The condensed NBA season is drawing to a close and the playoff race is a close photo finish.
This has been one helter-skelter of a season. Hoops at fast forward. Back to back after back to back. Jet lag. Accumulated fatigue. Mixed lineups owing to players dropping like flies, succumbing to the rigours of this condensed season.
The lockout meant fewer games packed in the regular season. At first glance it may seem like fewer games equate to lesser mileage taxed upon the players, and that it must be easier to play 66 games than 82. Not when the games are packed together so close as they have been in this season. 66 games in 123 days. Usually, 82 games were spaced out over 173 days.
The shooting percentage is at its lowest since the 2003-04 season. Free throw percentage, the worst in six years, and three-point shooting percentage is the worst since the NBA’s previous lockout in 1998-99. Last year the Raptors were the worst in the last category, shooting 31.6 %. This year there are 10 teams shooting worse than that. Three point shooting percentage gets worse with larger sample size, even with a smaller size afforded by this condensed season, the numbers are way down this time.
You need your legs for a jumpshot. Most of the momentum and force is generated from the lower body. Fatigued legs make for flat and short jumpers. These athletes are well conditioned enough to go all out on defense all the time, but on offense your body needs to be fresh to produce optimum results.
Kids living in hostels have experienced going back to school after a vacation with a new found potbelly. Pro athletes aren’t all all that different. A lot of them rely on the long training camp to work their bodies back into shape. With the abrupt beginning of this season and the end of the lockout, the training camp was also condensed.
The Dallas Mavericks are 7th in the Western Conference. They are the defending champions and their core players are on the wrong side of 30. Old age and hectic schedules don’t go well together. Spurs, Celtics and Mavericks are all contenders and are all old.
Check out the box score explanation for why Tim Duncan sat out one of the Spur’s games.
The old ones can afford to sit out some games. But there have been a lot of injuries among younger star players as well. Notable casualties include:
Dwight Howard (back)
Kevin Love (concussion)
Ricky Rubio (torn ACL)
Derrick Rose (back)
Stephen Curry (ankle)
Andrew Bogut (ankle)
Chauncey Billups (season ending injury, torn Achilles tendon)
Carmelo Anthony (groin)
Manu Ginobili (broken hand)
Cause and effect can be shady to pin down. The hectic schedule isn’t the only reason for the above mentioned injuries and the poor offense, but it is a significant factor. There have been many arguments that it would have been better to have about 50 games this season, but more games equals more entertainment so this is what we got. It has been entertaining but smaller doses of action with fewer games might have been better.
They say defense wins championships, the adage will hold true this time as offenses aren’t taking teams anywhere far. The playoffs are a few days away, this will be an exciting post-season to watch out for. It’ll be interesting to see which team can grind it out after being put through the grinder all season long.