Bucks will miss TJ Ford in the clutch
Say this for former Bucks point guard TJ Ford -- he was prime time. In the clutch -- which 82games.com defines as the final five minutes of a game in which neither team leads by more than 5 points -- TJ Ford's offensive numbers improved drastically. By contrast, both Mo Williams' and Charlie Bell's numbers declined in similar situations. Steve Blake's stayed about the same, although I question how many tight games the Blazers actually played last year.
Anyway, back to Ford. Why did his numbers go up in those situations? Simple. On offense, he forced the penetration rather than settling for those ridiculous mortar rounds he fires up too often under other circumstances. And he drove to the hoop with more purpose, finishing much more effectively, in fact, raising his inside eFG from a below par 47.7% to a robust 70.5%. He also handled the ball like it had value, raising his "Ballhandler rating" from 19.7 up to 25.4 in such situations. Generally speaking, he tightened up his game.
And it wasn't just the big regular season moments where he was superior. Ford also decisively outplayed both Williams and Bell in the playoffs, save for the one game Mo decided to show up, Game 3, in which, coincidentally, the Bucks won easily. What does this all say?
First, its a bit troubling that Williams and Bell show signs of being shrinking violets. But, more to the point, it explains why Bucks fans grew so frustrated with Mr. Ford. You could see so much potential in those brief moments of brilliance, but then, when the game was not on the line, he played without discipline and often without intelligence. He shot too many jumpers. He made too many ill-advised passes. He was lazy on defense. In short, he seemed to play very "loose" basketball (to borrow a tennis phrase) for most parts of most games, and that really hurt the Bucks.
I predict he will come out blazing next year, at least initially, for his new team, the Toronto Raptors. Why? He will be focused and he will play with a purpose. He will look like a new model Ford. Then, as things become more mundane, he will revert to the old TJ, and his numbers will level off drastically from there on in.