Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Another Meaningless Record

Is there a more hollow phrase anymore than "That's one for the record book"?

I ask this in the aftermath of the bizarre game between the Warriors and the Rockets that saw Houston tie the NBA record for 3-point goals in a game. The Rockets were winning in a blowout on a night where the Warriors had apparently made up their mind not to let guards Jeremy Lin and James Harden beat them by driving to the basket.

The Warriors packed their defense all night to prevent the drive, and the Rockets responded by kicking the ball out for three-point attempts. It worked.  They tried 40 and hit 23 for a crazy 57.5% long-range shooting percentage.

So far, so good. Just another example of two teams engaged in the kind of physical chess match that is at the heart of sports.  And then, the record book got involved.

By mid-4th quarter, Rockets coach Kevin McHale had cleared the bench. But this time, "garbage time" was accompanied by chants from the crowd for "one more three!". See, they wanted to say they were there when a record was set (that's a whole lot more fun than saying you stayed to the end of a blowout win).

So now, the Rockets' benchwarmers get busy trying to hoist up threes. And the Warriors, who have let Houston gun away all night, suddenly decide they need to guard against the three.  And then, Houston scrub Patrick Beverley is handed a free path to the basket. He accepts this largesses by slamming home a dunk and then mugging his way past the Warriors bench.

And then it's really on. Warriors coach Mark Jackson makes it clear Houston will not get that record-setting 3-pointer. The Warriors accomplish this by committing a series of hard fouls on Houston shooters. Predictably, there's jawing, shoving, etc.

In the aftermath, Jackson defends his team's approach, saying he's "old-school". "If you're going to try to get the record," says Jackson, "we're going to stop it."

Silly me.  I thought the point of the whole exercise was to win the basketball game. You're playing a Western Conference opponent, and your big concern is the record book? Mark Jackson is a smart guy, a good basketball coach. He should know better.

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