By Rob Mahoney
• Kevin Martin is, in a sense, something of a specialist. He's not a particularly effective nor especially willing passer, typically posts rebounding numbers below his positional average and does passable defensive work at best. Yet he's of very clear and significant value to an NBA team on the basis of his efficient scoring, and, as noted by Kevin Arnovitz at TrueHoop, Martin is actually quite flexible within his one-dimensional skill set:
In 61 seconds of court time spanning the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second, Martin drained three 3-pointers to turn a six-point Thunder deficit into a one-point lead that the Thunder would never relinquish.
How did Martin get those looks? The first came on a double-single, with Martin looping counterclockwise around his teammates from the top of the floor to the left sideline. The second occurred when Martin found an open lot along the arc after DeAndre Liggins collected a long offensive rebound. The third was more familiar, something we might have seen while Martin was playing in Rick Adelman’s corner offense -- a little set with Nick Collision situated off the left elbow with Martin swinging around from the top to collect a handoff, then shoot from beyond the arc.
“We still put in a little corner action, having me play off Nick Collison in the high post just like Brad Miller,” Martin said. “But you have to do more than one thing. You have to be able to take people off the dribble, come off screens, read, iso. Here, with the second unit I have to be more of a scorer. Then, when I’m out there with [the starters], I can be how I was in Sacramento when I played with Mike Bibby and [Chris Webber], just roam and get open jump shots.”
• Larry Sanders has reined in his obsessive tendency to foul the nearest offensive player a bit, to the point where he's only registering 5.2 fouls per 36 minutes (as compared to 7.4 per 36 last season). That's made a world of difference in terms of how often and how long the Bucks can play Sanders, though foul trouble still clearly hampers Sanders' minutes totals (and, by extension, Milwaukee's play).
• Kevin Durant put on a show on Tuesday night, and SB Nation's Mike Prada went though a pair of Durant's impressive half-court reads with a fine-toothed comb.
• More on Durant's relationship with ball-handling, as channeled through the prose of Danny Chau:
His drives aren’t devastating because he’s blindingly fast. While he’s become much more maximal with the appropriation of his athleticism, his drives don’t rely on burst; they rely on a kind of deception only Durant can manufacture in today’s NBA. Two years ago, Durant had a crossover, but it (literally) didn’t go anywhere. It was too meek, too unsure. It was an ornament, not a device.
Now Durant’s crossovers leverage his full functional width against the defender. His near-7’5” wingspan exaggerates lateral movement which forces the defender to commit to a particular direction because of how much ground his limbs can cover. The ball glides from side to side and if a defender’s caught watching the ball being manipulated by Durant’s arms, he might miss the head swivel or the shoulder shift downward or the legs in continuous motion, propping themselves in new configurations to achieve the best angle of attack. Durant’s arms are a natural wonder, and an intrinsic focal point, but they only reveal so much of the drive. A butterfly’s wings tell you it is capable of flight, but its antennae tell you where it’s going.
• Kelly Dwyer takes the Lakers -- from top to bottom -- to task for their season gone wrong. Get your popcorn ready.
• A look at the winning combination of John Wall and Bradley Beal, with specific emphasis on the kinds of shots that Wall creates for the sharpshooting rookie.
• We often cite the absence of Kevin Love, the various injuries the Wolves have suffered, or Ricky Rubio's delayed return to form for Minnesota's various struggles, but Britt Robson rightly shines a light on Rick Adelman's disappearance as a possible alternative explanation:
It is another circumstantial stain on what has become a hexed season. Porter is trying to blend the priorities of extensive daily phone briefings from Adelman with the complex, unpredictable, ever-shifting variables that inform much of the decision-making of an NBA game on the fly. It should be noted that Adelman is rightly regarded as one of the league’s best-ever coaches — with a current career record of 988-677 that includes the 2-6 mark Porter has compiled in his stead — in large measure because of the intuitive acumen of his in-game decisions and adjustments.
The downgrade from Adelman to Porter is not solely, and perhaps not even primarily, to blame for the second-half collapses that have come with alarming regularity over the past eight games. Certainly a lack of depth and familiarity, coupled with the absence of a reliable go-to guy in crunch time, are major factors.
But the fact remains that the Wolves have been outscored in every third quarter that Porter has run the team thus far, by a collective total of 47 points, or -5.9 points per game. They have been outscored by a collective 41 points in the fourth quarter of those eight games, for an average of -5.1 per game. Now consider that the Wolves currently rank dead last in the NBA in third-quarter differential at -2.5 per game over 37 games, and next-to-last in fourth-quarter differential at -1.8 points per game. Obviously, a disproportionate share of Minnesota’s NBA-worst second-half deficiency has come in the last eight games, when Adelman hasn’t been around to staunch the collapse with in-game adjustments.
• Devin Kharpertian walks us through all of the latest trends in the Nets' performance since P.J. Carlesimo took over as Brooklyn's head coach. Among them: A commitment to using Brook Lopez more deliberately in the pick-and-roll:
One of the bigger differences in how Johnson & Carlesimo utilize Lopez is in the pick-and-roll. In 22 games under Avery Johnson, Lopez finished just 33 pick-and-roll/pop plays, or 1.5 per game, shooting 46%. But in 13 games under Carlesimo, Lopez has finished 48 pick-and-roll/pop plays -- nearly four per game -- and shot 61% from the field on those plays. The pick-and-read (as I like to call it) is such an effective weapon with Lopez as the big, because he's able to either get to the rim and put up quick hook shots & layups, space the floor with his jumper out to 18-20 feet, or abuse mismatches to get easy, clean looks.
Lopez's added use in pick-and-roll plays spaces the floor for everyone: with an effective screen, Deron Williams (usually the guard Lopez screens for) can either look to get an open shot or draw fouls from opposing bigs, or if the defense collapses, find Joe Johnson on the wings to feast on threes.
• I humbly nominate this picture for NBA-Related Photo of the Year. (via the Mavs' official tumblr) • Not a huge surprise, but still a relief: Andrei Kirilenko has no plans to opt out of his deal with the Timberwolves and leave the NBA again this coming summer.