Short Corner: Best scorers against top defenses, playoff strategies and more
Welcome to the Short Corner, a celebration of the NBA in the pithiest form possible. Below are a collection of notebook-style items, laid out for your buffet-style enjoyment.
• This season only two players have averaged 30+ points against both the Pacers (the No. 1 defense in the league by points allowed per possession) and the Bulls (No. 2): Kevin Durant (34.3 points per game on 59.3 percent shooting between the two matchups) and Kevin Love (31 points per game on 47.4 percent shooting). That's a small sample size, naturally, but good on the Kevins.
• Dallas got a taste of playoff scheming in its overtime win against Oklahoma City this week when Shawn Marion was cordially invited to hoist up corner three-pointers at will. For the season Marion is a perfectly respectable 37.3 percent on those corner attempts, though the Thunder defense left him unattended in order to muck up the Mavs' spacing.
It was the right call for both the occasion and in in general; Marion isn't a consistent enough shooter to really make an opponent pay for wandering, and when compared to the quality attempts that Dirk Nowitzki, Jose Calderon, and Monta Ellis can otherwise generate, living with a Marion three -- contested as best as possible under the circumstances -- seems far more palatable. Dallas dealt with the lean away from Marion by getting its sly small forward on the move, though it'll be interesting to see how this particular factor might play into a Mavs playoff series.
• The Thunder rotation is officially in playoff mode. Over the last three games, youngsters Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones have combined for 31 total minutes. Derek Fisher alone logged 83 minutes over that same span, and in spots did so to surprisingly positive effect.
• It seems as though the pendulum of NBA fan opinion has swung a bit too far toward the negative in evaluations of Carmelo Anthony. He's a hell of a player having a great (and frankly, admirable) year in a nightmare situation. Blast the Knicks as you will, though remember that Anthony's efforts and performance this season exempt him from at least some of the blanket criticism.
• Is the above photo the Clipper equivalent of the infamous (and amazing) mid-oop shot of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade? It's not as perfect, but it does capture the team's power-dunking ethos in a similar way.
• No one need pay too much attention to Denver at this point in the season, but it seems vaguely notable that since mid-March the Nuggets have gotten the best of the Heat and Clippers while playing the Spurs more closely than any team has in months. There are plenty of losses in there, too, but keep Denver is doing much of this without 4-5 of its intended rotation players.
• Some good stuff of late from Orlando's new starting lineup, which features Nikola Vucevic and Kyle O'Quinn in a more conventional frontcourt. That pairing is just starting to see time together (of the 215 minutes those two bigs have played together, 193 have come since the All-Star break) and shows it defensively; there's just no rotational chemistry there, as would make sense. But on the whole the Magic have bested their average offensive output for the season by 4.4 points per 100 possessions -- a solid mark for the nascent stages of a new lineup.
• There's a slight travel here, but what a slick move (and terrific spin) by Tony Parker:
• Shelvin Mack has been a really nice piece for the Hawks this season, though his success leaves me curious: Why wasn't he this useful for the Wizards during John Wall's absence last year? Washington had some serious troubles handling the ball and running even basic offense with Wall out, and out of desperation tried out a number of possible stopgaps at the point. Mack was one of them, though he justifiably lasted just seven games in a Wizards uniform. What gives?
• March 24, 2014 will be a date long remembered, as it was on that fateful night that Austin Daye looked like a real, live NBA player. Gregg Popovich is a sorcerer.
• One more random tidbit in praise of Anthony Davis: Of all the players in the league this season to use over 25 percent of their team's possessions when on the floor, only four players (LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Jefferson, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Martin) have a lower turnover rate. Statistical support for this post provided by NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com.