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NOTES ON DETROIT/CLEVELAND SERIES
Continuing with our NBA stat notes...
Game One: 84 possessions
Game Two: 92 possessions
Game Three: 80 possessions
Game Four: 84 possessions
A very slow series. Game Two was garbage time...and Cleveland picked up the pace late in the game to make a run at the cover. Otherwise, this is pure throw-back basketball to the Patrick Ewing era of Knicks-style basketball. The last two games have ended 74-72 and 86-77. Personally, I think slowing things down like this keeps Cleveland in the games. Detroit has the talent to run away from the Cavs. Playing in wet cement doesn't allow them to do that. It does seem to be intentional though. Not sure what Flip Saunders is so afraid of.
Game One: Detroit 107, Cleveland 83
Game Two: Detroit 113, Cleveland 96
Game Three: Detroit 114, Cleveland 118
Game Four: Detroit 81, Cleveland 87
The first three games represent Detroit playing its normal game offensively. This is a high synergy team that beats people by working the ball around for good shots. Clearly they fell off the map in Game Four. You'd expect better focus and teamwork in the fifth game. Cleveland's normal game is represented by 1-2-4 up above. They typically let LeBron go one-on-one (or one-on-five), or let somebody else do that. The 118 in Game Three was very abnormal for their normal style.
Game One: Detroit 15, Cleveland 3
Game Two: Detroit 10, Cleveland 6
Game Three: Detroit 7, Cleveland 3
Game Four: Detroit 4, Cleveland 5
As we saw in the Miami/New Jersey series...much of the actual difference between the favorite and the dog is simply production from long range. Detroit's likely to have a 9-12 point head start every game just because they're likely to make 7-8 treys compared to just 3-4 for the Cavs. Cleveland's got to take that away to have a chance in the series. Detroit's got to make sure they're getting those bonus points if they don't want to scratch and claw to survive. The Game One blowout was a bit misleading. It looked like Detroit could toy with Cleveland...but that was because of an abnormal +36 edge from long range. It created the illusion of LeBron versus Goliath. Detroit's the better team...but they've got to actually make the baskets and take care of business. If they average 5 treys a game they don't get much separation in a slow-down affair with just 84 possessions. It's VERY hard for a trailing team to make up 9-12 points in a game that slow. Detroit's GOT to make their three's to look like a champion.
Game One: Detroit 14/18, Cleveland 15/18
Game Two: Detroit 31/42, Cleveland 15/22
Game Three: Detroit14/16, Cleveland 15/16
Game Four: Detroit 18/23, Cleveland 11/17
A few reasons to post these. First...I wanted you to get a sense of how whistle-happy the San Antonio/Dallas series was. This puts those numbers into context. The Spurs and Mavs are attacking the basket in away that these teams aren't. Also, notice the huge edge that Detroit had in Game Two here. You can basically say that these teams are even if the Pistons aren't making treys and the refs aren't calling fouls. It's hard to see that happening TWO more times in this series for the Cavs to get a win. But, it does help explain how Detroit does things...and what they're NOT doing when they're not covering. They were really passive on offense in the two losses at Cleveland. They didn't go to the line, and they didn't go for the jugular from long range.
You'd think Detroit would open things up a bit more in Game Five...attacking the basket more...and shooting more open treys in transition. They've just proven that playing in molasses is an equalizer that keeps Cleveland in the game. The spread is HUGE though...so consideration at the first quarter and first half numbers might make more sense.
Detroit 26-16 in Game One
Detroit 23-16 in Game Two
Detroit 69-48 in Game One
Detroit 52-36 in Game Two
Watching Miami wrap things up vs. New Jersey last night should have lit a fire under the Pistons you'd think...
NOTES ON DETROIT/CLEVELAND SERIES
Game Five Boxscore Stats
CLEVELAND 86, DETROIT 84
Shooting: Cleveland 38%, Detroit 43%
Rebounds: Cleveland 44, Detroit 47
Three-Pointers: Cleveland 5/13, Detroit 2/18
Free Throws: Cleveland 19/26, Detroit 18/28
Tempo: 88 possessions
Synergy: Cleveland 87, Detroit 93
We mentioned above that the key to the series so far has been three-pointers for Detroit. That's what separated them from the Cavs in the early games....and what DIDN'T separate them in Cleveland when the bombs stopped falling. That held up again here...as Detroit was a horrendous 2 of 18 from long range. If it's 3 of 18, they win by a point. Most of the year you could count on them for 6-7 per game. They do that here...and the game lands near the pointspread.
So...clearly it's this one category that's causing the spinner to rotate around the probability axis in this series.
FINAL SCORES EXCLUDING POINTS ON TREYS
Game One: Cleveland 79, Detroit 68
Game Two: Cleveland 73, Detroit 67
Game Three: Cleveland 77, Detroit 56
Game Four: Cleveland 59, Detroit 60
Game Five: Cleveland 71, Detroit 78
Totals: Cleveland 71.8, Detroit 65.8
This suggests pretty strongly that these teams are much closer than everyone imagined when Detroit isn't hitting treys. This isn't necessarily a result of a "lack" of intensity or emotion from the Pistons. We don't normallly think of those intangibles as having much to do with whether or not three-pointers fall.
FULL SEASON DATA
Detroit 97 ppg
Opponents 90 ppg
Detroit 6 per game
Opponents 4 per game
OVERALL SHOOTING PCT
So...Detroit's edges over opponents for the whole season were largely a result of this category. They picked up about 6 of their 7 point edge from behind the arc on a per-game basis. It's what separated Detroit from everyone else. If an opponent can take that away, the separation goes with it.
That's what Cleveland's been able to do the last three games...and what they'll have to do at least one more time.
I wanted to comment for a second on Rasheed Wallace. We all saw the implosion in Game Five. It's easy to forget that those used to happen ALL THE TIME in Portland. The only time they didn't happen was when Larry Brown was coaching him. Something about the way Brown handled him took away his insecurity and anger. Now that the going is getting tough under the new coach (for the first time), we're seeing the old Rasheed.
I'm a fan of Brown. To me, this is more evidence of his being on a whole different level coaching wise. He's not a pretender that kept lucking into having talent or something. He knows the inner workings of how to play postseason style basketball better than anyone...and he also has a gift for getting volatile personalities to behave. My studies with synergy are largely a result of trying to find numbers that help explain what Brown does to make his teams different.
Note that what we're seeing in this series is very much consistent with what we've seen in the past from Flip Saunders. A great regular season followed by struggles in the playoffs. He doesn't seem to have a plan other than to hope the treys fall. It's like the Tennessee/Ohio State model we talked about during March Madness. You can win in the regular season that way...but it's tougher in the playoffs when pressure and opposing defenses get tighter.
Flip Saunders means a great regular season followed by a disappointing postseason where volatile personalities are prone to implode in pressure situations.
Larry Brown means a quiet first two months of the season...followed by a great second half of the regular season and a peak effort in the playoffs. Everyone puts their ego's aside for the good of the team, and everyone's rewarded.
Be careful assuming Detroit gets its act together the rest of the way. It could happen of course. But...Flip Saunders never got the T-wolves act together in the playoffs...and Rasheed's temper isn't likely to suddenly disappear with Saunders at the helm.
It will still most likely come down to treys. That's not something you'd ever say about a Larry Brown coached team.
Oh...thanks to Clevfan for that great write up about the trip to the game. When you're studying the math all the time, or just picking games and betting them, it's easy to forget the REAL reason most people became sports fans. Clevfan's vivid descriptions brought it all home again. Thanks for letting us live vicariously through you!