Bucks Diary

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bucks Diary now featuring daily postings

From this point forward, I am going to post new material every day on Bucks Diary. The trade off is, of course, that from time to time the postings will not be as comprehensive or provocative or analytical as I usually try to make them, but I've come to the conclusion that consistent production is something blog readers want more, and I will provide it.

Why can't KG close?

The issue for today comes from my brother. Why can't Kevin Garnett close games?

The Celtics have nearly lost two games they should have won handily because Garnett continually resorts to fade away jumpers down the stretch. He needs to watch a couple of episodes of "Dogfights" and learn a little something about offense during crunch time from the famous example given by World War II Japanese Kamikaze pilots. In the clutch, serious players carry the action to the other side. They force the defense to stop them.

That's what the Japanese did. Sure, kamikaze attack planes rarely succeeded and the strategy's ultimate cost in valuable manpower was enormous and debilitating. So why did the Japanese resort to this tactic? Because, the Japanese knew it was "crunch time" for their tiny island. Either they turned back the American ships or those ships would unload men who would invade their Japanese homeland. It was literally do or die. So the Japanese had to increase their margins for success.

And on a micro level, kamikazes did just that. Unlike conventional planes that just dropped bombs and could therefore miss their targets or get knocked down before they even dropped any bombs at all, Kamikaze planes either scored devastating hits or died trying. In doing so, they forced the American planes and Ack-Ack gunners to, in sports parlance, "make a play". Either the Americans would knock the planes completely out of the sky short of collision or the Kamikazes scored... they never "beat themselves".

In a similar (obviously less serious) way, Kevin Garnett needs to develop a little "Banzai" fearlessness late in playoff games. He certainly doesn't have it at the moment. According to 82games.com, in the "clutch" time in these playoffs, an incredible 83% of Garnett's shots are jumpshots (as opposed to 68% during the normal minutes... he gets more timid in the clutch!). For superstars in the clutch, fade away jumpers just don't cut it. Especially in the case of Kevin Garnett.

Garnett -- at 7 feet tall with a wingspan from me to you and athletic and ball skills that guards should envy -- ought to attack the basket with impunity. Instead he neutralizes his physical gifts by taking fade aways. And when I say "attack the basket", I don't mean those wishy-washy weave zig zag moves he often uses. I mean this: one decisive move, one or two hard purpose dribbles, a powerful elevation off the floor, and strong move to force the ball through the hoop with authority. That's the ticket, Big Ticket.

If it gets sent back at you, don't sweat it. How often will that happen anyway? Once... maybe twice a game? Think about it. The best shot blockers don't usually get more than 4 or 5 blocks a game. And most of those blocks occur against men the blockers were not defending. Even the best shot blockers rarely block shots on the ball.

Besides, its such an obvious percentage play. By taking the ball right to the rim, the player has three chances to make a positive play, the defense will have a difficult time making one (I'm assuming most shooters will rarely miss on their own from point blank range). When you take fade aways, the odds lengthen considerably. Usually you have about a 4 in 10 shot of success. That's why big time playoff players don't resort to fade aways in the clutch. They're not effective.

Magic Johnson knew this. I remember he had power forward and defensive stalwart Kevin McHale on him in the 87 NBA Finals with time running down in that decisive game. Most point guards would have settled for the jumper. Not Magic. He attacked the lane and scored his famous "junior sky hook". It was a gutsy, aggressive play. And it was the kind big time players make. Its time for KG to step into the big time.


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