An interesting article by John Hollinger (published on ESPN’s website) surfaced on Tuesday taking note on how excellent point guard play has taken over in the 2010 NBA Playoffs.
The standout performances from Steve Nash and Deron Williams have dominated the majority of the headlines save for the usual media tendencies towards LeBron, Kobe, Kevin Durant, and Dwight Howard.
However, the most blatant representation of the pivotal role that point guards have played in this postseason could be found during a blowout of epic proportions.
114-71 proportions, that is.
Here is a list of the remaining points guards in the NBA Playoffs, along with their playoff numbers. See if you can piece together the clues:
DW : 25.6 points, 49% FG, 10.9 assists, 1.14 steals, 2.71 turnovers, 2.3 rebounds
SN : 17.6 points, 51% FG, 9.9 assists, .14 steals, 4.57 turnovers, 2.3 rebounds
RR : 16.3 points, 46% FG, 11.7 assists, 2 steals, 3.43 turnovers, 5.6 rebounds
TP : 17.3 points, 48% FG, 5.3 assists, .86 steals, 1.71 turnovers, 3.4 rebounds
MW : 14.6 points, 40% FG, 5.6 assists, .57 steals, 1.86 turnovers, 2.9 rebounds
JN : 22.8 points, 51% FG, 4.5 assists, 2 steals, 1.6 turnovers, 2.4 rebounds
DF : 10.1 points, 45% FG, 3.3 assists, 1.57 steals, 2.43 turnovers, 2.4 rebounds
MB : 9.9 points, 44% FG, 2.9 assists, 1.4 turnovers, .8 steals, 3.1 rebounds
The last player on this list: Mike Bibby.
The Atlanta Hawks, after being taken to a Game 7 by an undermanned Milwaukee Bucks squad in the first round, took an embarrassing blow from the Orlando Magic to the tune of a 114-71 Game 1 beating in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The reason for the Hawks struggles in both series to date: Mike Bibby (er, point guard play).
It is hard to place a 40-something point blowout on any one player, but the fact is that the Hawks are in dire need of a point guard who can control the tempo and pace of a game. At the present moment, there are three potent talents (Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford) playing the game with zero purpose on the offensive end of the floor.
There is a reason Bibby is averaging the fewest points and assists of these eight remaining point guards. He is no longer a scorer or play-maker in this league, plain and simple.
The fact of the matter is that there are two point guards left in these playoffs who can no longer take over a game, with those players being Mike Bibby and the Lakers’ Derek Fisher.
The others referenced above — Nash, Williams, Parker, Jameer Nelson, Mo Williams, and Rajon Rondo — all provide their teams with a better chance to win and possess the ability to “get hot”, for lack of a better phrase.
The difference in Bibby and Fisher? One post-30-year-old player happens to be conveniently placed on arguably the most talented and seasoned team in the league.
The Lakers overall assortment of talent is able to hide the inefficiencies in Fisher’s overall game, especially defensively (although don’t tell that to Russell Westbrook).
Even when an opposing guard, such as Westbrook, proves too quick or strong for Fisher to handle defensively, the Lakers are able to switch defensive assignments or bring in solid backups Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown.
Offensively, the Lakers just need Fisher to hit open threes and toss the ball to Kobe, Pau Gasol, or Andrew Bynum. Simple.
The Hawks lack these luxuries, to say the least.
Bibby could fill in Fisher’s role admirably, but Atlanta simply needs more from the position on both ends of the floor.
When Bibby gets beaten off the dribble for seven straight games, nearly 48 minutes each game by the Bucks’ rookie Brandon Jennings, there is little the Hawks can do to stop the bleeding. Bringing in sixth-man Jamal Crawford provides a much-improved offensive spark to the Hawks’ game, but he could be even worse defensively (if possible).
Bibby’s offensive numbers had been lackluster for the majority of the playoffs, with his best game being a 19-point outburst in Game 1 against the Bucks, before laying an absolute egg in the Magic Game 1 blowout (two points, three assists in 19 minutes) — which, for head coach Mike Woodson, should be the last straw.
With the way the team dynamic and talent is set up, Atlanta needs something more than just a fill-in veteran as a floor general.
There was once a time when Mike Bibby could run a team efficiently and give them a great opportunity to advance through the playoffs. Heck, once upon a time his old Kings' teams could have been NBA champions had it not been for the Shaq and Kobe dynasty.
But those days have long gone.
And if the Hawks do not find answers soon to their pointless guard play, they will not even register as a speed bump on a team’s trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
What’s that called? Oh yeah, déjà vu.
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