Lakers, Nuggets, and Four Factors

Last night I was unable to watch Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. Although the best way to analyze a game is to watch it and then compare the visual with the statistical results, sometimes that isn’t possible. For instance nobody watches all 1,312 regular season games, so everyone tends to rely on statistics to fill in the blanks. Of course it’s important to know which stats to use to best understand the action. When looking at the team level, there’s nothing better than the four factors. So I decided to calculate them for last night’s game.

TEAM | PTS | POSS |   OE  |  eFG |  TO  | OREB |  FT
DEN  | 106 | 94.9 | 111.7 | 48.7 | 14.8 | 27.5 | 36.7
LAL  | 103 | 95.5 | 107.8 | 49.4 | 16.7 | 25.5 | 35.1

I don’t know the exact number, but I recall crunching the numbers over the course of the season and found that in a majority (around 90%) of NBA games, the team that has the advantage in eFG ends up winning. So it was a bit surprising that the Lakers lost despite the shooting edge. This is likely due to Denver shooting almost as well (less than 1% difference) and winning all the other categories. The Nuggets turned the ball over slightly less, hit the boards better, and did slightly better from the free throw line.

Looking at the play-by-play illustrates how this minor advantage gave the Nuggets the win. With 5 minutes to go the score was tied at 95, but down the stretch Denver won in offensive rebounds (1 vs. 0) and free throws (7-8 vs. 3-6) while staying even in turnovers (2 vs. 2). While some games are won with the dramatic shot, sometimes it’s the little things that propels a team to victory.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

44 thoughts to “Lakers, Nuggets, and Four Factors”

  1. I continue to be really impressed with the play of Anthony. I was never a real big fan until watching him in Games 1 and 2. He is playing like a man possessed, grabbing offensive rebounds in traffic, playing ferocious D and just being all around great. What do think goes through Joe Dumars’ head as he watches this series?

  2. Probably we won a championship with Price the year Melo was a rookie went to the finals the next year and the conference finals after that. Could we have done that with Melo rather than Prince? and on and this was rehashed to death they felt they had no need for Melo, would disrupt chemistry (ironic considering they took AI) and Milicic was worth a flier (i guess).

  3. Carmelo/Dumars: you have to think that the NBA isn’t about drafting for need. Of course Jordan/Bowie is the ultimate example, but I think it’s so hard to find talent in the NBA draft, that you *have* to go with the player that is going to be the best NBA player, regardless of position.

  4. “What do think goes through Joe Dumars’ head as he watches this series?”

    Probably the same regret that went through his head in 2006 watching Wade rip through finals. Or in 2007 when Bosh made the All NBA 2nd Team. Or in 1987 when Bird stole the inbounds pass…

    But Dumars has done a great job in Detroit. The championship defines his legacy, not the failed Darko pick.

  5. Im still perplexed at how horrible Phil Jackson is coaching this post-season. Hollinger has been writing about this since the Houston series. His continued heavy minutes for Derek Fisher is mind-boggling, and he is running Gasol into the ground with his extended minutes and lack of use at all for Bynum.

    Also WHY do they constantly run pick-and-rolls at the end of the games for Kobe???? MJ NEVER used any picks at the end of game situations, it was just a straight ISO from the top of the floor with the rest of the team spread out perfectly making it difficult to double MJ. Kobe basically doubles himself by constantly using a pick which is what happened last night in the play that lead to the jump-ball. Lastly drawing up a play for Fisher at the end of the game last night taking a 3 from the right corner which is a real difficult shot for a LH-shooter like Fisher was ridiculous. Kobe as a decoy, are you kidding me????

  6. Nick C. I never meant to imply that Dumars wasn’t a great GM. Not sure why you’re treating Prince like an either or, they could have had him and Anthony. I just think Dumars must wonder what kind of dynasty they could have built with the current group plus Melo.

    Big Blue Al – agree about Jackson. I know it’s hard to criticize a guy with all those rings, but he does some really puzzling things that most coaches would get crucified for. I’ve always hated his arrogance and smugness, but I guess you can be that way when you’ve got his track record.

  7. Not sure how impressed I was with Carmelo last game, 29 shots, but he definitely seemed to have a big impact. Kleiza won that game for them.

    Unreal watching Orlando go in to the Q and put the Cavs to the test. They are a difficult team to beat when they are hitting from three…

    The playoffs have been a real treat so far, one of the best playoff seasons in memory so far….

  8. this may be the greatest first 4 games of conference finals i’ve ever seen. that is crazy.
    meanwhile, i take back everything i ever said about Turkoglu. that guy is great.

  9. Its a shame Lebron hit that shot because Mike Brown is getting so outcoached by Stan Van Gundy its ridiculous. That should be the Knicks biggest selling point to Lebron, come play for a good coach rather than keep bailing out Mike Brown.

    Watching these games sure makes me miss watching the Knicks in those great games vs Indiana in the 1999 Conference Finals….

  10. Frank,
    A while back, I suggested that David Lee was not necessarily a top 50 player in the league. I mentioned Turkoglu as one of the players better than Lee and got some very negative responses from the stats-oriented folks. I believe that these playoffs have shown that Turkoglu’s value transcends typical advanced stats cited in determining player value. One of the most indefensible arguments made in support of advanced stats is that a point in the first quarter is just as meaningful as a point in the last 2 minutes. I feel strongly that if you buy this line of reasoning, Turkoglu’s value gets grossly understated because his true value lies in making big plays in crunch time in meaningful, hotly contested games.

    David Lee will never be capable of making the impact that Turkoglu has made during these playoffs. I can’t necessarily quantify what I am suggesting, but feel very confident in this statement.

  11. If you mean that a coach will never design a last-minute play in the conference finals where David Lee initiates the offense, I’d have to agree with you.

    Other than that….

    The Magic were a very good “clutch” team this year – you can go to 82games and see that almost every player has a vastly better plus-minus in clutch situations (“4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points”) than they do overall*.

    Per 48 minutes, with Turkoglu on the court the Magic were +25 in those clutch situations. That sounds amazing but Rashard Lewis was +22 in the same situations and Courtney Lee was +27. Dwight Howard was +15. So it’s not easy to see which player was the key. One guess: not Turkoglu, since he shot 35% in those clutch situations with an eFG of 39%. Lewis on the other hand shot 51 percent with a 62% eFG.

    I like Turkoglu as a player but just like anyone it’s silly to say their value “transcends stats.”

    It’s also totally illogical to say a point in the 4th quarter is more valuable than a point in the 1st. They count the same. The 4th quarter as a whole is more important (slightly) only because there are more plays, as teams hurry shots, take timeouts, etc.

    *You already know this because the Magic won a disproportionate number of close games, one reason they won 59 games with a point differential that should have been 54 or 55. I would say that’s probably luck – you don’t see those statistics repeat themselves year to year – but that’s another discussion.

  12. Owen, your standards re: Carmelo are awfully high… 34 points on 29 shots (1.17 pps) isn’t bad, especially in a playoff game. Considering he started off 1 for 6 it was pretty impressive.

    I’ve been as hard on Carmelo as anyone, but have to say he looks terrific. Two years ago I said he was the most overrated player in the NBA – and I think it was true. Since then, his “rating” has gotten worse (at least until this month, where his reputation has soared) while his game has gotten a lot better. He’s a terrific scorer, excellent rebounder for a small forward (I think he’s improved 4 years in a row, which is very unusual) and his defense has probably improved more than anything….

    Who would you nominate as today’s most overrated player?

  13. Z-Man,

    Hedo is a good player and to say that you have a point, I think you’re going way too far though. He’s a solid, versatile scorer, can handle the ball very well for his size, knows the game, and plays solid team D.

    There’s definitely value in a player who can take a shot with 10 seconds left in a tie game as cool as if he were just shooting around, and even more value if he can hit that shot at an above average rate.
    To be in a position to make clutch plays in big playoff games, though, you have to a. make the playoffs and b. be in playoff games in the late 4th quarter.
    Without Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis the Magic aren’t in the playoffs, let alone competing the way they are. I would call both Howard and Lewis more crucial to the Magic’s success on an average night than Hedo.
    The Magic are a beautifully constructed team, and Hedo’s a big part of that. I have no idea, but maybe you have a valid point that Hedo is a remarkably clutch player. It can be quantified statistically, though.


    “One of the most indefensible arguments made in support of advanced stats is that a point in the first quarter is just as meaningful as a point in the last 2 minutes.”

    If Cleveland had held their 23 point lead, Hedo doesn’t get to take that shot. If Cleveland never scores all those points early to get a 23 point league, then the Magic cruise and Hedo doesn’t have to take his shot. (Either way we’re robbed of what will likely be remembered as a defining moment in LeBron’s career…)
    It has nothing to do with advanced stats, it’s just logic. It might be harder to score in late game situations (not sure an iso play on Sasha Pavlovic really qualifies), but the points are just as valuable.


    “David Lee will never be capable of making the impact that Turkoglu has made during these playoffs.”

    Saved the best for last… Are you serious? If Lee averages 20 boards a game with 20 ppg on 9 FGAs per game some hypothetical year in the playoffs he will not have the impact Hedo’s had this season, which btw isn’t far above his playoff averages…

    He’s certainly capable, whether or not he will ever do it is a completely different subject and, of course, pure speculation at this point.

  14. Just to condense and clarify: Hedo’s a good basketball player, but to say his impact transcends stats seems ridiculous. His stats show that he’s a valuable, versatile player. If your point is that he’s extremely clutch, you can prove that with stats.



    Melo also took 14 FTAs, so his PSA is technically 0.967.

    Agree with the rest of your point, though. His improvement is as much the reason Denver is where it is as Billups. Really a perfect storm for Denver: Billups, Melo’s improvement, Birdman’s dedication and great response to suspension, both Nene and K-Mart healthy… not to mention robbing the Knicks of Balkman :)

  15. “Who would you nominate as today’s most overrated player?”

    Chris Bosh?

  16. the number of votes for the all-NBA teams gives you a good idea of how guys are currently “rated”, that’s probably what Owen used.

    “not to mention robbing the Knicks of Balkman :)”

    the world’s most talented cheerleader! :)

    oh, and unless I’m missing a discussion on this somewhere else here, we are all witnesses. WOW. both series are fantastic so far, it’s been the first time since I can remember that I don’t hate watching any of the final four teams left, no Spurs, Pistons, Celtics, Rockets, it’s a beautiful thing. the one thing that’s too bad is that my man JR Smith is hurt, so we’re not getting him at full explosiveness. if he somehow gets it back, LA is in big trouble.

  17. I don’t know if you guys are big on Hollinger’s PER rating, but Bosh was a top 15 player in his rating this year, higher than Lee (of course, he also had Zach Randolph rated slightly higher than Lee.)


    Overrated: This is not based on much cause I’ve only seen a few Blazer games (and I would still want him on the Knicks) but I feel like Aldridge is overrated because of his not so great D and how he seems to settle for the outside shot, when I’ve seen him. Or how bout Steve Nash? That’s right, I said it…

  18. Most overrated: Allen Iverson. Remember he was an All Star starter this year.

    oh, and unless I’m missing a discussion on this somewhere else here, we are all witnesses. WOW. both series are fantastic so far, it’s been the first time since I can remember that I don’t hate watching any of the final four teams left, no Spurs, Pistons, Celtics, Rockets, it’s a beautiful thing.

    Agreed. These series are just great. For once you feel like any two teams can make the Finals, and there’s no dynasty team. Maybe there’s something to be said for parity.

    BTW that LeBron shot was unbelievable! I watched it live, and had to explain to my wife the importance and improbability of such an event.

  19. We always talk about the All-Do-Over team (something like Rondo, Roy, Ariza, Lee, Bynum), but all postseason I just keep thinking about the All-Their-Own-Worst-Enemies team: Players who have literally been under the Knicks control…

    5- Nene
    4- Lee
    3- Danilo
    2- Ariza
    1- Duhon

    6- Nate
    7- Balkman
    8- Wilson Chandler
    9- Frye
    10- Matt Barnes
    11- Ime Udoka

    Really wing-rich, but with some creative coaching or trades for equally talented bigs/guards could that team make the playoffs in the East??? Nene, Barnes/Chandler, Balkman/Udoka, Ariza, Duhon… pretty good defensive line-up. Lots of good shooters as well.

  20. that list is actually a nice tribute to how little talent Isiah actually gave away, as the only real guy there is Ariza and that one was on Larry Brown (as we’ve discussed/argued here numerous times). you can also add Antonio McDyess as a big man off the bench.

    good job on those last minute inbounds passes, Denver, and Carmelo, way to disappear in the second half and give back home court.

  21. It’s mind-boggling to me that Denver has botched THREE late inbounds passes (counting Martin’s timeout). Granted, Odom is tough on the ball, and the Lakers were playing great D, but when it happens again and again it’s on the coach.

    I think Karl has to share the blame for Carmelo’s disappearance, too… they stopped getting him the ball except for isos starting 20 feet from the basket. Obviously, Carmelo got frustrated and forced way too much.

    Aside from his mysterious dependence on Derek Fisher – who almost lost the game for the Lakers, bricking 3-pointers, committing a key charge and letting JR Smith run by him – Jackson seems to have regained the upper hand…

    Most fans and experts focus on in-game strategy and playcalling, but aside from playing-time decisions I’d say that having your team practiced and prepared for every situation is the coach’s most important job. Jax does that better than anyone except maybe Popovich.

  22. What is amazing is that the game was close at all, with mediocre efforts from their top three scorers….

    Billups 5-15
    Melo 4-13
    Smith 4-15

    Although melo and chauncey combined to go 18-21 from the line.

    Ariza was great for them.

    I too can’t believe how poorly the Nuggets have executed basic fundamentals.

  23. I don’t normally care too much about officiating, but the Cav-Magic game was ridiculous, culminating with a call on Dwight Howard, after he cleanly blocked Lebron’s shot, which was all-time bad.

    Superstar calls seem to rule the playoffs, which is a bit annoying…

  24. Another couple of losses and maybe Lebron starts realizing his supporting cast and coach in Cleveland arent that good!!!! NY in 2010 baby!!!! LOL

  25. “Another couple of losses and maybe Lebron starts realizing his supporting cast and coach in Cleveland arent that good!!!! NY in 2010 baby!!!! LOL”

    Well, at a minimum, I think it strongly diminishes the chances of him signing an extension this summer. The big question is will the Knicks, thru the draft and trades, have a better supporting cast a year from now than what the Cavs have. You can make a pretty strong case that with the addition of Curry (a LeBron fave) the development of Gallo, and a trade or 2 by Walsh (via the subtraction of the other Curry), they could very well be superior, esp. with Z at the end of his career and given how small LeBron’s supporting cast has come up this series so far. Of course, if they roar back and beat the Magic in 6 or 7 and go on to beat LA, all bets are off.

  26. The Magic look tough. Courtney Lee is a great player. I also think van Gundy did another great job of dictating the pace of that game. He’s looking like one of the better coaches right now (of course, having Dwight will help you look good.)
    This is a crazy idea, but what if we traded eddy curry for jamal crawford? G.S. has basically said that they don’t want him, and I can’t imagine they will get much more for him. They have pretty similar contracts right? Crawford could be effective as a 6th man. We could throw in Duhon or Chandler if they want more.
    Then we could retry the same package with Sacto sending Nate and Jeffries to them for junk and have them include their 2nd round pick. We could work out a pre-arranged deal so that they select who we want and then make the trade after the signing period begins. Then we still have room for Lebron but lose Curry and Jeffries. Lee would still need some frountcourt help, so maybe we resign Wilcox for a mil or 2.

  27. While daydreaming about Lebron coming to us in 2010, what does our current 2010 roster look like? As far as I can figure–

    No PG currently (Duhon expiring)
    PG/SG – maybe Stephen Curry?
    SF – Chandler
    SF/PF – Gallinari
    PF – probably Lee
    C – ugh, Jefferies + Eddy
    perhaps most importantly – Mike D’Antoni as coach, whoever else they sign with rest of FA money…

    Cleveland will have:

    PG – Mo Williams/West
    SG – Pavlovic/Gibson
    SF – zippo
    PF – JJ Hickson, whoever Darnell jackson is, +/- Varejao
    C – Ben Wallace (‘roids anyone?), probably old Ilgauskas
    perhaps most overrated coach of the year – Mike Brown

    I dunno – it’s close. I still think our chances of getting the King in 2010 are about 3:1 against, but if Cleveland lays an egg this year and loses to Orlando, and Ferry is unable to make any big moves, I think it may be more like 3:2 against when the time comes. Especially if Wade decides to come to NYC too!

    Meanwhile, a couple random thoughts on the series —
    1. I think the NBA has a serious problem with the perception that the league really wants a Kobe-Lebron final. Some of the officiating in the CLE-ORL series especially has been god-awful.

    2. Anyone else extremely impressed by Mikael Pietrus? He’s been amazing. He’s looked like a younger/bigger Bruce Bowen in this series.

    And last thing — can someone explain to me how trade exceptions can be used? On the trade machine i see that we have ~4MM in trade exceptions — can we use those to go buy a draft pick?

  28. I agree that the officiating has been a problem this postseason. I would really like to see more replay added to the NBA: if the technology’s out there to make things fairer, why aren’t we using it? The flagrant/technical calls/non-calls alone have been terrible. I can’t remember if it was ECF or WCF, but in Game 2 either Orlando or Denver got robbed on what I saw as two really, really obvious charges that were called blocking fouls. May have been Orlando… On the whole these have still been some really exciting playoffs, though.

    The whole LeBron being more likely to come to NY if he wins/losses is so complicated… I have no idea whether to root for Cleveland or against them. I guess I just have to sit back and watch.

    I’m very excited to see what kind of team Walshtoni have in place going into/coming out of Summer 2010, but if you get LeBron it shouldn’t be too hard to fill the holes around him. Mediocrity around him makes you a playoff team, much above that and you’re a contender.

    I’m a big Pietrus fan as well.

  29. “i see that we have ~4MM in trade exceptions — can we use those to go buy a draft pick?”

    We don’t need to use a trade exception to buy a draft pick – we’re allowed to pay up to $3 million cash.

    The trade exceptions can be used to take back more salary in a trade than we’re sending out. One catch: they can’t be combined. i.e. if we have a pair of 2.2 million exceptions, we can’t trade Wilson Chandler (and his $1.3 million salary) for a $6 million player.

    ANother big catch is that you have to use an exception within one year of the trade.

    Does anyone remember what those exceptions are from? At least one is from the Clipper deal, right?

  30. I cant stand watching all these fouls called. Last night and tonight it is ridiculous.

  31. “nobody watches all 1,312 regular season games”

    It’s a trick question: there aren’t that many games. 30 x 41 = 1230.

    I think you were assuming 32 teams?

  32. so no one is going to mention Balkman’s amusing cameo last night, where he came in at the end of the second quarter for less than a minute because Denver was desperate for a warm body?

    Denver had the ball, no one covered Balkman so they got him the ball near the basket. up for the shot, blocked right back at him. up for the shot again, blocked again. I couldn’t help laughing in the context of the godlike status that this site has collectively bestowed upon him…

  33. I was going to mention the Balkman cameo. Also came in for a minute at the end of the game. Scoring is not exactly his strength… I’m still high on Balkman. Not playing on a title contender isn’t that much of an indictment. Doesn’t seem like he would be playing anyway, but was hurt.

    Jones is out next game, so we might get to see some Balkman. Or Karl could just tighten up the rotation.

  34. At first I was rooting like hell for the Lakers and Cavs to be able to watch a Kobe vs LBJ Finals. But now Im rooting against the Cavs because of my fantasy that losing would show Lebron how weak his supporting cast and head coach really is which could be a major reason to go to the Knicks besides the obvious financial reasons off the court.

  35. Ben Wallace covering Rashard Lewis on that play???? Really???? Well since Mike Brown wasnt even talking during his team’s huddle during the previous Time-Out, guess you cant blame his strategy since it wasnt his strategy apparently.

  36. yeah, that Wallace on Lewis move was unbelievable, especially since he had a chance to change it when Orlando had to call timeout. also, playing Wally S so much down the stretch was inexplicable.

    Balkman will probably still not get minutes even with Jones out, Kleiza should just play more and maybe JR Smith can start.

  37. Jon, did Balkman kick your dog or something?

    Interesting to see what Karl does – Balkman and Kleiza offer totally different things… Kleiza will play more but if he needs perimeter defense he doesn’t have a lot of ways to go, except Balk. In some ways he’s an upgrade over Jones, IMO, but definitely more unpredictable – I’d be pretty worried about fouls, especially considering his ankle, the “superstar calls” of the playoffs and the fact that the zebras are getting awfully quick with the whistles as the series gets longer and rougher.

  38. no, I loved Balkman when he was here, my favorite guy on the team. I just find it really amusing/sad how people here can’t get over his departure when he’s a borderline rotation player at best and coach after coach of his confirms this.

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