NBA Stats of the Week: 2/26-3/4

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In a new segment I’ll be doing every Tuesday on here, I’ll pick out the noteworthy statistics that occurred around the league in the last week. It’s worth noting that many of the single-game historical references only go back to the 1985-1986 season (the limitations of the Basketball-Reference.com play index for game finding). For convenience, “all-time” may mean “since 85-86” in many cases in this article.

  • Stephen Curry: On Wednesday of last week, Curry scored 54 points in a road game against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. This performance placed Curry third all-time among the top scoring performances by visiting players, putting him just behind Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan and just ahead of Lebron James. That’s not exactly the worst company to be in. Furthermore, Stephen Curry joins four other players as being the only players to make at least 11 3-pointers in a game. Of the five players who have accomplished that feat, Curry did not only did so on the fewest number of three-point attempts, but also recorded the most points and assists ever by someone that made that many threes in a ballgame. Unfortunately from Curry’s perspective, he may not view the game as better than the games the others players had, since Curry was the only player to lose in such a game. When you add in the game that Curry had the night before in Indiana where he shot 7-10 from beyond the arc, he became the eighth player ever to make at least 7 3-pointers in consecutive games. Curry had already achieved this feat earlier this season against Sacramento and Charlotte (7-12 and 8-13 shooting threes, respectively), making him the first player ever to score 7 threes in consecutive games more than once in his career. The game following the one against the Knicks, Curry took on the Celtics and was unable to follow up the feat. Only Mike Miller and George McCloud have scored 7 three-pointers in three straight games.
  • Lebron James: What hasn’t Lebron done? Whatever it is, he added to it a little more in the last week, especially in his win last Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings. In that game, Lebron set his new career high in assists with 16. His previous career high had been 15, set three times before he joined the Heat. Lebron’s achievements in that game go far beyond the highlights of his own career. They reach a historical level too. For instance, he joined just three other players in NBA history to record a game of at least 40 points and 16 assists. The entire month of February was historically good for Lebron James as well. Lebron set the record for PER in a single month, putting up a player efficiency rating of 38.34 in February. For a metric that sets 15.0 as it’s “average”, it was a pretty unbelievable series of games for James that month, to say the very least.
  • Joakim Noah: The center for the Bulls had a career game last Thursday, scoring 23 points, grabbing 21 boards, and blocking 11 shots. The 21 rebound performance was tied for Noah’s second most rebounds in any game of his career. When he blocked eleven shots that night, it set his personal best for blocked shots in a game. Noah’s performance put him along side Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, and Shawn Bradley as players who have had 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 blocked shots in a game.
  • Chandler Parsons: Parsons had a career night on Sunday, when he scored 32 points on 12-13 shooting from the field against the Mavericks. Parsons is the first player in over three seasons to score at least that many points on 92% shooting or better.  He joins a list of 15 players to have ever done that since the 1985-86 season.
  • Amir Johnson: Johnson had a 23 point, 15-rebound performance off the bench for the Raptors on Monday. What’s even more impressive is that he didn’t miss a single field goal attempt. 49 players have had a game of at least 23-15 as a reserve. Amir Johnson is the only one of these 49 players that didn’t miss a shot. Unfortunately for Johnson, the spectacular performance came in a loss to the Warriors.
  • Luke Walton: On a less impressive (but still a little bit impressive) statistic from the last week, Luke Walton tallied 12 assists and 0 rebounds against the Knicks on Tuesday. Walton is the one of two non-guards to ever do this (the other being George Hill). As a sidenote, Luke Walton scored 2 points and Grant Hill scored 31 points. In case we’re still short on Luke Walton love, here is my Luke Skywalton photoshop.

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You can follow me on twitter at @SkylerJGilbert.

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Chicago Bulls Season Preview: A Knee, a Wrist, and Tears

Team Capsule

I can’t even begin to tell you how impossible it is to be a Bulls fan right now. Yeah, I know the Bulls have had the best record in the league the past two years, and they’ve had the GOAT in Michael Jordan, including six titles, but right now I wouldn’t wish this Bulls team on my worst enemy. There is nothing worse in sports than having the greatest expectations, actually have a team that can fulfill those expectations, then have your heart and soul ripped out of you within seconds.

The tearing of Derrick Rose’s ACL killed all hopes of winning the Finals that season, and almost surely this upcoming one. This type of injury usually takes 9-12 months to recover, and then some to get back to 100%. It doesn’t look like Rose will return until February or March, and honestly, it shouldn’t be earlier if they are looking out for him.

To add onto Rose’s knee, Luol Deng is sporting a wrist injury that apparently doesn’t need surgery, but isn’t healing. Deng chose to play in the Olympics, which you can’t really argue with, but his wrist seemed to be a problem then, and it’s hard to believe its gotten any better.

I’m not done yet. To make things worse, the Bulls blew up their selling point, the so-called “Bench Mob”. Gone is Omer Asik, one of the best young defenders in the league, gone is CJ Watson a solid backup PG, gone is Ronnie Brewer, a defensive stalwart, gone is Kyle Korver, the deadly 3-pt specialist who spread the floor for Rose late in games, gone is John Lucas, no explanation necessary. The Bulls managed to keep Taj Gibson, who is looking for a contract extension, as he will be a hot commodity if he hits free agency and most likely will leave the Bulls if so.

These spots are filled by former Bull captain, Kirk Hinrich, a fan favorite, Marco Belinelli, Nate Robinson, Vlad Radmanovic, Nazr Mohammed, and incoming rookie Marquis Teague. I wouldn’t say there is an upgrade at any position.With Rose out for the first half of the season and some, the starting point guard duties will be taken by Cap’n Kirk, until/if Teague shows he is ready to take over.

Tom Thibodeau is still the coach of the Bulls though, so that means there will be great defense played, no matter who is on the court. Without Derrick Rose last year, Chicago was 18-9,  so they’ve proved they can win without their superstar. It will definitely take time for the new “Bench Mob” to gain chemistry and show any signs of being what the old one was. Luol Deng will have to take more of a leadership role on the court, as well as Joakim Noah.  It would be nice to see Carlos Boozer deserve even half of what he is getting paid, and with a greater role in the offense we may just see that.

Biggest Strength: Defense

Last year, the Bulls were one of, if not the best defensive units in the league. Luol Deng is known as a premier wing defender, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah are also highly touted on the defensive end. They were ranked second in the league with a defensive rating (from basketball-reference) of 98.3. It looks as if the defense will have to carry the team during Rose’s absence.

Biggest Weakness: Health

This isn’t news to Chicago, the weight of the 2012-2013 season is on the health of Derrick Rose’s knee. Without Rose, the team looks rather mediocre, and will be fighting for a playoff spot. Even with him back, players don’t typical come back from an injury like that to play at full skill immediately. You have seen the Adidas commercials portraying Rose’s comeback, but I don’t see him every being 100% during this season.

Player to Watch: Carlos Boozer

After “The Decision”, the Bulls gave Carlos Boozer a max-contract to come play with Joakim Noah, and put up 20-10 consistently. This has not been the case, and Boozer is one of the biggest disappointments this franchise has seen since Marcus Fizer, Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler, Jay Williams, Ben Wallace and even Tyrus Thomas (wow this list is way too long). With Rose out, Boozer should be the focal point of the offense, along with Luol Deng. In the first few preseason games, it seems as if he has slimmed down a bit, and it’s another year with Thibs, so there is hope that the defense continues to improve for him as it has since he arrived here. Another year with 15 points and 8 rebounds will give Bulls fans reason to plead for amnestying of Boozer.

2011-2012 Record: 50-16

Coach: Tom Thibodeau (112-36 career record)

Key Additions: Marco Belinelli, Nazr Mohammed, Marquis Teague, Kirk Hinrich

If these newcomers can follow the mold of the past two Bulls seasons and be one of the best bench units in the league, things should turn out well for the Bulls. It may take some time to gain chemistry, but the Bulls of late have always managed to get the best out of all of their role players. Kirk Hinrich returns to Chicago after a two-year absence, and fans are glad to see him back. Unfortunately, it seems as if he has regressed quite a bit since his last stay, and it will be interesting to see if playing with his old team brings out the old Captain Kirk.

Key Losses: Kyle Korver, CJ Watson, Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, John Lucas III

The Bulls lose two great defenders, their backup point guard, and one of the best 3-point specialists in the league. Kyle Korver was a nightmare for teams, because they had to keep an eye on him at all times, leaving Derrick Rose in isolation. These players will definitely be missed, but the Bulls believe they have collected a bench unit that can emulate the former “Bench Mob” as much as possible.

Trajectory: Down

Again, a large percentage of the season relies on Derrick Rose. Without him, there is no doubt they will regress, the question is, how much? I can see them being anywhere from the 4th seed, to out of the playoffs. If Rose is back and healthy by the All-Star break, they can recover and end up double-digit games above .500. I’m going to be a little more realistic and say that the Bulls can just count on Rose not being a factor in whether or not they make the playoffs. If they make it, they can make a run because they have the talent, but honestly there is no way to tell how this Bulls season will turn out.

Projected Record: 43-39