Just a short post and something to watch for when the Sixers take on the Detroit Pistons at the Wach on Wednesday night.
Andre Iguodala's shooting percentage has soared over the past month plus, and I think there's a very tangible reason for it. First, the numbers.
Iguodala Field Goal Percentage by Month:
- November: 41.3% (87/210)
- December: 45.8% (108/236)
- January: 46.2% (110/238)
- February: 44.2% (99/224)
- March: 49.4% (114/231)
- April: 51.1% (24/47)
The obvious answer would be that Andre is taking fewer jumpers and doing more work in the paint and on the break. I don't think that's the case (his 3-pointers attempted have hovered right around 3.5/game each month during the season). Three-point shooting was part of the increase in production for March, he hit 39.6 from downtown in March, by far his best month of the season.
But the point of this post isn't Andre's jumper, it's his drives. When you watch the game tonight, pay special attention to what he does once he gets in the paint. It's a subtle difference from a physical standpoint, but a huge leap in terms of production.
Early in the year, and honestly throughout his career, Iguodala has had the mindset that every time he drove the lane he was going to end up at the line. In fact, it seemed that getting to the line was his only goal. He'd jump into defenders, initiate the contact, and sometimes he'd get the call. The only problem with this method, and probably the reason he didn't get a lot of calls, was that the shot was secondary. He'd throw his body into a big, draw the contact and flip the ball off the backboard wildly almost as an afterthought. I'm sure if you think about it you can easily picture a dozen plays when Andre drove the lane like a freight train, took a hit, threw up a prayer, didn't get a call and scowled at the ref. It was a vicious pattern.
This is where Iguodala has grown. Now, when he goes into the lane, he goes in to score. When he leaves the floor he no longer looks for how to draw the contact, he looks to switch hands, or maneuver his body so he can get the shot off and hit it. This subtle change has actually resulted in more free throws per game for Andre, and more calls. It also has the added bonus of translating into baskets made and a higher FG%. Refs generally don't like to reward guys who look like they're out of control. They sometimes swallow their whistles when a guy throws up a prayer then looks to them to bail him out. Now that Andre is going in there with a purpose, and putting up legitimate shots, he's getting the benefit of the doubt and it's making him a more prolific scorer.
Now, if he can keep up his free throw percentage (80.8% in April), the Sixers will have a scorer to ride in the playoffs. Unfortunately, that's a big if (he only shot 65% in March).
Atlanta got blown out by the Pacers tonight in Indy, moving the Sixers lead over them back to 3.5 games and making an 8th place finish highly unlikely. All the other teams in the playoff race were inactive. Detroit lost, at home, to the Knicks. You'd think that would have them plenty motivated, but they're locked into the #2 seed and only playing their starters about 20-25 minutes. The Sixers need this one if they're going to move up in the standings.