 43 minutes.

Of course, everybody knows who won that game.

He also played 41 minutes in a close game vs. the Knicks and 40 minutes in a 7-point win against the Mavericks.

The Lakers only loss when Kobe played 40 minutes or more was their game in Orlando. Bryant scored 41 points in 43 minutes in that game but they still lost by three points!

Could they have won that game if Kobe played a few more minutes? Maybe!

But you know, Phil Jackson wouldn't want that. He'd do everything to keep Bryant from “trying to do too much...”

So what do you think is more impressive?

The Lakers achieving their best record without burning out the reigning MVP...

Or the playoff-level minutes being played by Boston's big three...

Or maybe the unstoppable force in Cleveland who stays on the floor even on blowout games to dominate video highlight plays on TV and YouTube...

You pick! I already made mine...

Digg this