AREA 55 NEWS YOU CAN TAKE TO THE BANK!!!!!
Greetings and salutations fellow Area 55 peeps! This is second year veteran and soul patch pro Jon LaFollette writing in place of our beloved Prez Joe, who after slaving over a piping hot keyboard for the better part of three years, deserves a much needed reprieve from the rigors of writing newsletters. I happily volunteered my services so Joe could have more time doing whatever it is fancy lawyer types, such as himself, do.
The Area 55 Half-Time Critique! OK, campers! With LaFollette and I switching our customary Newsletter roles, it is your beloved Prez that will supply you with LaFollette’s normal curt and spicy review of Wednesday night’s BLF halftime extravaganza. I know I have large shoes to fill, but here goes:
Halftime attendees at the Portland game were treated to an engaging display of interpretive dance brought to us by a group of mothers and girls whose professional name I sadly cannot supply. As usual, the BLF halftime announcer (an anonymous guy – I don’t think it was Ace McKay - doing his standard imitation of a trapped coal miner) mumbled their actual moniker and left me to speculate as to just whom it was I was viewing. It sounded to me like the announcer called them something like “The Flowers of Spring”. However it might also have been “The Carmel Dance Academy from Hell.” I cannot be sure.
Anyway the dance gala they supplied was a welcome change from the mass Air Force swearing-in ceremony that The Suits tried to pass off as entertainment at the New Orleans game. I’m as patriotic as the next guy, but I like my bread and circuses. That New Orleans Swearing-in thing left me longing for the more reliably entertaining and certainly less warlike cavortings of our beloved frisbee-catching dogs.
The Nameless Dance Academy was not warlike. Sporting pink, azure, and pale green spandex, a bevy of mothers (some of whom looked kind of hot to me) and what appeared to be an assortment of their nubile and prepubescent daughters -- took to the BLF hardwood and immediately and energetically began gamboling about.
The moms of the Academy went first, commendably twisting, gyrating, contorting, and grinding to the accompaniment of Foreigner’s “You’re as Cold as Ice.” I don’t know about other 55ers (who, perhaps seeing what was coming, quickly and wisely left the premises to get beer), but I, for one, was left mute and slackjawed at the wholesome amateurishness and arctic asexuality of the mothers’ dancing. Rapt in the spectacle, I soon felt “cold as ice” myself just watching it all. Perhaps that was the intent. The mom’s number was, indeed, a telling paean to sexual frigidy and after viewing it, I felt pangs of sympathy for the deprivation that their poor husbands were undoubtedly experiencing.
The “Cold as Ice” moms were followed by their warmer daughters, who, clad in stretchy pink and trying to emulate their maternal forbears, then did a lot of moving about while an invisible sound machine belted out The Capitols old and justifiably forgotten hit, “Cool Jerk”. It was kind of cute. I cannot deny that watching the nymphets twist and turn caused wellsprings of repressed memories and forgotten emotions to bubble up in my heart. Prepubescent dancing to lyrics like “They know I’m the king of the coooool jerks!” invariably has that effect on me.
There was still more! After the “Cool Jerk” number, more of the nymphets segued into a cheery holiday interpretation of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” Personally, I liked the “Cool Jerk” thing better, but hey, I’m a soul type of guy and kind of a “cool jerk” in my own right.
After it all ended and The Nameless Dance Academy left the floor I was left to speculate if The Suits had booked The Academy as a crass money-saving measure. Scrooges that they are, I suspect this was so. A hint to The Suits: Psst, sometimes you get better entertainment if you pay for it.
My rating for The Nameless Dance Academy? Well, unfortunately just a C. But on the upside, I thought they were a lot better than the Air Force Swearing-in Ceremony.
Back to Basketball with Fighting Jon LaFollette! We're already six weeks into the season, but tonight's match up with the Denver Nuggets at the homey confines of Bankers Life is only the third back-to-back home stand for the Pacers this year, and just their eighth home game overall. In short, our boys in the blue and gold have spent more than half their season on the road (where they have posted a scrappy 5-7 record). Thus, it is extremely important that they make the most of their sporadic returns to the Circle City.
After dropping four of their first six games, the Pacers have recently rallied to win six of their last eight, including a dramatic last second win in Los Angeles and a pugnacious victory over the ever-resilient Bulls. The team is currently a half game behind Chicago in the Central Division. While the team's offense (Roy's in particular) has at times been stagnant and bereft of baskets, their league-leading defense has been stingy enough to keep the majority of games close and give the team a chance to win. Laying waste to Denver tonight would give the Pacers their first three-game win streak of the season, and push them to a mark of 11-9. Let’s get it done!
G2? More Like G-Pew! Stating the obvious - Paul George stunk it up over a three-game stretch last week. Against the Lakers, Kings and Warriors, PG shot an abysmal 23 percent from the field on 7-of-31 shooting, (laying an egg in Oakland) while almost completely shirking his abilities as a defender. To be blunt, Paul was a non factor - something he absolutely cannot be in the absence of Danny Granger. But rather than sulk, PG manned up and took to the practice court hard (as he does in those nifty "Gold Swagger" commercials) and lobbed 500 shots in a single practice (proven by a picture he posted on his Instagram account). Whether it was the extra reps, divine province, or some of Michael Jordan's secret stuff (which helped the Looney Tunes thwart the MonStars in Space Jam), PG's shots have markedly improved in the last two games. He has since posted 56 points on 21-of-40 shooting (52 percent). He'll have to keep it up against Denver's Andre Iguodala - a scrappy defender who creates problems for opposing teams with his strength and length (a dangerous duo of rhyming adjectives if I ever heard one).
Get SWATTED!!! According to Hoop Data's advanced stats, Roy is making just 42 percent of his shots within two feet of the rim, and only 38 percent within three to nine feet. This season has been Double Nickel's worst offensive outing of his career. But where he's been an enigma when it comes to scoring, defensively, he's the biggest component (literally) to the Pacers’ success. Averaging a career high in blocks per game (3.12 - second only to Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka), and protecting the rim better than he's ever done, Hibbert anchors what the Pacers are best at - getting stops and keeping games tight enough for their stunted and sporadic offense to pull out a win. Roy's objectives tonight will be twofold. Contain Nuggets starting center, and Greek American, Kosta Koufos, whom Roy should have no trouble pushing around, as well as their boneheaded sixth man JaVale McGee, who often finishes games for the Nuggets, and, in actuality poses a far more formidable match up than Koufos for Hibbert.
More on Moron McGee JaVale McGee (traded to Denver last year from the Washington Wizards) is somewhat similar to Roy as far as their respective style of play goes. Both are more prone to defend than they are to score (although Roy wins out in both categories I believe); both, rebound well given their size, and, despite being seven feet or taller, neither of them is really known for his physical prowess. What separates Roy from JaVale is intellect and basketball IQ. Where Roy graduated with a degree in government from Georgetown and has been named an All-Star, Javale possess the thinking capabilities of a rock. This is highly fitting since he now plays for a team associated with mining.
Whether it's attempting to dunk from the free throw line (something he tried twice in the same week no less), alley-ooping to himself and then saluting his own efforts while his team is down six, or mistakenly running to the wrong end of the court while his team has the ball, dare I say no other player in the last five years has been more ineptly entertaining than JaVale? He's had so many bloopers, he was given his own countdown on YouTube. Watch them and enjoy!
Every one of the above highlights (or low-lights) involved McGee in a Wizards uniform. Since moving to Denver, his most laughably bad decisions have virtually disappeared (credit Denver coach George Karl) and McGee's talents (especially his quickness) are beginning to receive attention around the league. He had a breakout series in last season’s playoffs against the Lakers where he averaged 9 points, 10 boards and 3 blocks in 7 games.
Rocky Mountain Hype Aside from the aforementioned McGee and Iguodala, the Nuggets sport a talented roster that includes point guard Ty Lawson (currently in his fourth year), second year sensation Kenneth Farried who has been dubbed the "mannimal" for his tenacious rebounding abilities (During his last visit here Area 55ers taunted Farried with "Whoopi Goldberg" chants - an homage to his Predator-esque dreads), and Danilo Gallinari (whom I jokingly christened The Italian Stallion). Gallinari was among those traded to Denver in last year’s blockbuster deal that sent Carmelo Anthony to New York and Chauncey Billups ultimately winding up with the Clippers. An unsung, but equally notable player, is Denver’s backup point guard, Andre Miller, currently in his 13th year. While getting long in the tooth, Miller is still capable of posting solid numbers on any given night (He’s had a 17 point and a 19 point effort early this year).
NBA die-hards might recall many stat-geeks drooling over the Nuggets before the beginning of this season. Indeed, a host of complex math formulas and arcane statistical projections had the Denver making it to the Western Conference Finals - and perhaps the NBA Finals. Former Pacer Reggie Miller, during a TNT broadcast, balked at such notions and the whole idea of "guys in lab coats" predicting the outcome of NBA games.
Thus far, Reggie seemed to have it right. The Nuggets have been relatively underwhelming given all the pre-season hype that surrounded them. Tonight, they stroll into Naptown on the second game of a five game road trip sporting a 9-10 record (including a 108-104 loss Tuesday night in Atlanta). As an excuse for Denver’s lackluster start, the team’s proponents have pointed to a brutal schedule -- with only 6 of their first 19 games played at home. This is a legitimate point, but I'd be quicker to point out two other factors; shoddy defense, and inconsistent shooting.
George Karl has long been known as a run-and-gun coach who loves to push tempo and get up and down the court. He adheres to the philosophy that the best defense is a good offense. As a result, in allowing 104 points per 100 possessions, the Nuggets have the seventh worst defense in the league. Much like Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks of yesteryear, the Nuggets simply try to outgun their opponents. In putting up 103 points per 100 possessions, Denver’s point production is good enough to make them the tenth best offensive team in the NBA. But an offense is only as good as its players (duh), and the Nuggets are a team with streaky shooters aplenty. As a team, they shoot just 46% from the field (just 1% better than the league average). True, they have the potential to be potent on any given night. But where there's feast, there's famine.
For every night that Ty Lawson puts up 32 points on 12-of-16 shooting (as he did against Atlanta), there are other nights where he'll go 0-for-7, 3-for-12 or 4-for-13 and virtually disappear from the game. Ditto for Iguodala and Gallnari, who have also struggled to find their stride this season. But while Denver’s guards and wings are prone to struggle on any given night, the Nuggets’ big men that carry them. The bigs grab a league-leading 35 offensive rebounds per game. With that kind of offensive rebounding occurring, a wayward guard shooting an ill-advised three now and then isn't regarded as a major tragedy. I predict that tonight's game will be won by rebounding, with the Pacers' stiff D looking to slow a fast running offense.
Well, enough of this! Time to belch this out. Remember to wear some grey tonight for brain cancer awareness. And be feisty and nasty. We want our boys to keep the wins, particularly at home, coming!
GO PACERS! GO AREA 55!