Ray Allen Through Five Games

by Blake Murphy 6. November 2012 15:00

It’s early in the season, of course, but it’s never too early for an exercise in Small Sample Size Theatre.

One of the elements I’ve found most interesting to start the year is how the Miami Heat have seamlessly integrated their new players into the fold. After The Big Three took a year to mesh, and then Mike Miller never found his niche, it’s been interesting to see Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen slide into their roles without issue.

Lewis has repaired some of the reputational damage done by a season and a half of lazy, uninspired basketball in Washington, and despite minutes and shot totals that are likely an adjustment for him, he has settled in as an efficient bench player. He’s shooting 50% from the field and from long range, and he’s helping out with assists and rebounds at a greater clip than he had in the past few seasons with the Magic and Wizards.

More interesting to me, however, has been the emergence of Allen as the premier sixth man of the year candidate in the very early going. Allen’s minutes are down from his time in Boston, but his scoring, rebounding, and assists are all trending upwards in rate and counting terms. His 15.5-3.5-3.8 Points-Rebounds-Assists line would be the first time he averaged 15-3.5-3.5 since his final season in Seattle. Again, this is four games, but that’s impressive given the drop in minutes from the 35-range down to 28.5 a night.

Beyond the jump in assist and rebound rates, Allen has been scoring at a more efficient clip, too. This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, since his teammates on the Heat command a bit more respect than his teammates from Boston, making him less of a defensive focus. His 80.1% True Shooting Percentage is insane if projected over a full season, he’s connecting on 60% of his threes, and, as mentioned, chipping in in other ways to boot.

But it’s not just the Heat helping Allen. Miami scores a ridiculous 144 points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor (overall the team is at 117.4) while hardly losing anything defensively.

Has this just been a hot streak to start the year? Almost certainly. But Allen’s deployment in the Heat offense is slightly different than his time with the Celtics. The table below shows his shooting marks from different areas on the floor, as well as what rate of those shots had assists. Not surprisingly, 100% of Allen’s three-point shots have been assisted on, and 20 of his 33 attempts have come from long range.

The trend towards a higher ratio of his attempts coming from long range is a continuation of what we’ve seen from Allen in the later years of his career. The NBA’s all-time leading three point shooter has taken a greater chunk of his shots from threes as his career has progressed.

Again, it’s certainly not a surprise to see Allen performing more efficiently in a more complementary role. However, the success so far has been striking, with Allen merging seamlessly into the fold of the Heat offense. The rates won’t sustain, but the impact very well might. The Heat are good for Allen, and Allen is good for the Heat.

Bookmark and Share DotnetKicks dotnetshoutout

The Mavericks and Pythagorean Wins

by Matt Scribbins 21. June 2011 08:33

You can follow Matt Scribbins on twitter @mattscribbins

 Pythagorean wins

A great predictor of NBA playoff success is regular season point differential. The key word is predictor, and sometimes predictions are wrong. If you are a believer in the wonders of point differentials, Dallas just became one of the most improbable championship teams since 1990.

Pythagorean wins is a wonderful statistic that converts scoring differentials into a predicted win-loss record. The statistic can show, among other things, teams that over/under perform, win/lose numerous close games, or just experience good/bad luck.

The 2011 Dallas Mavericks were a team who dominated in close games, and their Finals opponent was lambasted all season for their perceived inability to do the same. The Mavericks’ scoring differential indicated they should have won 53 games, and Miami’s differential indicated they should have won 61. In reality, the Mavs won 57 games, and the Heat won 58.

I went through the data from every Finals matchup since 1990 to highlight some trends:

1990 - 2010  (excluding 1999)

 

Champs

2nd Place

AVG Actual Wins

60.2

56.95

AVG P Wins

59.75

56.85

 *1999 is omitted due to shortened season*

2010-2011 Regular Season

 

Miami

Dallas

Actual Wins

58

57

P Wins

61

53

The Mavericks finished with four fewer Pythagorean wins than the average 2nd place team, and the Heat outdid the average champion by one Pythagorean win.  Clearly, the Heat matched more closely the profile of teams that hoisted the trophy, and the Mavericks had a profile similar to a runner-up. In fact, the 1997 Utah Jazz, who lost in the Finals to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, are the only runner-up to post more Pythagorean wins than the 2011 Miami Heat.


To the Overachievers Go the Spoils

Biggest Differences

 

Winner

Loser

P Wins

1995

Houston

Orlando

-12

2011

Dallas

Miami

-8

1994

Houston

New York

-7

2006

Miami

Dallas

-6

 The two recent series between the Mavericks and Heat crowned the team who actually had considerably fewer Pythagorean wins. The only other recent champions to record fewer Pythagorean wins than their Finals opponent are the ’94 and ’95 Rockets and the ’01 Lakers. The Rockets repeat team actually posted the fewest actual wins (47) and Pythagorean wins (47) of any champion since 1990.

 

They Did it Their Way

Rank Among Champs (1990-2011)

Actual Wins

15*

P Wins

17*

O Rating

9*

D Rating

19

EFG%

2

TOV%

14*

ORB%

23

FTR

14

OPP EFG%

18*

OPP TOV%

19*

DEF REB%

3

OPP FTR

9

 

* Indicates tie

The chart paints a fairly clear picture: the Mavericks were one of the most successful shooting teams in recent history. EFG% is considered the most important of Dean Oliver’s Four Factors, and the Mavericks were utterly dominant by this measure. The aforementioned ‘95 Rockets were the only unit to shoot better than the ‘11 Mavericks. Conversely, the defense for Dallas ranked just 18th among recent champions in opponents’ EFG%.

The Mavericks found themselves in the latter half of the pack in other important categories too (offensive rating, defensive rating, TOV%, etc.). However, rule changes and styles of play make some comparisons less than ideal.

 

Everything is Bigger in Texas

Year

Team

Margin

2003

Spurs

10

1994

Rockets

8

2011

Mavericks

7

 

Next, let’s take a look at Pythagorean win – actual win margin. The Mavericks exceeded their Pythagorean win total by four victories, and the Heat fell three games short of their Pythagorean win total (4- -3 = 7).

The only two champions since 1990 to experience a larger positive margin represent the other points of the Texas Triangle. The 2003 Spurs had three more actual wins than Pythagorean wins, and their Finals opponent, New Jersey, had seven fewer. In 1994, the Rockets had five more actual wins than Pythagorean wins, and their opponent, the Knicks, fell short of their Pythagorean win total by three games. 

Margin doesn’t appear to tell us very much as 11 champions since 1990 have had a positive number. The largest negative margin (-9) belongs to the 2004 Detroit Pistons, who crushed the Lakers quest for a four-peat. The Lakers outperformed their Pythagorean record by four victories, and the Pistons underperformed theirs by five wins.

 

“Houston, we have a lot in common.”

The 1995 Houston Rockets and the 2011 Dallas Mavericks shared many characteristics during their championship season. Both Texas teams featured underrated foreign superstars and faced a Finals opponent that had a significantly better scoring differential. Also, they prevailed in the Finals over teams from Florida that featured all-time great players in the midst of their peaks.

 

O Rating

EFG%

OPP EFG%

OPP TOV%

OPP FTR

2011 Mavs

109.7

0.525

0.488

0.130

0.206

1995 Rockets

109.7

0.529

0.489

0.139

0.199

The Mavericks made their money by making a historic percentage of their shots, but the ’95 Rockets are the only champion who manufactured a better EFG% during their regular season.

Do you remember the Mavericks relatively poor performance in opponents EFG%? Well, the Rockets were one of the only recent champions to post an inferior percentage.

 

Hoarders: NBA Edition

Scoring differential (Pythagorean wins) has historically predicted winners of the NBA Finals at an extremely high rate. Additionally, teams with a great record in close games have met their Waterloo before grabbing the trophy. In 2011, these scenarios were reversed and a team with a superb scoring margin was beat by a group who consistently eked out close victories.

We can speculate about some factors that probably influenced the Mavericks record in close games. For example, it is not uncommon during the regular season to see talented teams coast through 43 minutes of a game and then turn on the jets to shatter an inferior opponent (just watch the Timberwolves). Games like these would result in a win for Dallas, but the margin of victory would not reflect their true talent level. Reducing a game to five minutes of fury seems like a risky strategy, but it may be a sage, energy saving approach for a veteran team like Dallas.

Using the championship teams as a point of reference, let’s examine records in games decided by two points or fewer since the Mavericks Finals appearance in 2006.

Games Decided by 2 Points or Fewer (07-11)

 

Win

Loss

Win %

Mavericks

32

14

69.6%

Spurs

21

15

58.3%

Lakers

20

20

50.0%

Celtics

21

26

44.7%

It seems like the Mavericks have consistently won games in situations where other teams’ fates are basically decided by the flip of a coin. How did they do it?

The Mavericks appeared to utilize unprecedented information to build their title team. Mark Cuban said on his blog on October 10, 2010:

“The input of numbers into building a team is diminishing and being displaced by non traditional qualitative factors (…) You can try to understand both coaching and chemistry, and we continue to experiment with new ways to do so, but you can’t quantify either (...) Of course there are other elements that we are rapidly expanding at the Mavs that go into our team-building methodology, but I’m keeping all that to myself.”

He really is. Henry Abbot’s recent post on Truehoop discussed three vital members of the Mavericks staff (assistant coach, psychologist, and analyst). Roland Beech, the team’s analyst and founder of 82games.com, frequently discusses strategy with the coaching staff and even gets the privilege of sitting behind the bench during games. As influential as Beech is, the team’s psychologist and unheralded assistant coach may have equally impactful roles.

The Mavericks reached the mountain top with a progressive route, and it is a sure bet that other NBA teams will try to emulate their strategy. We don’t know for sure what the Mavericks do behind the scenes, but a championship banner in American Airlines Center will prove their efforts were worthwhile.

Bookmark and Share DotnetKicks dotnetshoutout

Dirk +23, Without Dirk -31

by Jeff Fogle 6. June 2011 00:11

In the 20 minutes that Dirk Nowitzki has been on the bench resting during the NBA Championships, the Dallas Mavericks have been outscored by 31 points. In the 124 minutes that he played, Dallas has outscored the Miami Heat by 23 points. As strong as Miami has looked earning a big riding time advantage through three games, they're WAY down when Dirk is on the floor.

Here's the breakdown in plus-minuses so far from the Dallas perspective:
Game One: with Dirk -2, without Dirk -6
Game Two: with Dirk +13, without Dirk -11
Game Three: with Dirk +12, without Dirk -14

Because Nowitzki finishes every game unless he's fouled out, we've developed a pattern where the Mavericks fall behind during his rest time...then spend the fourth quarter trying to climb back to equality. They successfully rallied to equality in Games Two and Three, with coin flip endings splitting out one apiece to each team.

It's amazing how quickly the Dirk-less collapses are happening. Nowitzki only missed six minutes of Game Two, but the Mavs dropped like a rock in that spell. Again tonight, six minutes of rest, but an even worse fall. Miami was 25 points better than Dallas in the equivalent of a quarter over Games Two and Three. Imagine a 35-10 quarter, or 40-15. That's Miami vs. Dallas without Dirk these last two games (next day edit...had a chance to go through the play-by-play to get the exact result...I'm showing 40-15, so that turned out to be a good guess).

A typical quarter with Dirk in those two games was a win of about 6.5 points for Dallas.

Postgame media coverage made a point of emphasizing that he needs scoring help. Be careful jumping to conclusions that it's the starters who are letting him down. The bench has played so well in the postseason that they're starting to get the benefit of the doubt when they don't deserve it. Look at the bench plus/minus tonight (expanded boxscore is here):

Peja Stojakovic: -11 in just 6 minutes
Ian Mahinmi: -6 in just 8 minutes
Jason Terry: -6 in 32 minutes
Jose Juan Barea: +3 in 19 minutes

Barea had a horrible stretch late in the first quarter that helped dig a hole, but did contribute despite poor shooting in the rally that fell short. He ended up on the plus side of the ledger.

By now, you've probably heard or read it mentioned often that the Dallas bench outscored the Miami bench in Game Three. Let's take a look at that. They did outscore them because they took eight extra shots. The Dallas bench didn't outshoot them.

Bench Shooting Percentages
Dallas: 8 of 24 (33%, including 2 of 9 on treys)
Miami: 7 of 16 (44%, including 4 of 7 on treys)

Miami's bench won rebounds (11-8) despite playing fewer minutes and won turnovers (3-5). It all added up to a very clear win for the Miami bench in terms of plus/minus.

Miami's Bench Plus/Minuses
Juwan Howard: +6 in 6 minutes
Mario Chalmers: +6 in 29 minutes
Udonis Haslem: +5 in 29 minutes
Mike Miller: +4 in 12 minutes

Dwyane Wade had a stellar 29 point, 11 rebound game, but the Heat were outscored by one when he was on the floor because so much of his time came when Nowitzki was also on the floor. Chris Bosh hit the eventual game winner, and won a gut-check award for playing most of the night after taking a finger to the eye. He had to keep his head bowed in the postgame interview with Hannah Storm because of the bright lights. Miami was outscored by 10 points when Bosh was on the floor.

MIAMI 88, DALLAS 86
2-point pct: Miami 44%, Dallas 41%
3-pointers: Miami 8/19, Dallas 8/21
Free Throws: Miami 12/15, Dallas 22/27
Rebounds: Miami 36, Dallas 42
Turnovers: Miami 10, Dallas 14
1's and 2's: Miami 64, Dallas 62

I'm afraid you're going to read a lot of coverage about how Miami turned their fortunes around by re-focusing on attacking the basket. After launching an out of character 30 three-point attempts in Game Two, they cut that down to 19 in Game Three. A quick reality check:

*Miami lost a two-point game the other night that was tied in the final minute. They won a two-point game tonight that was tied in the final minute. That's not exactly a dramatic change.

*Unless you're into measuring production to the thousandths of a point, there was no difference between Game Two and Game Three scoring once you adjust for possessions...

Miami scored 1.0219 points per possession in Game Two
Miami scored 1.0232 points per possession in Game Three

They didn't "fix" what was wrong. They just got to the same level of production by a different path.

*They reduced their three-point launches by 11, and increased their two-point launches by 16. Here's what it got them...

25 of 43 on two-pointers in Game Two
26 of 59 on two-pointers in Game Three

One extra deuce on 16 extra tries. Miami played smarter down the stretch, when they NEEDED a basket. But, in the big picture, they traded misses on treys for misses on twos.

*Aha, you're thinking. What about free throws? Maybe they earned a lot more trips to the line because they were attacking the basket!

16 of 24 on free throws in Game Two
12 of 15 on free throws in Game Three

They went to the basket less often, even after you adjust for a slower game (a drop from 91 to 86 possessions).

So...if you're under the belief that the postgame storyline should be Miami regaining control of the series by "imposing its will" with an inside attack...and that Dirk Nowitzki was let down by his starting teammates...hopefully this brief run through will help set the record straight.

Game Three was basically a replay of Game Two with a slightly smaller comeback from Dallas at a slightly slower tempo. Then, Miami scored the late tie-breaker instead of Dallas. Both teams are playing great defense. It's Nowitzki who's most able to "impose his will" on the series. He just can't do it for 48 minutes a night, and the team is falling apart when he's not on the floor.

Some quick stat notes before we call it a night...

*Dallas fixed its problem allowing offensive boards to Miami that was such an issue in Game One. They allowed 16 in an 8-point loss in the series opener. They only allowed 6 and 9 in the two coin flips.

*Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea aren't providing much scoring from the point guard position despite getting many opportunities to do so. Kidd was 3 of 8 tonight after going 2 of 7 Thursday. Barea was 2 of 8 tonight after going 2 of 7 on Thursday. (See what I mean about these being very similar games?! Dirk was 11 of 21 tonight after going 10 of 22 on Thursday. Dwyane Wade was 12 of 21 tonight, 13 of 20 on Thursday)

*Dallas has lost turnovers 18-12 and 14-10 in the two coin flips, suggesting that they still have a chance to win the series if they can just clean up some of their passing. Important to remember though that "forced turnovers" in basketball tells you a lot about a defense. Miami is creating a lot of those miscues.

*Miami has completely neutralized what was expected to be an edge for Dallas behind the three-point line in this series. Miami is 11-9-8 in makes. Dallas is 9-6-8. Both teams are shooting 38% from long range.

*Dallas has won free throws in every game in terms of makes, and has attempted 15 more from the charity stripe to this point.

See you again Tuesday near midnight with numbers and notes from Game Four. Want to clarify something from the Game Two post. I talked about some "tick issues" on the play-by-play rundowns. Henry Abbott of TrueHoop reminded me that there can be time between possessions where nobody has the ball but the clock is still running. Sometimes obvious things like that don't occur to you when you're writing at midnight! Thanks to Henry (and all of you) for reading and helping me get the record straight...

Bookmark and Share DotnetKicks dotnetshoutout

Dallas Daunted

by Jeff Fogle 1. June 2011 00:28

One game does not a series make. But, it's very clear that the Dallas Mavericks have a truly daunting task in front of them as they try to win four times in the maximum six remaining games against the favored Miami Heat in the NBA Finals...

Let's start with the numbers.

MIAMI 92, DALLAS 84
2-point pct: Dallas 36%, Miami 36%
3-pointers: Dallas 9/22, Miami 11/24
Free Throws: Dallas 25/32, Miami 19/26
Rebounds: Dallas 36, Miami 46
Turnovers: Dallas 11, Miami 10
1's and 2's: Dallas 57, Miami 59

If you're looking at this from the Dallas perspective, where's the good news?

*The defense did a great job inside the arc. Miami has one of the most dangerous internal offenses ever put together. The Mavericks held them to 20 of 56 shooting on two's. And they lost anyway!

*The offense made nine three-pointers, and shot 41% from behind the arc...which is the equivalent of 61% on two-pointers (with rounding). You do that in a grinder game like this, and you're supposed to get the win. Miami was an even better 11 of 24 (46%, 69% equivalent!). You pulled the ace that was up your sleeve and the other guy pulled two from his!

*The concern about offensive rebounds expressed in the comments section of our preview article turned out to be prescient (if you still can't read that in explorer please try using firefox or a different browser). Dallas would only grab 6 offensive boards themselves against the stellar Miami defense (compared to 30 defensive rebounds for Miami...yielding an offensive rebound rate of 16.7 for the Mavs). Miami snared 16 offensive rebounds because it's easy to crash the boards against a zone. Miami's offensive rebound rate was 34.8.

*The refs didn't show any sort of "favor the home team" tendency in terms of free throws awarded. Dallas was +6 in makes and attempts. Is that likely to happen very often the rest of the way? LeBron James barely tried to attack the basket (just 2 of 2 on free throws). If you assume that free throws will mostly even out over the series, this is more bad news for the Mavs. They couldn't win with +6. They'll have to win four times in short order without that kind of advantage.

Sure, there were some players on Dallas who are likely to shoot better. Miami can play that game too.

*J.J. Barea was a jittery 1 of 8 from the floor. Many of those were rushed shots where he was looking over his shoulder or left and right to brace himself for contact. He'll probably find his footing in future games. Chris Bosh was 5 of 18 for Miami, missing several close in shots he usually makes (granting that Dallas was doing what they could to make it difficult for him). Both guys are likely to improve their production in a way that will probably cancel out, and might even favor Miami. Bosh is much more likely to have a really big game than Barea is.

*Jason Terry was 3 of 10 from the floor. It's tempting to assume he'll bounce back. The problem is...he's been going about 3 of 10 for five games in a row now! From Game Two of OKC through tonight, Terry was 3 of 9, 3 of 12, 7 of 19, 3 of 9, and 3 of 10...for a combined 19 of 59 from the field. He may not bounce back. If he does, Miami guards Mike Bibby and Mike Miller are due to go better than the 2 of 9 they went tonight.

*Dirk Nowitzki either had a subpar shooting game at 7 of 18, or showed he isn't "unstoppable" against a very good defense. It's hard to call 27 points and 8 rebounds against Miami a bad night. Miami wasn't afraid of him. Let's put it that way. Dirk is great. Miami's great defense respects him, but isn't afraid of him. LeBron James was 9 of 16, and you felt like he was holding something in reserve in terms of really attacking the basket until it was needed. It wasn't needed tonight but might be later. Either Dirk or LeBron can have bigger games. Is Dirk going to have FOUR bigger games while LeBron has just two?

There are adjustments still to be made, and all sorts of monkey wrenches that could come into play with injuries, emotions, and surprises off the bench that one team or the other hadn't anticipated. Right now though, it's hard to see where Dallas breaks through to counteract what happened tonight.

Miami can hit treys over the zone. Miami can drive through openings if the defense comes out to protect the arc. You probably noticed Miami put a guy in the baseline trey sweet spot several times and dared Dallas to get there (an analytics taunt!). Trey performance in the earlier rounds showed Dallas dropping off after a strong opening vs. Portland and OKC. They had their strong opening and couldn't win.

Daunting indeed. Back late Thursday with numbers and notes from Game Two...

Bookmark and Share DotnetKicks dotnetshoutout

NBA Championship Preview

by Jeff Fogle 30. May 2011 16:07

The Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat take the floor Tuesday night to start the 2011 NBA Finals. Both teams have shown offensive versatility and defensive creativity to get this far. Both teams feature players who will go down among the all-time greats in the game. Only one team, though, will get to lift the Larry O'Brien trophy several days from now. Let’s run through the possibilities…

Looking at things from an “outside the arc/inside the arc” perspective has been helpful through the postseason. You could make the case that Dallas has been so dominant because of their advantages from long range.

Made Treys:
Dallas 46, Portland 30
Dallas 49, LA Lakers 15 (!!)
Dallas 38, Oklahoma City 22

Miami is such a potent force inside the arc on both sides of the ball that they’ve basically pounded Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago into submission.

Miami’s Series Differentials on 1’s and 2’s:
+49 points vs. Philadelphia
+46 points vs. Boston
+44 points vs. Chicago

All of those Miami matchups went five games. So, the Heat were about +9 to +10 points on average per game inside the arc. Defensively, they guarded the arc well enough to discourage opponents from trumping them with treys.

We could stop right there and just say it’s the outside game of Dallas vs. the inside game of Miami with a good chance of pegging the proceedings. The problems with that are:

*Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas is obviously a force inside the arc. So…it’s not like this is a David vs. Goliath series where Dallas has to hope they hit 15 treys per game to win.

*Miami is capable of making treys if they need to. They’ve had success attacking the basket to such a degree so far that they haven’t been trying as many treys as others. Should Dallas find a way to take the inside game away, a Miami team that averaged more than 6.5 treys per game in the regular season can certainly at least hang in the neighborhood with Dallas from long range.

*Both of these coaches have been very creative defensively in the playoffs. And, the talent has been very passionate about executing that creativity. We’re talking about two SMART teams who BADLY want to win championships this year (with Nowitzki and Jason Kidd of Dallas realizing that time is running out for Dallas, while LeBron James wants to finally "get on the board" in his quest for history). Miami’s defense isn’t going to sit idly by and watch Dallas nail trey after trey. Dallas isn’t going to cower in a shell while Miami dunks on their heads. The “chess in sneakers” element of this series could make things very interesting indeed.

I’ll still use the “outside the arc/inside the arc” framework. I’ll use those headers to look at an overlooked stat or two (or three) that I didn't see mentioned in the multiple series previews that I read over the weekend. 

OUTSIDE THE ARC


Dallas has more scary threats from behind the arc than Miami does. You have to assume Dallas is going to win long range scoring until reality changes any minds.  That being said, check out these percentages from the last round...

Three-Point Shooting in Conference Finals
Miami: 34% (20 of 58)
Dallas: 33% (38 of 116)

The barrage that buried the LA Lakers largely disappeared. Oklahoma City was able to disrupt what Dallas wanted to do from behind the arc as the Western Conference Finals progressed. In fact, Dallas was just 29 of 93 in the last four games (28%). Miami’s not going to be in tears if Dallas is going 7 of 21 or 8 of 25 on treys.

We talked about the Lakers being “giraffes” and the Thunder being “gazelles” in terms of athleticism guarding the arc. Dallas only shot 33% against the gazelles. Miami’s a lot closer to being gazelles than giraffes on defense.
 
I also noticed something that may or may not be an issue. Dallas showed signs of fatigue on their long shots the deeper a series went. That was never an issue against slow-footed Los Angeles in a sweep.

Dallas versus Portland
27 of 60 in first three games (45%!)
19 of 61 in last three games (31%)

Dallas versus Oklahoma City
9 of 23 in Game One (39%)
29 of 93 after that (28%)

This may be hinting that Dallas will be in trouble in the latter stages of a long series.

INSIDE THE ARC


It’s tempting to give Miami the nod because they have two all-time superstars and Dallas has just one, and because of the dominance on 1’s and 2’s that we discussed earlier. Maybe that nod is justified. Maybe not.

*Dallas just faced a team with two very dynamic scoring threats. Kevin Durant shot 30 of 83 outside of two feet in that series (36%). Russell Westbrook was 17 of 68 shooting outside of two feet (25%!).

Dallas tries to coerce you into shooting from spots away from your comfort zone. (And, when Mark Cuban says something like “Hey, pinhead, you’re forgetting about defensive adjustments,” this is part of what he’s trying to make us see!). We’re about to learn where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade don’t like to shoot from. Possibly Chris Bosh too…though it can be hard to simultaneously disrupt that trifecta on each and every possession.

*I think the most overlooked story for the Miami Heat in the Eastern Finals was how much they struggled offensively. Yes, Chicago has a great defense (which was also probably forcing LeBron and Wade into non-sweet spots). That great defense disrupted a lot of what Miami was trying to do. At key moments in the series, the Heat did hit some guarded three-pointers. People remember that. And, the fact that a few consecutively happened late in Game Five when Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem were also on the floor may be creating some illusions about Miami’s “dream lineup.” Let’s step back and take an overview.

In Game One, Miami scored 82 points on 85 possessions…only made 3 treys…only attempted 15 free throws…and turned the ball over 16 times. This was the game Miami LOST, so it’s been erased from memory to a degree.

In Game Two, Miami scored 85 points on 85 possessions…only made 3 treys, got to the free throw line more often but only made 18…and turned the ball over 15 times. This was a win…a very low scoring win keyed by their own defensive play.

In Game Three, things really did click. Miami scored 96 points on 85 possessions…cut their turnovers to just 10…and marched to the free throw line for 25 makes in 29 attempts. The Miami offense that people think of as standard fare actually did show up here in the data.

In Game Four, Miami only had 85 points in regulation on about 94 possessions (estimating from the 104 for the game). They did start to light up the scoreboard in overtime. And, they did that vs. Boston too in the last round. Let’s give the Heat credit for their endurance. You don’t want to take your chances with Miami in overtime! But, in regulation, this was another struggle. This was Miami’s worst shooting game of the series to this point. They committed 15 turnovers. Attacking the basket allowed them to go 32 of 38 from the free throw line, giving them a huge edge in that stat.

In Game Five, Miami shot even worse and scored 83 points on 90 possessions…and that took an amazing finish where they scored 18 points on their last 7 possessions (three made treys, with a four-point play on one of those). That means, Miami struggled to 65 points on 83 possessions before the dramatic surge that launched them into the NBA Finals. Extremely unproductive offense most of the night.

So, in regulation, that’s
82 points in 85 possessions (efficiency mark of 96.5)
85 points in 85 possessions (efficiency mark of 100.0)
96 points in 85 possessions (efficiency mark of 112.9)
85 points in 94 possessions (efficiency mark of 90.4)
83 points in 90 possessions (efficiency mark of 92.2)

The regulation efficiency for the series was 98.4…but the median is 96.5…and the Heat only topped a point per possession once in regulation over the five games.

Is this irrelevant because Chicago plays such fantastic defense nobody can score on them? Let’s look at what happened when Chicago played Atlanta.

Atlanta’s Offensive Efficiencies vs. Chicago:
Game One: 115.7
Game Two: 81.1
Game Three: 100.0
Game Four: 108.7
Game Five: 100.0
Game Six: 83.9
For the series, Atlanta registered at 98.2, with a median of 100. Better than Miami.

Maybe Chicago kicked things up a notch. And, maybe Miami was so focused on defense that they lost some of their form on offense. Just be aware that it’s an offense that can be slowed down. Dallas is far from a sure thing to get bowled over by the Miami stars in this series. 

*Officiating could play a very big role because both teams want to attack the basket with their star scorers…and both teams want to get the other team’s star scorers in foul trouble. Look at the extremes we saw from the line in the last series.

Miami’s Free Throws vs. Chicago (in game order):
15 of 15
18 of 24
25 of 29
32 of 38
25 of 33

Dallas’ Free Throws vs. Oklahoma City (in game order):

34 of 36
21 of 24
14 of 18
34 of 39
31 of 36

That’s a range of teens to high 30’s with two teams who were trying to attack against defenses that didn’t mind fouling them. Quite a wildcard that’s out of everyone’s control to a degree. We may see an 88-86 game were the refs swallow their whistles…a 108-104 game where everything is called…or blowouts in either direction if a home team is flying into the 30’s in free throw attempts when the visitors are in the teens.

A lot of question marks so far. I know a lot of preview write-ups are generally of the “Here’s what’s going to happen” variety. Some pundits/writers will end up being right. Some pundits/writers will end up being wrong. The names will change the next time around. More fun I think to outline the possibilities, particularly in THIS particular chess match.

Additional points to ponder…

*Is Dirk really unstoppable? He’s about to face the toughest defense he’s seen in the playoffs by a mile. Those picking a Dallas upset are suggesting he is. Nick Collison of OKC showed that Dirk can be bothered if you crowd him when he’s holding the ball down low before he starts his shooting process. Dirk was just 23 of 45 from the floor in the last three games after shooting 22 of 32 in the first two. 

*Is Miami’s five-man rotation of James-Wade-Bosh-Haslem-Miller really so strong that nobody has a chance against them over a best-of-seven?  They do have an impressive plus-minus so far in limited time together. That limited time includes some successful but low-percentage guarded three-pointers that may have polluted the small sample size.

*Are there spots that James and Wade are so uncomfortable shooting from that a few days of misses could swing the series toward Dallas? Are they so stubborn that they’d keep shooting from those spots even when they keep missing?

*What’s going to happen when Jose Juan Barea zips through the paint right into Udonis Haslem?  Should we shield our eyes? Or, will what happens turn the series in favor of Dallas because the refs will try to control physicality?

So many questions, with any being the potential difference-maker in what could turn out to be a very entertaining series. The answers will appear before our eyes on the hardwood over the next several days.

Numbers and notes from Game One will go up Tuesday near midnight. See you then…

Bookmark and Share DotnetKicks dotnetshoutout
Archive | FeedSubscribe | Log in