Knicks 92 Portland 91 (or Fun With Numbers)

Yesterday I spoke about the discussion going on in the APBR_analysis group. One of the messages by Dean Oliver said:

My point is that you can break down the games of baseball or basketball to an infinite degree. I think baseball and basketball offenses are broken down pretty well by stats. What’s left over are small variations of strategy or training. Do they matter? Yes, but do we miss a significant amount of value by not measuring them? I don’t think so.

Let me frame it one other way. From a team standpoint the value of the four factors are

1. Shooting % (10)
2. Turnovers (6)
3. Offensive rebounding (5)
4. Getting to the line (3)…

I’m not exactly sure where he got this information & what the numbers in parenthesis mean. To take an educated guess, I’ll say that these numbers mean that a team with an advantage in shooting% (10) is twice as likely to win as a team that has an edge in offensive rebounding (5). Same with turnovers (6) having an edge over getting to the foul line (3). I’d imagine when a team shoots better than their opponents, and gets more turnovers they will win a large percentage of their games, even if they allow their opponents to get to the glass more & send them to the line more often.

Just to have some fun with these numbers, let’s assume they are points assigned to each team for getting an advantage in that category. Let’s see how the Knicks did last night.

Shooting% – 10 points

Portland shot 50% yesterday (34-68), while the Knicks only shot 47% (38-81). However I just measured FG% there, and the original wording was “shooting %.” FG% doesn’t account for the extra bonus you get from hitting three pointers, just like batting average in baseball doesn’t make a distinction between a single and a home run. Last year Doug “Can I buy a vowel?” Mientkiewicz and Hank Blalock both hit .300. However, Blalock hit 29 homers, while Mientkiewicz hit only 11.

Accounting for treys, both teams get a slight bump. Portland’s aFG% is now 52%, and the Knicks 49%. It’s close, but Portland wins 10 points.

Turnovers – 6 points

The Blazers turned the ball over 13 times, the Knicks 11. The Knicks will get the 6 point for this one. One interesting thing about ESPN’s box scores is that you can see how many points the team scored on turnovers. The Knicks scored 18 points off of turnovers, while Portland only had 13.

Offensive Rebounds – 5 points

The Knicks win again here, anyway you look at it. They had more offensive rebounds 12 to 6. You could argue that they had more chances, since they missed more shots. This is true, but they also converted a higher amount of those chances. Portland had 36 boards, 6 on the offensive side. So that means they had 30 defensive rebounds. The Knicks had 12 offensive rebounds, so that means they had 42 (30+12) total chances. The Knicks got 12 of them, which works out to 29%. The Knicks got 28 defensive rebounds (40 total – 12 offensive), and the Blazers got 6 offensive rebounds. That mean Portland got 6 offensive rebounds in 34 total, or 18%.

Getting to the Line – 3 points

It’s well known that the Knicks commit a lot of fouls, and Portland took advantage of this. The Blazers shot from the charity stripe 23 times, and the Knicks only had 16. Advantage to Portland.


So what do we end up with? Portland 13, Knicks 11. However the Knicks won this game, so what gives? First this information wasn’t meant to be used the way I did. I just took the numbers to mean something out of their original context.

Second, the system I created has flaws. I assigned the entire point value for the winner of each category. For example, “shooting %” was close enough that we shouldn’t have given Portland a full 10 point advantage. Three percentage points in aFG% doesn’t mean much. Maybe I could have given them a 6, instead.

Finally the game was close. The Knicks won by one point. This means if they missed one shot or Portland hit one more the final numbers of my little system would not have changed, but the result of the game would have been very different.

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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).