NBA

NBA Heat Check: Poole swimming in threes but Walker stumbling in New York

By Sports Desk December 02, 2021

The NBA season is heating up nicely.

The Phoenix Suns are on fire, the Golden State Warriors are hanging on their coattails, while defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks are fighting back after a slow start to their season.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons and Oklahoma City Thunder cannot buy a win.

Those are the teams, but which players have been impressing, and which are struggling to make an impact? Stats Perform delves into the numbers with the latest edition of NBA Heat Check.

RUNNING HOT...

Luguentz Dort

It is a team game, which Luguentz Dort knows only too well as his increasingly impressive individual numbers are doing little to turn around the fortunes of the Thunder.

The shooting guard failed to score more than 17 points in any of October's games, but came back from missing the defeat to the LA Clippers on the first day of November determined to do something about his team's form.

Dort set about trying to help the Thunder recover from a slow start and managed seven games of over 20 points, including 34 in the win against the Houston Rockets. Unfortunately for him and his teammates, there have been no wins in seven since then, despite the Canadian's best efforts.

His increased total points per game of 11.7 in October to 19.2 in November is the most in the league, while he was fourth for increase in three-pointers made per game (1.2 to 2.8).

Without that leap in form from the 22-year-old, you wonder how much worse Oklahoma City's record would be right now.

Jarrett Allen

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been a streaky team so far this season, but in Allen they have someone who is showing himself to be a real difference maker.

Allen's numbers have increased almost identically to Dort's, with an average of points scored per game going up from 11.7 to 19.0 from October to November.

The 23-year-old also tops the charts for largest increase in total rebounds per game, going from 9.0 in October to 12.8 in November.

The Cavs won six of their first seven games in November, only to then lose their next five, the first three of which against the Celtics, the Nets and the Warriors they were without Allen through illness.

His return has eventually seen form turn back around, with wins against the Magic and the Mavericks followed up by another at the Heat to kick off December.

Jordan Poole

Three-pointers are an increasingly important part of the modern game, and there is little more satisfying than seeing the ball sunk all the way from downtown.

Golden State Warriors fans may be the only ones getting a little bored of them given how many they see these days, with Steph Curry still the king of three-points, but Poole has been more than holding his own with his 51 total this season seeing him only behind Curry (77), Buddy Hield (61) and Lonzo Ball (52) in the standings.

It is Poole's improvement that gets him onto this list, though, having averaged just 1.5 successful three-point attempts per game in October, he upped that to 3.4 in November, the joint-highest league increase with Luka Doncic.

He was also fifth most improved for points scored, going from 14.0 per game in October to 20.3 in November.

This has helped the Warriors to a strong 18-3 record so far, but he even managed to stand out in the recent defeat to the Phoenix Suns, sinking six three-point attempts in a total contribution of 28 points on the night.

GOING COLD...

Kemba Walker

It was all set up to be a feel-good story before the season began as Walker, born in the Bronx, returned to New York to play for the Knicks after years of success with the Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics.

The four-time All-Star got off to a promising start, with eight defensive rebounds against his former Celtics in a debut win, and scoring double figures in all six of his October games.

However, November was not so kind to the 31-year-old, with his average of 3.7 three-pointers per game going down to just 1.3, the largest decrease in the league, and only managing double figures in four of his 12 outings.

Walker has never averaged less than his current 11.7 points per game across a season, with a career average of 19.7.

Such has been the drop in form for Walker, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau took the difficult decision to remove him from rotation ahead of the game at the Nets at the end of the month. 

Spencer Dinwiddie

The Washington Wizards point guard started the season with some impressive outings after his arrival from the Brooklyn Nets, including contributing 34 points in his second game against the Indiana Pacers, and scoring 20 or more in three of his five games in October. 

During November, Dinwiddie managed to score 20 or more just twice in 13 games, including failing to add anything to the scoreboard in defeat at the Charlotte Hornets.

His has been the largest decrease in points scored per game across the two months, going from an average of 19.8 in October to 12.8 in November.

The Wizards have not been too inconvenienced by this downturn in form from Dinwiddie, sitting second in the Eastern Conference on 14-8, but coach Wes Unseld Jr would surely love to see the 28-year-old return to his early season showings before too long.

Bam Adebayo

The Miami Heat center is averaging a career-best 18.7 points, along with 10.2 rebounds per game.

However, that number of rebounds has decreased from an average of 14.0 per game in October to 8.7 in November. Still respectable but the second-highest decrease of the month in the league behind only Gorgui Dieng (7.2 to 1.8). 

After registering double figures for rebounds in four of his five October performances, Adebayo only managed to do so in five of his 13 games in November, and unfortunately for him is set to miss the entirety of December after picking up a thumb injury.

The Heat won six of their first seven games, and Adebayo's electric form was a large part of that strong start, but having taken just two victories from their last six outings, will be hoping that when the Olympic gold medallist returns in the New Year, he can rediscover those elite levels.

Related items

  • England start another new era as Buttler bids to end India misery England start another new era as Buttler bids to end India misery

    Jos Buttler's Twenty20 International squad may not share any players with Ben Stokes' Test side, but he will hope England can echo their early red-ball success in another new era.

    No sooner had Stokes succeeded Joe Root as Test skipper than Eoin Morgan was also out as England's great limited-overs leader, retiring from international cricket altogether.

    New man Buttler does not find a team in need of an overhaul, as Stokes did in the longest format, but he will similarly be keen to make a fast start.

    And India – fresh from being thrashed by Stokes' outfit – are fearsome first opponents.

    England have not won any of their four prior T20I series against India, losing the past three in a row. In fact, India have lost only one in 14 against all opponents.

    And as Morgan's final 20-over series saw a 3-2 defeat to West Indies, England under Buttler will be aiming to avoid back-to-back such losses for the first time since February 2017.

    Buttler may well have his work cut out, too, with England resting their Test stars following a busy stretch while India will welcome their main men back for the second of three matches.

    Rohit Sharma has tested negative for coronavirus and been cleared to lead the team from the outset, with Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and Rishabh Pant among those set to join him later on.

    England's depth put to the test

    Buttler has confirmed his desire for Stokes to be involved with the T20I team, but the Test captain has plenty on his plate right now and – just as Buttler ruled himself out of red-ball action for the foreseeable future – is missing for this series.

    He is one of a number of notable absentees against an India side who could be at full strength by the second match and ramping up preparations for the T20 World Cup – a daunting prospect.

    But this also provides an opportunity for Buttler to see what talent lies beneath those big names; Richard Gleeson is in for a debut, while Reece Topley impressed on his return to the set-up in the Caribbean.

    Topley's bowling economy rate of 4.4 during the powerplay in that series represents the second-best of any player from a Test-playing country since the start of 2020 (Ajaz Patel – 3.1 for New Zealand).

    Another entertaining encounter?

    With Matthew Mott leading England's white-ball teams, there will be no 'Bazball' in this series, but Morgan's side were always similarly entertaining.

    In fact, England (146.3) and India (145.9) have the best batting strike rates of all Test-playing countries in T20Is since the beginning of 2020.

    The likes of Buttler and Pant – identified by Stokes as "someone who would fit very well in our team at the moment" – should ensure there are plenty of big scores even without Jonny Bairstow.

  • Wimbledon: Halep back to her best three years on from title win Wimbledon: Halep back to her best three years on from title win

    Simona Halep believes she is playing her best tennis since winning Wimbledon in 2019 after returning to the All England Club semi-finals.

    The former world number one is enjoying her first SW19 campaign since that triumph three years ago, with the coronavirus pandemic and a calf injury delaying her return.

    The final in 2019 was Halep's fifth at a major, but she has not been back to that stage since.

    Now, having swatted aside Amanda Anisimova 6-2 6-4 in the last eight for a 12th consecutive victory at Wimbledon – the longest sequence since 20 straight Serena Williams successes between 2015 and 2018 – she is just one win away.

    Halep explained after the Anisimova match that confidence was key, having proven her game was back at a high level in reaching six semi-finals in 2022 – second only to Iga Swiatek (eight) on the WTA Tour.

    Three of those last-four appearances have now been on grass, with Johanna Konta in 2017 the last player to achieve that feat in a calendar year.

    "Definitely I've played the best tennis [since 2019]," Halep said in her on-court interview. "I struggled a lot last year; now, I'm just trying to build my confidence back.

    "The tennis is here, so I just have to believe. I've started to do that, and it feels good."

    Asked how high her confidence was now, she replied with a smile: "It's good."

    Halep has reached the last four without dropping a set, although that spotless record was briefly threatened by Anisimova, who was a double break down in the second set before breaking back and then leading 40-0 on the Romanian's serve.

    Yet Halep dug in to serve out the match and avoid a decider against an opponent with a Tour-leading 12 three-set wins this season.

    "I'm very emotional right now, because it means a lot to be back in the semis," Halep said.

    "I played a tough opponent today; she could crash the ball in the end, and I didn't know actually what to do.

    "But I just believed in myself and said that I had to stay there, strong on my legs – they helped me today – and I believed until the end that I could win."

  • Wimbledon: Rybakina sets up Halep semi-final with Tomljanovic triumph Wimbledon: Rybakina sets up Halep semi-final with Tomljanovic triumph

    Elena Rybakina sealed her first grand slam semi-final appearance in impressive fashion as she recovered from a set down to beat Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6 6-2 6-3 in Wimbledon's last eight. 

    Rybakina was on the back foot after going a set and a break down on No. 1 Court, but the big-serving 23-year-old quickly shifted through the gears to claim a routine triumph and tee up a last-four clash with Simona Halep.

    In doing so, she became the first female Kazakh player to reach a grand slam semi-final in the Open Era, with players from the country having lost on each of their previous eight major quarter-final appearances.

    Tomljanovic made a terrific start, moving well and winning 85 per cent of first-serve points as she built on a third-game break to take the opener with an impressive showing.

    But after being put under pressure by another Tomljanovic break, Rybakina came roaring back to level the contest, winning 11 consecutive points to clinch the second set as the momentum swung her way.

    A reinvigorated Rybakina broke again early in the decider as she took seven successive games and, although she had to wait to seal victory after the duo traded breaks, eventually converted her second match point to continue her best Wimbledon run.

    Data Slam: Rybakina serves up a treat

    Rybakina came into this contest having served more aces than any other player on the WTA circuit in 2022 (197), and Tomljanovic was powerless to resist as she hit another 15 on Wednesday.

    The 23-year-old has now made (44) aces at Wimbledon this year, more than any other female player.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

    Tomljanovic 14/21
    Rybakina 34/28

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

    Tomljanovic 1/1
    Rybakina 15/1

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Tomljanovic 3/9
    Rybakina 5/9

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.