Dallas 60, Miami 26

by Jeff Fogle 10. June 2011 01:09

That's the score of the 24-minute composite representing the last six minutes...of the last four games in the NBA Finals. The equivalent of "one half" of a basketball game, but spread out over THE MOST IMPORTANT MINUTES of four different encounters.

LAST SIX MINUTES
Game Two: Dallas 20, Miami 5
Game Three: Dallas 12, Miami 7
Game Four: Dallas 11, Miami 5
Game Five: Dallas 17, Miami 9

Total: Dallas 60, Miami 26

If one of these teams had won an actual half by a score like that, the world would stand in awe. The leader would be celebrated for its dominance. The loser, humiliated (at least temporarily).

Have we ever even seen anything like that in the NBA playoffs in just a normal half? There have surely been blowouts. We've even seen trailing teams take the night off to save themselves for the next game. A 60-26 half? Sixty against what's considered by most accounts to be a great defense? Twenty-six, from what's supposed to be one of the most talented threesomes of scorers every assembled?

But, this isn't just a half. This is a composite of the most important minutes. From four games played in a row. Involving the same teams. The same sets of stars and role players. The same coaches.

It boggles the mind!

Miami did win the last six minutes of the series opener 17-15 in their 92-84 victory. So, it hasn't been a sweep of the clutch minutes for Dallas. But, Miami's win was only by two points. Dallas had wins of 15, 5, 6, and 8. The 30-minute composite score for the full series is Dallas 75, Miami 43. Still mind boggling.

Here are the full-game numbers for tonight...

DALLAS 112, MIAMI 103
2-point pct: Miami 58%, Dallas 52%
Three-pointers: Miami 8/20, Dallas 13/19
Free Throws: Miami 21/26, Dallas 21/27
Rebounds: Miami 36, Dallas 26
Turnovers: Miami 16, Dallas 11
1's and 2's: Miami 79, Dallas 73

Both teams shot extremely well. We've seen each do that earlier in the playoffs. It hadn't happened yet in this series though. Even when Miami and Dallas combined for a stellar 20 of 46 on three-pointers in the series opener, we still only had 176 total points in the game because both struggled inside they arc. Tonight they were 21 of 39 on treys, and very successful on dueces too. This is the first time vs. Miami that Dallas has been able to win treys by a meaningful margin...which led to it being their first win by more than 2-3 points.

We're pretty deep in the series now. It's easy to forget how many times Miami was moments away from virtually wrapping it up.

*They were on the verge of a series rout with a huge fourth quarter lead in Game Two...

*They were on the verge of a 3-1 series lead in the fourth quarter this past Tuesday. And, if they're up 3-1 the series is over because Miami still had two home games up their sleeve if needed.

*They were on the verge of a 3-2 series lead tonight...which also would have been a near clincher with Dallas having to sweep on the road.

And, yet...ANOTHER fourth quarter debacle has them returning to South Beach in unfamiliar terrority. For the first time this year, the Miami Heat will be playing with THEIR backs to the wall!

Worse, they'll be in that position knowing they still haven't solved the riddle of Dirk Nowitzki yet. Though Dirk wasn't a dominant go-to force in the final minutes tonight the way he had been in prior games, he still had a strong plus/minus of +14 on the evening. Let's update that stat we've been monitoring for awhile now.

Plus/Minuses from the Dallas perspective:
Game One: -2 with Dirk, -6 without
Game Two: +13 with Dirk, -11 without
Game Three: +12 with Dirk, -14 without
Game Four: +7 with Dirk, -4 without
Game Five: +14 with Dirk, -5 without

Total: +44 with Dirk, -40 without

Game Four certainly might have had a bigger plus if the big German wasn't battling a sinus infection and a fever of 102. Can Miami shut down, or at least contain a healthy Nowitzki TWICE in the next two games?

It's a late night. Planning to pop back late Friday evening with additional notes...hopefully supplementing the next-day coverage you'll be reading at your favorite sports news sites Friday morning and afternoon. Will talk more about LeBron James at that time. He managed to both be more aggressive tonight (triple double and 21 shot attempts) while also disappearing again in the fourth quarter! Will take extra time to get closer to solving that riddle. As commenter huevonkiller noted Thursday afternoon, and Magic Johnson said tonight in the postgame show, fatigue looks to be a significant factor.

See you again by midnight Friday. The next game day report will be late Sunday after Game Six is played in Miami. Thanks to all of you who have been visiting regularly throughout the playoffs for your continued interested and support.

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Comments

6/10/2011 8:40:18 AM #

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6/10/2011 9:25:00 AM #

Jimmy

Hi Jeff...

This is an interesting topic and I'd like to hear your opinion on it (as well as everybody else's).

If a team trails the majority of the game, say by an average of 3-5 points or so, and then in the final minutes outscores its opponent by just enough to take the game, which conclusion do draw from this?

A -- the team that got outscored in the final minutes is the inferior team because it got outplayed through the most important stretch of the game

or...

B -- the team that got outscored in the final minutes is still superior because it maintained the lead for the majority of the game and simply fell victim to an unlucky drought (or torrent of scoring by the other team) down the stretch.

I wonder about this because it seems either conclusion is valid (but obviously not both of them).  To me, it's fundamentally more satisfying to believe that outscoring a team in the clutch is a better indicator of superiority than outscoring a team when there's tons of game left to be played.  But we're all stat guys here... we're all sympathetic to the idea that there are random fluctuations in sports matches and sometimes the match fluctuates in the wrong direction at the worst possible time.

Jimmy United States

6/10/2011 9:36:00 AM #

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6/10/2011 3:07:31 PM #

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6/10/2011 5:26:20 PM #

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6/10/2011 8:21:39 PM #

Jeff Fogle

Hi Jimmy. Big question...and one that I think everyone still needs to think through in more depth. The general stathead answer is B...and I would agree with that in most cases. But, we've now seen a few examples in recent years of teams who:

*Have said publicly they do believe in particulars about executing late in close games (and forcing opponents to execute poorly). In fact, there was a Sloan Conference panel last year where Mark Cuban was the guy saying he believed in clutch performance. Bill Polian of the Colts was also on the panel. Don't remember what he said specifically...but we have two guys there who have emphasized performance with the game "on the line" to my knowledge.

*And then go out and consistently outperform Pythogorean or other measures for what they "should" win vs. what they do. I think the Colts have outperformed Football Outsiders' "after the fact" assessment for what they should do every year since the Dungy/Manning era started. Dallas is typically an NBA outlier in Pythagorean stuff. Now we're seeing 60-26 over four games for a Cuban team, led by consistently successful coaching adjustments and a player who keeps putting himself in position to score.

If you see most numerical stuff as random...then it's easy to interpret anything that happens as something random that just popped up. If you see a sport as "skill sets and strategies," there's a danger in the other direction of creating storylines when it's just something random that's happening.

It's like...Bill James showed early on in the Baseball Abstracts that there's a strong random element to what happens in close baseball games. Then, the next generation, fueled by the testosterone of young anger got really aggressive about randomness in a way that probably gave too little credit to skill sets and strategies. And, THAT mindset took hold in baseball, football, and basketball. I think the Colts for many years, and the Mavericks for a few years now are showing that there are strategies you can use to maximize your possessions, and squeeze out extra possessions in ways that are meaningful and non-random.

Personally, I think both extremes need to meet somewhere in between. The general mainstream approach of finding reasons for everything is overdone, as is the tendency to conclude that anything that happens in a short sample should be attributed to randomness. Hopefully studying teams who are clearly applying certain stategies to "clutch" time performance will prove enlightening down the road. A lot to learn for all of us I think.

Sorry that was such a lengthy answer...

Jeff Fogle United States

6/11/2011 1:38:04 PM #

Jeff Fogle

Came across this great article from M. Haubs at The Painted Area Saturday at lunch time thanks to a link from Henry Abbott's bullets page at True Hoop. Extremely in depth. It references those Cuban comments in much greater detail, and kindly links to the the article above regarding the 60-26 6-minute differential.

thepaintedarea.blogspot.com/.../...d-greatest.html

Hopefully linking to an article that has a link back to us doesn't create a wormhole in the universe or something!

Jeff Fogle United States

6/11/2011 3:48:46 PM #

Joseph

I think I may have to do with this: different strategy in the last ~6 minutes.
I am a New Orleans Saints fan more than anything, and was of course overjoyed when they won the SB in Feb. 2010.  Their DC, Gregg Williams, stated that they had 3 different "game plans" defensively for that game (it helps to have 2 weeks to prepare).  One for the 1st half, one for the 3rd, and one for the 4th.  
I truly wonder if Dallas is purposefully changing things up (on BOTH ends) in the last ~6 minutes in order to make the Heat take a couple of seconds to analyze what DAL is trying to do.  If Wade/LBJ has to pause for 2 seconds, decide what offensive set or play will work best, and then try to execute--well, that's a recipe for a bad shot, turnover, or shot clock violation--esp. when you consider that teams tend to be more deliberate toward the end to "make sure to get a good shot."  I mean, if I was DAL, I might even try to give a zone "look" and then, once MIA starts the offense, to man up--just to throw MIA off a little (the reverse would probably work better).
We do know this: in game 5, the Mavs put Kidd on LBJ--and he NEVER ONE TIME!!! tried to post him up.  Sorry, LBJ, that's saaaad.  

Joseph United States

6/11/2011 7:38:58 PM #

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6/12/2011 4:55:29 AM #

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6/12/2011 5:05:44 PM #

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6/13/2011 7:41:42 PM #

Jimmy

Thanks Jeff and all you guys for your perspectives and sorry for posting my comment multiple times!

Jimmy United States

7/20/2011 5:17:37 PM #

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