Denver at New Jersey, Dec. 16, 2005
Score: New Jersey 115, Denver 103
"The problems of victory are more agreeable than the problems of defeat, but they are no less difficult."
Led by the unexpected offensive exploits of forward Scott Padgett, the Nets blew out Denver in overtime after a nail-biting final few minutes of regulation. Padgett scored 15 points on five-for-five shooting, all three-pointers coming in the fourth quarter and the overtime session. Jason Kidd and Vince Carter also put up huge numbers: Kidd scoring 15 points and dishing out 16 assists and grabbing 7 rebounds, while Carter scored 34 with 8 assists and 14 rebounds. Not to be outdone, Richard Jefferson and Nenad Krstic combined for 38 points on 15-21 shooting. As a team, the Nets were awarded 32 assists on 41 field goals, an impressive ration that underscored the return of the ball movement and running game that we’ve all been waiting for.
But here at Dumpy’s, we follow the wisdom of Mr. Churchill, and won’t let it go at that. On its surface, everything looks sunny in NetsWorld following this victory, but we’re going to dig a little deeper and examine whether there were any dark clouds hovering over this performance.
First, as usual, here are the individual +/- ratings:
For those that are joining us for the first time, a player’s individual +/- ratio is a way to measure the player’s total contribution to the team on both offense and defense. In the game against Denver, when Richard Jefferson was on the floor, irrespective of who he was playing with, the Nets outscored the Nuggets by a total of 24 points—hence the +24 rating. In Jeff McInnis’ case, it means that in the time he was on the court, the Nets were outscored by 16 points. You can also measure +/- based on two-man combos, three-man combos, 5-man combos, etc. For instance, if we know that, over the course of the season, a unit of Kidd, Carter, RJ, Collins and Krstic has outscored its opponent, and a unit of Kidd, Carter, RJ, Jackson and Krstic has been outscored by its opponents, then we can made the generalization that Collins adds more to the team than Jackson does.
Unless otherwise noted, the tables are sorted in descending order of +/- rating. As I do here, I will often separate the starters from the reserves.
Not much to add about the starters. A solid performance across the board.
Once again, Marc Jackson and Zoran Planinic did not play. Jeff McInnis, once Coach Frank’s preferred first man off the bench, was once again relegated to fewer than 10 minutes of playing time. You’d think that McInnis would come out fightin’ mad, with something to prove and a head of steam, but you’d be wrong. In a game that went to overtime, McInnis’ –16 rating in around eight minutes of play is an abomination. I’ve written before how poorly McInnis has played all season long, and this game just adds to his legacy. There are just so many statistics available, so many ways to look at player performance and player combinations, that you’d think that there was something positive you could say about McInnis this season, but again, you’d be wrong. The site www.82games.com, which has a lot of quality information, periodically updates its "player pair" statistics, that is, how each player in the league performs when on the floor with each of his teammates. This chart just calculates stats that are earned when the two players being examined are on the floor, without regard to who the other three players are. Anyway, the charts show each player’s +/- rating when paired up with each of his teammates. With the Nets, some combinations have a positive rating, some have a negative rating—not a big surprise for a team that is hovering around .500. But here’s my point: EVERY combination involving Jeff McInnis—every single pairing of Jeff McInnis and any of his 13 teammates—has earned a NEGATIVE +/- rating. There is not a single player he has played with over the course of the season, not Kidd, not Carter, not Jefferson, not Collins, not anyone, with which the Nets have outscored their opponent.
While you’re thinking about the implications of that, here’s something else to ponder: When Jeff McInnis is not in the game, the Nets as a team score more points than they give up. OK, not too surprising there. Here’s the kicker: For EVERY OTHER PLAYER ON THE ROSTER, when that player is not in the game, the Nets give up more points than they score. For a team hovering around .500, that is almost inconceivable. Jeff McInnis is the ONLY player about which the Nets can truly say that they are better with him not in the game. Even when Marc Jackson, even Lamond Murray, even Zoran Planinic are not in the game, the Nets give up more points than they score.
That, more than anything else, explains McInnis’ true "value" to the team.
Lamond Murray also did poorly, earning a –9 in about six minutes. Murray hasn’t shown much all season, but since his time on the court almost completely overlapped with McInnis, I’m not willing to draw any conclusions about this one performance.
Clifford Robinson is another story. Recently, I’ve been writing that the Nets with Cliff Robinson are as effective as the Nets with Jason Collins. Although his production dropped off a bit during the past few games, he’s still been pretty good overall:
|Opponent||Date||Minutes||+/- Rating||Margin of Victory||Difference|
You can see that Robinson’s performance against Denver was something of an aberration. Over the past ten games, the only other times Robinson has earned a negative rating, the Nets lost, and by a much greater margin than that that could be attributed to Robinson. So, for whatever reason, Uncle Cliff just had an off day against the Nuggets. In his defense, at no point in this game did Robinson play with more than two starters: The Nets did not go with a Robinson + (Big Four) lineup as they have so often recently. Robinson has been the most consistent contributor off the bench for the Nets so far this year; let’s hope this was a one-game anomaly, and is not the start of a trend (are the result of a latent, undisclosed injury).
A great game overall by the starting unit, but underlying these numbers is a disturbing trend: Recently, the starters have been much less effective to start the third quarter than they are to start the game. This is something that I’ve noticed for some time, and they’ve been unable to shake out of this tendency to come out of the locker room for the second half to play uninspired ball. This does not occur every game, but the trend is unmistakable. In this contest, for instance, the starting unit went +16 in the first quarter (over 10.2 minutes), and just –2 in the third quarter (over 10.5 minutes). They did not play together at any other point. Let’s isolate how the starting unit has done in the first quarter vs. the third quarter recently:
|Opponent||Date||1st Q Min.||1st Q +/- Rat.||3rd Q Min.||3rd Q +/- Rat.|
On average, a six-point swing between their performance in the first quarter and that in the third quarter.
Starters Plus One:
|McInnis for Jefferson||1.5||+0|
This unit played together for a short period in the mid-second quarter. This was the only player combination involving McInnis (out of six) that did not earn a negative rating.
|Vaughn for Jefferson||4.1||+3|
Vaughn replaced McInnis after the unit listed above. Obviously, the unit played a little better.
|Padgett for Collins||7.6||+7|
Padgett played almost the entire fourth quarter and overtime, and for a time he played alongside the four starters minus Collins. During this time, the Nets played well, but in my mind, it is a little misleading. For one thing, the Nets scored three points at the very end of regulation when Padgett was in the game, but at a time when they were subbing in Collins for Padgett whenever Denver had the ball—so Padgett didn’t have an opportunity to go minus during the closing seconds. Leaving this out, during the fourth quarter, this unit was minus-5 in about four minutes, and-plus nine in overtime. In the fourth quarter, Padgett was nearly unstoppable, as mentioned at the outset, hitting four three-pointers in four attempts. Yet, despite these heroics, the Nets didn’t pull away from the Nuggets during this time. This makes we wonder just how valuable Padgett is. If he could play his best ball and still not give the Nets an advantage, what happens when he returns to earth and hits just 50% of his shots? I can tell you: in this game, had he hit just two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, he would have ended up with a +/- rating somewhere around –10 in around 16 minutes. That, I fear, is Scott Padgett’s true value to this team in the long run. If Padgett is asked to log heavy minutes on a daily basis, I believe that the Nets will not be better off than with the less-offensively talented, but more defensively-efficient Collins or Robinson.
Other Combinations of Note
|Vaughn, Robinson, Murray, Krstic, Plus One||3.9||-8|
At the end of the first quarter, this quartet played with Carter; to start the second, McInnis joined them. The Nets were slightly worse with McInnis in the game, at minus-five.
* * * * * *
As for the two previous games against Charlotte and Washington: There is little of interest to say about those two games. I will say this, though: In the game against Washington, every Net but one had an individual +/- rating of at least minus-five save one, Jason Collins, who finished with a +5. Now maybe this was a result of luck, just being in the game during the Nets’ only sustained run. But can there still be any doubt about Collins’ impact on the team? If Collins ends up undergoing surgery and missing a large chunk of the season, I cringe to think how he will be replaced.
Anyway, enough of this negativity. The Nets won! See you after the next game!