Friday, June 12, 2009

Game 4 and a Word on Raul Ibanez

They proved me right! The Magic, just as I had suspected, came out of the gates shooting and shooting with confidence in Game 3. It was enough to earn them an NBA Finals record for field goal percentage. Yet the Magic won by only four points and trailed for a good portion of the game. Not something you'd expect to see from a team that set a shooting percentage record.

So now the question presents itself: How in the world do we go about analyzing this? Was it A) poor defense by the Lakers that allowed such a high percentage? Or was it B) just plain good shooting by Orlando coupled with a poor defensive effort on their part that kept the Lakers in the game the whole way through?

The answer is both A & B. Whenever you let up a Finals record for the highest field goal percentage in a game, you aren't playing the staunch, lock down defense that is expected of champions. On the other hand, to set that record, you've got to be shooting the ball pretty damn well no matter how poor or non-existent the opposing defense may be. Your own defense must be pretty lackluster as well if you almost lose the game.

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The perimeter shooting of the Orlando Magic is what is keeping them in this series. It is what won them Game 3, along with Dwight Howard's late arrival to the Finals, and it is what kept Game 2 close up until the very end. Some may have forgotten that the Magic set an NBA record with 23 3-pointers in one game in a 139-107 shellacking of the Sacramento Kings in January. You might be thinking that anybody can make 23 3's if you throw up 70 attempts. But they only threw up 37. That's 62 percent.

If the Magic want to have any chance of winning Game 4, though, they've got to play better defense. Speaking on a teleconference to promote a celebrity golf championship, former Miami Heat center and NBA Champion Alonzo Mourning remarked, "It sort of puzzles me with Stan because he was under the tutelage of Pat Riley, who is obviously a huge defensive advocate, that he would take a more aggressive approach, especially with the pick and roll play." The Magic must figure out a way to play defense against Kobe and the Lakers if they want a shot at a title. They've got the offense part down.

Raul Ibanez

Did anybody actually read this article? Probably not. The author of the blog was attacked by Ibanez, who went off on the blogger, and rightfully so, mind you. But all of the knee-jerk reactions we have heard from the sports media, most taking the side of Ibanez, are incredibly unsupported.

The blogger's article is rather long, which may turn some off to actually reading the thing. But for those wanting a quick synopsis, the blogger, going by the tag JRod, actually sets out to disprove any speculation that Ibanez's numbers are influenced by taking PEDs. He analyzes the ballparks where he has hit homeruns, including Citizen's Bank Park in Philly, and other statistics from the MLB and Ibanez's career. He concludes that, due to many factors including the steroid era in baseball, that PEDs cannot be ruled out, which is where JRod got himself into trouble.

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Oh, and the article was in response to a comment made by a rival fantasy team owner in the blogger's fantasy baseball league who questioned the legitimacy of Ibanez's fast start. Come on, guys.

Probably not a fair assessment of Ibanez, as he has given us no reason to believe he is taking steroids and seems to be one of the good guys in the game. If playing well is an indicator of PEDs then I don't want to follow this sport any longer, as it will have lost what makes it great. And playing great is really the whole point, isn't it?

JRod should not have written comments such as "if Ibanez ends up hitting 45-50 homers this year, you can bet that I won’t be the only one raising the question" or "any aging hitter who puts up numbers this much better than his career averages is going to immediately generate suspicion that the numbers are not natural".

I do feel bad for Ibanez and I believe he defended himself just as any innocent person should. The guys on Pardon the Interruption hit the nail on the head when they concluded that it is OK to be suspicious, because of the black mark that other ballplayers put on the sport, but it is wrong to be accusatory. I do not think JRod intended to be accusatory, but when a baseball player reads his name in connection to steroids, in any way whatsoever, he is going to get hot. Ibanez was right to lash out at the blogger.

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I certainly doubt JRod believed that his article would end up running the national sports news circuit; it was, after all, a response to his fantasy baseball league. For those that are curious, and have a half an hour to waste reading about ballpark dimensions, poor pitching and some pretty funny comments from the educated of the population, here is a link to the article written by, as Ibanez put it, "some 42-year-old blogger typing in his mother's basement": The Article

Written By Danny Hobrock