Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Blockages Can Be Fatal

The fundamental story line of last night's corker of a playoff game between the Celtics and Bulls can be found in three entries in the box score.

The Bulls, who love running and jumping more than Irish setter puppies, blocked 14 shots. That must've been fun, but it also goes a long way to explain why they lost 118-115.

Blocked shots are the mixest of blessings. Obviously, they are preferable to made shots by the opposition. Less obviously, they don't necessarily result in changes of possession. Least obviously, they actually make subsequent scoring by the opposition easier.

As a rule, blocked shots take one's interior defense out of position for rebounding, since the block involves moving away from the basket, and making a body commitment in that direction it is difficult to reverse. Should the block wind up in the hands of the shooting team, a frequent occurance, the shooters are in position to dominate your goal-a very bad thing in all team sports.

The Celtics had 21 offensive rebounds in the game. That is approximately 10 times more helpful to winning were the Bulls' rejections. Indeed, without the rejections, the number of offensive rebounds would have been far smaller.

And that, class, is why the Celtics took 96 shots to Chicago's 8o, which is why they won. If sentenced to a weird life imprisonment in which they could receive no scores, and only one common statistic from each game, basketball fans should pick Field Goals Attempted. In the NBA, the team that takes the most shots wins far more often than not. When the disparity is close to 25 percent, the team taking the most shots never loses.

The Bulls are, as they say, "athletic," that is, good at running, jumping, and reaction time. Those are admirable and desirable qualities for a basketball team. Athleticism, however, is a means to an end-not the end itself.


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