Kyle Soppe also writes about the NBA for Pickin’ Splinters. Follow him on Twitter.
With 28 teams in action, there were plenty of impressive performances to choose from. In this compact season consistency is hard to come by, but one team has it mastered … the Charlotte Bobcats. You know exactly what you’re getting from them night in and night out, and it’s a wonder how their efforts have not landed them a spot on “Top Flop Lineup” more often.
Player: Paul Pierce
Standout Stats: 29 points, 75% on two pointers, 14 assists
- The Truth did a little bit of everything and appears to be peaking at the perfect time. He excels where games are decided in the postseason … getting to and cashing in at the free throw line. He has attempted at least 10 free throws in three of his last four games against current playoff teams. The 80.7% career free throw shooter is making 90% over those three games, and those points are incredibly valuable in the hotly contested playoff games.
- His career high 14 assists were impressive, but somewhat meaningless moving forward. In a game with Rajon Rondo healthy, Pierce won’t (and shouldn’t be) defer as much as he was last night. He had as many assists as field goal attempts, something the Celtics probably won’t want to see come playoff time. The statistics are impressive, but I’ll read more into Pierce’s ability to adapt his game, and win his team a ball game that they easily could have let slip away.
Player: Jrue Holiday
Standout Stats: 24 points, 85.7 eFG%, 5:1 assist to turnover ratio, 6 three pointers made
- Philadelphia is going to sneak into the playoffs this year, and I don’t think there is one team out there that would be excited to draw this hard nosed team. Their consistent effort is difficult to combat, as is their potential to be led by a different player every night. Against the Cavs, it was Holiday who was left with the good looks, and he made the most of them. The former UCLA point guard’s 24 points was his highest total in the past month.
- The 76ers foundation is getting to the rim, so the outside presence that Holiday provided was vital. He buried all 6 of his three-point attempts, quite the leap for a player who averages 0.9/2.6 shooting on three-pointers per game this season.
- While he took on a heavier workload when it comes to scoring the basketball, he still passed with tremendous precision. Forget the 24 points, and the 76ers will take Holiday’s 5:1 assist to turnover ratio. I’m not predicting a 76er title this year, but Jrue Holiday is a point guard they can win with.
Player: Rudy Gay
Standout Stats: 26 points, 75 eFG%, 3 three pointers, 2 blocked shots, 5 rebounds (3 offensive), 4 assists
- The Memphis Grizzles made some noise last year with an upset victory, and things are aligning well for them again. They won’t be an 8 seed again, and Gay leads a confident bunch that is playing terrific basketball. Gay has eclipsed 24 points in each of his past four games, thanks in large part to his expanding of his shooting range. He has buried 8 threes over that span, his most in any four game stretch this season.
- It should be no surprise that Gay’s best play has come with a healthy Zach Randolph, as most teams will double down on he and Marc Gasol. Rudy Gay has the potential to have a LeBron James type impact, as his combination of size and skill will be tough for any team to stop for an entire season. Look for more games like this to come in the very near future, as the Grizzles are healthy and once again under the radar.
Player: Rip Hamilton
Standout Stats: 22 points, 84.6 eFG%, 6 assists
- Is their anybody who can’t produce for the Bulls these days? Hamilton turned the clock back to 2006, matching a season high with 22 points. His remarkable efficiency proves that he can still be a cog in the Bulls machine, and with Rose’s health uncertain, Hamilton’s effort could be crucial in the coming weeks.
- He drilled 2 three pointers, the first time he has done that since January 23rd. Hamilton’s mid range game is where he makes his money, and with plenty of slashers and shooters, he fits this offense (with or without Rose) well. Hamilton is 34 years old, and has the postseason experience (and success) to help the Eastern Conference’s top seed advance into June.
Top lineup of the night: Atlanta Hawk reserves
- They may not have been on the court for the opening tip, but they were in the game when it counted most, leading the Hawks to a 32 point victory over the hapless Pistons. Atlanta’s bench scored 72 points (more than the top flop team scored total), grabbed 64% of the teams rebounds, and had 5 different players drain a three pointer. Tracy McGrady led all Atlanta scorers with 17 points, his highest total of the season. The Hawks bench had twice as many double digit scorers (4) as the entire Pistons roster. Of the six Hawks that took at least nine shots, five came from the bench. Yes, it’s against the Pistons, but depth like this can give star studded (but shallow) teams an issue.
- It’s easier to omit those who played well as opposed to naming all of the guilty in yet another pathetic performance in Charlotte. Their 18th straight loss was the latest in a long line of blowouts, with the Bulls pounding them by a final score of 100-68. Without the aforementioned Bobcats, the other 80% of the active Cats shot 20.3% from the field. For the record, it was confirmed by league sources that they were in fact playing with a regulation basketball on a 10 foot basket. They made more free throws (16) than field goals (12) and managed 41 total points. D.J. White led the bench with a whopping 2 field goals made. For reference, the Bulls had four bench players make at least 3 field goals. Keep your heads up Bobcat fans, they scored more points last night than the previous game. At that rate, they will score 100 points just prior to the 2013 All Star Game … yikes