Playoff Fragments from Sunday, May 5: MEM-OKC, IND-NY, Game Score Edition

Game 1: Memphis @ OKC

Forcing Memphis and OKC to play Game 1 on Sunday at noon CST, after both teams played the late game on Friday night meant two things for Sunday’s game: 1) Everyone was exhausted; and 2) There was next to no time to prepare. The 16-14 first quarter exemplified exhausted playoff basketball.  After the NBA gave every team two days in between each game over the first week of the playoffs, we get a sloppy Game 1 of the Conference Semifinals because it happened to be a Sunday (automatic doubleheader)

An Introduction to “Game Score”, via 

  • Game Score: the formula is PTS + 0.4 * FG – 0.7 * FGA – 0.4*(FTA – FT) + 0.7 * ORB + 0.3 * DRB + STL + 0.7 * AST + 0.7 * BLK – 0.4 * PF – TOV. Game Score was created by John Hollinger to give a rough measure of a player’s productivity for a single game. The scale is similar to that of points scored, (40 is an outstanding performance, 10 is an average performance, etc.).
  • Kevin Durant is on a mission.  35/15/6/1/2 is a great line.  This goes back to the lack of preparation time.  Not that Memphis will stop Durant, but they will contain him better than his 13 of 26 shooting in Game 1.  In 4 of the 5 games post-Westbrook, Durant has had a game score of 28 or better.  Last night’s was 29.3.
  • Kevin Martin is in uncharted waters.  He’s played 552 career games, and yesterday was his 13th playoff game.  In the 7 games with OKC, he’s shooting 38.6%, but yesterday, in the biggest game of his career (they’ll keep getting bigger the farther OKC goes…), he shot 8 of 14 from the field, 3 of 5 from distance and 6 of 7 from the line.  His 8 free-throw attempts in Game 6 vs. Houston and his 7 yesterday are critical.
  • Serge Ibaka needs to search his house.  His jumper is missing.  Without Westbrook’s balance to the offense, Ibaka went 4 of 13 in Game 6 and 1 of 10 in Sunday’s Game 1.  Maybe it was a case of tired legs.  Maybe it’s confidence.  Maybe his just misplaced it.
  • If two of these three players–Martin, Jackson, Ibaka–step up in any given game, the Thunder have a great chance of winning.  On basketball-reference’s game score, here’s how they performed in Game 1: (Martin 19.3, Jackson 8.5, Ibaka 0.9).  That’s a combined 28.7.  Still, they needed some serious luck in the 4th quarter (Sefolosha’s play on Conley, Pondexter missing free-throws) to pull out the win.  For the rest of this series, let’s measure that number.  I’m guessing it’s going to take more than 30, probably closer to 35 from the Martin, Jackson, Ibaka trio for Oklahoma City to win.
  • On the Memphis side, they played well, with the exception of Mike Conley, who could have used an extra day of rest after battling Chris Paul six times in the last two weeks.  The tired legs may have accounted for the 5 of 15 shooting (1 of 5 from range).  Conley doesn’t turn it over (only twice yesterday), but if one more three-pointer goes in early, maybe Memphis has enough of a 4th quarter lead to survive.  Conley posted his lowest game score of the playoffs (7.7, after averaging an 18 in Games 2-6 of round 1).  Maybe Conley hates Game 1’s.  His performance in Game 2 will be interesting to watch.  My hunch is he dominates the rest of the series with Reggie Jackson trailing him on most highlight plays.
  • Quincy Pondexter gave Memphis exactly what they needed off the bench: shooting.  In 25 minutes, Pondexter hit 4 of 8, including 3 of 5 from distance, while Bayless hit 2 of 4 from the arc in 20 minutes.  Neither turned the ball over. If Pondexter and Bayless continue to give Memphis that bench production, I’m comfortable saying Memphis wins the series.

Indiana @ New York

  • Roy Hibbert does not block shots.  He takes them.  He eats them.  He devours them.  He swallows them.  By extending his massive 7’3″ self arms going vertical (most of the time, which is the key to not getting whistled for a foul), Hibbert gave Carmelo, Felton, Chandler and the rest of the Knicks fits yesterday.  It’s amazing how rare it is to see a 7-footer dominate a game these days.  Hibbert sets the tone, and the Pacers followed.  As a Celtics fan, it was great to see the Knicks penetrate with such futility.
  • Carmelo Anthony will need to adapt for the Knicks to win this series.  If he didn’t learn in Game 1, he won’t learn it at all: You can’t expect to dunk on Roy Hibbert.  A mid-range jumper will be mandatory for Melo, who has now made an astoundingly low percentage of shots in his last four games.  Melo is 35 for his last 110 (31.8%).  Melo’s game scores:9.8. 11.5, 12.2, 12.5.  Those are not the scores you need from your leader.  Melo will shoot the Knicks out of Round 2, if he doesn’t learn how to be a play-maker in the next two weeks.  Or at least stop short of the mountain that is Hibbert and bank in a 10-footer.
  • Lance Stephenson: 14.7 game score, including 13 rebounds and 3 steals.  Stephenson is from Coney Island, and probably enjoyed showing his folks how far he’s come since high school.  I hoped these playoffs would put him on the national NBA map.  Looks like they might.

Read Jonathan Abrams‘ piece on Stephenson here if you haven’t.  Abrams delves into the psyche of two young hoops prospects who started having the ability to dunk in middle school, and hints at how that fact can negatively impact the career of an aspiring NBA player, looking at Ricky Davis (8th grade) and Lance Stephenson (6th grade).  If you’re unaware, I’m a huge Jonathan Abrams fan.  His oral history of the 1980’s Houston Rockets “The Team That Never Was,”  is award-winning.  Read Abrams in Grantland whenever you have the chance.

  • David West: 12.5 game score, but an 8 of 15 shooting night and 20 points to 3 turnovers.  Paul Pierce and Jeff Green will tell you it ain’t easy taking care of the ball against the Knicks.  West’s ability to work from the elbow helps.




Monday’s Games:

Chicago @ Miami, Game 1, 7pm EST, TNT

Golden State @ San Antonio, Game 1, 1030pm EST, TNT


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