Blowout Cover Art
Today's TFBB is dedicated to one Mr. Brian Cook.
I know, I know: a scrub-class power ("power") forward from the losing team seems an unlikely honoree following a devastating 40-point rout. But the heroes of Game Five among the Lakers - a category nearly coterminous with the entire active roster - have been and will continue to be given their proper accolades by my colleagues. And there's just something about the line recorded by Mr. Cook last night that tickles me to no end and demands its own word-count.
The former Laker saw 19 minutes of action in Game Five, mostly but not entirely in garbage time ("garbage time" having begun, in effect, at the start of the second quarter). Those 19 minutes amounted to a near-masterpiece of ineptitude: zero points on 0-for-7 shooting, three turnovers, two personal fouls, and hilariously ineffectual defense against Pau Gasol, all culminating in a magnificent net plus/minus of -28. That's a mind-warping stat, and it very possibly represents the theoretical outside limit of badness for an NBA player logging less than 20 minutes of PT.
If the Houston Rockets were to sub me into a game for 19 minutes, it would be a grotesque sight. I'm not sure I'd make it out alive. And yet, I'm reasonably certain that I could manage a net plus/minus of -28. Seriously. If you're surrounded by four actual NBA-caliber teammates, it's really hard to do any worse. That's why Brian Cook's stat line from last night fascinates me. In his awfulness, he allowed us all to envision what professional basketball would look like if we were to step onto the floor. For 19 magical minutes, we gazed into an alternate universe.
(And when you consider that the Lakers used him, along with Maurice Evans, to acquire Trevor Ariza, well... he's just the gift that keeps on giving, isn't he?)
After the jump, a look at the other stats I pulled from the smoking crater where the Houston Rockets used to be....
It took 95 possessions last night for the world to be put back on its proper axis:
- Turnover rate: Lakers - 14%, Rockets - 19%.
- FTA/FGA: Lakers - 0.44, Rockets - 0.18.
- Free throw shooting: Lakers - 78%, Rockets - 94%.
- Effective field goal percentage: Lakers - 55%, Rockets - 35%.
- True shooting percentage: Lakers - 60%, Rockets - 41%.
- Offensive rebounding rate: Lakers - 33%, Rockets - 32%.
- Defensive rebounding rate: Lakers - 68%, Rockets - 67%.
- Points per possession: Lakers - 1.24, Rockets - 0.82.
Hells, yeah! That's the sort of thing that gets my spreadsheets a-purring. It's easy enough to blurb: with the exception of free throw accuracy, everything that a team can do that's conducive to winning, the Lakers did better than the Rockets. In some cases (like the small matter of making field-goal attempts), the Lakers did much, much better.
You don't need me to tell you that this was L.A.'s best performance of the playoffs so far, but I will anyway. On a per-possession basis, it was their best offensive and defensive game of the postseason. I'd argue as well that this was the second-best performance so far by any team in the 2009 playoffs. Denver's 58-point atomization of New Orleans was truly historic - none of us may live to see anything like it again - but last night's Game Five slides in as a solid second place.
Now it's time for you to duck and cover, because my player-level stat bombs are seconds from impact:
- I'm at the point where if I see Ron Artest taking a jump shot, even if he's wide-ass open, I consider it a successful defensive possession for the Lakers. He scored nine points on 15 shots, and over the last two games has needed 34 shooting possessions to score 17 points. Also: four turnovers last night. Play him off, keyboard cat!
- When was the last time the Lakers had a big man as fun to watch as Gasol? Sixteen points on 13 SPs, 13 boards, three assists, three blocks, a steal and zero turnovers. Shaq was a more dominating primal force, but for classic post-position artistry and craft, you really have to reach all the way back to Kareem. (Sorry, Vlade.) Pau has now used 80 shooting possessions in the series and is averaging a stellar 1.19 points per. If anyone knows the Spanish word for groovy, please post it in the comments.
- I have a soft spot for scrubs who sub in during garbage time and immediately start dialing their own number, so an enthusiastic thumbs-up to Josh Powell (eight SPs in the fourth quarter) and James "Flight" White (six SPs in the fourth) for their delightfully itchy trigger fingers.
And here are the composite numbers for the series through Game Five. I'm hopeful and confident that two days hence we'll be closing the book for good on these two teams.
- Average possessions per game: 92.
- Turnover rate: Lakers - 12%, Rockets - 18%.
- FTA/FGA: Lakers - 0.32, Rockets - 0.30.
- Free throw shooting: Lakers - 72%, Rockets - 81%.
- Effective field goal percentage: Lakers - 51%, Rockets - 47%.
- True shooting percentage: Lakers - 55%, Rockets - 52%.
- Offensive rebounding rate: Lakers - 29%, Rockets - 32%.
- Defensive rebounding rate: Lakers - 68%, Rockets - 71%.
- Points per possession: Lakers - 1.12, Rockets - 1.02.