Rashard Lewis was well on his way to owning his third Player of the Week nod, until he damaged his finger. How far along was he? Well, our final winner was still in second place behind Lewis in key categories before Saturday's game, and Lewis only played a couple of minutes in that game. It took our final winner two games of Rashard sitting in order to pass Lewis in the rankings.
Because I am cramming two topics into this article I'll get right to the point...in fact it is the player at the point who is the point of the first topic today. Luke Ridnour took advantage of Lewis' injury to put forth the best performance of the week. He led the team in scoring, assists as well as providing value in a number of areas. The best part of this has been that Luke has not fallen off as Watson has found his stride which would not bode well for the team. He has shown more offensive aggression this year than in years past, and it shows in his stats, offering up his best scoring of his NBA career, 5 points above his career average and 3 over last year's numbers in similar minutes. His three point (+ .124 points) and overall shooting percentages (+.052 points) are up from last year, offering his best numbers ever in those areas. The one offensive concern is the significant drop in free throw percentage this year, dropping .114 points.
Luke's Numbers for the Week
#1 combined value stats: 84 (Lewis had 71)
#1 scoring: 76 at 18% of the team's total (Lewis had 61)
#1 Help Value: 39 (Lewis had 31)
#1 Assists: 30 at 36% of the team's total (Watson had 16)
# 1 Steals: 6 (tied with Watson)
He shot 52% from the field, with an eFG% of 33%. He ended the week with +2 despite playing in only one winning game in the week. Chris Wilcox was the only other player to play in all four games to put up positive numbers in +/- (he had +25).
The Sonics will need continued aggressive offense from Luke as they play the next two months without Lewis.
Tonight the Sonics face New Orleans/Oklahoma City for the second time this month. Little has changed for the Hornets since our last preview. Stojakovic and West are still out leaving the Hornets challenged on the front line. The Sonics have a chance to once again dominate the boards. With Danny in the lineup we can look forward to less penetration by Chris Paul, at least when Danny is on the floor. Last time these teams played each other the Hornets shot very poorly and the Sonics shot better than average. This combined with a LOT of steals leading to forced turnovers won the game for the Sonics. They need to exert the same pressure to weaken the heart of a young, injured team on the road and take control of the game early. The early start against Toronto proved the difference, and the same should be true of an early lead against the Hornets. The Sonics need every win they can manufacture, so let's hope the Sonics concentrate on that early lead and practice maintaining it better this time.