Doc Rivers didn’t mince words after the Clippers were blown out by Golden State.
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It’s been the same story for the Sacramento Kings in virtually every game this season. They get within striking distance in the waning moments of contests only to come up short.
On the one hand, the fact that the team is in most of its games in encouraging, especially compared to the recent blowout-filled campaigns. On the other hand, at some point the Kings have to find a way to turn these close losses into close wins.
At the beginning of the season, we could have pointed to the team’s effort down the stretch as a catalyst for some of these losses. However, Sacramento’s shown more fire of late, but it’s still not getting over the hump for a multitude of reasons.
As the Kings go forward, this is surely something they need to address. Granted, they weren’t favorites to make the playoffs. But learning how to win close games is a necessary evolution for them to make the postseason in future years.
No Discipline in Crunch Time
Overall, the Kings have done a nice job of protecting the ball this season. According to NBA.com/stats, the team is currently averaging the second-fewest turnovers per game with 13.4. Only the Knicks average fewer turnovers than Sacramento.
Since the Kings are 20th in pace factor, this could be related to their lack of possessions. After all, you can only turn the ball over when you possess it. However, Sacramento is also fourth in turnover percentage at 12.7 percent, which shows the low turnovers are more a factor of safe play than a lack of possessions.
In clutch situations, it’s an entirely different story. According to NBA.com/stats, in the last five minutes of games with the Kings ahead or behind by five points or less they are 28th in turnovers. They average 1.8 turnovers per game in those situations. Only the Philadelphia 76ers and Chicago Bulls are worse.
“I truly believe our coaching staff is doing a great job, and they’re putting us in situations for us to win games,” Greivis Vasquez said. “We just have to play smarter…all of us. I feel as much guilt as the guy next to me or the whole team.”
It’s not just carelessness with the basketball. The Kings are also struggling on defense in clutch situations. Per NBA.com/stats, their opponents are averaging 11.8 points in the last five minutes of games within five points, which is 27th out of 30 teams.
“We’ve got to do a much better job of defending the three-point line, finding their shooters, understanding who’s in the game, who’s hot, who the shooters are,” Kings head coach Mike Malone said. “The one major word that jumps out to me with our team is discipline, and right now we have none.”
Lack of Execution
There are a couple things to factor in when looking at a team’s success or failure in close games. First, it’s about a coaching staff putting its players in the best position to succeed. But it’s also up to the players to come out and capitalize on that.
So far, the coaches have done their part. Now it’s up to the players to turn that into on-court results.
When asked whether the Kings needed to change their game plan late in close games, DeMarcus Cousins implied the problem isn’t the game plan; it’s the execution.
“I wouldn’t really say we’ve got to change anything,” Cousins said. “It’s just being in your spots, doing your job in those situations. That’s the main thing.”
The Kings haven’t been doing their jobs on offense or defense in crunch time. Per NBA.com/stats, they turn the ball over on offense, which has led to an average of 2.6 points for their opponents. When they actually do get shots, they’re only making 41.5 percent of them down the stretch. They fail to secure defensive rebounds, and their opponents have averaged 1.8 second-chance points because of it. They foul too often, averaging 3.0 fouls compared to only 1.9 fouls drawn.
All of these issues in execution have given their opponents a decisive advantage, so much so that the Kings are tied for the fourth-worst winning percentage in clutch situations, winning only 30 percent of those contests. Only the New York Knicks have been worse.
Shortage of Experience in Close Games
In recent years, the Kings have simply been blown out of a lot of games. Therefore they don’t have a ton of experience in close contests, which partially explains their struggles in them.
Last season, 40 of Sacramento’s 82 games were decided by nine points or less. Of those, 15 were within five points of their opponents. Through their first 17 games this season, the Kings have been within single digits of the opposition 11 times. Six of those games have been decided by five points are less.
The Kings also struggle mightily in overtime games. Their most recent overtime victory against the Utah Jazz was the first time they’d won an overtime game in their last eight tries.
Because it’s an unfamiliar position, the Kings simply don’t know how to play with a lead. Sometimes they get complacent. Other times they get away from what got them the lead in the first place.
“When you’re a young team that’s trying to find an identity, you don’t know how to play with the lead,” Malone said. “Sometimes you forget why you’ve had success and go away from it. We allow teams to get back in, when we can, hopefully in the future, create space, create distance on those teams.“
As the team gains more experience in these situations it should get better at handling them. As Vasquez mentioned, learning how to win games is an evolution. Like any evolution, it’s going to take time. It’s not going to happen overnight.
“This is a process,” said Vasquez. “We’re trying to be a playoff team; it takes a little bit [of time]. With OKC, I remember when they were in Seattle and they weren’t that good. Now they’ve gotten better. It took them three years to get better.”
Hopefully it doesn’t take the Kings three years to figure out how to win close games. They’ve got a coaching staff in place that’s putting the players in positions to succeed. They’ve also got enough talented players to pull out some of these games. Now it’s about converting everything into on-court results.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com/stats
You can follow me on Twitter @SimRisso
Stats are accurate through games played on Dec. 8
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Knicks led by 17 in first half and trailed by six in fourth quarter before rallying.
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Cole Aldrich, the 24 year-old 6’11″ 245 pounder, who is in his entering his 4th year in the “Association” has an opportunity that most bigs would relish. The New York Knicks are in desperate need of a legitimate back up center to spell Tyson for many different reasons. Cole has the chance to grab that last spot on the team if he can prove to the Knicks coaching staff that he can bring the intangibles that the Knicks so desperately need: toughness, intensity, grit, and nastiness.
Via Marc Berman
Woodson said before the game. “I told him [Friday] during a timeout, when you’re trying to make someone’s ballclub, bigs have to do dirty work. You have to be nasty, take hard fouls, rebound and doing all the dirty work to help you win game. I’m not seeing that a lot in him he’s got to pick it some.’’
Woodson said he let Aldrich have it during a timeout in Friday’s preseason loss in Toronto. “I want him to be a little tougher.”
Knicks burly center Cole Aldrich had a golden opportunity to ma
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SAN ANTONIO (AP) The San Antonio Spurs are used to hearing far worse from coach Gregg Popovich than his orders to get ”nasty.”
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The NBA has admitted that a foul call with 3.1 seconds left in the Hawks/Celtics game 6 was whistled too late. The late whistle resulted in the Hawks getting the ball out of bounds instead of one free throw and possession.
This foul was eventually called against Marquis Daniels as he held Al Horford on an inbound attempt by Atlanta. The Hawks were down 81-79 at this point and Daniels was clearly mugging Horford for a few seconds.
Since Daniels was all over Horford long before the ball was passed into play, the correct call should have been an away-from-the-play foul, which would have given the Hawks one free throw attempt and the ball. Instead the Hawks just in bounded a second time.
If you watch the video closely, it’s an easy call to see that Marquis Daniels has ahold of Horford’s arm well before Marvin Williams passes the ball into play.
Daniels was holding, but the officials don’t have a great of a view as we do from our couch, so it’s very understandable how this foul goes uncalled. It’s a tough break for the Hawks, but these things do happen.
Boston defeated Atlanta 83-80 and wins the series 4-2, advancing into the 2nd round to face the Philadelphia 76ers.
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The Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers have a lot in common. Not all of it good.
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The North Carolina State Wolfpack have been out-recruited by North Carolina and Duke for years, but the Wolfpack’s three incoming McDonald’s All-Americans think head coach Mark Gottfried will shift the recruiting battle in Raleigh’s favor in the upcoming years.
Tyler Lewis (No. 44), T.J. Warren (No. 29) and Rodney Purvis (No. 20) are all North Carolina natives and were sold on the program from first-year coach Gottfried, who led the Wolfpack to the Sweet 16 before losing a close 60-57 game to the Kansas Jayhawks.
North Carolina did sign McDonald’s All-American point guard Marcus Paige (No. 23), small forwards Brice Johnson (No. 30) and J.P. Tokoto (No. 66) and center Joel James (No. 77). As for Duke, they have a great athlete in McDonald’s All-American shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon (No. 14), but he’s Duke’s only ESPNU 100 signee. The Blue Devils are also pursuing forwards Tony Parker (No. 21) and top recruit Shabazz Muhammad.
The Wolfpack trio all performed well at the McDonald’s All-American Game, which was the first time they all played on the same team. Lewis (two points, three assists), Purvis (15 points, three assists) and Warren (10 points, five rebounds, two assists) kept the East in the game.
Lewis, the Gatorade Virginia Player of the Year, originally committed to North Carolina State before his junior year and had to go through a coaching change from Sidney Lowe to Gottfried and the new staff.
However, Lewis gave Gottfried a chance and decided to stick with his original commitment.
“It’s definitely Coach Gottfried and his changing the whole environment down in Raleigh,” Lewis said. “He’s definitely going out and recruiting people a lot harder. I think I played a major role in getting Rodney and T.J. We’ve all been friends since we were little and we always wanted to play with each other. We want to help others notice that NC State will be a top team in the ACC.”
The 5’11″, 165-pound Lewis is good friends with Purvis and Warren, who he played AAU basketball with as a kid.
“I grew up with Rodney and T.J. since I was 11, so I know their games well,” Lewis said. “Rodney is impossible to handle in the open court. You’re not going to stop him on a fast break. He is a lock-down defender. T.J.’s a solid scorer who could produce points in a variety of ways. It’s going to help us out a lot at NC State.”
Purvis, the Gatorade North Carolina Player of the Year, said he wanted to be a part of something special.
“I really liked Coach Gottfried,” Purvis said. “If the program is able to turn around, I wanted to be able to say I was a part of it. I wanted to get some excitement back to Raleigh.”
The 6’3″, 192-pound Purvis said that he was really impressed with Gottfried and his honest approach.
“I think Coach Gottfried,” Purvis said on why NC State is out-recruiting North Carolina and Duke. “He’s a man of his word. He just wants you to trust in him and believe in him. As you could see, he came into a team that he’s never coached and didn’t recruit any of the players. He made a Sweet 16 run.”
Purvis said that he is excited in how his game fits with Lewis and Warren.
“With T.J., we’re similar,” Purvis said. “He’s a bit taller, but we both score the ball. It’s been fun playing with him and we both understand our games. Tyler is so easy to play with because he’s going to get you the ball regardless.”
Warren, a star player at Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, N.H.), said he received an offer from North Carolina, but he wasn’t too impressed with the Tar Heels.
“I feel like UNC is kind of in a slump right now,” Warren said. “We just want to come in and compete against them. It’s kind of cool for us to have three McDonald’s All-Americans here on the team. It’s amazing seeing coach Mark Gottfried in his first year without recruiting any of his own players. It was a good run for him and he showed NC State that he could win. We’re trying to get that era back when NC State used to be great.”
The 6’7″, 205-pound Warren said he is very excited to be playing with Lewis and Purvis, who he thinks will form a great trio.
“Tyler is a great pass-first point guard who is very crafty and can knock down the open shot,” Warren said. “Rodney is very strong. He could get to the rim on anybody and is a strong finisher. They both compliment my game as a great scorer and playmaker.”
Purvis said he and his fellow recruits can’t wait to represent North Carolina State in the upcoming season.
“The future of NC State is very exciting,” Purvis said. “I’m going to continue working on my game. T.J., Tyler and I are all going to continue working together and be ready when the fall comes.”
Warren added that they all want to compete and defeat the top programs like Duke and North Carolina.
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There is no doubt that NBA referees have fixed games in the past. If you question this, or think it is a conspiracy, then look here, where you’ll find information on the 13 NBA Referees caught in a betting scandal in 2008.
Former NBA referee Tom Donaghy received a 15-month prison term in connection with a gambling scandal that tarnished professional basketball.
A federal judge also sentenced the disgraced referee to three years of probation. Donaghy pleaded guilty to two felony charges of conspiracy to engage in wire fraud and transmitting wagering information on interstate commerce.
The betting scandal damaged the NBA’s credibility, which had already faced allegations that playoff games were fixed to extend the length of rounds and ensure that large market teams advanced.
The NBA strongly denied this accusation. What else would you expect them to do, guilty or innocent?
Donaghy provided inside information to illegal gamblers and mobsters about the condition of certain players and the tendencies of referees who were officiating games. Is it so far-fetched to think that some of those referees had those tendencies for that very reason, or altered them to fit the needs of their betting games?
You would think this discovery would prompt the NBA to be more attentive to their referees’ activities and the calls they’re making. Instead, the National Basketball Association and Commissioner David Stern decided that it was best to implement a new rule in 2010 that prevents players from arguing calls at all.
In September, the league announced it was expanding its “respect for the game” guidelines to include unsportsmanlike actions that it feels take away from the product on the floor—and how it looks on television.
Guidelines for issuing technical fouls now include gestures such as raising a fist in the air in anger, incredulous arm waving and excessive questioning of the call, even in moderate tones.
“It’s an emotional game, no matter what,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “You’re going to react if you don’t agree with a call. You just can’t keep yourself cool all the time. It’ll be tough. It’ll be an adjustment. I don’t know if there’s much we can do about it. If you complain, you might get fined even more.”
The NBA Players Association said it is planning to challenge this rule, because the league’s decision to hand out more technical fouls to complaining players is an “overreaction.”
Billy Hunter, executive director of the union, said the players weren’t consulted about the rule changes.
Giving this authority to already suspect NBA referees gives them the ability and opportunity to further change the outcome of a game. They could essentially fix a game how they see fit. Or, if they have a grudge against a player, change the outcome of a game by ejecting that player. It doesn’t matter if they have a valid argument. It doesn’t matter that a referee could be tooling with the game for their own benefit…at least, not to the NBA.
If that does not make much sense to you, do not feel alone, because it does not make any sense to me. This is just one way that officials can fix a game or games.
Another way is by deciding to not call a foul, or slew of fouls, that occur during a given game. In addition, they could choose to call fouls that never even occurred.
By doing any of these things, they can manipulate the score to be within a range of their selection. It is the oldest trick in the book and, quite frankly, I’m getting sick of seeing it occur and so are the players.
Here is an example of how frustrating this can be on a player. Take Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics, for example. He often causes defenders to jump in the air with a shot (pump) fake. Upon doing so, he makes a very veteran, experienced move. You see, Pierce realizes that once that defender has launched himself into the air that he can now jump into the defender while taking his shot.
“The Truth” could either make the shot, and he would have a chance to shoot an ”and one” free throw or, if he misses, then he would be able to take multiple free throws.
The amount of free throws that he would be allowed to take if he missed that shot would simply depend on whether he was shooting a two-point or three-point field goal. This could happen at any time during the game, but worst case scenario, it could happen at a crucial point in the game.
This is a great basketball play. This is a move that Paul Pierce is especially known to utilize to his advantage, and rightfully so.
If this was, say, a last second shot and a referee does not call the foul, then the outcome of the game could easily be rigged.
This is just one example of countless scenarios the referees could use to influence the outcome of games. Yes, this is going to happen from time to time regardless. However, that doesn’t mean we should allow it to happen when the referees are doing it purposely.
Furthermore, it doesn’t indicate that a supplemental rule should be implemented which gives the very referees we have been discussing more power to alter a basketball game.
It would be one thing if only the hot heads of the NBA were arguing the calls, but we are seeing the most respected, knowledgeable players and coaches in the game today—and of the past—berating the referees because they can’t understand how they could call or not call certain fouls.
Some of the players that have been fined, ejected from games or served up technical fouls for arguing calls include Boston Celtics’ coach Doc Rivers, Los Angeles Lakers’ coach Phil Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, Stephen Jackson, Carmelo Anthony, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, Lebron James, and Pau Gasol—and the list goes on.
The NBA has gone as far as to order the silence of these players and coaches, which frankly, violates their constitutional rights of freedom of speech and the right to protest. It’s completely out of line on the part of the NBA.
Miami Heat‘s James fears the way the referees implement the new rules could serve to rob the emotional edge from the game.
“We are emotional players,” James said. “I mean, just imagine if it’s game seven of the finals and you feel like there was a call missed or something you felt should have been called, and you show emotion.
“And you’re at a point where you already have a technical foul, and now you get kicked out of game seven of the finals because of this rule. It wouldn’t be great.”
This corruption needs to be cleaned up.
For those referees out there reading this that aren’t fixing games, congratulations. You are amongst the few and far between. This issue is not limited to just the NBA, either. I may even go as far as saying that the NBA, MLB, NCAA, NFL, NHL and other major sports leagues are aware of these occurrences.
I think they are in cahoots with Las Vegas and these mobsters to fix games as they see fit.
This type of corruption has gone on long enough and needs to be addressed. It is unfair to the players and fans, and it gives Vegas an unfair advantage pertaining to gambling on NBA games. Yes, a lot of people do bet on games, but Vegas has no right to fix these games to their benefit.
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Dwyane Wade’s night perfectly summed up the way things went for the Miami Heat. Fast start, frightening finish, with more than a few queasy moments. In the end, LeBron James and Chris Bosh proved to be suitable medicine. James scored 32 points, Bosh added 22 points and 14 rebounds, and the Heat wasted another huge lead before rallying to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 95-87 on Friday night.
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