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The Defense Rests

   by Bryan Leonard - 04/12/2007

In the courtroom, the defense rests after presenting its final arguments. In the NBA, it’s a little different. The defense rests late in the regular season, then turns on full force as the playoffs begin. This is an unusual time for basketball bettors. While everyone is focused on who is fighting for playoff seeds, totals bettors are making their own adjustments.

As the regular season winds down, it’s common for teams that are out of the race to give up on defense. The Atlanta Hawks are on an 11-4 run over the total, playing no defense, but padding their offensive stats. Notice that for the season the Hawks allow 98 ppg defensively, yet the last 9 games they’ve given up over 100 points in EVERY game! That is a clear indication that the players aren’t giving 100% at the defensive end.

Atlanta hasn’t been winning, either. It can be common this time of the season for players to be more concerned with selfish offensive stats than playing defense. Atlanta’s Josh Smith ended up with a profanity-laced outburst at the end of regulation of the Hawks' 109-104 overtime loss to Philadelphia. Smith went back and forth with coach Mike Woodson on the bench over two plays in the final 40 seconds of regulation that resulted in Woodson telling Smith to hit the showers before the overtime session began.

Smith shot a 19-footer over Andre Miller with the game tied at 93-93 and only 35.9 seconds to play that he acknowledged afterward was a bad shot, considering he has a seven-inch height advantage over Miller. As the players walked to the bench for the break between regulation and overtime, Smith said he told the coaches that he "wanted that last shot." An argument ensued, and Smith flung his headband to the floor on his way to the locker room.

Is Smith rising to the occasion to help his teammates? Or is he being selfish. It’s fairly obvious. Notice that Smith wasn’t saying, “Hey coach, let me guard their best offensive player, I can shut him down in the final minute.â€쳌 Smith didn’t give a lick about working hard on defense, only to get the last shot. Then he pouted when it didn’t happen. Wah, wah, wah.

How about those “going nowhereâ€쳌 Milwaukee Bucks? The Bucks are 7-3 over the total the last 10 games. After allowing a poor 104 ppg for the season, Milwaukee has allowed more than that in 7 of the last 9 games. In fact, they’ve allowed 115, 118, 119 and 121 points in four of the last five. The Bucks are 3-9 under coach Larry Krystkowiak, which is worse when you realize they starter 2-0 under him. How do you spell I-N-T-E-R-I-M?

Another team is Seattle, going 7-2 over the total the last nine games. Young players tiring out can also be a problem this time of the year. Seattle coach Bob Hill again was troubled by the rebounding disparity against San Antonio, as Nick Collison and Chris Wilcox combined for six in 55 total minutes. The Sonics followed up their 26-rebound game against Denver with 22 versus the Spurs, three more than the team record for fewest in a game. Wilcox grabbed four Sunday against Denver and Collison just two.

It's possible fatigue is setting in for two young standouts who have never played this many minutes. After Tuesday, Collison has logged 2,154 minutes in a career-high 74 games, more than 700 minutes more than last season. Defense often rests late in the year, but that will change dramatically in the playoffs, tough, as teams put their best defensive feet forward!

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