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Blogcat's Take, 4/30

I’m in a weird place emotionally compared to where I was at this time last week. Last Saturday morning the Hornets had just had gotten their testicles severed and flushed down the toilet by Miami in Games 1 and 2. Thus my subsequent article was a failed attempt to try to calm my own panic. Then Charlotte did the absolute last thing I ever would have expected, which was to rip off three wins in a row, leaving me deliriously giddy. But of course, last night they blew a prime opportunity to take the series at home and are facing elimination on the road and reeling, which means I am, too. A rational person would say, “No matter what happens now, at least my favorite team won’t be embarrassed.” The problem is, I’m not rationale—not even close. My feelings are held captive by whatever I last saw—in this case, Dwyane Wade nailing a game-winning dagger and rubbing it in the crowd’s face. Therefore, I feel roughly like John Cusack imagining the girlfriend who dumped him having sex with a guy in a ponytail:

Folks, this is why we don’t have the gold standard; you don’t tie your well-being—whether it’s your personal state of mind or your national economy—to something that’s entirely beyond your control.

Anyway, what’s become clear through 6 games is that the Heat have been beating the Hornets with defense more than they have with offense. You certainly wouldn’t have thought that would be the case after the first two games. And overall, both Charlotte’s offensive and defensive ratings are underperforming against their regular season numbers. But if you separate the playoffs into two chunks—the first two games and the last four games—you’ll see that Charlotte’s struggle to score has been the most consistent trend. By the way, this is never a good idea: taking an already small sample size and then making it even smaller. I’m basically committing statistical malpractice to prove a point; I’m the Saul Goodman of NBA analysts, but what the hell:

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You see that in the first two games, the Hornets’ offensive rating was a slight improvement upon their regular season numbers, which nobody cared about because the defense performed like a Donald Trump stump speech in Tijuana. And yet over the next four games—even though the Hornets won three of them—the offense was generally stifled like a fart in a Mini Cooper. And so now overall in the playoffs, even after the Game 1 and 2 bombs, it’s Charlotte’s offense that has lagged worse than its defense. Therefore, assuming/praying that 31 points on 11-of-13 shooting from Luol Deng really was an aberration, it’s the offense that needs to step up for the Hornets to have a chance in Game 7.

By “offense,” I’m really talking about Marvin Williams. Marvin’s regular season offensive rating was 107.9, and through 6 playoff games it’s 97.1, a difference of 10.8. No one else has seen such a vertiginous drop in personal offensive production—not even Nic Batum, who’s hobbling around like a pirate, who also had a newborn child a few days ago, and who is apparently trying to single-handedly change the reputation of the French as wimpy quitters. Back to Williams: his true-shooting percentage of 31.7% in the playoffs is simply horrific; it should be put on cigarette cartons, especially compared to his 58.5 TS% in the regular season (which was even slightly above Kemba Walker’s). The Hornets have responded by pulling Marvin’s old cloak of invisibility out of the closet and strangling him with it: Williams’ vanishing 16.9% usage rate in the regular season is down to a nearly see-through 12.2% in the playoffs. The problem is, because he transformed himself into a 3-point threat this year, nobody has as much floor-spacing, trickle-down impact as Williams. Marvin’s 107.9 regular season rating was a team-best among the starters, and when he was off the court, the team’s offensive rating was at its worst, 101.1. Over half (50.6%) of Williams’ shot attempts in the regular season were 3-pointers, which really juiced the flavor of the Hornets’ offense. In the playoffs, it’s not just that he’s not making three’s, it that he’s not even attempting them (just 31.3%), and as a result the offense has dried up into a crusty little calcified Bazooka Joe turd nugget.

Because Marvin is a good guy, and because he’s clearly trying his best, I’ve seen sympathetic articles about how he’s “helping the team in other ways,” but that’s debatable at best. His defensive rating is worse than it was over the regular season (granted, it’s not atrociously worse, and so is everybody else’s), his rebound percentage is virtually identical, his assist percentage is down, and according to Basketball-Reference.com, his PER has plummeted from 16.8 to 6.1 (that is to say, sub-PJ Hairston-levels). Besides, as I wrote in the previous paragraph, Williams simply cannot do other things well enough to make up for the absence of his floor-spacing. It’s like getting access to Warren Buffett but only to help you move furniture.

I know I’m not really proving anything profound here. If this article were a scientific experiment, my hypothesis would be, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” Anyone who’s even partly paying attention can see that the 3-pointer spigot has been shut off for the team as a whole and for Marvin in particular. Walker and Jeremy Lin have been able to keep the lights on by driving into the lane, Cody Zeller has contributed as a roll-man, and Frank Kaminsky has upped his 3-point dosage as a partial Williams work-around, but all of it hasn’t been and probably won’t be enough. We should also credit Miami, because it’s not like Williams just decided to stop shooting. Luol Deng has been Marvin’s primary antagonist, but Joe Johnson has reanimated his lifeless Brooklyn Nets body and been downright energetic on his rotations as well, and the data backs it up like a U-Haul truck: 46.3% of Williams’ FG attempts during the regular season were 3-pointers without a defender within 4-feet of him. In the playoffs that number is down to just 20.9%. Let’s hope that in Game 7 the offense figures out how to crack the code and spring Marvin loose, because their playoff fate and my continued mental health are both depending on it.

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    Spo apparently understands that Marvin was very important and isn't that hard to stop. 


    The guy that can help him most is Lin.  Lin needs to have a good offensive game and then his passing can open up a lot of opportunities for guys like Marvin.


    Good thing is that he played great the last time in Miami.  Do it once again!