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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mavericks, Raptors Stave Off The Grim Reaper

Down 3 games to 1, both the Dallas Mavericks and the Toronto Raptors won last night to force a game 6 in each of their respective series. The similarity didn’t end there. Both teams took double digit first quarter leads, only to lose them down the stretch. Dallas had to rally from a 9 point deficit with only 3 minutes to go, while Toronto had to curtail a Vince Carter drive & kick-out three pointer to Nachbar with a 2 point lead in the final possession.

Both teams are led by their big men, who have had trouble. Toronto’s Chris Bosh has had trouble scoring on Jason Collins, and has been in foul trouble most of the series. In game 5, Bosh picked up his second foul only 7 minutes into the game, and was on the floor for a total of 24 minutes. Meanwhile Nowitzki was ridiculed publicly by his coach for not being aggressive enough against the undersized Warriors. Dirk seemed to shy away from the ball in the second half of game 5 until the final minutes.

Normally I’m not big on the NBA’s first round, but these two series combined with the splendid Rockets-Jazz matchup have made the first round quite fascinating.

53 comments on “Mavericks, Raptors Stave Off The Grim Reaper

  1. dave crockett

    Can I just say that I have always liked Matt Barnes? I wanted him to stay in NY but he was atrocious as a Knick.

  2. Michael Zannettis

    How about the news that Don Nelson’s comments that if Al Harrington and Monta Ellis didn’t step up their game, that he might switch to a six man rotation?

    How many coaches do you hear about that have the willingness to bench two of their starters for not performing?

    I’m thoroughly impressed. As it is, the two only combined for 41 minutes tonight.

  3. Matthew

    Even though Bosh played poorly (one of the worst performances of the first round, IMO), that’s still no excuse to only play your star player 24 minutes.

  4. Brian Cronin

    I don’t know if I’m necessarily impressed by a coach threatening to bench his starters based on a few games.

    What I AM impressed by is how quick Nelson is to bench guys when they show, in the game itself, that they are not playing well.

    And yeah, Dave, that’s my exact stance on Barnes. I liked him, but he was SOOO bad as a Knick, I really can’t blame Zeke for dumping him.

  5. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    I get 130 comments on the possibility of Telfair coming to the Knicks, but I put up posts on two areas where there is a lot to discuss about the NBA that are not-Knick related and all I get are crickets. My goodness half the comments at this point are about a former Knick!

    If there is anyone reading this that stayed up late last night, used their TIVO, lives in a timezone where normal people would be awake during those West Coast NBA Games, or is willing to scour the boxscore and wants to talk about the games yesterday, here is a question for you:

    Was Dirk Nowitzki lucky yesterday, or was that actually skill? What I mean is that the Mavs were 3 minutes from elimination, and Dirk nails a pair of 3s, blocks a shot, and got a few questionable calls down the stretch. The out of bounds on the rebound I thought was a bit dubious. The 6th foul on Baron Davis. There were a few non-calls that I thought I saw as well. So if you had to categorize the Mavs victory, and you were only given 2 categories: “Dirk’s skill” and “Luck”, how much percentage would you allocate to each?

  6. Michael Zannettis

    I’d like to add on that question by wondering what the baseline values for “luck” vs. “skill” are.

    If we just say Dirk was “50%” lucky, that doesn’t mean anything if most of the time players are “50%” lucky.

    In a sense you can say that any three he hits is luck, because even at 40%, he’s going to miss most of them. The chances of hitting two in a row are only 16%, which is basically a crap roll.

    Does that make him lucky to have hit both? I don’t know. It seems like skill that he could even have the possibility to hit them.

  7. jon abbey

    Dirk hit a couple of similar late 3s at the end of game 4, I certainly wouldn’t call any of those “lucky”. I’d call the non-call on him hacking Richardson lucky, GS’s offense disappearing for the final three minutes lucky, GS somehow messing up so badly on D that Dirk flashed open in the halfcourt underneath the basket lucky, but not hitting the shots that he did. if you want to talk about a lucky 3, you can go to the one Baron hit to put them up by 9, a set-shot fling as the shot clock expired.

    so to answer the question, and I guess you’re only talking about the last 3 minutes, since Dirk wasn’t much of a factor before then, I’d say something like 40% Dirk’s skill, 30% luck, 20% GS inexperience at closing a team out, and 10% a couple of borderline calls going to Dallas (maybe that’s under luck also).

  8. Brian Cronin

    Those threes are the exact types of shots Dirk is SUPPOSED to make, I say. I think he should be taking more of them, and it was pissing me off he wasn’t up until the end of the game.

    My brother is a huge Suns fan, and we were watching the game together, and it was awesome how pissed he was getting.

    Anyhow, Mike, it IS pretty funny how many comments the Telfair thing got.

  9. jon abbey

    “Dirk wouldn?t hit those threes in Oakland.”

    he hit two threes in the last 14 seconds of game 4 in Oakland to cut the lead to 1, so that’s not true.

  10. Brian Cronin

    But he DID hit those threes in Oakland. He just didn’t bother trying them until there were 20 seconds left!

    ETA: Ha, looks like Jon beat me to it. Jinx, I guess!

  11. Owen

    FWIW, I was watching the game and had the boxscore open. I remember at one point I looked down in the late third or fourth quarter and the warriors were I think something like 15-26 from three. I thought to myself, how can you beat a team when they are shooting that kind of percentage on that kind of volume?

    But they finished up 16-35 from behind the arc. That was the story for me. They took a lot of three pointers and missed a lot down the stretch. They have a feast or famine, high volatility approach, When you are hot you are impossible to beat. When you are cold you get killed.

    Denver is similar, but Davis and Richardson are much better than Iverson and Anthony.

  12. Brian Cronin

    Hah! Fair enough, Seth. :)

    Seriously, though, I love it when Dirk takes threes like that. Dude’s 7 feet tall – a single defender isn’t going to keep him from taking a good look at a three – so I’d like to see him go to that shot more often – it’s a total dagger in the heart of the opponent.

  13. Mike K. (KnickerBlogger) Post author

    Watching the game, it seemed like the double teams on Baron contributed to guys being wide open from downtown. As Dave Crockett noted, it wasn’t the lack of Dirk’s offense as much as the lack of Dallas’ defense. If I were Avery, I would go with the Van Gundy-Jordan approach. Let Baron kill them, but shut down on everyone else.

    And if you’re about to say that the Jordan strategy didn’t work, remember that Baron Davis is no Michael Jordan.

  14. jon abbey

    Jordan also didn’t have a bunch of other guys who could isolate one on one in the halfcourt and light things up also, Richardson and Jackson especially. Matt Barnes is hurt and maybe out tonight, that would help Dallas a lot.

  15. Michael Zannettis

    I hate to be the one to point this out, cause it hurt me as much as it hurt you, but the Van Gundy-Jordan approach didn’t work.

    Also, it was in the last three minutes when the Mavs were trapping Davis and forcing the ball out of their hands when the Warriors failed to score a point.

    So maybe the Detroit defense of Cut-the-head-off-your-opponent is the best way to go.

  16. Michael Zannettis

    P.S. I can’t believe Mavs fans are excited about the prospect of their opponent, in an elimination game, having Matt Barnes unavailable.

    In the spirit of Don Zimmer: Matt Effin’ Barnes.

  17. dave crockett

    I say it was 90% skill on Dirk’s part. He did what he did. The 10% owes to the the randomness of the situation. Still, had Golden State not gone completely ice cold we’d all be talking about how it was a valiant effort but too little too late.

    It’s less surprising to see Dirk make such great plays in a short sequence than how lame he was for long stretches. He was one of the WORST players on the floor for loooong stretches of the game and of the series. He just isn’t finding a way to make a consistent contribution.

    I may regret encouraging Owen (tee hee) but I’d be interested to know what WoW would say about Devin Harris’ game 5. On both ends he seemed to the naked eye like Dallas’ best player for long stretches of the game (along with Josh Howard).

    I have to respectfully disagree with the contention that the JVG defensive strategy on Jordan’s Bulls didn’t work.

    It was great defensive strategy. We just never had enough offense to beat those Chicago teams, well except the year of Charles Smith’s never-ending-pump-fakes.

    The Bulls always went on to unceremoniously back-slap their Western conference opponent (except Phoenix), ceding the customary two games for the sake of appearances, but those finals series were rarely as bitterly contested.

    Man, those are some painful memories. The bandwagon jumping Bulls fans. Ahmad Rashad drooling all over Jordan for hitting a completely uncontested 18 foot jumper. (sniffle) I don’t miss it–don’t miss it at all.

  18. Michael Zannettis

    Actually, that’d be an interesting study. Did Jeff Van Gundy’s team, adjusting for the fact that they’re already a strong defense, defend the Bulls better than other teams?

    Did the Van Gundy-Jordan strategy actually work in terms of points/100 possessions?

    I smell a future article.

  19. Owen

    I dont know man. GS is 12-18 from three. Feast or Famine. Its hard to beat a team when it’s shooting like that.

    Where the hell is Dampier? I just dont get it. Yes I am informed by the WOW, but I think he has been the third best player on that team this year, and he has barely played. They won sixty seven games with him in there? Why isn’t he playing?

  20. dave crockett

    GS is shooting lights out from deep but Dallas can’t find an open shot and can’t get to the line.

    The only guy that can get to the FT line for Dallas is Devin Harris.

    GS is likely to cool off but Dallas just seems beaten midway through the 3rd.

    Nowitzski looks pathetic. If you’re 7-foot seems like you should always be able to go to the boards and help out. It’s one thing to mistake activity for effectiveness, but SOME activity would be nice.

  21. dave crockett

    Avery has gone to the “cede the layup (rather than the three pointer) and get the ball back” plan. Good luck with that Ave.

    So moving right along… Do you think GS has blown its proverbial load this round? Do they have a shot in the 2nd round, particularly with Baron Davis and Matt Barnes hobbled?

  22. Owen

    I dont know, my feeling is they can beat either Utah or Houston. However over at GSOM they think not, I think because of the huge advantage those teams have inside with Ming and Boozer. The Mavs, especially without Dampier, aren’t good inside. They match up well or something.

    What an arena, what fans…

  23. dave crockett

    Avery needed to come out of that zone and guard the shooters. On offense Dallas hasn’t taken a good shot in the 2nd half yet and they’re now down by 25. It’s one thing for GS to be hot. It’s another for Dallas to come apart at the seams on both ends. If GS were shooting lights out and winning by 5 points, 10 points you could see. But Dallas looks like they channeled the Knicks circa December 2006.

    GS has not played well consistently in pressure packed late game situations. GS has played with very little composure. They haven’t always executed well, and let’s just say they can get a little sidetracked when they feel like they’re not getting calls. Dallas needed to find a way to be in the game late.

  24. jon abbey

    “Where the hell is Dampier? I just dont get it. Yes I am informed by the WOW, but I think he has been the third best player on that team this year, and he has barely played.”

    you’ve got to be kidding, do you really believe this?

  25. Owen

    Yes Jon. I actually believe that. Well, I dont think the Warriors won because Dampier wasn’t on the floor. That is stretching it a bit. But I do think two things. First, the guy played the fifth most minutes on a team that won 67 games. Clearly he has some value out there. Second, looking at the stats It seems pretty clear to me that Dampier is a better player than Diop.

    I dont know why they played so badly, Dampier wasn’t the only reason of course, but it seems strange Johnson decided to play him 40 minutes total in the series. That decision seems indicative of his decision to cede the style of play to the Warriors. The conventional analysis is that Johnson tried to beat the Warriors at their own game and failed. I think that’s right. And the Warriors shot ridiculously well from three.

  26. Owen

    Jon – Honestly roll with me here. The Mavericks won 130 odd games with Dampier playing a majority of the center minutes over the past two years. All I am saying is that they seemed to have hit on a successful formula for winning basketball games and he was part of it. Why change your strategy?

    And for the record, I think Dampier is a good basketball player. He is no Shaq, but I would take him over Eddy Curry for the Knicks.

    And FWIW, I am sometimes though rarely puzxled by the WOW numbers. For instance with Bruce Bowen, who is rated negative but plays on what I think is the best team in the league. But how far off could Berri be in his assesment. The stats capture most of what a player does on the offensive end. That’s not much on the offensive end in Bowen’s case, as is plainly evident. If Bowen is a high impact player, it can only in off box score defense. How much can perimeter defense possibly be worth? I agree he is better than his rating, but I don’t really believe the Spurs would be hurt that much if you put an average g-sf by the WOW metric out there instead. For instance, how much worse would the Spurs be with Q Rich than Bowen?

  27. jon abbey

    “The Mavericks won 130 odd games with Dampier playing a majority of the center minutes over the past two years. All I am saying is that they seemed to have hit on a successful formula for winning basketball games and he was part of it. Why change your strategy?”

    well, it didn’t work against GS, who demolished them in both of the last two regular seasons, winning five of six. Dampier wasn’t the mistake, it was not playing Diop more in game 1.

    and the biggest mistake, which I said at the time (not here), was to not try to knock GS out of the playoffs when they had the chance in the next to last game of the season. instead, they rested Nowitski, Howard and Stackhouse, and GS squeaked in. well, Dallas gets plenty of rest now, that decision to not try to beat them in the regular season would bug me forever if I were a Dallas fan, just a really stupid decision from a usually very smart organization.

  28. Owen

    You kind of dodged my comment. They played Dampier for an average of six minutes per game in the series, and they played Diop instead of whom, who isn’t better than he is?

    I agree on the other point, sort of, they should have knocked them out. But could they honestly have seen this coming?

  29. jon abbey

    Owen, the playoffs are about individual matchups, to a much larger extent than the regular season. whatever their relative merits in the regular season, Diop is (was) a better matchup than Dampier against GS. everyone on GS can go out to three point range (except Biedrins, who wasn’t playing too much), Dampier can’t guard anyone out there, and Biedrins would have beaten him downcourt every time.

    and they could have seen this coming, yes, although maybe not quite to this extent. again, GS beat them 5 out of 6 times in the last two regular seasons.

  30. Ted Nelson

    Jon, I think the point is that if you’re the best team in the NBA you should go with whatever made you the best team in the NBA instead of playing inferior players to “match-up” against the #8 seed. The Mavs played at the 3rd slowest pace in the NBA this season and won 67 games, GS played at the fastest pace. Why would you cater to them instead of slowing it down and sticking to what won those 67 games. The Mavs were also the 5th best defense in the NBA this season and played Dampier an average of 25 min/game, they were a terrible defense against GS without him.
    The Mavs just lost 4 of 6 games in which Diop played more minutes than Dampier, so it’s not easy to say that Diop was a better match-up against GS.
    A counter point to Dampier not being able to guard anyone besides Biedrins: no one besides Biedrins can guard Dampier, either! I wouldn’t be that comfotable running my offense through Dampier but by the time you’d dropped 3 of 5 games to a team of wing players running you ragged, you think you’d try giving the ball to your 7 foot center to see if he can’t get some good looks over players half a foot shorter than him. If nothing else it might force GS to adjust its game plan and substitute at least one shooter for Biedrins.

  31. jon abbey

    “The Mavs just lost 4 of 6 games in which Diop played more minutes than Dampier, so it?s not easy to say that Diop was a better match-up against GS.”

    well, 2-4 is still better than the 0-3 regular season record.

    GS was just a terrible matchup for them, I don’t think there’s too much they could have done differently (besides what I already said, going more to Diop in game 1, which was the key game in the series, the only one where the home team lost, and going all-out in game 81 as opposed to mailing it in). if they don’t play GS, they easily could have been champions this year. the #1 seed/#8 seed stuff is irrelevant, just a terrible matchup for Dallas.

    hopefully Baron and Barnes are OK and they keep it going next round. not that I expect Phoenix to beat San Antonio, but Phoenix/GS would be the most entertaining series in the history of the league.

  32. xduckshoex

    Last year the Lakers proved that the quality of the center doesn’t matter if the size advantage is big enough by successfully running their offense through Kwame Brown at times against the Suns. I would say Dampier is at least as good as Brown on the offensive end and could have done some damage there.

  33. xduckshoex

    I think the one thing that jon abbey is undoubtedly right about is the fact that the Mavs should have at least tried to eliminate the Warriors when they had the chance in the regular season.

  34. Ted Nelson

    “well, 2-4 is still better than the 0-3 regular season record.”

    Diop averaged 16.5 mpg in those three games, while Dampier averaged 11 mpg.

    “the #1 seed/#8 seed stuff is irrelevant, just a terrible matchup for Dallas.”

    The “#1 seed/#8 seed stuff” is relevant b/c Dallas has proven itself to be a much better, or at least consistantly better, team than GS. I agree that GS was a tough match-up for Dallas(obviously), but that doesn’t mean they were doomed from the beginning: “I don?t think there?s too much they could have done differently.”
    What I’m saying, and what I think Owen is saying, is that Dallas made itself a weaker team by benching Dampier. (Maybe) They felt like they needed to react to GS by playing smaller, more athletic players to guard the Warriors’ arsenal of athletic wings. Unfortunately, Dallas’ only real long, athletic wing is Josh Howard.
    What they could have done differently is to exploit their size advantage over the Warriors. Hell, I would have played Diop, Dampier, and Dirk in the front-court together with Howard and Harris/Terry in the backcourt.
    The Warriors would have a clear speed advantage, but with Diop, Dampier, Dirk, and Howard patrolling they would have had a hell of a time getting to the basket and had to live and die by the 3. I believe that this became the situation anyway, with Dallas resorting to a zone of shorter players who posed no real threat to block the Warriors shots and the Warriors feasting from downtown. While the Mavericks’s small-ball line-up left them with no offensive cohesion (maybe b/c their top 4 5-man units in minutes played, all boasting positive +/-, all featured Dampier).
    If, on the other hand, Dallas had gone to a bigger line-up, they might have dominated the Warriors offensively and embarrassed them on the glass. If nothing else, this would have forced the Warriors to play Harrington and Biedrins, who they clearly didn’t want to play and, presumably, would have limited their offense.

    Dallas allowed GS to play to its strengths, while playing away from its own.

  35. Ted Nelson

    So, coaching and strategy have no effect on the outcome of basketball games and playoff series??? “Matching-up” against the other team is the only thing that wins playoff series???

  36. jon abbey

    obviously coaching and strategy have plenty of effect on most games and series. but this was a terrible matchup for Dallas, on the court and off the court, and I don’t think they would have won regardless of what they did.

    people can’t get past the different records of the teams, but GS was a different team once they settled into their new rotation in the last 15-20 games of the season. I watched them run Phoenix out of the gym in the first half of one game also.

  37. Owen

    “I don’t think they would have won regardless of what they did?”

    Such a Jon Abbey thing to say.

    On whether coaching is important – It’s an interesting topic. Part of me thinks a team really is only as good as the players out on the court. Coaches dont affect how players play, but they obviously affect how much they play. David Lee is going to be basically the same player no matter what Isaiah does. But if Isaiah only plays him 30 minutes per, the Knicks win fewer games than they would if he plays 37 minutes.

    However, the WOW guy did some interesting work on this. FWIW, they think that some coaches do have a statistically significant impact and that Don Nelson actually is one of them. Of course he finds this by looking at Wins Produced projections and seeing to what extent teams outperform, so you aren’t going to like that Jon, but I thought it was an interesting insight when i read the book.

  38. jon abbey

    Avery Johnson’s one of the few smartest coaches in the league. if there was a good solution for them to match up against GS, I think he would have found it. FWIW, my friend made money at 11-1 betting on this series beforehand, it really wasn’t such a big surprise to people paying close attention.

  39. Michael Zannettis

    Again, to me, the most shocking aspect of this series was that Matt Barnes was one of the key contributors to the “greatest” upset in basketball series history.

    That being said, if GS is beats the Houston/Utah winner, then goes on to defeat the Spurs/Suns, do we then say that this series wasn’t an upset, because clearly GS was the best team in the west?

  40. jon abbey

    FWIW, for those advocating more Dampier, GS held Yao to 9 points on just 2-4 shooting in their 110-99 win over Houston on April 4.

  41. xduckshoex

    I find it hard to believe that coaching doesn’t matter when only a handful of coaches have won titles in the last 20 years.

    And I also find it hard to believe that one of the best coaches in the League would not be able to get his star player better looks against that zone. Did he even try to play Dirk in the low post?

  42. jon abbey

    “I find it hard to believe that coaching doesn?t matter when only a handful of coaches have won titles in the last 20 years.”

    that’s not about coaches, it’s about superstars.

  43. Ted Nelson

    FWIW, not sure what you were getting at Jon, but, Yao missed the game following that 9 point performance (that would suggest to me he might have been injured). Tracy McGrady also played a total of 7 minutes in that game and also missed the next game, and completely missed the other Rockets loss to the Warriors. Yao averaged 24.7 ppg and 12.3 rpg in 3 games against the Warriors this season. The Rockets were 1-2 in those games, but if their top 2 players were healthy they might have easily been 2-1 or 3-0.

    FWIW, the Grizzlies held Gilbert Arenas to 3 points on 1-12 shooting in their 95-80 Nov. 24th win. Doesn’t mean that they weren’t the league’s worst defense and worst team.

  44. Ted Nelson

    Jon and Owen,

    Finally you guys seem to, sort of, agree on something: that player performance is independent of coaching performance and you can just put the best 5 guys on the court and they’ll win. That there’s no strategy in basketball. And that motivating players, teaching them, and taking care of their emotions are all irrelavent.
    For example, I guess that the U.S. National team just didn’t have the man power, because “it’s about superstars.” Dimitris Diamantidis was the Euroleague final four MVP, guess he’s the world’s biggest superstar and the secret behind Greece’s success.

    It seems like a very odd viewpoint to me, but at least you guys are getting along.

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