12. May 2011 23:49
The Chicago Bulls went for the jugular early in Thursday night's playoff game on the road against the Atlanta Hawks. They led by 10 points after a quarter, and gradually pulled away to a comfortable 20-point victory that saw little opposition or intensity from an increasingly disinterested foe...
How passive were the Hawks?
*Atlanta allowed 59% shooting on two-pointers, which is basically standing in the paint in matador outfits. For the series, Chicago shot 45%, 45%, 46%, 47%, 53%, and 59% inside the arc (in that order). Once the dam broke, the buckets just gushed through.
*Atlanta committed only 12 personal fouls on the night. TWELVE! That means Chicago was getting their looks without drawing contact. As passive as it gets.
*Atlanta let the Bulls put on a Globetrotter's passing clinic, as 35 of Chicago's 41 baskets were assisted. So, it wasn't a case of Chicago taking turns driving straight to the basket for layups. It was pass-pass-pass open look. Half-hearted rotations AND not hitting anybody from the Hawks.
*Derrick Rose of Chicago only shot 3 free throws on the evening. He also had a low number in Game Three of this series versus another passive Atlanta effort. He was moving fine, and seems to be back near full speed. This wasn't a case of Rose playing it safe with his ankle. He was an important part of the passing sequences, leading the team with 12 assists. (Nobody else had more than 5, which tells you what great team chemistry this group has...everybody was sharing the ball on the way to 85% assisted baskets.)
*While trailing most of the second half by double digits, Atlanta still played incredibly slow on offense. No sense of urgency. No "we've got to get back into this thing" mentality. Patiently work for a shot to see if you can cut a 16-point deficit to 14...then go back and move around slowly on defense.
It's a bit dangerous to draw conclusions about Chicago from a game like this. They are definitely back in good form. We won't really know how good that form is until the Miami series starts on Sunday. This was a scrimmage much of the night. Miami wont' be in the mood to scrimmage!
CHICAGO 93, ATLANTA 73
2-point pct: Chicago 59%, Atlanta 41%
3-pointers: Chicago 3/13, Atlanta 1/11
1's and 2's: Chicago 84, Atlanta 70
Not going to run a bunch of numbers from a laydown. But I do want to update the data on Chicago's strong perimeter defense.
ATLANTA'S TREYS THIS SERIES
Game One: 7/13
Game Two: 3/13
Game Three: 1/6
Game Four: 4/11
Game Five: 1/12
Game Six: 1/11
That's 2 of 23 in the last two games, and 6 of 42 in Atlanta's four losses. After a sluggish start for the Chicago perimeter defense in the opener...or maybe just a lights out performance from the Hawks...Atlanta would register only 10 for 53 the rest of the series.
So, if Miami's hoping guarded treys in the final minutes are going to keep winning games for them, they may be dealing with a tougher challenge this time around.
I'll write up a deeper preview of Miami-Chicago over the weekend. For now, I wanted to go over some stuff I was playing around with today regarding defenses...
I wanted to get a read on how playoff defenses were performing so far. Chicago's had some great games, but some unimpressive ones too. And, those came against Indiana and Atlanta...which didn't have quality offenses by playoff standards. Did Chicago have the best defense in the playoffs once you accounted for their opponents?
I like using medians rather than averages in short samples because you can toss the outliers (or non-efforts) and focus on the best expectations. I looked at the remaining playoff teams in these areas:
*Their defensive efficiency medians thus far in the playoffs
*The combined regular season offensive efficiency of their opponents
This would help get a sense of best expectations adjusted for context. If you're new to the site, defensive efficiency is points allowed per 100 possessions (pace adjusted defense).
PLAYOFF DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY MEDIANS
Oklahoma City: 102.4
If you're not adjusting for quality of opposition, Chicago looks like it's well clear of the field. And only Chicago and Miami are down below a point per possession. None of the Western teams are below 100. Memphis looks like they're playing crappy defense by playoff standards.
OFFENSIVE CALIBER OF OPPONENTS IN REGULAR SEASON
102.6 for Chicago's opponents (Indiana/Atlanta)
104.0 for Miami's opponents (Philadelphia/Boston)
106.8 for Dallas' opponents (Portland/Lakers)
106.9 for OKC's opponents (Denver/Memphis)
109.0 for Memphis' opponents (SA/OKC)
Suddenly it's not so clear. Chicago has the best defense, but faced the weakest offenses. Miami's right behind them in both regards. In fact, the teams follow right in order. Dallas holding the Blazers and Lakers down to 101.7 looks great now. And, given what Memphis is dealing with as a defensive challenge in the brackets, even their 105.8 represents good defense. They're holding teams below regular season norms.
To create a level playing field, here are the percentage decreases from regular season standards.
DEFENSES IN CONTEXT
Chicago: 5.7% reduction from standards of Indiana/Atlanta
Miami: 4.9% reduction from standards of Philadelphia/Boston
Dallas: 4.8% reduction from standards of Portland/LA Lakers
Oklahoma City: 4.2% reduction from standards of Denver/Memphis
Memphis: 2.9% reduction from standards of San Antonio/OKC
So, Chicago IS playing the best defense. But others are within striking distance. Miami and Dallas are almost in a dead heat once you adjust for who they played. Oklahoma City is still close to Dallas, and in a range that suggests they can compete for a championship given their offensive punch. Memphis is battling, but isn't quite up to the standards of the others.
Fun to play around with the numbers on a rainy afternoon.
Might as well take a quick look at what those numbers might mean for Miami-Chicago.
REGULAR SEASON OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY
*If Chicago holds Miami 5.7% below its regular season norm, then the Heat would score 103.1 points per 100 possessions.
*If Miami holds Chicago 4.9% below its regular season norm, then the Bulls would score 100.3 points per 100 possessions.
Basically a 103-100 win for Miami over 100 possessions on a neutral court. Most playoff games don't have that many possessions without overtime.
92 possessions: Miami 95, Chicago 92
88 possessions: Miami 91, Chicago 88
Both teams peaked at 92 possessions in the prior round, and an 88-possession grinder will probably be normal for the series. Those may or may not be a tad optimistic for Miami. They at least suggest a classic battle since Chicago will have home court advantage in four of seven games if it goes the distance. As I write this, the prediction markets are expected to favor Miami to win the series...and are likely to have Chicago as a small favorite at home, with Miami a slightly bigger favorite when the games are in South Beach (those are the early rumblings anyway).
Back late Friday with numbers and notes from Game Six of Oklahoma City/Memphis...