Author Archives: Kyle Soppe

Statistical Anomaly: Jazz @ Grizzles

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Statistical Anomaly is a series where we explore all the mathematical nuances you may not have noticed watching the game the first time. Today, Kyle waxes Euclidian on Utah’s poor effort against Memphis in a must win situation.

Ed Davis record nine rebounds in 22 minutes of action, giving the Grizzles yet another effective glass cleaner. In fact, the former Tar Heel is averaging 20.2 rebounds per 48 minutes over his last eight games. With Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in the peaks of their careers, Davis is getting a chance to learn rebounding from two all star level players. Davis is a bit lanky (6’10” 232 pounds) but the knowledge he appears to be gaining about positioning and timing seems to be outweighing his flaws. The future is bright for Davis, and his emergence of late gives the Grizzles the ability to go extremely big if they want to, something few teams can do.

The Jazz finished the season 2-5 when Paul Milsap fails to record a single assist. It’s not so much his passing that leads to success, but his overall involvement. The versatile power forward could hit the market this offseason (or at least be part of a sign and trade) and while his point production dipped a bit this season, his improvements on his all around game likely earned him a few extra bucks at the negating table. In his seventh season in the Association, Milsap set career highs in average assists and three pointers made while playing in personal best 77 games. In my opinion, he could very well prove to be a better version of this year’s Carlos Boozer for an already solid team like Boston, Atlanta, or even Golden State (if they would give up on Andrew Bogut).

If you subtract Al Jefferson’s stat line from the box score, you’ll notice that Utah shot 28.8% from the field and 55% from the free throw line. It isn’t unreasonable that the Jazz will begin the 2013-2014 season with Big Al, and that is a scary proposition for Jazz fans given the teams reliance on him when scoring is tough. Derrick Favors has promise and is still only 21 years of age, but I worry about his willingness to bloody his nose in the paint. He shot just 11 free throws in the final six games of the regular season, all of which were playoff intensity level games for Utah (196 minutes played). That equates to one FTA every 17.82 minutes, roughly half as often as Jefferson has gotten to the line over his career. Easy points go a long way in the NBA (eight of the top ten teams in FTA made the playoffs) and are a nice option when your team is struggling from the field. Here is a look at the percentage of each statistical category that Jefferson was responsible for in the biggest game of the season.

 Jefferson

The Grizzles held one monster advantage when you line up these two rosters, and it proved crucial in the final outcome of the game. Memphis has two players in Tony Allen and Darrell Arthur who have first names for last names while the Jazz don’t have a single one. Those two players combined for 19 points in a 16 point victory. Don’t believe me that there is a correlation between players with two first names and winning? Before the Knicks waived Kurt Thomas, the top two seeds in each conference combined to have 13 such players with the best team in the league leading the way with five. In contrast, the four teams that will lead the way in ping pong balls come June, have six cumulative players (seven depending on how you feel about the name Davis). If that’s not reason enough to reach on Shabazz Muhammad or Isaiah Austin is this year’s draft, then I don’t know what is.

Small Sample Size Theater: Chris Andersen

Small Sample Size

Chris Andersen is looked at as an ugly duckling of sorts from the outside (the guy who doesn’t fit in with the graceful athletes that surround him), but he has slowly become a vital part of the Miami attack and will be counted on as the team prepares to chase a second consecutive title.

This week we saw the Birdman not only rebound and defend, but also attack the rim when presented the opportunity. He shot a LeBron James like 63.2% from the field and even managed to double his career 3PM total by knocking down not one but two open looks from distance.

Below is a chart diagramming how often the Heat (in terms of plus/minus) have been better when Andersen is on the court than when he is not this month. For a team loaded with star power, the fact that they have only once had more success with Andersen on the pine speaks volumes for the impact of the energy he brings with him every time he flaps his finds or dives into the stands.

 Andersen2

We touched on his aggression when it comes to scoring, but his physical play has the greatest lasting impact on the game. He attempted 25 free throws over the last four games, which means he is drawing fouls on the one starter that opponents have a talent edge in. He connected on 17 freebies this week, nearly matching his March total (22) and finally turning his effort directly into points.

Last but not least, Andersen’s impact (both on and off the court) increases when the Heat play in Miami, something they will be doing a lot as the number one overall seed. He scores 15.6% more points at home and shoots nearly 63% from the field (as opposed to 51.7% on the road.  This week was no different as he connected on 71.4% of his shots in front of the raucous Heat faithful and 40% when he was the enemy.

He is much more than a side show with colorful tattoos and a Mohawk. He is a productive reserve version of Dennis Rodman: not a requirement to win a title, but another advantage that other teams simply have a hard time answering. He is shooting 72.7% against the New York and Indiana, teams Miami could face for a trip to the finals (if seeding holds).

Statistical Anomaly: Bulls @ Raptors

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Statistical Anomaly is a series where we explore all the mathematical nuances you may not have noticed watching the game the first time. Today, Kyle waxes Euclidian on Raptors shockingly dominant victory over the Bulls.

Was it that shocking though? Toronto had two days to prepare for this game, something that has helped them this season as they average 96.8 points in such games. The Bulls were fresh off of an emotional win against the Knicks and are the league’s lowest scoring team on the second night of a back to back (90.6 points per game). Mathematically speaking, the Raptors should have been projected to win this game by 6.2 points, making their 97-88 victory anything but a surprise. The Bulls are fortunate that postseason games are generally played on one or two days rest, their optimal amount of rest for offensive production. Here’s a look at how each team fairs on offense by number of days off prior to the game.

 Raptors

Amir Johnson tallied 24 points against the Bulls; nearly equaling his cumulative point total in the Raptors three April wins (25 points). Johnson’s minutes are up 16.8% from last season and he seems to thrive when playing alongside the abundance of rim slashers on Toronto’s lineup. Ruby Gay and DeMar DeRozan excel at getting to the basket, and thus demanding the attention of opposing defenses. He isn’t one of those versatile swingmen that can impact the game in a multitude of ways, but it is possible that he is the perfect four man for the offense that Raptors are attempting to run. The 25 year old has seven years of NBA experience and going to set new career highs in points/rebounds/steals/assists this season.

Since Valentine’s Day, the Raptors are 5-0 when Kyle Lowry hands out 10+ assists against a non playoff team but were 0-4 in such games against playoff teams prior to this victory. Toronto has some nice pieces, but what type of point guard fits their future plans? A point guard that can keep defenses honest is nice, but he also needs to excel in distributing the offense and getting the ball in the hands of the right people. In other words, they need a young Jose Calderon, and Lowry simply isn’t that. Fortunately, there is such a player (Trey Burke) in this year’s draft.  Could Toronto consider flipping the occasionally explosive PG for a paint protecting big man?

Luol Deng’s growth as a player has impressed me this season, as he has been forced into the “lead” role with Derrick Rose struggling to regain health. He made only three of nine shots and totaled 10 points, but he was able to keep his team close by handing out eight assists and 0 turnovers. While this performance took place on the road, Deng has gradually been improving his AST/TO numbers at home, numbers that will translate to the road eventually. In his last eight home games, Deng has turned the ball over only six times in 313 minutes. It is easy to forget that Deng turns only 28 years of age on Wednesday, meaning he is still getting better. We know he can score (at least 15 ppg in six of his last seven seasons), but if he can continue this recent trend of ball security, the Bulls are going to boast a potent offense when Rose returns.

Nazr Mohammad may be the elder statesmen on this Bulls roster at 35 years young, but he is giving them something they desperately need by providing front court depth. With Joakim Noah injured, the journeyman has answered the bell by averaging nearly 15 rebounds per 48 minutes in April. Carlos Boozer is a good forward, but his ability to knock down midrange jump shots often pulls him out from under the basket. Other than the injured Noah and Boozer, Chicago had lacked a paint presence before Mohammad stepped up his play. With Noah’s health very much a concern, and a matchup with either Brooklyn (Brook Lopez) or Indiana (Roy Hibbert) looming, Mohammad is going to have to continue his solid paint play if the Bulls are going to have a chance at advancing past the first round. It is worth noting that, in limited time, Mohammed is shooting 59.1% from the field against the Pacers/Nets this season and could be in for an extended role when they meet in a few weeks.

Statistical Anomaly: Heat @ Wizards

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Statistical Anomaly is a series where we explore all the mathematical nuances you may not have noticed watching the game the first time. Today, Kyle waxes Euclidian on the end of the Wizards home win streak at the hands of the starless Miami Heat.

Shane Battier nailed five three pointers and didn’t even bother attempting a two point field goal against the Wizards, continuing to fill his specific role even with Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwayne Wade in street clothes. He has made a two pointer in only one of his last ten games (21 made baskets, 19 of which have been three pointers). He’s always been a player who has relied on the three point shot, but never at the rate of this season. Here’s a look at the percentage of Battier’s buckets that have come behind the three point line by season for his 12 year career.

Battier

 He’s not the best player on the Heat, but he could be the most irreplaceable. Miami’s stars can cover for each other if one goes down with an injury, but the combination of defense and long range shooting from Battier is rare. Battier was a big reason why the Heat won a title last year and they will be counting on his nightly contribution (pigeonholed as it may be) in a big way.

Speaking of role players, Chris Anderson is another player who is in the perfect situation. Despite increased minutes, The Birdman failed to record a bucket in Washington. The Heat have lost only three games with Anderson in the lineup, and he has averaged 122% more baskets per 48 minutes in those games than in the 35 games Miami has won with him protecting the paint. Anderson enters every game with minimal pressure on the offensive end, allowing him to impact the game in other ways. Miami’s role players may not get the attention of their trio of Hall Of Famers, but without the strong play off of the pine, the stars would be putting up better numbers for a worse team.

Recall that last season John Wall produced one of the all time worst 3P% for a starter (7.1%). The Wizards point guard has showed more discipline, at times, this season, allowing him gain explore his potential. In April, Wall is averaging an outstanding 32.3 points in games in which he doesn’t attempt a triple (winning two of three). Unfortunately for Wizards fans, Wall wandered outside of the three point line against Miami, lowering his probable output. He is averaging 17.7 in such April games, with the Wizards yet to emerge victorious. He will not turn 23 years old until September, making his ceiling limitless if he can figure out the three point shot.

AJ Price played more than 28 minutes, nearly assuring the Wizards of a loss. Since Valentine ’s Day of 2011, AJ Price’s team has lost 16 of 17 games in which he attempts at least 10 shots, and given his career average of 0.3571 shots per minute, 28 minutes is the cut off. He isn’t a very efficient scorer (37.7% career FG%), so it follows that the more shots he takes, the less likely his team is to succeed.  Price is a nice insurance policy for Wall, but he seems to be destined for a career reserve role, as the 26 year old has been unable to prove himself as a reliable PG option. Maybe a position change would help, but with Wall and now Bradley Beal occupying both backcourt slots in Washington for the foreseeable future, it would have to happen for another team.

Small Sample Size Theater: Steve Novak

Courtesy of hsingy via Flickr

Courtesy of hsingy via Flickr

In this weekly piece I will take a look at a player who wasn’t on the court very long but had a measured impact on the final result. The chosen player may have a negative or positive impact, but either way, the player played a crucial role for his team in the past seven days.

The Knicks simply don’t lose games any more, but their sharpshooting reserve from Marquette is not the primary reason. Statless Steve Novak may be the most pigeonholed player in professional sports (the jury is still out if he or designated hitters are asked to do more) and the Knicks have been better over the last seven days with him speculating instead of shooting. For the week, New York outscored their opponents by 135% more points per minute when Novak was on the pine than when he was on the floor. With Carmelo Anthony playing at such a high level and the rest of the Knicks conforming to his style, Novak’s role could be diminishing quickly.

Here is a glance at Novak’s points per 48 minutes in the five seasons in which he has averaged at least seven minutes per game. “Season 1” was his second season in the NBA and the “Season 3” includes just his numbers with the Spurs, where he reached the minimum minute’s requirement. “Season 5″ is Novak’s numbers thus far this season.

 Novak

For the past week (four games), Novak’s sum stat pack (points + assists + rebounds + blocked shots + steals) failed to match the number of points scored by Chris Kaman in a single game. Novak’s sum stat pack for the week was 25, a number that LeBron James has surpassed twice in the last six weeks without including points scored.

Typically a role player will come off the bench and change the pace of the game, adding a new dimension that can be successful for short periods of time as opponents prepare to stop the star players, not the reserves. But Novak does the exact same thing, but less effectively, than the Knicks top two scoring options, making him an easy adjustment for defenders. It is no wonder why the Knicks as a team have had more success of late, as Novak’s minutes per game have been trending downward since they peaked in December. Teams like the Heat who have rim attacking star players can afford to roster specialists, but does a three point dependent team really benefit from playing Novak?

Statistical Anomaly: Cavaliers @ Celtics

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Statistical Anomaly is a series where we explore all the mathematical nuances you may not have noticed watching the game the first time. Today, Kyle waxes Euclidian the Celtics containing Kyrie Irving but still losing a home game to the Cavaliers.

Jeff Green has stepped into the primary scorer some nights for the Celtics, but I am more impressed with 26 year olds ability to fill it up in an efficient manner. He scored a team high 23 points against Cleveland, the sixth time he has tallied at least that many points. The power forward is shooting 66.3% from the field in those games while averaging nearly three made triples. In fact, this was the first such game in which Green failed to make multiple three pointers. Sure, the Celtics are have only earned a split in those six games, but if you consider that the majority of those have been played without Boston’s big names, it is evident that Green  is the scoring option of the future for the C’s.

If you bought a ticket for this game a while back, you were expecting to see the big three of Boston and arguably the games most promising point guard (if not player at any position) in Kyrie Irving. Instead, Boston’s Three Party all watched and Irving far short of 100%, paving the way for less heralded scoring options. Consider this nugget: the eight players who scored 10+ points in this game have totaled 36.9% fewer career points than Paul Pierce has alone (entering this game).

 pp bar

 

Or, if you prefer a circular view

pp pie

Fans may not have seen the names they know for Boston or the game they’ve come to know from Irving (4/20 from the field), but they caught glimpse of the future. The Cavaliers get 49 points per night from players 22 years of age or younger, giving them as high an offensive ceiling as anyone.

Jordan Crawford left Washington with a score first, second, and third reputation, with very few people considering him a nice all around player. But since joining Boston in late February, he has focused more on team points than personal points. For the fifth time in seven games, Crawford recorded at least as many assists as FGM. Not to shabby for a player who averages 60% more FGM than assists for his career. While scoring points is his calling card, the ability to distribute is an encouraging sign for his future value to Boston (or any NBA team for that matter) in the future.

The Cavaliers broke an eight game losing streak that lasted over two months in games against teams that have clinched a playoff berth when Tristan Thompson attempts at least 10 shots. That being said, increasing Thompson’s role in the offense (attempted 10+ shots in 21.7% of games last season and is doing so in  48% of games this year) figures to pay dividends sooner rather than later. His scoring has increased by 25.6% while shooting nearly 5% better from the field. His numbers have spiked without a healthy Anderson Varejao, but the skill set is there, and shouldn’t disappear when playing alongside the rebounding machine. If Cleveland can ever get all of its pieces on the court at the same time, this is a scary team that is only going to get better with time.

Kevin Jones struggled from the field but was very active on the glass, earning his 22 minutes by grabbing eight rebounds (three offensive). Jones has appeared in 25 games this season, but has tallied 37% of his rebounds in just two of those contests and 50% of them have come on a Friday. At 6’8” and 260 pounds, Jones is another young force around the rim that can serve as a stop gap when the starters are out of the game. Jones’ rebounding and positive impact was felt by the 14 point advantage held by the Cavaliers in the paint, a game changing stat given the fact that Cleveland won the game by six points. His body type gives him the potential to turn into a specialist, as he can  matchup physically with some of the elite scorers in the league.

Statistical Anomaly: Timberwolves @ Bucks

Statistical Anomaly is a series where we explore all the mathematical nuances you may not have noticed watching the game the first time. Today, Kyle waxes Euclidian on the Timberwolves victory over the Bucks.

Larry Sanders wasn’t viewed as an elite rebound until this season, something that is evident by the fact that 65.4% of his career boards have come this season in just 37.4% of his career games. The Bucks may have lost, but Sanders recorded his 16th straight home game with 10+ rebounds. At his current rate of 9.5 rebounds per game, Sanders would record more rebounds in a single NBA season (assuming full health for 82 games) than he did in three years at VCU combined. The knock on the paint protector is that he isn’t much of a scoring threat, but that train of thought has some holes in it. First, for his career, Sanders averages 16 points per 48 minutes, not an awful start to a career for a 24 year old. Second, and more importantly, the Bucks offense is initiated by two shot happy guards (three if you count when JJ Redick leads the second unit). Sanders’ offensive skills are raw, but the offense doesn’t call for him to score points. Don’t be surprised if Sanders emerges as a 15 point 12 rebound guy next season if the Bucks part ways with one of their high-scoring guards.

Another reason to buy the Bucks stock while it is low is Ersan Ilyasova. The fourth year man from Turkey is has proven to be a stretch forward who is a tough matchup for anyone his size. At 6’10”, Ilyasova can navigate around the rim and on the glass, but his sweet stroke forces opposing defenses to pick their poison. Ilyasova has recorded a PR (points + rebounds) of at least 30 in seven of his last nine games, a number that is impressive for a player who has a career mark of 16.6. The statistic is more impressive when you take into account the fact that he is hurting opponents in a multitude of ways. Three of those games have included at least 14 rebounds, while six of them have seen Ilyasova connect on multiple triples. With Sanders doing the heavy lifting near the rim, Ilysaova can move freely around the perimeter and pick his spots to attack the rim. With a consistent jump shot (45.5% from distance last season and 44.5 this season), the Bucks SF is the poster child for what swingmen in the NBA should be able to do.

Ricky Rubio recorded a season high eight steals to go along with his 19 points and 12 assists. Rubio has recorded at least five steals in 16.3% of his games this year, a theft rate that is greater than even the surest handed defenders in the league. Here’s a look at how Rubio stacks up against Chris Paul this season when it comes to percentage of games with a handful of steals, and the average production in those games.

Rubio

 I’m not saying Rubio is a world class defender or belongs in the same class as CP3, but his ability to wreak havoc leads directly to transition opportunities. The Spanish sensation is obviously a great passer, but his ability to anticipate on the defensive end is just as valuable. Every steal has the potential to swing the score four or five points in favor of the Timberwolves, and if he is recording a 5+ steal twice a month, the Timberwolves are destined to increase their win total as he gains NBA experience (he has still played just 90 career games). Minnesota was +20 in the paint against the Bucks and not because they have superior play inside, but because Rubio is playing chess on the perimeter while his opponents are playing checkers.

For the second consecutive night to begin the month of April, Nikola Pekovic found himself in more of a scoring role than rebounding. Sure, he still grabbed eight boards, but we are talking about a big man who has yet to average twice as many points as rebounds in a single month. Through two games, he is averaging 4.31 points per rebound. The Timberwolves have responded well to his increased point production, as he averages 23% more points and 7% less rebounds in wins than losses. It’ll be interesting next season to see how he plays alongside a healthy Kevin Love, an elite rebounder who is capable of spreading the floor. They sorely miss his shooting, as they rank dead last in the NBA in 3P%. But with a franchise point guard in place and promising youth at every position, why not the Wolves? If Minnesota can find a way to play both in an effective manner, don’t be surprised if the lowly Wolves are a 2014 playoff team.

My optimism doesn’t end with the Timberwolves, as I think the Bucks are also a move away. Any team that controls the painted area has a chance every night, and should Milwaukee part ways with part of their starting backcourt and place an emphasis on their promising bigs, they will be a legitimate contender sooner rather than later. They already are a top 10 offense when it comes to interior scoring, and that seems to be the floor as their big men are only going to get better with experience. This game didn’t have much importance this time around, but consider me sold on the future for both squads.

Small Sample Size Theater: Lou Amundson

In this weekly piece I will take a look at a player who wasn’t on the court very long but had a measured impact on the final result. The chosen player may have a negative or positive impact, but either way, the player played a crucial role for his team in the past seven days.

If a player is a career reserve that has never played big minutes is still on a roster at the age of 30, the man is doing something right. Kevin Durant has played 32.4% more minutes over the last two seasons than Lou Amundson has during his seven year career, yet Amundson has continued to find work and this week, he provided a lift to the struggling Hornets.

Sure, Amundson played a mere 29 minutes this week, but he made his two shots from the field and three of his four free throws. His presence was felt more on the court, as he offered a body that was willing to go to war in the paint. He averaged nearly 12 rebounds per 48 minutes and the Hornets were 25 points better this week when he was on the court opposed to off of it. Here’s a look at the past 16 days, and how the Hornets have fared with the journeyman on and off the court.

Amundson

His 12 points per 48 minutes were also a nice touch, not to mention only one point less than heralded rookie Austin Rivers is averaging this season. New Orleans has won four of the last five games in which Amundson has been inserted into the lineup for at least nine minutes, and that’s saying something for a team that wins only about one third of its games.

Is Lou Amundson a player to build a roster around? No. But can he serve as a mentor of sorts to the young Hornets front line, showing them how hard they need to work every day and how to “earn” your minutes? Yes.

Statistical Anomaly: Rockets @ Grizzlies

Statistical Anomaly is a series where we explore all the mathematical nuances you may not have noticed watching the game the first time. Today, Kyle waxes Euclidian on the Grizzlies “not as close as the final score indicates” win over the Rockets.

Quincy Pondexter, statistically speaking, is having his best season as a professional, but his play has had no impact on the final result. In fact, it has held an indirect relationship of late. Over the last 11 days, Pondexter is shooting 47.4% in losses and 18.8% in victories. Furthermore, Memphis was outscored by 12 points during his 16 minutes on the court and outscored Houston by 21 points in the other 32 minutes. That -12 plus/minus ratio is twice as bad as his cumulative ratio in the Grizzlies last four losses. As the playoffs approach, it is clear that Memphis can defend at a championship level (second best scoring defense in the NBA), but can they score enough? Don’t be surprised if they begin to phase out Pondexter in favor of an expanded offensive role for Tony Allen and Jerryd Bayless.

Mike Conley filled his role to perfection, allowing the Grizzlies to play up to their potential. Five of Memphis’ last eight wins have come when the underrated point guard records a double double, with the last three such games coming in wins against playoff bound teams. Conley excels at initiating the offense, and while he can score at a high level, his cerebral style allows the Grizz to maximize their offensive productivity. He isn’t as physically gifted as the highlight reel point guards in today’s game, but the ability to read and react is just as valuable (see Parker, Tony). Memphis isn’t being considered a title contender in the top heavy Western Conference, but there is little doubt in my mind that Conley has the tools to be a PG on a title winner.

Grizzlies

Over the last two months, the Grizzlies have lost one game when Marc Gasol and/or Zach Randolph attempt at least three free throws and shot at least 76% from the line. Both players did so against the Rockets, giving Memphis the rarest of combinations in the NBA: paint protectors with touch and the ability to be effective in late game situations. Both players can control the lane and step out for the mid range jump shot, forcing opponents to alter their typical rotation. The Grizzlies are a team that nobody wants to play, especially if they can get bench production.

Thomas Robinson went 2/10 from the field as his unpolished offensive game tends to appear on a regular basis. That being said, he battles on the glass at a strong level for a 22 year old, giving Rocket fans reason for optimism. The rookie is averaging 16 rebounds per 48 minutes over the last 2+ weeks, a stretch that includes games against the Spurs, Jazz, and Pacers. Robinson is lucky to be a Rocket and Houston is lucky to have a young forward who is physically ready to succeed right now.

This was the sixth consecutive game against a team battling for playoff position in which James Harden shot less than 38% from the field. Against the Grizzlies, Harden (the fifth leading scorer in the NBA) took more shots than just two of his teammates. Not that I doubt Harden’s talent, but we at least have to ask if he is ready for being the “go-to” guy on the big stage. Sure, he played well with the Thunder, but he wasn’t the focal point of opposing defenses for 48 minutes. Defenses are going to throw the kitchen sink at the crafty scorer, and lately, he hasn’t led his team against the upper portion of the league.

This was an interesting match up as it pitted a strong defensive unit against an elite offensive squad. The difference, however, was the Grizzlies versatility on offense and the poor defending of the Rockets. No playoff team wants to see either one of these teams, but for my money, it’s the Grizzlies that fit the postseason format better. They can run if need be, but they prefer to grind in the half court, and with their personal, they are probably the best team in the league at playing their game. The Rockets can run up and down the court, but could they beat any of the elite teams in a series format that way? I’d rather take my chances with the Grizzlies, a team that dictates pace and excels when they control the style of play. Who do you think is better prepared for the playoffs? Do you trust the team with a true star player, or would you rather roll with a balanced scoring attack? Fast paced offense or bloody your nose defense? Who ya got?

Statistical Anomaly: Celtics @ Cavaliers

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

Statistical Anomaly is a series where we explore all the mathematical nuances you may not have noticed watching the game the first time. Today, Kyle waxes Euclidian on the Celtics last second win over the Cavaliers.

Since Rajon Rondo went down with a torn ACL, Paul Pierce has assumed the distributing role while continuing to be a viable scoring option. He recorded eight dimes and seven made baskets against Cleveland, increasing his percentage of games with at least as many AST as FGM to 59.3% since the Rondo injury. While he has made a strong effort to get his teammates involved, he has still managed to average over 15 points in those games. His ability to score opens up driving lanes for Jeff Green and mid range jump shots for Brandon Bass, two players who have emerged since Boston lost their floor general. In fact, they have scored at least 99 points in a winning effort more time (12) in less games (33) played without Rondo than they did with him (11 in 38). The Celtics are much more talented with Rondo in the lineup, but the playmaking ability combined with the scoring capabilities of Pierce has made them a more efficient team since January 25th.

Brandon Bass missed only his second free throw of the month and his first misfire in 12 games (335 minutes played). Oddly enough, the Celtics are 6-2 since January 17th when Bass misses at least one free throw but have lost three games in the past eight days when he makes all of his attempts (minimum one attempt). With Kevin Garnett’s health issues, the emergence of Bass has come at the most opportune of times. In March, Bass has been remarkably efficient, averaging 1.37 points per FGA (Garnett is averaging 1.18 points per FGA this season). The Celtics are a team no one wants to play this year, but I contend that the end of the KG/Pierce era will not signify the end of the Celtics competitive teams. Rondo (27 years old) and Avery Bradley (22) can hold their own against any backcourt and Jordan Crawford (24) provides a strong scoring punch. In the front court, Jeff Green (26) and Bass (27) have versatile styles that are tough to matchup against. They aren’t an old basketball team, it is simply the household names that are aging. The names won’t be the same, but the win totals aren’t going to change much as the Celtics roster turns over.

Celtics

Each quarter in this game was decided by at least five points. The Celtics won the first and fourth quarter by a total of 13 points (they are outscored by an average of 0.2 points in those two quarters) while the Cavs won the second and third quart by a total of 12 points (they are outscored by an average of 2.2 points in those two quarters). The strong late game performance by Boston is a welcomed site, as they are currently set up for a date with the Knicks in the postseason (the NBA’s second best fourth quarter team in terms of point differential). The subtraction of Rondo helps a bit in this category as well, taking a FT liability out of the game in favor of a player like Jason Terry (86%), Courtney Lee (85%), or Jordan Crawford (79%).

For his career, Daniel Gibson averages 4.2 points per assist, but against the Celtics since December of 2010, Gibson has the exact same number of assists as points. Gibson’s career trajectory has been trending downward ever since LeBron James left town. His percentage of games started, three point percentage, free throw percentage, points, and assists have decreased every single season since The Decision. Don’t be surprised if Gibson, as a unrestricted free agent, isn’t a Cavalier next season, as they’ve got five guards that are his age or younger (Kyrie Irving, Wayne Ellington, Dion Waiters, CJ Miles, and Shaun Livingston) that they seem to like more.

Tristan Thompson, however, is a player that is in the future plans of Cleveland. The 22 year old undersized forward grabbed nine rebounds, his 19th straight game with at least seven rebounds. He has produced seven double doubles over that stretch. The numbers are nice, but the fact that three of his double doubles this month have come against strong teams in the paint (Pacers, Grizzlies, and Jazz) is encouraging. He isn’t the ideal size for a NBA PF (227 pounds), but he is good around the basket and has a nose for the basketball. His statistics are up across the board from his rookie campaign, a trend that should continue as the young Cavs continue to improve.