-In Manu's two games since rejoining the starting lineup he has scored 35 points on 19 FGA. His January numbers are 17.4 PPG on 10.3 FGA, 50.0% FG and 39.1% 3P. That's what I'm talking about! By the way, there's only been one game all year where Manu had less points than FGA (@CHI, 14 PTS on 5-16 FG).
-The French Layup Machine lived up to his nickname last night, going for 28 PTS on 12-13 FG. All but one basket was in the paint.
-I've noticed some improvement from Nazr during the past two games. He's playing the pick and roll much better, hedging out and preventing the easy penetration. At one point last night Manu was guarding Mike Miller and The Sickness got caught behind a double screen. Nazr popped out from the elbow to prevent the open look and forced Miller to pass the ball. The play culminated in a Spurs foul but the point is that Mohammed played good positional defense off the ball. That's a step beyond playing the pick and roll correctly. It was just one play, but it seems especially important when you consider how often our big men will have to do the same thing against DET and Rip Hamilton. Manu, who has berated Nazr on the court more than once this year, gave him a high five while Duncan gave him the rare and coveted double head slap. I made that last part up.
-The announcers had me screaming at the television again. First, John Thompson was talking about how "in his day" Tony Parker would never have that many points in the paint. "Bill Russell never would have allowed it." (I'm paraphrasing.) Look, I know Bill has 11 titles and is by all accounts a great man. And I think it's unfair to compare players across eras. That is until the old folks start doing it themselves. Have you guys ever watched a game from that era? You should. Check out one of the "classics" on ESPN Classic or NBA TV. The "defense" is a fucking joke and every player looks about four steps slower than players from today. Yeah, Parker would probably get knocked down more if he played back then. But he'd also get to the basket twice as easily and twice as often.
Secondly, both Thompson and Miller were getting on Pau Gasol for not scoring in the fourth quarter. Because the fourth quarter is when the "star players step up." "Anybody can score in the first three quarters." They go on and on for about 5 minutes before they casually mention that Gasol was getting double-teamed every fucking time he caught the ball. What the fuck is he supposed to do? Reggie then criticizes him for not handling the double team well. Despite the fact that Pau got his teammates at least three wide open 3 pointers that they missed. Again, what the fuck is he supposed to do? Swing the ball to himself and make the wide open jumper?
John Hollinger named his PER-based picks for the All Star team. I pretty much agree with him but I wanted to highlight one specific passage, where he picks Chris Paul over Ray Allen and others (emphasis is mine):
Can I get an amen from the congregation?