StatBox Playoff Breakdown: More problems in Bucks’ backcourt, Williams comes up small again and Memphis finds its defense

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Just in the nick of time, Memphis found its elite defense on Thursday night. But where was it hiding? Should the Nets reconsider its contract extension of its general manager after its offensive performance against the Bulls? How can Brooklyn get back in this series? Is Milwaukee’s backcourt worth keeping? The answers to all these questions and a whole lot more in today’s StatBox breakdown.

Monta EllisMilwaukee’s backcourt problems continue

There are very few teams that could survive a poor night in the playoffs from one of its stars. Unfortunately for the Bucks, they played one of those teams in the Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade shot 1-f0r-12 from the field, but Miami still shot 52 percent from the field in a 104-91 win. The Heat took a 3-0 lead in a series that will mercifully end this weekend.

The question of the Bucks’ future as a team (as currently constituted) is even louder after another subpar game from its star backcourt duo of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. It was a 7-for-24 shooting night for the two upcoming free agents, which has been a growing trend in this laugher of a series. One would expect players to shoot worse against a team like the Heat than their regular season averages, but not at this rate. Observe:

Bucks Backcourt Points FG % 3 FG %
Reg. Season 36.7 40.8 33.8
Playoffs 28.7 37.5 17.9

Jennings and Ellis are shooting nearly 16 percent worse from three (a stomach wrenching 7-for-39) than they were during the regular season and are hitting exactly three of eight field goals overall. The team is getting poor play from its top two offensive players, which is one of the reasons why Milwaukee couldn’t capitalize on a night where Wade was awful and Miami committed 20 turnovers (the Bucks had 19 of their own). The Bucks’ season will almost certainly end with its next game, and then the team has to figure out whether Jennings and Ellis are worth holding on to.

Deron Williams struggled to get going last night

Deron Williams struggled to get going last night

Williams comes up limp again

Deron Williams, Brooklyn’s franchise cornerstone and $100 million man, is having a pretty awful series against a physically battered Bulls team playing without Derrick Rose, who would have made this series even more difficult for Williams. Williams is shooting 39.5 percent from the field over the Nets’ three postseason games, and went 5-for-14 in Thursday’s 79-76 loss to go down 2-1 in the series.

In an ironic twist, a lot of the moves General Manager Billy King made over last offseason looked downright foolish just mere hours after the team announced it was signing King to a contract extension. Let’s take a look at how King’s guys are doing in this series:

  • Williams is shooting under 40 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from three while dishing out just four assists on Thursday night.
  • Gerald Wallace, who King signed for $40 million after acquiring him from Portland in a trade that would ultimately bring standout rookie Damian Lillard to the Blazers, shot 2-for-8 in game 3. He’s averaging seven points and 4.3 rebounds per game on 36.4 percent shooting.
  • Kris Humphries is being paid $12 million this season and played a grand total of 40 minutes in the entire series so far with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Sounds like money well spent, and a contract extension well earned, by King. Brook Lopez is a borderline All-Star player, but this Nets team is only going to go as far as Williams takes them. Everyone knows that. Until Williams can carry this team, especially with Joe Johnson being hobbled by plantar fasciitis, Brooklyn will be looking at first round exits for years to come.

marcWe found Memphis’ defense!
It was in Memphis all along! Perhaps the team’s cost cutting prevented the defense from making the flight to Los Angeles. But it was back in full force Thursday night at the FedEx Forum, where the Grizzlies held the Clippers to 38.8 percent shooting from the floor and forced 16 L.A. turnovers in a 94-82 win.

Zach Randolph found his old postseason mojo, scoring 27 points and pulling down 11 rebounds. But it was the team’s defense that got the win, and it’s the defense that will have to keep Memphis around in this series. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford shot a combined 12-for-33 and Mike Conley and Tony Allen finally played to their abilities as top level defenders on Paul.

“We didn’t make any adjustments,” Memphis Coach Lionel Hollins said of defending Paul. “We just played better.”

Hollins may have a point. Memphis just happens to play better defensively at home.

Defensive Splits FG % 3 FG % Turnovers
Home 43.5 33.8 14.7
Road 45 33.9 13.8

That extra 1.5 percent of field goal shooting could mean the difference between victory and defeat, especially in such a closely contested series as this one. This type of defense has to continue, of course, if Memphis doesn’t want to be facing elimination the next time it steps foot on that Staples Center floor.

Shlomo Sprung loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and a writer for Football.com. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. His website is SprungOnSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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