As you know, TNT has the exclusive rights to certain NBA broadcasts in the United States. So for halftime shows here in the old bastion of freedom, we were limited to Ernie, Kenny, Charles and Shaq last night when the Clippers played the Warriors. But did you know that in other countries there are other halftime shows?
As you might suspect, the Lithuanian halftime show, Viduje tas NBA, is one of the most widely watched NBA shows in all of the Baltics, and studio host Ernunas Johnsilonus along with NBA legends Sarunas Marciulionis and "The Red Deadhead" Arvydas Sabonis always provide great analysis.
Here is a partial transcript from the halftime show aired in Vilnius last night, translated from Lithuanian. Copyright laws preclude me from providing the footage, but trust me, I totally speak Lithuanian and this is totally what they said.
Arvydas: Chris Paul is a turrible point guard. Until he can get his turnovers under control and learn to properly run a team, the Clippers have no chance to compete.
Ernunas: Two days ago you said the Clippers were going to win the Western Conference.
Arvydas: I never said that. I said on paper...
Sarunas: Let me show everyone why Chris Paul is such a problem. Here at 5:37 left in the first quarter, Blake Griffin comes up with a steal and gets the ball to Paul, which is what he's supposed to do. The Clippers have numbers and of course you expect them to be great on the fast break, but Paul is hesitant and -- freeze it! -- see there, he's got Griffin wide open for a lob. OK let it go -- but for some reason, Paul tries to force a different pass and it's stolen by Andre Iguodala.
On this play a few minutes later, Paul drives into the lane without really knowing what he wants to do. He commits the cardinal sin -- freeze it! -- OK look there, he leaves his feet, but "oh oh now what? I have no one to throw it to." That's the first thing you learn, the first thing you're coach tells you, don't leave your feet. He panics and throws the ball behind DeAndre Jordan and out of bounds. Another turnover.
The very next play -- look at this -- he just throws the ball to Draymond Green. I mean, I have no idea what he's thinking about there. That's three bad passes in a little over three minutes in the first quarter.
Arvydas: It's like I been saying all along, Ernunas: Chris Paul needs to impose his will on the game and stay under control. The Clippers have NO CHANCE of winning if he hasn't gotten any better, and he obviously hasn't gotten any better. I think he was just making TV commercials all summer.
Now if you're like me, you're thinking, "What a bunch of Baltic-boneheads. Were they even watching the game? Chris Paul was great last night, and they just cherry-picked three examples of bad plays. What kind of crazy agenda do these guys have that they would ignore the broader flow of the game -- stuff like Paul's actual first half production or the fact that the Clippers were ahead by 13 -- and nitpick a few mistakes?"
Of course, no one on the TNT crew would ever do anything like that, right?
Suffice it to say that Charles Barkley has convinced me at this point that he is a complete idiot. Not only did he deny saying something he said two days earlier on National TV (he knows those things are cameras right... I mean he knows this stuff is being recorded?) but after the game he actually said that he would take Klay Thompson over Stephen Curry if forced to choose. That's really all you need to know about Charles Barkley as an analyst of the sport of basketball -- he thinks Klay Thompson is better than Steph Curry. Basically, we're done here.
I'm beginning to despise the particular subset of basketball pundit I'll call the game-clip analyst. I struggle not to strangle people who want to use the sample size of one or two games to draw conclusions -- these guys are looking at 10 seconds! It would be one thing if they would tie the clip to a broader statistical weakness in the player's game, but most of the time they don't do that. In fact it's amazing how frequently the broader stats directly contradict the game-clip analyst's point (like for instance if you were to point out to Sarunas Marciulionis that Chris Paul consistently leads the league in assist-to-turnover ratio).
Blake Griffin played 19 minutes and 28 seconds in the first half last night. That's 1168 seconds. He scored 10 points on 4-6 shooting and had four rebounds. His team scored 68 first half points and led the game by 13. The Inside the NBA crew showed an eight second clip at halftime -- representing less than seven one thousandths of his total first half court time -- and with those eight seconds supposedly proved to everyone what they already knew to be true, that Griffin stinks and that is stinkitude irrevocably dooms the Clippers. Never mind that Kenny Smith's sloppy language went from "he catches the ball at the three point line" to "he catches the ball almost to the free throw line" when neither was even remotely true -- that didn't stop Charles from referencing "posting up at the three point line" multiple times. It's not difficult to find individual higlights in which players look bad (I found not one but three in the first quarter for Chris Paul): these guys picked a highlight, and then invented things that happened in it, like Griffin catching the ball at the three point line.
The most amazing thing to me about the entire thing is this: the point they were trying to make (at least I think it is, these guys don't always express themselves all that coherently) is that Griffin, by not getting good position and not forcing a double team, was hurting the Clippers offense. Not hurting the Clippers, not hurting their defense -- specifically hurting the Clippers offense, since obviously post up position and forcing a double team occur strictly when the team has the ball.
THE CLIPPERS HAD 68 POINTS AT HALFTIME! DID THEY WANT THE TEAM TO HAVE 80 POINTS? 150 POINTS? IMAGINE IF BLAKE GRIFFIN HADN'T BEEN SO DETRIMENTAL TO THEIR OFFENSE!
OK, I'm done here. You know, Ernunas Johnsilonus may be an idiot, but at least he doesn't think Klay Thompson is better than Steph Curry.