Don't Call It A Bromance

Three amigos, one blog.

Bulls-Wizards Game One Thoughts

In the first game of what promises to be an excellent series, the Washington Wizards triumphed on the road 102-93 over the Chicago Bulls. After waiting a day to digest the results, here are a few thoughts on the game and what it meant for the rest of the series.

In our preview of this first round series, we went through the Wizards starting lineup and talked about their importance to the team. I fully admit I did not expect Nene to come through with a dominating 24-point and eight-rebound performance, but I did mention the possibility of him going through hot stretches:

Though oft-injured, power forward Nene may be more important to the Wizards than any player not named John Wall…Over a long series, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a couple of stretches where he scores eight points in a row, but he’s not a major cog in the offense…Nevertheless, this man is probably the X-factor for the team and his performance should go a long way towards determining Washington’s success.

While I hit the nail on the head calling Nene the X-factor, I had no idea he would be so effective against the Bulls. There have certainly been times this year when Nene took over the offense for the Wizards, but not for an entire game like he did Sunday. Interestingly, Nene was able to control the game by emulating the man who guarded him much of the game: Joakim Noah.

The Wizards, who always use a pick-and-roll and post-up based offense, changed up their strategy at times for Game One. Using Nene as a Noah-esque facilitator, the Wiz were able to open up the lane and allow cutters to score easy buckets. Washington started several offensive sets down the stretch by entering the ball to Nene in the high post and creating a whirlwind of motion around him:

Nene dishing from the high post.

Nene dishing from the high post.

Here, Andre Miller is the beneficiary of some nifty off-ball motion. Bradley Beal, who brought the ball up, moves over and pretends to set a screen on DJ Augustin, perhaps in an attempt to free Miller for run around the arc and a dribble handoff. In the split second when Augustin is anticipating the screen, the Professor breaks from his run and darts to the basket. Due to some decent spacing by the Wiz, Miller is able to finish over Gibson at the rim.

Between passing from the high post like this and solid midrange shooting, Nene had a massive impact on a Wizards offense we hadn’t seen previously this year. Of note, Nene hasn’t played this many minutes in a long time, so it’ll be interesting to see if he wears down over the course of a series. How Chicago plans to stop the Brazilian Jesus may go a long way to determining their fate in this series.

***

I was planning on talking about how the Wizards’ defense blitzed Joakim Noah, but Michael Sykes already did an excellent job covering that in an article of his own. Instead, I went through the box score and found a couple interesting storylines.

Four Factors
Four Factors eFG % OREB % TO % FTA/FGA
Wizards 51.4 25.7 10.1 35.1
Bulls 45.1 26.5 8.0 24.7

Strictly based on the Four Factors, this game came down to efficient shooting and free throws. The Wizards were helped out in the latter category by late-game fouling, but their first half offense also relied quite a bit on free throws. The refs whistled constantly for ticky-tack fouls and were unwilling to call charges the entire game. This didn’t hurt or help one team much more than the other: the Wizards were getting to the basket more often than the Bulls (at least in the first half) and were rewarded accordingly.

The Bulls shot worse than the Wizards, which one would certainly expect given their respective shooting abilities coming into the game. The Wizards are an above-average team in eFG % and the Bulls quite possibly have the least-efficient shooting in the league. It was interesting to see the make-up of the shots however, as the Wizards’ eFG % proficiency comes mostly from great three-point shooting. They barely shot any threes in this game, a testament to the Bulls’ defensive game-plan. Clearly, the Wizards were able to find other ways to score.

One last note: If the Wizards are able to match the Bulls’ offensive rebounding rates throughout the entire series, that’s a huge edge Washington wasn’t expecting.

Shooting Regression?

Wizards: Here’s something you will probably hear a lot over the next 24 hours: “John Wall and Bradley Beal shot 7-for-25 from the field and the Wizards still won.” Unfortunately for my Wiz, that’s not a great argument for their future success. While you can probably expect Wall and Beal to shoot more efficiently from the field in the coming games, it’d be hard to ask more of them from the free throw line.

This season, Brad and John are averaging 2.6 and 4.8 free throws per game, respectively. In three games against the Bulls this regular season, Beal took zero free throws and Wall averaged 5.7 per game. In Game One, the Wizards’ dynamic duo was 15/17 from the line. That is well above both their season average for getting to the line and their shooting percentages from the line. Even taking into account the added physicality of a playoff game, that’s too great a disparity to ignore.

Beal and Wall will probably shoot better the rest of the series, but I would be very surprised if they got to the line as much as they did in the first game. [Bob: On the other end, you can also look at Nene's shooting percentage on those midrange shots. I read somewhere that he was over 10% better than his average on Sunday, so if fans want to make a regression argument, they should also consider that it happens the other way.]

Bulls: On the other side of the ball, there were a few out-of-character bad performances as well. The most important one came from DJ Augustin, who shot 3-for-15 from the field. Unfortunately for Bulls fans expecting regression to the mean, this case is similar to that of the Wizards’ backcourt. Augustin may have shot poorly, but he got to the line ten times and made all of those free throws to finish with 16 points. Augustin averaged 14 this year, and you’d expect that to go up a little bit with additional playoff minutes, but 16 is not all that low of a point total. I’d expect Augustin to get to the line less and shoot better in the future, but probably achieve similar results.

Lastly, we come to the newly crowned Defensive Player of the Year, Joakim Noah. Noah’s defense was good on Sunday, but his offense was uncharacteristically quiet. Much of that occurred because of the Wizards determination to stop him with pressure and double teams, as the article I linked earlier stated. Noah shot efficiently (66 percent from field) and dished out four assists, but that came with three turnovers and just two shots from the line. If I’m a Bulls fan, I’m not too worried about Joakim. Thibs will find a way to make him effective on O. If I had to guess, I’d expect him to be attacking the offensive boards even more after pick-and-rolls.

***

Game One of this 4-5 matchup was a treat and one can only hope the series remains this entertaining. Given how uncharacteristic the Wizards’ offense and defense were in this game, I have a hard time taking anything concrete from it. If this is the offense the Wizards are planning on running for the rest of the series, I think that favors the Bulls. At some point, I bet they get back to their three-point bombing ways. That should be easier now that the Bulls defense will have to respect Nene/Gortat in the high post and help off the corners. Things to look for on Tuesday:

  • Threes may open up for the Wizards if the Bulls try to clamp down on Nene. I doubt Nene gets to 20 points again, but I’ve been wrong before.
  • Expect both teams’ guards to play better. I’d be really surprised if Wall specifically doesn’t improve. He had opportunities in this game, but just couldn’t convert on the outside shot.
  • There will almost certainly be fewer free throws than Sunday. The officials were really whistle-happy.
  • Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich will have smaller roles in the Bulls offense. Twenty-eight combined shots between those two is almost certainly too many for Thibodeau’s tastes.
  • It should be another tight affair. I’m really excited. You should be too.

Bulls Fans: This is Your Guide to the Washington Wizards

WizBulls

Editor’s note: This is the 50th post in DCIAB history. Thanks to all who’ve supported us and read our work thus far. Hopefully we don’t totally suck. 

I was never a basketball fan in my youth, and thus never really developed a strong passion for the Chicago Bulls. Sure, I watched with joy as Ben Gordon tore through the Boston Celtics’ defense in game two for 42 points in a 118-115 loss. I also reminisced with fellow DCIABer Harry Kroll just last night about Andrés Nocioni, aka “That dude who played pretty well sometimes and hit a bunch of threes for the Bulls in NBA Live ’07″. I even own a pair of Ben Wallace’s shorts. They do not fit.

Nominally, I was a fan of the Bulls, but I just didn’t have the emotional connection with the team that I wanted. As I got more and more into basketball late in high school, I started watching a greater number of teams from around the league through nationally televised games. I started playing the wonderful NBA 2k series on my Xbox and enjoyed experimenting with some of the league’s unique players. By the end of my junior year, I was able to list on command the top seven or eight rotation players for all 30 NBA teams (I can no longer do this).

Through this basketball soul-searching, there was one team that always stuck out to me the most. One team whose players were quirky and fun to play with, yet a team whose bandwagon lay empty by the side of the road. A team that I would end up following for the last few years and whose games I would eventually start watching regularly. A team that I now annoyingly tweet about far too frequently for my followers’ tastes. That team was, and is, the Washington Wizards.

Nearly our entire readership hails from the Chicagoland area, so I suspect the majority of our readers are fans of the Chicago Bulls. Having watched the majority of the Wizards’ games this season, I feel pretty qualified to tell you what exactly this team is all about. Without further ado, here is your guide to the Washington Wizards.

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DCIAPC: NCAA Final Four Edition

Frank Kaminsky has carried the Wisconsin Badgers through a tough tournament draw. (image via Rant Sports)

Since DCIAPC is the most consistently successful feature our site has had, perhaps because it’s the only consistent feature our site has had, we decided to make picks for the penultimate round of March Madness! We’ll predict both Final Four games (against the spread, as always, because those who pick games straight up should be decapitated) [not really] and see who comes out on top. Just so you know, the only part of this article that is always mandatory reading is Bob’s game analysis. Actually I’m not sure Bob will have the best analysis because we’ve never done this for basketball. Just read the whole damn thing, except my parts.


By now I’m almost sure you’ve heard of Buzzfeed, everyone’s favorite site which takes advantage of the short attention spans of our generation by churning out mindless “content” overladen with absurd superlatives so people think their work is meaningful. In honor of Buzzfeed, here are The Seven Absolutely Positively Best And Most Magnificent Things From March Madness Thus Far That You Will Be Happy You Didn’t Miss Because They Are Unforgettable And Will Inspire You:

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Yeah, the HIMYM Ending Sucked, But Not Why Everyone Is Saying It Did

Last night’s How I Met Your Mother season finale met nearly unanimously negative reactions from fans and critics alike. The plot decision to have the mother be dead all along was certainly questionable and if you didn’t like it, that’s your right. (Alan Sepinwall of Hitfix and James Poniewozik of TIME had quite reasonable and well-written takes from that point of view.) My issue, though, doesn’t reside with the decision to make Robin the girl all along and kill off the mother. In fact, I think it’s a quite logical progression of things once you accept that the mother came down with an illness. (Again, if you can’t accept that, I don’t find that unreasonable.) Instead, the problem was in the presentation.

In the final season of HIMYM, the first 22 half-hours were (mostly) spent in a progressively annoying hotel over a two-day span with absolutely no plot development. The exceptions of course were the wonderful interactions between Josh Radnor (Ted) and Cristin Milioti (the mother, who we find out is named Tracy seemingly seconds before she’s dead). Then, the final two half-hours span from 2014 to 2030 with a number of major life events occurring for all the characters, most notably the death of the mother and Ted getting together with Robin. This creates the presentation that those 16 years played out very quickly, like the following:

Barney and Robin’s marriage instantly dissolves because they cannot deal with her busy work schedule. Barney immediately returns to his old, perverted ways while Robin flees from the gang as fast as she possibly can. Barney knocks up some random one-night stand (his 31st of the month!!) and becomes a father. Meanwhile, both Ted and Tracy and Marshall and Lilly pop out some babies before Tracy tragically passes away. Ted then leaves the hospital where she died, briefly chats with his kids in the living room and then they all have a good laugh about the tragic death of their beloved family member before he runs to Robin for their happily ever after.

The above is horrific. It’s insensitive at best and downright terrible and indefensible at worst. However, this isn’t actually how the plot moved, just how it was presented to us. In reality, Barney and Robin spent three years trying to make their marriage work despite Robin’s demanding international job. Sometimes life gets in the way and three years is certainly a respectable amount of time to fight it before giving in. Barney didn’t have a child for a few years after that, and I think it’s quite reasonable to assume he didn’t get back to his extremely eligible bachelor ways for a while as he dealt with the divorce. Meanwhile, Robin was clearly quite conflicted about leaving the gang because she cared for them but couldn’t avoid that the gang consisted of her ex-boyfriend who she still had feelings for, her ex-husband and a perfect couple that had everything she didn’t have. The finale touched on this but only briefly.

Moving on to the whole death of the mother plot line, the mother died in 2024. Ted and Robin didn’t get together until 2030; he waited SIX YEARS before going back out there. And why not go for Robin? She was the next best option after the mother, which is really the key here. Ted didn’t choose Robin over the beloved mother, he went to her well after the mother had passed. But the absolute worst thing about the finale was how much it trivialized the mother’s death. One second, Ted sat next to her as she laid in a hospital bed and the next he was yucking it up with his kids about how he had the hots for Robin. (“Whenever she comes over for dinner you guys are so obvious!”) While six years have passed and it’s certainly acceptable for him to return to Robin at this point, the show does a TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE job of showing this. Seriously, from the awkward editing (they shot the kids’ lines in 2006) to the disgusting emotional tone of the whole thing, it’s hard to put into words how indefensible that scene where he talked to his kids was considering the context of the episode.

I really liked the flash-forwards in the finale and the moments with the mother throughout the season, but I cannot understand why we spent 22 episodes of it stuck at the Farhampton Inn to build to a wedding that was wiped out in less than 10 minutes of “Last Forever”. Instead, why didn’t we take those 16 years and spread them over the full 24 episodes of Season 9? We’d still get the interactions between Ted and Tracy and the show could build to Ted and Robin’s inevitable moment in a much smoother fashion, not to mention it could give Tracy’s death the emotional penance it was due. All along, the show built to Ted and Robin ending up together; the fan base would have definitely accepted that more if the end actually, you know, built to Ted and Robin ending up together.

As a week-to-week watcher since Season 2 eight years ago (shoutout to friend of the blog Mike Rosenberg who got me in the door on the show quite early), I grew up with How I Met Your Mother. I can’t say I’ll really miss it because the great HIMYM that ran from seasons 1-4ish is long gone and has been in steady decline for a while now. Nonetheless, a great final season and series finale would’ve done wonders to send off the show; we received neither. While I was okay with the decision on the final twist, I will just never be able to wrap my head around why the writers stalled out nearly a full season of nothing to then trivialize the emotional climax of the mother’s death (that only surprised those who weren’t paying attention) and ruin the show’s inevitable Robin-Ted payoff when there was so much material there to build the final season around.

 

 

What’s Really Important In Life?

Note on this post: I wrote this about a year ago and have gone back and forth on whether to run it or not since then. After some recent edits, it’s as timely as ever with college application results really starting to flow in for current high school seniors, so here goes nothing.

Like Matt’s wonderful “Tollbooths”, this post is going to get a little personal. If you’d prefer more humorous, light pieces where I mercilessly go after innocent people, I’d suggest you go here, here, or here instead.

Since I reached the point in school where I started getting grades (this was in seventh grade), my parents had certain expectations for what my grades should be. Let’s just say they were a little different than what I wanted to put into school. They had both done extremely well in high school and attended prestigious institutions for their college years, where they both finished very high in their respective class and expected no differently from me. These expectations weren’t unreasonable; if I had put the effort into high school classes that they had, similar results probably would have followed.

But I didn’t. I received a few C’s. I turned in some papers late. I did poorly on some tests because I didn’t study. At the end of the day, I ended up with a pretty good GPA instead of a great one. In many ways throughout high school, I felt like I had failed. It wasn’t just the expectations of those around me that instilled this feeling; every college I visited proudly trumpeted things like their average GPA, ACT/SAT score, and class rank of their admitted students.

Why didn’t anyone care about anything besides my performance in high school classes? The only thing on earth that seemed to matter or say anything about me as a person were the three digits and one decimal point that comprised my weighted GPA. While it absolutely mattered that I had become one of the editors-in-chief of the New Trier newspaper, no one seemed to care. It also didn’t seem like it mattered that I was a good kid that had never been in any trouble aside from when I talked too much for a teacher’s liking in fourth grade and when I was pulled over during a failed late night IHOP run when my parents thought I was sound asleep (an epic story, but one we’ll have to save for another time). Why didn’t any of this stuff matter?

Thankfully, I have a little more perspective after completing high school and nearly a year of college and here’s the thing I’ve come to realize: in the end, those statistics are rendered trivial the minute the process of applying to and selecting a university or college to attend is completed. Sure, they are most likely the reason you end up where you do (with obvious exceptions being athletes, musicians, and the like), but once you’re there they could not be any more meaningless.

While it’s not at all the point of the post, many would suggest that the college where these stats plant someone does matter in life. So, as a necessary digression, let me say that the college one attends doesn’t matter either. An extensive study done by Alan B. Krueger at Princeton and Stacey Dale at Mathematica Policy Research showed that there is virtually no difference between the career earnings of students that graduated from Ivy League schools and students that got into an Ivy League school, but chose to go to a less prestigious institution. Taking the focus away from the specificity of the Ivy League and looking at the larger picture, this shows that monetary success in life has nothing to do with where you went to college, but how driven you are to succeed. It’s absolutely true that students in the Ivy League tend to be more driven than those that are not, but I’m saying that someone’s intelligence and work ethic determine their success in life, not their alma mater.

Additionally, it’s common knowledge that a graduate degree matters more to employers anyway. While it’s undoubtedly easier to get into a great grad school from MIT than Michigan State, it can be done from anywhere with hard work. I’m going to get back to my main point before a Princeton alumnus starts giving me an entitled and patronizing retort about alumni networks. Every single university has an alumni network and chances are there are some very successful people in each one.

As a high school student, it’s very hard to see the big picture when you have all the pressure of applying to college bearing down on you, whether it’s coming from your parents, what you read, or even just yourself. But what really matters isn’t your GPA or your ACT/SAT score. In the end, what’s really important is your relationships with others. Life is temporary and at the end of yours, no one is going to hold up your high school report card and remark, “Susan was a great person because she had a perfect 4.00 GPA in high school seventy years ago!” Anyone that thinks that their sterling SAT score matters when they’re 30 will have their character seriously questioned if they brag about it to others.

Our society forces high school students to constantly ask, “What is my GPA and what can I do to raise it?” over everything else. While this isn’t a bad question and students should always strive to succeed in school, we should be asking more important questions like, “Did I tell my family that I love them today?” Instead of worrying about an SAT score, ask yourself, “Did I show my best friend how much I appreciate all that he’s done for me throughout my life?” People are and should be defined by how they treat others, not by their GPAs.

If you’re in the middle of high school, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. I know from experience how easy it is to lose perspective on what’s truly important. But what should rise above all else in your life isn’t your GPA. It’s your parents, your brothers, your sisters, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, your cousins, your friends, your boyfriend, your girlfriend. In ten years, no one will care what grade you received on your US History final. Chances are no one will even care in 10 days. People will remember what you did to make them happy and their lives better.

You can’t drive until you’re 16, vote until you’re 18, or drink until you’re 21 (well, legally). But it’s never too early to start making a difference in the lives of those you care about.

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