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USA-Turkey: Backup Point Guard- Do We Have a Winner?

Game 2 of the U.S.'s pre-Olympic tuneups. This game- against Turkey- felt a lot more official than the last one, with loud music blaring before the tip and the crowd roaring its approval as LBJ did the powder thing with his hands. Even if China is the clear crowd favorite at Beijing, the U.S. can't be far behind, despite all the anti-American sentiment across the globe. Check my Game One breakdown if you missed it, and on to Game Two! I decided to make one minor change and document Jason Kidd's plays in addition to Paul's and Williams'.

  • Play #1 - For the first four possessions, Kidd doesn't even touch the ball. Finally, on #5, he brings it up. Passes it off and doesn't touch again. JK 0, CP 0, DW 0.
  • Play #2 - Kidd goes for the risky steal on a 2 on 2 fast break. He swipes at the ball and misses, leading to an easy pass and layup. JK -1, CP 0, DW 0.
  • Wow, unrelated but ridiculous- a loud, audible MVP chant for Kobe as he shoots free throws. Wow. I'd better hear the same for Chris Paul... ha.
  • Play #3 - Kidd steals a rebound from a bigger Turkish guy, then tightropes along the baseline to come free. JK 0, CP 0, DW 0.
  • Weird, I got no commentary until 6:00 left in the first. Anyone else that watched have this problem? Great, now I get to listen to the theatricality that is Rick Kamla. But no ads though... and still no sign of Seep or Deew, by the way.
  • Play #4 - Kidd takes the swing pass from LBJ and drills the straightaway three. The most unselfish player on the team attempts his first shot in two games! Yay! JK 1, CP 0, DW 0.
  • Play #5 - Immediate next play, Kidd lazy getting back up the court. His man strolls right underneath the basket and converts and uncontested alley-oop layin. JK 0, CP 0, DW 0.
  • 5:30 - Chris Paul checks in for Kidd, no Deron though.
  • Play #6 - CP goes for the aggressive reach, leading to the opposing PG blowing by him on the wing. Paul is forced to trip him and pick up the foul to prevent penetration. JK 0, CP -1, DW 0.
  • Play #7 - Paul pokes away a Turkish rebound into the hands of Bosh. JK 0, CP 0, DW 0.
  • Williams in at the 3:02 mark.
  • Play #8 - CP with a terrific drive, taking 4 defenders with him before kicking to an open Wade for three. Bricks it. JK 0, CP 1, DW 0.
  • Play #9 - Williams gets the ball in the corner but picks up his dribble there. The trap comes rather quickly, and DWill throws an elbow to free himself up. Offensive. JK 0, CP 1, DW -1. At this point, Turkey is winning by three.
  • Play #9 (again): Scratch that. For some reason it was called a defensive foul, but it should've been offensive. Same score.
  • Play #10 -  Paul draws another offensive foul with close defense. Turkey's back-up PG doesn't look too impressive. JK 0, CP 2, DW -1. Fran Fraschilla (Franchilla?) just called CP a "feisty bugger."
  • Play #11 - Carmelo brings it up as Chris Paul asks him for the ball (to dribble up). Carmelo refuses, brings it up-court, then promptly throws it out of bounds. CP yells at him all the way back.
  • End 1. Horrible defensive performance by the U.S. after 1, giving up 30 points to a Turkish squad lacking its best player- Hedo. The three point guards haven't done so hot either, with a total of 3 points, 0 assists between them.
  • Play #12 - Start 2, Paul to Howard for the Slam Dunk. JK 0, CP 3, DW -1.
  • Play #13 - Great defense by Williams, who contains a driving Turkish player (wish I knew some of the names). He forces a travel. JK 0, CP 3, DW 0.
  • Play #14 - CP3 to Howard up top for the Alley Oop Slam Dunk. JK 0, CP 4, DW 0.
  • Play #15 - CP up ahead to Wade for a wide open layup, which he inexplicably misses. He taps it in immediately after, but thanks for denying Paul the assist... JK 0, CP 5, DW 0.
  • Play #16 - No stopping Chris Paul- sprints back up court, shreds a defender before crossing another one and drawing the foul. JK 0, CP 6, DW 0. If you're wondering why no Deron points in a while, it's because he literally hasn't touched it for the last 7-8 possessions.
  • At 7:03, Paul is replaced by Kidd. So this is the first Deron-Jason lineup we've seen from Coach K in two games.
  • Play #17 - Steal by Williams who alertly runs in between two bigs defensively. JK 0, CP 6, DW 1.
  • Play #18 - That steal fuels a fast break as Williams runs back up court, finds LBJ, who finds Kobe Bryant for the easy deuce. Score another for DWill. JK 0, CP 6, DW 2.
  • Williams leaves the floor right as he makes two nice plays. What the hell Coach K? 5 minutes of straight Kidd upcoming.
  • Play #19 - Kidd tries to back door a pass to Kobe. It's picked off easily. JK -1, CP 6, DW 2.
  • Play #20 - Kidd throws it away again as he tries to force to Kobe. You got 3 other All-Stars on the court buddy... JK -2, CP 6, DW 2.
  • Chris Paul back in for Kidd, mercifully.
  • Play #21 - Turnover for Kobe leading to a 1 on 0 fast break for Turkey. But wait! Chris Paul comes out of nowhere, sprinting all the way up the court to force a badly misses layup! An all hustle play. JK -2, CP 7, DW 2.
  • Play #22 - Paul can't catch a pass on the baseline, resulting in a turnover. Not sure who the turnover is officially scored for- the passer or Paul- but CP looks pretty mad at himself. That means I should probably score against him. JK -2, CP 6, DW 2.
  • Play #23 - Paul misses a wide open three, but hustles hard to snatch an offensive rebound right out of the hands of a big Turkish dude. JK -2, CP 7, DW 2.
  • Play #24 - Same play- falling out of bounds, Paul finds LBJ underneath the hoop, who touch passes to Dwight Howard for the HUGE throwdown. JK -2, CP 8, DW 2.
  • Haha, LBJ has been the one guy who's refused to give it to Paul to bring up court all game. CP's asked him for the ball every single time. Finally, LBJ pulls up short of half court and hands it over to Paul.
  • Play #25 - Smart decision. Paul blazes by two Turkish defenders and coasts in for the layup. JK -2, CP 9, DW 2.
  • The US by 17 at halftime after a mere 1 point lead after 1.
  • Play #26 - On the first play of the 3rd, solid closeout by Jason Kidd to force a missed Turk three point attempt. JK -1, CP 9, DW 2.
  • Play #27 - Beautiful pass by Kidd to the baseline. Quite possibly the best pass any US player has yet made. Kidd finds LBJ baseline who gives up to Howard for the dunk. Should've been JKidd's dime. JK 0, CP 9, DW 2.
  • Play #28 - Immediate next play, Kidd tosses the basketball out of bounds. JK -1, CP 9, DW 2.
  • 6:00 - CP is again the first point guard off the bench as Jason Kidd takes an early seat.
  • Play #29 - Paul goes up way high and snatches a rebound out of the air from a 7 footer. JK -1, CP 10, DW 2.
  • Play #30 - Right after pulling down the board, he throws a bullet pass all the way up the court to LBJ, who finds Kobe streaking to the hoop. Kobe goes up like he's gonna lay-in reverse, and somehow hangs in the air long enough to dunk it. Not CP's assist, but he set up the dunk. JK -1, CP 11, DW 2.
  • Play #31 - Paul with the steal and gets fouled at half-court. JK -1, CP 12, DW 2.
  • Play #32 - CP 2 for 2 at the line. JK -1, CP 13, DW 2.
  • Play #33 - LBJ the steal, then hands it off to Paul. CP pretends like he's slowing up the pace before rifling a pass up court to James for the throwdown. U.S. pulling away big time. JK -1, CP 14, DW 2.
  • Play #34 - Paul goes coast to coast, sprinkling in a little behind the back dribble on the way. He finishes with his trademark one hand floater in the lane. ESPN cuts to Jason Kidd and Deron Williams standing up and applauding on the bench. JK -1, CP 15, DW 2.
  • Williams comes to the scorer's table to check in, makes it halfway up the court, and even high-fives Paul (to replace him)... and then Tayshuan Prince comes sprinting out instead. Still no Deron.
  • Never mind, DWill was just waiting for Kobe to finish his trip to the free throw line. We have the CP3-DWill backcourt look once again.
  • Play #35 - Paul with another tough rebound in traffic. JK -1, CP 16, DW 2.
  • Play #36 - CP up ahead for Dwyane Wade, who heads to the free throw stripe. JK -1, CP 17, DW 2.
  • Play #37 - Paul tries to split a double team but dribbles off his own knee. It's his first negative play in quite some time. JK -1, CP 16, DW 2.
  • Play #38 - Williams crosses over twice, draws an extra defender, and kicks to Chris Paul in the corner for the triple. Bottom. JK -1, CP 17, DW 3.
  • End 3. The Fourth quarter starts with the Deron-only look; both Kidd and Paul are on the bench.
  • Play #39 - Williams nearly completes a great pass down the baseline, but the ball skips out of bounds first. JK -1, CP 17, DW 2.
  • Play #40 - DWill starts up court before giving up to Dwyane Wade. Wade takes two dribbles from the three point line to the hoop, schooling three guys in the process and throwing it down at the end. JK -1, CP 17, DW 3.
  • Play #41 - Williams with a pretty drive to the hoop, leaving for Bosh for the three point play. JK -1, CP 17, DW 4.
  • Play #42 - Another really nice move from DWill, who's taking over offensively. Drives to the hoop, makes a fake behind the back pass to nobody, before flipping up and in. JK -1, CP 17, DW 5.
  • Play #43 - On the defensive end, Turkey's point guard blows by Williams and sets up free throws for his teammate. JK -1, CP 17, DW 4. On a related note, I think DWill looks a ton like a mini-version of Vince Carter in the 2000 Olympics. Slightly more hair than normal and a beard. By the way, that's Williams' first negative defensive play of the night. Considering we're halfway through the fourth, that's quite impressive.
  • Play #44 - Chris Paul checks in again (Williams stays in too) and immediately assists Michael Redd on an 18-foot jumper. JK -1, CP 18, DW 4.
  • Play #45 - DWill and Carlos Boozer re-enact a Stockton/Malone pick and roll. Boozer can't finish, but a nice pass from Williams nonetheless. JK -1, CP 18, DW 5.
  • Play #46 - Chris Paul with a no look feed to Chris Bosh underneath the hoop. JK -1, CP 19, DW 5.
  • Play #47 - Paul with a drive and finds Williams underneath the hoop. DWill promptly gives it to Boozer, who misses an easy layup despite the foul. The play was set up by CP, so he gets the points. JK -1, CP 20, DW 5.
  • Play #48 - Paul finds Williams on the baseline; Deron goes up for the layup/dunk thingy. JK -1, CP 21, DW 6.
  • Play #49 - Chris Paul threads the needle for yet another Dwight Howard throwdown. JK -1, CP 22, DW 6.
  • Play #50 - Williams the penetration and the dish to Howard. D-Ho finds Boozer for the dunk, but score a "non-assist" assist for Deron. JK -1, CP 22, DW 7.
  • Play #51 - Williams with another great feed, this time to Chris Paul. CP3 drills his second triple of the game, straightaway. JK -1, CP 23, DW 8.
  • Play #52 - Paul tries to be fancy on a fastbreak with under a minute to go, but his pass to Carlos Boozer is picked off. JK -1, CP 22, DW 8.
  • Play #53 - Shot clock turned off. Chris Paul dribbles near half-court, appearing to ready himself for one final drive to the rim, maybe something similar to how he ended the third quarter of Game 3. 15 seconds, 10 seconds, suspense building... and then Turkey's PG comes up and extends his hand in congratulations. So no highlight reel finish in Macau.

This game might mark a huge turning point in the CP-Deron battle. For starters, Chris Paul played the point guard pretty much exclusively while on the court with Williams. As I mentioned about Game 1, the two split point guard duties more or less evenly, but in this game, it was all CP3. He checked in ahead of Williams both times that Kidd went out. He played more minutes (24) than either Deron (20) or JKidd (12). He got more touches than both Deron and JKidd combined. He was the primary defender of the opposing point guard, regardless of if Deron or JKidd were on the floor with him. Those are three very convincing pieces of evidence that Coach K might already have made his decision. Fran Fraschilla made the point that even though Williams came in about 3 minutes after Paul, "by putting one guy in first, you're subconsciously saying that he's [the] backup."

Very interesting. Of course, Coach K could just be messing with us and could replace Paul with Williams tomorrow. Who knows.

Another point is the impact of LBJ on the point guard play. You'll notice that in Game 1, I listed 56 "plays" for Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Since I counted Kidd's plays as well today, you'd expect that number to go up. Instead, it dropped to 53. I attribute that solely to Lebron James' return to the lineup. I mentioned in the bullet points that Paul repeatedly asked LBJ for the ball to bring up, but when James was on the court, he was pretty much the de facto point guard. Other than James though, Paul brought the ball up court far more than anyone else. For instance, I counted that out of the 14 possessions during which Kidd was on the court in the 1st quarter, he brought the ball up a paltry 3 times. Meanwhile, most U.S. players were looking to find CP immediately after grabbing rebounds. In fact, Deron Williams got a long rebound in the 4th. Instead of heading up court, he turned around to give it up to Paul.

A more in-depth breakdown of the scoring:

# of... Chris Paul Deron Williams Jason Kidd
Positive Offensive Plays 19 9 2
Negative Offensive Plays 3 2 3
Positive Defensive Plays 7 2 2
Negative Defensive Plays 1 1 2

After 17 positive offensive plays against Canada, CP finished with 19 today. Williams, meanwhile, dropped from 15 to 9. Defensively, both Paul and Williams finished one shy of their positive defensive contributions of the last game (7 and 2 instead of 8 and 3). The USA team had its share of defensive struggles, but once again the defensive work from the point guards was top notch. It's Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh that need to tighten up their defensive efforts, not Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

Other odds and ends: Rick Kamla made a funny point about DWill- he looks like his heels never touch the ground because he's always on the balls of his feet. I'll have to look for that next time... The KG rule was in full effect- the one  where Garnett jumps up to reject any shots after the whistle. LBJ and Dwight Howard both performed their duties well... the leading scorer in this contest wasn't a US player, but rather C. Akyol of Turkey (22).