Tag Archives: Patrick Beverley

Brief 2017 NBA Playoff Recaps: Volume 1 (Opening Weekend)

Four games in each day, to launch the 2017 NBA Playoffs. One paragraph per game, that’s all time will allow.

Saturday, April 15

Cleveland Cavs 109, Indiana Pacers 108 (Miles To Go Before I Sleep…)

(CLE leads, 1–0)

LeBron very good, rest of Cavs looked rusty…Kyrie 1 of 9 from deep…Cleveland dodges bullet when C.J. Miles misses fade-away at buzzer. Paul George is mad at C.J. Miles for taking a good look. Too bad Sir Lance couldn’t steal one for Indiana, that would’ve made things dramatic. (Lance is bringing it back to 2013, by the way)…Kevin Seraphin got 16 playoff minutes! Don’t wake the monster…

Milwaukee Bucks 97, Toronto Raptors 83 (Sir Brogdon At Your Service…)

(MIL leads 1–0)

Giannis in attack mode, such a beautiful sight. Half court to the rim in 3 strides. 28 on 18 shots…President Malcolm Brogdon ain’t a rookie, he’s a savvy vet! What do you need? I got your defense, your timely shooting, your smart passing. Just tell me what you need…Khris Middleton is the only human on the planet who can shoot 4 of 15 and finish +27 on the night. Three blocks by Maker made me squeal with delight. Lowry 2 of 11 and 0 of 6 from deep. Wrist rust be a problem. Casey needs to get Valanciunas more than 5 shots. This is going 7.

Dwayne Casey needs to figure some things out before Game 2

 

San Antonio Spurs 111, Memphis Grizzlies 82 (Kawhi Can’t This be a Forfeit?)

(SA leads 1–0….soon to be 4–0)

When we heard Tony Allen was out for the series, we stopped holding out any hope that this would be competitive. The Spurs were ordered by Adam Silver to wait until the 2nd quarter to annihilate the Grizzlies, so they cooperated, ending the first with a 5 point deficit. Then San Antonio won the next three quarters by 34. When you want to watch every series, it helps to have one like this.

Utah Jazz 97, Los Angeles Clippers 95 (Win One for the Gobert!)

(UTAH leads 1–0)

17 seconds after tip and The Gentle Giant, Gobert the Great, was on the ground, crawling and shaking his head. It was a painful, deflating sight. Anyone who was rooting for the Jazz felt hollow inside. Quin Snyder’s expression was more than concerned. Not exactly panicked, though. He held himself together, and the Jazz held themselves together. Players like Joe Johnson, Joe Ingles, George Hill, and Derrick Favors…pulled this one out. What a wonderful game. The Clippers have all the talent and the Jazz have all the grit. The Clippers are an empty vessel, with a ferocious point guard at the helm. They are less than the sum of their parts, while the Jazz are more than just a couple of Joes. What sweet music, Game One brought us. Joe Johnson has been reborn. Joe Ingles is the best YMCA gym rat in the NBA.

Slow-Motion Joe Goes With the Flow

 

Sunday, April 16

Golden St Warriors 121, Portland Trail Blazers 109 (McCollum Merely One Man…)

(GS leads 1–0)

C.J. McCollum was Golden State’s Gollum, they were never sure which way he’d go. Dropping 41 points on 28 shots, McCollum and his pal Lillard kept the Blazers afloat until the 15–2 Warrior avalanche began the 4th. Defensive Draymond opened the gates and the unassuming Ian Clark chipped in 7 of those 15. The first 36 minutes of the series may be the closest, though it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Blazers backcourt pull one out in the Rose Quarter.

Washington Wizards 114, Atlanta Hawks 107 (Chief Markieff Offers Relief)

(WAS leads 1–0)

The Wizards are probably the better team, and certainly the more interesting one of the two, but with time slipping away at the end of the half, the Hawks led, 48–42, and Washington’s Markieff Morris missed a contested corner three. The ensuing review showed that Morris had been fouled as time expired on the shot. Three free-throws and the lead was cut to 3, as they strolled toward the locker rooms. After the half, Morris opened up by hitting a 3, and the game was tied. Sometimes a game swings when you least expect it. The Hawks have little margin for error. The Wizards bench came up completely empty (except for Mr. Oubre). A few Tim Hardaway threes (0 of 6) and the Hawks might have pulled it out. Instead, Washington still holds home court for now.

Chicago Bulls 106, Boston Celtics 102 (Tragic Turn for Cs but Baby Please…)

(CHI leads 1–0)

What an awful turn of events for Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics. A tragedy clouded what should have been an exuberant first round home game in Boston. Despite it all, Isaiah showed up and did what he always does: scored. 33 points on 18 shots, 10 of 12 from the line, and 3 from deep. Isaiah finished with a +12. So did Bobby Portis, the Bulls 22 year-old who came off the bench with a fury. Those ten minutes without Isaiah belonged to Portis, who scored 19 on 8 of 10, grabbing 9 boards, dishing 3 assists and blocking 2 shots. After the Bulls sent Gibson and McDermott packing, Portis has seen his minutes grow. Once he started knocking down threes at the end of the regular season, his confidence apparently grew as well. Boston’s 53-wins and home court advantage are in the rear-view now, as they fight off Jimmy Butler and Bobby Portis, looking to even things on Tuesday night. Bradley and Horford did their parts, along with Isaiah. Crowder, Smart, Olynyk, and Jaylen have to give more.

Houston Rockets 118, OKC Thunder 87 (Roll the Thunder, Hear Their Cry)

(HOU leads 1–0)

No more debates, no more MVP concerns, just throw the ball up and play. The better team won. The better team has Patrick Beverley, whose offensive contributions (21 points on 13 shots) pale in comparison to the impact of his Westbrook-hounding. Russell can rampage all over the regular season, but he won’t rampage all over Mr. Beverley, who has never known the concept of fear or intimidation. Westbrook’s 6 of 23 line, and 9 turnovers were a big part of the problem. His sidekick, Victor Oladipo, was a dreadful 1 of 12 from the field, misfiring on all 6 three-pointers. OKC’s only hope is to contain Houston’s relentless attack, in which James Harden dissects their defense and makes life simple and breezy for Clint Capela and Nene, who shot a combined 14 of 17, feasting on lay-ups and dunks. Either redirect Harden away from the paint, or Westbrook has to play three times as well as he did tonight and Oladipo needs to wake up. This could be over in 5.

***

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Examining Five Efficient Offenses: Breaking Down the Success of Atlanta, Minnesota, Portland, Golden State and Houston

Offensive efficiency.  You know it when you see it.  The ball zips along the perimeter in Golden State and Portland.  In San Antonio, no more of the Duncan back-down, but instead Pop and his sideline savants give Parker and company room to drive-and-dish to the corner for the open look.  Sharing the ball.  Nine Spurs averaging eights points per game or more.  In Houston and Minnesota, they rebound and suddenly the ball is over half-court, bringing back the days of Russell and Unseld when the outlet pass was new.  The three-pointer was a novelty in the early 80’s until Larry Bird decided he didn’t have to post-up anymore.  Bird passed it on to Reggie Miller, before Ray Allen grabbed it from the stubborn Pacer.  Now?  This is a new generation of basketball with a new style of play and a new way of understanding the value of the arc.  Gone is the way of the three as desperation look.  Gone is the necessity of the post (sorry, Charles Barkley, but you’re losing touch).  Shots from long-distance are not all created equally. We’ve broken it down into the corner three and the one that comes from deep–also called “above the break.”  The three-pointer spaces the floor and opens up the driving lanes that makes basketball the most creative sport on earth. Efficiency means low-turnovers and high free-throws.  It means the death of the mid-range jumper.

Efficiency is the core way in which advanced stats have impacted the game. With that in mind, let’s take a look at five of the NBA’s somewhat surprisingly efficient offenses early in this 2013-14 NBA season. Certain teams (Miami, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers) have been purposely excluded from this list. Why?  Because LeBron James, Tony Parker, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul are four of the most dynamic shot-creators in the league, and they do so much on their own that they throw off the team numbers.  Using that logic, Houston (James Harden) should also be excluded.  However, Houston is one of the five teams because they highlight something specific I want to mention below.  Also, no piece on basketball analytics is complete without mentioning Daryl Morey’s team.

Explanations for each category listed below.

  1. Offensive Rating: points scored per 100 possessions. league-average: 104.0
  2. Assist Percentage: percentage of team field goals that were made with a teammate’s assist. league-average: 56.8%
  3. Assist to Turnover Ratio: ratio of assists to turnovers. league-average: 1.36
  4. Pace: number of average offensive possessions for each team (team and opponent) per 48 minutes. league-average: 94.2
  5. Effective Field-Goal Percentage: field goals made / field goals attempted, adjusted so that 3-pt FG are worth 1.5 times 2-pt FG. league-average: 49.4%
  6. Free-Throws Made / game: league-average: 17.5
  7. Three-Pointers Made / game: league-average: 7.6
  8. Overall % Shots Distributed by Zone / Shooting % on Attempts Within Each Zone

– These are the league-wide team averages, broken down by zone on the floor

  • Restricted Area (R), 32% of total shots / 60.0% 
  • Paint-non-restricted-area (P), 15.1% of total shots / 38.5%
  • Mid-range (M), 27.8% of total shots / 38.7%
  • Above-the Break-3 (A3), 18.5% of total shots / 35.0%
  • Corner-3 (C3), 6.7% of total shots / 40.2%

*all stats compiled through November 24, 2013

Atlanta Hawks (8-6)

Offensive Rating: 102.0 (11th)

Assist Percentage: 65.9% (1st)

Assist to Turnover Ratio: 1.69 (2nd-tied)

Pace: 98.02 (11th)

Effective Field-Goal Percentage: 51.5 (8th)

Free-Throws Made / game: 16.7 (17th)

Three-Pointers Made / game: 7.9 (14th)

Overall Shots Distributed by Zone / Shooting Percentage on Attempts Within Each Zone:

  • Restricted Area (R)30.1% of total shots / 65.7%. Though they take 2% fewer shots than average, they make 5% more, because they get more easy looks at the rim via the extra pass.  Horford is a strong finisher at the rim.
  • Paint-non-restricted-area (P), 16.5% of total shots / 41.3%
  • Mid-range (M), 25.9% of total shots / 39.9%
  • Above-the Break-3 (A3), 19.4% of total shots / 34.7%. 
  • Corner-3 (C3), 8.1% of total shots / 37.0%

The Hawks take 27.5% of their shots from behind the arc, more than 2% over league average.  Kyle Korver continues to be one of the NBA’s best at 50.2%, but the Hawks efficient offense would be even more efficient if the rest of the crew (Teague 20.5%, Carroll 32%, Antic 29%) were able to connect even 33% of the time.

Individual Scoring and Shots per game:

  1. Jeff Teague, 18.0 ppg on 14.5 shots.
  2. Al Horford, 17.4 ppg on 13.9 shots.
  3. Paul Millsap, 15.6 ppg on 11.9 shots.
  4. Kyle Korver, 12.4 ppg on 8.1 shots.
  5. DeMarre Carroll, 9.4 ppg on 7.5 shots.

What It All Adds Up To:

The Hawks share the ball better than any other team in the NBA.  Consider the above five players.  Horford, Millsap, and Korver have never been primary options, but all have clear offensive strengths.  The lack of ego and the factor of new coach Mike Budenholzer (having learned the unselfish Spurs system) has Atlanta off to a rousing offensive start.   Everyone but Al Horford the green light from behind the arc, though only Kyle Korver is making opponents nervous.  By minimizing turnovers, the Hawks give themselves a chance at a great possession most of the time down the court. The addition of dynamic point guard Lou Williams, who was out for most of last season and the start of this year rehabbing a knee injury, will help create even more open looks for Millsap, Horford and Korver.

Minnesota Timberwolves (8-8)

Offensive Rating: 103.0 (9th)

Assist Percentage: 61.4% (8th)

Assist to Turnover Ratio: 1.62 (5th)

Pace: 101.8 (2nd)

Effective Field-Goal Percentage: 47.6 (21st)

Free-Throws Made / game: 20.9 (3rd)

Three-Pointers Made / game: 7.8 (15th)

Overall Shots Distributed by Zone / Shooting Percentage on Attempts Within Each Zone:

  • Restricted Area (R)35.9% of total shots / 60.5%.   
  • Paint-non-restricted-area (P), 12.2% of total shots / 35.5%
  • Mid-range (M), 25.2% of total shots / 32.3%
  • Above-the Break-3 (A3), 20.8% of total shots / 33.7%
  • Corner-3 (C3), 5.9% of total shots / 32.5%

The fast-breaking Wolves get 4% more shots at the rim than the average team.  When kept in the half-court, they struggle more than most.  In the paint, and their mid-range game is among the worst in the league.  They rarely get open looks from the corners, the most valuable shot in the game.  As a result, they shoot only 32.5%, almost 8 percentage points less than league-average.

Individual Scoring and Shots per game:

  1. Kevin Love, 24.9 ppg on 17.9 shots
  2. Kevin Martin, 22.8 ppg on 17.7 shots
  3. Corey Brewer, 14.7 ppg on 11.7 shots
  4. Nikola Pekovic, 14.2 ppg on 11.1 shots
  5. J.J. Barea, 8.2 ppg on 8.5 shots

What It All Adds Up To:

Though Ricky Rubio can’t hit a shot within the arc, Rubio’s 8.7 assists and Love’s 4.5 assists help keep the Wolves in motion.  If Rubio could find a way to take more long-range shots, the Wolves would become more efficient.  He’s shooting a meager 30.6% on 6.2 shots per game from inside, and a surprisingly good 42.9% in limited attempts from distance. The Wolves recipe is to push the pace on every occasion, with Kevin Love’s outlet passes and Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer zooming down the sidelines in hopes of a quick hoop.  The Wolves use Rubio and Brewer as attacking defenders, creating even more open-floor opportunities through passing-lane thefts, which enables Minnesota to lead the league in points off turnovers (over 20.5). However, when the Wolves are forced into the half-court, they get shy and howl at the moon (and Kevin Love) for help. Let’s not mention their less-than-stifling defense.

Portland Trailblazers (13-2)

Offensive Rating: 106.5 (4th)

Assist Percentage: 59.9% (12th)

Assist to Turnover Ratio: 1.57 (8th)

Pace: 96.7 (17th-tied)

Effective Field-Goal percentage: 51.3% (9th)

Free-Throws Made / game: 16.4 (18th)

Three-Pointers Made / game: 10.2 (2nd-tied)

Overall Shots Distributed by Zone / Shooting Percentage on Attempts Within Each Zone:

  • Restricted Area (R), 27.2% of total shots / 56.6% 
  • Paint-non-restricted-area (P), 11.7% of total shots / 33.6%
  • Mid-range (M), 33.2% of total shots / 43.0%
  • Above-the Break-3 (A3), 20.4% of total shots / 40.2%
  • Corner-3 (C3), 7.5% of total shots / 47.8%

Portland’s strengths are vividly on display in this breakdown.  Aldridge’s ability to work from the elbow and loft those 15-18 footers over the outstretched arms of defenders helps Portland shoot 4% better than league-average from mid-range. Mathews, Batum, Lillard, and Williams help with the lofty 40.2% from above the break, better than 5% over the league-average.

Individual Scoring and Shots per game:

  1. LaMarcus Aldridge, 22.3 ppg on 20.4 shots
  2. Damion Lillard, 19.9 ppg on 16.1 shots
  3. Wesley Mathews, 17.3 ppg on 11.1 shots
  4. Nicolas Batum, 13.4 ppg on 10.4 shots
  5. Mo Williams, 9.5 ppg on 9.1 shots

What It All Adds Up To:

The Blazers are knocking down an incredible amount of threes early in the season, which has propelled them to the 13-2 start. Mathews (52.5% on 5.7 per game), Batum (41.6% on 5.5 per game) and Lillard (39.4% on 7.1 per game) have them stretching defenses like only the Warriors can.  Though Mathews can’t keep up his torrid pace, the fact remains that the pieces fit beautifully in Portland, and even without any real pace or great penetration, the half-court Blazers are steam-rolling some defenses.  However, a closer look at the schedule reveals some fortuitous early-season scheduling scattered among the solid wins.  Two big tests will come next week at home against Indiana and Oklahoma City.

Golden State Warriors (8-6)

Offensive Rating: 102.9 (10th)

Assist Percentage: 62.3% (6th-tied)

Assist to Turnover Ratio: 1.32 (16th)

Pace: 99.0 (9th)

Effective Field-Goal Percentage: 54.0% (3rd)

Free-Throws Made / game: 14.9 (25th-tied)

Three-Pointers Made / game: 10.2 (1st)

Overall Shots Distributed by Zone / Shooting Percentage on Attempts Within Each Zone:

  • Restricted Area (R)30.7% of total shots / 61.0% 
  • Paint-non-restricted-area (P), 16.0% of total shots / 35.8%
  • Mid-range (M), 25.1% of total shots / 42.3%
  • Above-the Break-3 (A3), 20.7% of total shots / 44.4%
  • Corner-3 (C3), 7.6% of total shots / 47.1%

Golden State’s astounding 44.4% shooting from distance above-the-break puts every team except for Portland to shame. Remember, league-average is 9.4% points below that figure.  Steph Curry’s range (roughly 30 feet) means that any open three is a good shot.  Klay Thompson’s 6’7″ frame and quick release mean that he gets more half-court threes off than most wings. Because of their ability to stretch the floor, Golden State doesn’t have to play with pace to get good looks outside the paint.  In addition, David Lee has all kinds of room to operate from the elbow, resulting in the 42.3% on mid-range looks.  The excellent point-forward passing of Andre Iguodala is the icing on the cake.  Iguodala’s temporary absence (hamstring) will be glaring on defense, but also depletes the bench, forcing Barnes into the starting lineup.

Individual Scoring and Shots per game:

  1. Klay Thompson, 21.1 ppg on 15.1 shots
  2. Stephen Curry, 20.1 ppg on 16.0 shots
  3. David Lee, 17.5 ppg on 13.4 shots
  4. Andre Iguodala, 12.9 ppg on 8.5 shots
  5. Harrison Barnes, 12.4 ppg on 10.2 shots

What It All Adds Up To:

Points per game with Curry (10 games): 106.7.  Points per game without Curry (3 games): 83.3. Granted, of the three games, two came against excellent defenses–San Antonio and Memphis. The Warriors offense is a well-oiled machine. Watching them operate against Oklahoma City two weeks ago was a thing of beauty.  As they showed in last year’s playoffs, they are unstoppable when Curry finds that impossible groove that means he will hit with or without a hand in his face.  With the addition of Iguodala, the pressure is lessened on Thompson.  Without Iguodala, and injured guard Toney Douglas, the bench depth is questionable.  The telling numbers: four players averaging over 10 shot attempts per game. The Warriors offense will not be a problem.  Without Iguodala, their defense, which was hugely successful through the first 12 games, will be tested.

Houston Rockets (10-5)

Offensive Rating: 108.1 (3rd)

Assist Percentage: 55.5% (23rd)

Assist to Turnover Ratio: 1.08 (27th-tied)

Pace: 100.8 (4th-tied)

Effective Field-Goal Percentage: 54.7% (2nd)

Free-Throws Made / game: 24.7 (1st)

Three-Pointers Made / game: 9.3 (4th)

Overall Shots Distributed by Zone / Shooting Percentage on Attempts Within Each Zone:

  • Restricted Area (R), 40.4% of total shots / 66.5% 
  • Paint-non-restricted-area (P), 14.2% of total shots / 42.7%
  • Mid-range (M), 10.9% of total shots / 32.8%
  • Above-the Break-3 (A3), 25.7% of total shots / 34.1%
  • Corner-3 (C3), 8.9% of total shots / 38.2%

Wow.  These percentages read exactly as you might imagine if you know Daryl Morey’s name.  Morey has engineered his Rockets to resist the urge to shoot the mid-range jumper, aka the dying “long 2.”  Instead, Harden, Howard and company either get to the rim or let fly from distance.  A measly 10.9% of shots are from mid-range.  League-average: 27.8%. Instead, the Rockets attack the rim and either get to the line (see below) or get a decent look from distance.

Individual Scoring and Shots per game:

  1. James Harden, 24.2 ppg on 16.3 shots
  2. Dwight Howard, 17.9 ppg on 10.7 shots
  3. Chandler Parsons, 16.6 ppg on 12.4 shots
  4. Jeremy Lin, 16.5 ppg on 10.4 shots
  5. Patrick Beverley, 10.0 ppg on 8.4 shots

What It All Adds Up To:

Houston is one of the few teams that can survive a miserable assist-to-turnover ratio and still be efficient. How do they manage this?  Because they’re devoted to the arc and attacking the rim.  Morey’s kids are asked to embrace the advanced stats more than any team in the league.  They get to the free-throw line at an incredible rate, and by do so by pushing the pace without a true point guard. Harden, Parsons and Lin all average over 4 assists per night.  The Rockets currently have six players attempting at least three shots from distance per game.  In addition to the previously mentioned trio, Patrick Beverley, Francisco Garcia and Omri Casspi combine to attempt over 12 triples per contest.  Harden averaged over 10 FT attempts per game last year, and is currently at 8.8 attempts per game.  For his career, Harden shoots 84.3% from the line. Howard is forced to the charity-stripe 10.8 times per game, but connects on only 54% of those attempts.  It’s one thing to believe in the long-range jump-shot, but when a team combines that with an all-out attack on the paint, you get the super efficient Rockets.  The question for Houston, other than Dwight Howard’s commitment to the pick-and-roll (his best offensive skill), is if the Rockets are able to commit to the defensive end in the same way they’ve committed to this offensive philosophy.

***

The Darko Index is my own personal outlet pass (not quite as majestic as Kevin Love’s).  On Twitter @darkoindex

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Collision Course: Patrick Beverley, Russell Westbrook and the Play That Changed the Western Conference Playoffs

Let’s start in 2007, when Patrick Beverly was 19, two years older than his mother was when Patrick was born. An absent father who was a local hoops star in his own youth.  Beverley grew up on the west side of Chicago.  The Chicago playgrounds have long been a hoops hotbed.  Derrick Rose is the latest in a long line of Chicago-raised NBA royalty.  Before Rose, there was Dwayne Wade.  Before Wade, there was Antoine Walker.  Before Walker, there was Isaiah Thomas.  Before Isaiah, there was Maurice Cheeks.  Chicago is a gritty place, with some of the highest levels of poverty and violence in the United States.  Basketball is a way out for so many poor teenagers.

The excellent 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams, examines the lives of two teenage Chicago hoops prospects and their less-than-glorious paths. It bears mentioning that for every All-American high school basketball player that makes it to the NBA, there are hundreds that don’t every decade. The 6’1” Chicago prep standout, Beverly starred in the 2007 sequel to Hoop Dreams, titled Hoop Reality. A year later, reality would sink in.

Patrick Beverly in a high-school slam competition in 2005.

Patrick Beverly in a high-school slam competition in 2005.

Patrick Beverley was not a high school All-American.  However, he was dominant enough at John Marshall High School to receive a scholarship to play at Arkansas.  After earning SEC Freshman of the Year Honors in 2006, Beverley’s name was in the college spotlight heading into his sophomore year.  In that second season at Arkansas, Beverley averaged 12.1 points per game, collecting an impressive 6.6 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game. Beverley became embroiled in an academic investigation that led to a junior year suspension–though later it became known that several Arkansas players were suspected of cheating, Beverley was the only player suspended.  ESPN reported that the issues were connected to fraudulent papers, written for players on the Arkansas basketball team.  The suspension resulted in Beverley seeking an early start to his professional basketball life, leading both he and his mother to the Ukraine in 2008.

Imagine you are a 19 year-old seeking a life in professional basketball, and you’re not quite good enough, or physically imposing enough (at only 6’1″) to get drafted, but you know there is a future in the game for you somewhere.  You get an agent, and you begin hunting for a team, somewhere, willing to take a chance on you.  And you bring your mother, your sole source of stability, with you.  Welcome to Kiev, young Mr. Beverley.

Patrick Beverley’s Long and Winding Path to the NBA

John Marshall High School Chicago, IL 2003-2006  
University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR 2006-2008 SEC Freshman of Year, 2007, Wooden Award Candidate, 2008
Dnipro Dipropetrovsk Ukraine 2008-2009
Olympiacos Pieraeus Greece 2009-2010  
Spartak St. Petersburg Russia 2011-2012  2nd-Tier EuroCup MVP
Houston Rockets Houston, TX January 2013-current  

 *Drafted in 2nd Round (42nd) by Los Angeles Lakers, 2009 draft.  Decided to stay in Europe. Signed by Miami Heat in August, 2010.  Released by Miami Heat at end of training camp, October, 2010.  Signed with Houston Rockets on January 7, 2013. Assigned to D-League Rio Grande Vipers.

Beverley has gained minutes and confidence in Houston as the year has progressed.  His lateral quickness and physicality are reminiscent of both Avery Bradley and Eric Bledsoe.  The kind of ball pressure that changes the flow of the game.  The kind of fearlessness that stems from never backing down, the way every other Russell Westbrook opponent has backed down over the years. Kevin McHale and Daryl Morey decided to go extra small and start Beverley in place of power forward Greg Smith in Game 2 against Oklahoma City.

Let’s think about Westbrook for a moment.  A tremendous athlete, who one might envision as an All-Pro running back in the NFL with his combination of speed and strength, Westbrook is perhaps the most dangerous NBA guard in the open court.  When it comes to penetration, only Ty Lawson, Tony Parker, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul and Derrick Rose compare to Westbrook.  Unlike the diminutive Lawson, Parker, and Rondo, Westbrook is 6’3” and capable of jumping over defenders, dunking on big men or getting to the line at will.  Like Rose, he is not a pure point guard, but an in-between guard, whose passing has improved during his five-year career, and whose determination and sheer force of will are remarkable.

Teamed with the most lethal scorer in the game today, Kevin Durant, Westbrook flourishes in the pick-and-roll sets the Oklahoma City runs, though he is prone to over-dribbling and can get bogged down in the half-court.

Confidence vs. Arrogance

Personality-wise, I have never been a fan of Westbrook.  Certain players exude a kind of arrogance on the court that can detract from their likability.  Kobe’s scowl comes to mind.  Westbrook flashes a flexed-muscle pose while running back down the court after particularly big plays, or dunks.  He is high on himself.  Before the play by Beverley, he likely viewed himself as indestructible, having played five seasons without missing a single game.

The line between utter confidence and arrogance is a fine one, but it seems clear that Westbrook lives on the arrogant side of swagger whereas Steph Curry, Tony Parker and Lawson are pure confidence.

Westbrook was only 5’8″ as a high school freshman, and didn’t make his varsity team until his junior year.  By his senior year, however, he had grown to 6′ and was dominating opponents.  Not a standout on a UCLA team full of eventual NBA players, Westbrook’s relative anonymity didn’t keep the Seattle Sonics (remember them?) from selecting him 4th overall in the 2008 draft.

As a pro, next to Kevin Durant, Westbrook has developed into an two-time All-NBA second-team selection.  His size, athleticism, and leaping ability allow him to dunk over big men, beat opponents down the court, and likely create the kind of in-your-face attitude that Westbrook displays, at times showing up the competition with his bravado.

Westbrook’s dominance on the court can’t be argued, but his leadership skills are debatable.  Durant has always been the quiet leader of OKC, while Westbrook was more vocal.  Harden’s self-assuredness and playmaking haven’t been missed because of the development of Serge Ibaka’s offensive game and Kevin Martin’s bench scoring.  Oklahoma City’s balance has now been thrown off.

The Play:

As Beverley dove for the ball, his hip met the outside of Westbrook’s knee.  Westbrook was standing upright about to call timeout.  The contact was incidental, though some critics are calling the play “dirty” and “bush league.”  Some of that criticism comes from the fact that Beverly is not an established star in the league. Beverley’s attack-mode defense altered the game and was something of a shock to Westbrook throughout Game 2, leading up to the moment of their collision.  Beverley’s contagious energy and fearlessness invigorated the Rockets and made for an exciting finish, which Oklahoma City pulled out in the end.  Watching Beverley, it’s impossible not to notice his hunger.  Try and find another player in these playoffs with that energy.  The Celtics needed Bradley to come out with his typical assertiveness, but as a point guard, Bradley has struggled mightily.  Tony Allen and Reggie Evans play with that level of intensity.  When healthy, Kenneth Faried has it.

The Result:

Lateral meniscus tear.  Westbrook will miss the rest of the playoffs.  The role of MVP-candidate and scoring wizard Kevin Durant becomes even more important, though a combination of Kevin Martin and Serge Ibaka’s scoring, and Reggie Jackson’s multi-purpose contributions might end up becoming the more necessary ingredients for the Thunder if they hope to advance past the second round.

The Thunder won a tightly-contested Game 3, behind 41 points from Durant and solid contributions from Ibaka, Martin and Jackson.

With one more victory, the Thunder will meet the winner of the Los Angeles Clippers-Memphis Grizzlies series, which heads back to Staples Center for Game 5 on Tuesday.

While the injury is certainly unfortunate for Westbrook, for Oklahoma City and for NBA fans hoping to see Oklahoma City challenge Miami in a rematch of last year’s Finals, the West bracket just became much more intriguing.

Though Oklahoma City squeaked out the win against Houston, 105-102, Patrick Beverley put his named on the map with a breakout game that showed incredible determination.  It was the culmination of a long and winding road for Beverley.  Even if Houston gets bounced in Game 4 from these playoffs, Beverley will have finally made it.  If Russell Westbrook or any commentators want to rip him for “causing” the injury on an accidental play, that’s their issue.

Beverley’s final line in Game 2: 41 minutes, 7 of 13 FGM-FGA, 2-4 from distance, 5 offensive rebounds, 12 total, 6 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 3 turnovers, 16 points, and +/- of +4.  Only Asik (+12) was more helpful for Houston, from that standpoint.  Welcome to the Association, Patrick Beverley.

Jonah Hall writes the Darko Index because of the NBA Playoffs and stories like the one of Patrick Beverley.  

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