Make the Most of It

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Sometimes a player that you wouldn’t expect steps up in limited time and shows a hint of what could be.  Here are some examples from the last 25 years of players making the most of the time they had on the court.

Michael Phelps – October 29, 1985 – Seattle @ Houston

No, it’s not the Michael Phelps you think. This Michael Phelps only played 130 games in the NBA over three seasons, and had a total of 71 NBA steals.  Somehow, SIX of those steals came in a nine minute span in the second game of his career vs. Houston. Maybe for that game only he got to use the long arms of the swimmer Michael Phelps…

Chuck Nevitt – March 31, 1985 – LA Lakers vs. Phoenix

Chuck played in just 155 games in the NBA, averaging about 5 minutes per game.  But these were the most effective five minutes of his career – by far!  Standing at 7’5″, Chuck was the 12th man on a Lakers team with Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  But this day he got into the game during garbage time, and made old Kareem proud, blocking five shots in just five minutes of play.

Lionel Hollins – February 29, 1984 – Detroit vs. Washington

Hollins was a solid point guard in the NBA for a lot of years, even making an all-star game at one point.  But by the 1983-84 season, his career was winding down.  He only averaged about 7 mpg for Detroit, coming off the bench behind Isiah Thomas and Vinnie Johnson.  But on Leap Day, Hollins took a leap back in time to his prime.  In just 12 minutes of playing time, Hollins doled out 12 assists, contributing to a 137-106 blowout of the Washington Bullets.  It was a Leap Day miracle!

Bob McAdoo – March 17, 1984 – LA Lakers @ Houston

I’m not sure why all of these crazy stats happened in 1984 and 1985, but whatever was going on, all-time great Bob McAdoo wanted to get in on it.  He didn’t play many minutes for the star-studded Lakers that year, but, at least in this game, he definitely made the most of his time.  In just five minutes of work, McAdoo took 13 shots!  He made four, and ended the game with 10 points.  Must have been a St. Patrick’s Day luck of the Irish thing for old McAdoo.

Henry James – April 15, 1997 – Atlanta vs. New Jersey

In the 1996-97 season, James averaged 6.7 points in 18 minutes per game for the Hawks.  However, on this particular day, James decided to play out of his mind.  In only 10 minutes on the court, Henry James made 7 of 9 three pointers and three free throws, for a total of 24 points.  He also tossed in a couple of rebounds and an assist for good measure.  This is the kind of efficiency coaches only dream of their players having.  His usage for the game was over 55%, and his offensive rating?  An out-of-this-world 192.

All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference


Brad Daugherty – Finishing Strong

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I was searching for players who did extraordinary things in their last season as NBA players, when I stumbled across a story I did not know well.  Brad Daugherty was a name I knew fairly well – he played when I was in elementary and junior high school.  So I knew of him, knew he was a fantastic player, but he wasn’t around when I was really getting into the NBA in high school.

I found that since the 1983-84 season, Daugherty has the record for the longest streak of double-doubles in his final season.  From January 13, 1994 to January 27, 1994, he collected eight straight double-doubles.  What’s even more impressive is that if you change the requirement to 9 rebounds and 10 points, then he has an 18 game streak that starts December 21st and ends on Jan 27.

Daugherty was dominant during the eight game streak, averaging 21.4 points per game and 14.8 rebounds.  Little did he know that less than a month later he would be done with the NBA for good.

Brad Daugherty held the Cleveland Cavaliers records for points and rebounds, even though he only played eight seasons, until 2008, when both records were broken.  Lebron James broke the points record and Zydrunas Ilgauskas broke the rebound record.

It’s unfortunate that we never got to see what a full career from Daugherty would have been like.  But here’s a lovingly crafted highlight video to reminisce about what might have been.

Plus / Minus Quick Hits

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All stats in this list are for the 2016-2017 season, single games, based on the time that a certain player was on the court for that game.  All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.

  • Biggest point differential
  • Most 3-pointers made
  • Most Turnovers
    • 16 fewer turnovers, Taj Gibson, Nov. 9, Bulls vs. Hawks
    • 17 more turnovers, C.J. McCollum, Feb. 28, Blazers vs. Pistons
  • Opponent Field Goal Percentage (minimum 30 minutes played)

Unbalanced Games

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What does it take to win an NBA basketball game?  The simplest answer would be: score more points, by making more shots – make more shots by taking more shots.

Yet these teams won games by taking fewer shots than the opponent – WAY fewer shots.  These teams found entirely new ways to win an NBA game, even though they took at least 35 fewer shots than their opponent.

December 27, 2006 – Knicks vs. Pistons

This game was a three-overtime shootout, with the Detroit Pistons shooting an unbelievable 123 shots (37 from Richard Hamilton alone).  In contrast, the Knicks took only 87 shots (a difference of 36), were outrebounded by nine, and had seven more turnovers than the Pistons.

And yet they won, with a combination of lights out shooting (56% compared to Detroit’s 44%), and making 48 free throws.  The Knicks finally pulled out the win in the third overtime by doing what they did best – shooting shooting and more shooting.

February 1, 2003 – Spurs vs. Heat

Basically the exact opposite of the Knicks/Pistons game, the final score of this one was fewer combined points than either the Knicks or Pistons.  Both teams tried to lose this game with all their might, but someone had to win.  That winner was the San Antonio Spurs.

It wasn’t for lack of losing effort, however.  The Spurs shot an abysmal 38%, were outrebounded, and gave up 27 turnovers!  They scored 67 points, there is no reason they should win this game.

But somehow the Heat played even worse.  They shot 28% for the whole game, almost completely negating the 36 extra shots they took.  When the dust settled, the Heat had successfully lost this terrible game, 67 to 65.

November 17, 2007 – Suns vs. Rockets

Steve Nash‘s SSOL Suns teams were masters of the offensive game. And this day was no exception.  Even though they took 38 less shots than the Rockets (69 to 107), the Suns made 43 shots compared to the Rockets’ 42.  That means the Suns shot an unbelievable 62% on this game, including 10 for 19 from three!

When you shoot like that, it doesn’t even matter that you missed 10 free throws or had 25 turnovers.  You’re probably winning that game.  Which the Suns did in convincing fashion.

February 4, 2002 – Jazz vs. Rockets

The Rockets were also involved in the most extreme example of this type of game, but this time, on the other side.  They took just 54 field goals in this game, while the Jazz took 97 shots – a difference of 43!  It would seem impossible to take that many fewer shots and even have a chance to win the game, especially because the Jazz only turned over the ball six times, and outrebounded the Rockets by nine.

How did they do it?  Free throws and accurate shooting.  The Rockets shot 61% from the field, and were awarded 41 free throws, compared to just 16 for the Jazz.  Steve Francis, by himself, made 18 free throws, while the Jazz entire team only made 10.

It’s definitely not a usual way to win a game, but these teams somehow made it work.  For man does not win by chucking alone.


Very Happy Basketball Birthday Cake

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This week’s Amazing Amazon find is great for anyone you know with a birthday coming up who wants a basketball birthday cake. It’s an edible cake topper, for use in making incredible birthday cakes.  I’ve linked to the Utah Jazz version below, but MakCreationsCakeSupply has one of these for any team that you’d like.

The basic idea is that you can avoid doing any of the cake topping yourself.  No trying to write words or draw pictures with unwieldy cake frosting pipes, or those cheap frosting tubes from the grocery store.  I’m not sure that anyone who isn’t a professional cake decorator has ever made a cake that didn’t end up looking at least a little wonky.

So instead of trying, failing, trying again, failing, getting frustrated, throwing things, and eating the cake yourself to drown your sorrows, just purchase a premade cake topper.  They look beautiful and are surprisingly edible – plus they are officially licensed by the NBA, so there is no ambiguity.  It’s a win-win.  Actually, it’s a win-win-win.  You win, your friend / child wins, and your team wins.  Everybody wins with this basketball birthday cake.

So with these edible cake toppers, the choice is – do you select someone’s favorite team and make them feel warm and fuzzy about their team?  Or do you choose their LEAST favorite team and enjoy the depraved slicing and devouring – the sweet taste of destroying their bitter rivals?  Both scenarios sound intriguing, it probably depends on who you are making the cake for.  Maybe you’d better get one of each, just in case.

This basketball birthday cake would go super well with a set of James Harden Weird Beards – that’s a killer combo.

Not Just Teammates – Family

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Like the Fast and Furious crew, some groups of teammates just click.  They work together so well that the coach can’t help but leave them out there together.  They become more than just teammates – they become family.

Since the year 2000, four times has a set of 5 teammates stayed on the court together for more than 35 minutes during a regulation 48 minute game.  Here are the games:

Milwaukee Bucks @ Houston Rockets, December 22, 2001 (38.5 minutes)

The Rockets were 7-20 coming into the game, and so had very little to lose.  There wasn’t a lot of depth on this Rockets team, especially with Steve Francis and Glen Rice injured.  In fact, once the dust cleared on this crazy game, the five starters had scored 113 of the 115 points.

The trio of Cuttino Mobley, Walt Williams and Eddie Griffin shot lights out – going a combined 17 for 30 from three.  Kelvin Cato and the delightfully named Moochie Norris helped hold down the fort, as the starters played together on the court for over 38 minutes.  This included Cuttino Mobley scoring 39 points and not coming out of the game even once.

Orlando Magic @ Sacramento Kings, January 15, 2006 (35.1 minutes)

The Kings teams of the early 2000’s were fantastic, but by the 2005-06 season they were running out of steam a bit.  That was made worse by a string of injuries, including Ron Artest, Peja Stojakovic, Bonzi Wells, and Shareef Abdur-Rahim.  That left Coach Rick Adelman with only 8 players he even wanted to send out on the court.

So the starting five played, and played, and played.  Francisco Garcia didn’t rest once.  Mike Bibby played all but two minutes, and scored 42 points on 23 shots.  Kevin Martin and Brad Miller combined with Bibby to shoot 32-34 on free throws, including 8 straight makes to put the game away.  Also, Kenny Thomas was there.

Golden State Warriors @ Portland Trail Blazers, April 14, 2010 (42.3 minutes)

The Warriors of the 2009-10 season were very different from the team they are today.  In fact the only familiar face from that year’s team was a fresh-faced rookie from Davidson, named Stephen Curry.

This was the last game of the season, and things got a little crazy.  The Warriors only had six healthy players, though they were forced to dress eight, so Ronny Turiaf and Anthony Morrow were dressed but unfit to play.  Then starting center Chris Hunter went down with an injury five minutes into the game.  They brought in Devean George and played the rest of the game with him plus the four starters – Curry, Monta Ellis, Anthony Tolliver and Reggie Williams.

Somehow this team is up four points on Portland with 5 minutes left in the game.  But Devean George fouled out.  So the refs force Don Nelson to put Chris Hunter back in the game – where he proceeds to block a shot (though clearly hobbled) before being re-injured and pulled back out of the game.  The refs then force Nelly to put Turiaf and Morrow in the game before bringing Devean George back. So he brings them each in for a few seconds, says each of them was injured on the play, then finally brings George back in (after a technical free throw) to finish the game.  Wild stuff!

Miami Heat @ Philadelphia 76ers, April 15, 2015 (40.7 minutes)

The most recent of these games came in the Miami Heat’s tumultuous post-Lebron season.  It was a tough year for Heat fans, watching a team drop from the NBA finals to missing the playoffs, plus a scary and season-ending injury for Chris Bosh.  In this last game of the season the only thing they had to play for was slightly better odds to keep their lottery draft pick.

With various injuries and the season ending, Coach Erik Spoelstra ran out an unusual starting five of Michael Beasley, Henry Walker, James Ennis, Tyler Johnson and Zoran Dragic (who I believe is Goran Dragic‘s evil twin – you can tell by the mustache).  Zoran played almost the entire game, with Udonis Haslem making a token appearance, but the other 4 played all 48 minutes.

The Heat pulled out the win against a very poor 76ers team, with Beasley leading the way with 34 points.  In fact, looking back, all four of these teams won their games.  I’m not saying this is sustainable over the season – but maybe NBA coaches should be looking at these games as an example of how forcing your starting lineup to stay together until they feel like family could be beneficial?

OK probably not.

Honorable Mention

Utah Jazz @ Atlanta Hawks, March 25, 2012 (45.1 minutes)

The longest that any 5-man group played together, including overtimes, was this 4-overtime barnburner from 2012.  Starters Gordon Hayward (who played a grueling 57.5 minutes!), Devin Harris, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and C.J. Miles combined for 100 points in the loss to the Hawks.  Four overtimes means this game is tied for the 4th longest game in NBA history, as there has been one 6-overtime game and two 5-overtime games.  Forty-five minutes together – that’s some strong bonding time!

5 Man Quick Hits

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All results in this blog post are for the 2016/17 regular season, adjusted per 100 possessions, and for five-man units that played at least 100 minutes together.

  • Slowest pace (two-way tie at 86.8)
    • Utah Jazz – Exum / Hood / Hayward / Diaw / Gobert
    • San Antonio Spurs – Parker / Green / Leonard / Aldridge / Dedmon
  • Fastest pace (107.3)
    • Boston Celtics – Thomas / Smart / Bradley / Crowder / Horford
  • Highest allowed opponent effective field goal percentage (.640)
    • Portland Trailblazers – Lillard / McCollum / Harkless / Davis / Plumlee
  • Lowest allowed opponent effective field goal percentage (.395)
    • Detroit Pistons – Smith / Harris / Caldwell-Pope / Morris / Baynes
  • Lowest total rebound percentage (two-way tie at 42.3)
    • Los Angeles Clippers – Felton / Rivers / Crawford / Griffin / Speights
    • Boston Celtics – Thomas / Smart / Crowder / Horford / Olynyk
  • Highest total rebound percentage (58.5)
    • Oklahoma City Thunder – Westbrook / Roberson / Oladipo / Gibson / Adams
  • Fewest Turnovers (8.3)
    • New Orleans Hornets – Holiday / Moore / Hill / Cunningham
  • Most Turnovers (18.9)
    • Milwaukee Bucks – Dellavedova / Snell / Antetokounmpo / Parker / Plumlee

Last Second Slingers

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Every kid who loves basketball has practiced the last-second shot.  Dribbling, by yourself, imagining the crowd cheering as the clock ticks down. “Down by one, this is for the game, 3….2….1….the shot IS GOOD!  And the crowd goes wild!  <crowd noise – aaaaa>”

Even the simple end-of-quarter shot can sometimes feel epic, when executed right.  For some it is a life-long dream that never comes true.  For some, it’s a regular occurrence.  These players hogged the last-second shot for an entire game.  Here’s a list (since the 2000-01 season) of players who took a shot with two seconds or less left in all four quarters of the same basketball game.

On Feb. 10, 2008, Damon Stoudamire decided to take all the last-second shots against Boston.  This was the year he played on San Antonio (yeah, I had forgotten too).  He only played 31 games for the Spurs, but was determined to make the most of those games!  Unfortunately for the Spurs, he missed all four shots.

Four different players did the same thing and made one shot.

  • James Harden (2/3/2017 vs. Chicago) – made a shot at the end of the 3rd quarter to keep Houston in the game.  Missed the game-winner at the end of regulation, but scored six points in overtime to help win the game.
  • James Johnson (12/30/2016 vs. Boston) – made a meaningless three at the end of the 4th.
  • Carmelo Anthony (2/5/2014 vs. Portland) – made an 18-footer at the end of the 1st.
  • Baron Davis (12/30/2005 vs. Dallas) – made a long two at the end of the fourth quarter to win the game for the Warriors!

Raymond Felton and Khris Middleton both did this and made 2 of the 4 shots.  Felton did it on Feb. 17, 2009 against Orlando.  He made shots at the end of the 2nd and 3rd quarters, but missed a game winner at the end of regulation and Charlotte lost in overtime.  Middleton did it on Nov. 11, 2015 against Denver. He made shots in the 1st and 2nd quarters, but missed in the 3rd and 4th, which would have been a game winner.

Put all those aside, however, because this stat has a clear champion, and his name is Gilbert Arenas.  Gilbert has taken last second shots in every quarter on three separate occasions!

Leading the Way

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Over the 2016/2017 season two players made over 100 shots when attempting to take the lead in a game.  That is, they took shots when their team was either behind or tied, with a chance to take the lead if the shot went down.  Before revealing the top two players, let’s quickly look at 3 through 5.

Number five won’t be surprising, it’s Russell Westbrook.  Brodie took 227 shots that fit this criteria, and made 91 of them, for a percentage of 40.1%.  He also had the least help of anyone in the top five, as only about 20% of his makes were assisted.

Just above him is a rising star, Andrew Wiggins.  Maple Jordan took 209 of these shots, making 92 of them (44%).  He and Karl-Anthony Towns split this responsibility for the Timberwolves.  KAT just missed this top five, making 89 of 190 shots.

Third on the list but tops in efficiency is the newest member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Paul George.  PG13 made 94 of 181 shots, including a blistering 36 for 72 from 3 in this situation, which is exactly 50% on 3 pointers.  Not a bad addition for the Thunder.

The top two players in making go-ahead shots somehow are both on the same team.  Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins combined to make 201 of 450 go-ahead shots.  I’m sure the Pelicans are hoping that this year, they can hold onto those leads a little better.

Gunnin’ For Singler – featuring 2010 NCAA Tournament MVP Kyle Singler

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This week’s Amazon find is a documentary from about 10 years ago – focused on the top high school basketball players from 2006 playing at Rucker Park.  Directed by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch and featuring such notable names as Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, and 2010 NCAA Tournament MVP Kyle Singler, this documentary follows the players to their hometowns and interviews their family and friends before getting to the game itself.

The game is exciting and well-filmed, and keeps you in suspense as to who might win.  It’s fun to watch some familiar faces looking so young and fresh, with no idea what lies ahead for them.  And you can’t go wrong with anything featuring 2010 NCAA Tournament MVP Kyle Singler!

Rent or own this doc on Amazon Video – or you can recognize old-school and order the DVD.