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Last Night’s Numbers – 3/22/12

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Kyle Soppe also writes about the NBA for Pickin’ Splinters. Follow him on Twitter.

Madness might be a term reserved for college hoops, but the NBA had its fair share in a jam packed Wednesday night slate.

- Dwight Howard‘s free throw shooting is becoming more and more of a liability, even by his lowered standards. The Magic center raised his FT% with a 6/10 effort last night against the Suns, bringing his monthly total to 57/124. That’s right, he has missed 67 free throws in March, a month that still has over a week left in it. To put that in some perspective, (Steve Nash) has missed 63 free throws total since the opening day of the 2008 season.

- The Chicago Bulls pulled away from the Raptors late, winning the fourth quarter by 19 points. The Bulls failed to eclipse 19 points in two entire quarters, but the high scoring fourth quarter was enough to hold off Toronto.

- Luol Deng recorded a double double on Wednesday night, assuming the lead role of Derrick Rose and proving why he was an all star selection this season. As the best team (record wise) in the NBA, the Bulls are even better when Deng goes for a double double: they have won the last eight times in which the forward has done so. Combine that with DeMar DeRozan‘s 20+ shot attempts, and it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the Bulls found a way to pull this game out. The Raptors have yet to win a game in which DeRozan has least 20 field goal attempts.

- The Knicks beat the 76ers, a good win for the suddenly hot Knicks. Even more encouraging for the New York faithful was their ability to win a game in which their offense wasn’t at its best. The Knicks last won with fewer than 90 points was on January 11th, against these very same 76ers. In their 16 wins between victories over Philly, the Knicks averaged 104.9 points per game. Of course, Philadelphia helped a bit by missing their first 14 shots from the field, but the Knicks defense had something to do with that.

- On the plus side for the 76ers, Elton Brand (in his 13th season) defended the paint better than he has all season. While the Knicks did managed 32 points in the paint, it came on 42.1% shooting, a low percentage considering the quality of shots that are taken from that close. Brand swatted a season high five shots, giving him more on the night than the entire Knicks team. In fact, his five blocks were more than eight other NBA teams last night.

- The “good” Magic showed up last night, with their three-point shots falling. Ryan Anderson led the charge, connecting on 7/12 from behind the arc. The Magic have now won the last eight games in which Anderson has sunk five or more three pointers.

- You know when your dad told you that your bad game was OK, because you helped the team win? Well, I’ll serve as Mr. Singleton, and give notice to the Wizards Chris Singleton. The rookie from Florida State struggled from the field (2/10), but the idea is to score more points than your opponent, and Washington was 29 points better than the Nets with Singleton on the floor. The +29 mark was the greatest by a Wizard this season, topping a +28 performance by John Wall earlier in the season. Actually, Singleton’s shooting has had an inverse relationship with the teams success all year. In 70% of the teams victories, Singleton has shot 25% or worse from the field.

- ESPN may say “Numbers Don’t Lie”, but the Hornets tried to break that theory on Wednesday night. They held a 36 point advantage in the paint, a 4 point edge in transition points, a 2 point edge from the free throw line, a 22 point edge on two pointers, a 14 rebound advantage, a 4 assist advantage, and they made as many field goals as their opponent (despite attempting 10 fewer) … and lost! The new look Warriors defeated the Hornets 101-92, despite being dominated in virtually every statistical category. How’d  they do it? Golden State drilled 14/29 three pointers, outscoring New Orleans by 33 from distance. Even the Magic think this is an absurd way to win a game.

-The Cleveland starting back-court of Kyrie Irving and Anthony Parker were on the court in Atlanta yesterday for a combined 74:47, and didn’t record a single foul.

- In the same game, Atlanta’s bench played only 38 minutes of a possible 265. Every Hawks starter recorded at least 38 minutes of action, suggesting that depth could be a bit overrated in the NBA (at least when bad teams come to town).

- Just another day at the office for Kevin Durant, as his 72.4 TS% paved the way to 32 points in a convincing win over the sputtering Clippers. The one thing the Thunder don’t do exceptionally well is pass the basketball, and that theme continued. They recorded only one more assist than Los Angeles, despite making 13 more shots.

- The Nuggets outscored the Pistons by 22 points in the first 12 minutes, and went on to lose the next 12 minutes by 17. Ben Gordon led the comeback for the Pistons, and while it fell short, Gordon wasn’t the reason why. The guard scored 45 points on only 22 shots, a remarkable 2.05 points per shot. Unfortunately for Detroit, their defense couldn’t stop the Nuggets back court from being almost just as productive. Ty Lawson actually averaged more points per shot (2.08) and when combined with running mate Aaron Affalo, they shot 75% from the field. It is hard to lose with an individual performance like that of Gordon’s, but it is even more difficult to lose when your pass first back court scores 48 points on 18/24 shooting.

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