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Thread: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

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    Default Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat
    John Schuhmann, Nov 25 2010


    To celebrate Thanksgiving, the Numbers Game has a variety of statistical dishes from around the Eastern Conference...


    Miami's 8-7 record is a mirage

    The Miami Heat have lost three straight games and at 8-7, they're easily the biggest disappointment in the league. At this point, everyone wants to diagnose the Heat's problems and wonders if Pat Riley's getting ready to push Erik Spoelstra aside. But are the Heat really doing that bad?

    If you go by winning percentage, the Heat are the 13th best team in the NBA. And yes, it's wins and losses that determine playoff position and home-court advantage in the postseason. But when it comes to point differential, Miami ranks third in the league, outscoring their opponents by 8.6 points per 100 possessions. Only the Lakers (+10.6) and Spurs (+9.1) are better.

    The issue, of course, is that the Heat have won a bunch of blowouts and lost a bunch of close games. Their eight wins have come by an average of 18.4 points, while their seven losses have come by an average of just 6.4.

    While both their offense and defense have been deficient at times this season, the Heat are the only team in the league that ranks in the top five on both ends of the floor. Through Wednesday, they have the fourth best offense, scoring 107.6 points per 100 possessions, and the fifth best defense, allowing 99.0.

    Based on their point differential, using a standard formula for expected wins, the Heat should be 11-4 and tied with the Celtics for first place in the Eastern Conference. No team in the league has a bigger discrepancy (in either direction) between their point differential and their actual record.

    The roster has its flaws, obviously. And Miami' playoff success will be determined in part by how well they match up with their opponents. But no matter who they play, the Heat will have matchup advantages of their own, as well as the talent to overcome their flaws. And the truth behind their 8-7 record is not that they're a mediocre team, but that they're a very good team that has had some bad games.


    Sorting it all out

    We knew that the Eastern Conference would be top-heavy, with three elite teams and maybe only five or six teams deserving of playoff spots. And the first four weeks have done nothing to dispel that idea.

    The Celtics and Magic, as expected, are at the top. The Heat are underachieving, but we know they're relatively fine. And the Bulls, after a 2-3 start, already look like the fourth best team in the conference as they wait for Carlos Boozer to return from his hand injury.

    Beyond that? Only the Indiana Pacers have played like a playoff team. The New York Knicks have won five straight games and sit at 8-8, but they've played by far the easiest schedule of the 11 teams not named in the paragraph above.

    Screen shot 2010-11-25 at 12.24.30 PM

    After the Knicks you have seven teams that have at least five wins and at least eight losses. Then you have the 3-12 Sixers, who have the worst record in the East, but have played a pretty tough schedule and have the 11th best point differential in the conference.

    Using strength of schedule and point differential, we can get a better feel for which of the bottom 11 teams in the East have really performed best. And what we find (see table) is that the Pacers are indeed for real, the Knicks are taking advantage of a weak schedule, and the Wizards' record is inflated by their two overtime wins over Philly.

    These numbers are in no way saying who is going to make the playoffs. But they ought to offer some comfort to fans of the Bucks or Bobcats.


    Cleveland not getting it done on either end

    We knew that the Cleveland Cavaliers would suffer a major drop-off from last season's 61 wins. But they really shouldn't be this bad. At 6-8, the Cavs sit in eighth place in the East, but based on point differential, they're the fifth worst team in the NBA. All of their wins have come by single-digits, with two coming by just two points.

    The thought process behind predicting that the Cavs would make the playoffs was a belief that they would be a pretty good defensive team. They have most of the pieces back from last year's seventh-ranked defense and Byron Scott has coached some excellent defensive teams in both New Jersey and New Orleans.

    But only two teams (Oklahoma City and Charlotte) have regressed more defensively from last season than the Cavs have. We knew they would take a huge step backward on offense (and no team has regressed more on that end), but they haven't been able to maximize their potential because they haven't been getting it done defensively either.

    Cleveland currently ranks 19th in the league defensively, allowing 105.5 points per 100 possessions. If they're to have any chance of making the playoffs, they need to be in the top 10.

    One way they can improve is to do a better job of getting back in transition. Using a simple formula (opponents' fast break points divided by opponents' steals), Cleveland has the fifth worst transition defense in the league.


    A lesson in advanced statistics, courtesy of the New Jersey Nets

    If you were to go by standard statistics, you would think that the Nets are a pretty good defensive team. They're allowing just 95.9 points per game, the eighth fewest in the league. But that number is more about the Nets' pace than the quality of their defense. The Nets play at the slowest pace in the league, just 90.8 possessions per team per 48 minutes.

    If you were then to look at opponents' field goal percentage, you still might think that the Nets are decent defensively. Their opponents are shooting 44.6 percent from the field, the 11th lowest mark in the league. But that doesn't tell the whole story either.

    One of the problems is that the Nets force the fewest turnovers in the NBA, just 12.4 per 100 possessions, which is more than three fewer than the league average. So they allow more shots (from the field or the line) to be taken than other teams do.

    The other problem is that the Nets' opponents attempt 30 free throws per 100 possessions, the sixth most in the league. And trips to the line are more efficient than shots from the field.

    In reality, the Nets have the 17th best defense in the NBA, allowing 105.2 points per 100 possessions. It's an improvement over last season, but it's not as good as it may seem.

    http://www.nba.com/2010/news/feature...ook/index.html
    This is the darkest timeline.

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    Excellent article.

    Quote Originally Posted by avoidingtheclowns View Post
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    The thought process behind predicting that the Cavs would make the playoffs was a belief that they would be a pretty good defensive team. They have most of the pieces back from last year's seventh-ranked defense and Byron Scott has coached some excellent defensive teams in both New Jersey and New Orleans.

    But only two teams (Oklahoma City and Charlotte) have regressed more defensively from last season than the Cavs have. We knew they would take a huge step backward on offense (and no team has regressed more on that end), but they haven't been able to maximize their potential because they haven't been getting it done defensively either.

    Cleveland currently ranks 19th in the league defensively, allowing 105.5 points per 100 possessions. If they're to have any chance of making the playoffs, they need to be in the top 10.
    That thought process was always crazy.

    They had 2 elite defenders + 1 very good defender last season + average (a couple), mediocre (a lot) and awful (a handful) defenders, that's why they were a good defensive team. They now have 1 elite defender + average, mediocre and awful defenders.

    Scott can't do any better than O'Brien in the last 2 seasons. In fact, he'll probably do worse.

    Analysts (and coaches) love to talk about defensive minded coaches, defensive systems, defensive rotations and all that, but if you don't have the defensive talent on the floor, you're done.

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    Perfect example of using statistics to overthink a situation.

    Really? The Heat aren't as bad as an 8-7 record indicates? No!

    How many of the reasonable fans out there honestly think Miami is a near .500 ball club? Well, if you had fallen into that trap, this article is for you, folks.

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    Quote Originally Posted by avoidingtheclowns View Post
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    We knew that the Eastern Conference would be top-heavy, with three elite teams and maybe only five or six teams deserving of playoff spots. And the first four weeks have done nothing to dispel that idea.

    The Celtics and Magic, as expected, are at the top. The Heat are underachieving, but we know they're relatively fine. And the Bulls, after a 2-3 start, already look like the fourth best team in the conference as they wait for Carlos Boozer to return from his hand injury.

    Beyond that? Only the Indiana Pacers have played like a playoff team. The New York Knicks have won five straight games and sit at 8-8, but they've played by far the easiest schedule of the 11 teams not named in the paragraph above.

    Using strength of schedule and point differential, we can get a better feel for which of the bottom 11 teams in the East have really performed best. And what we find (see table) is that the Pacers are indeed for real, the Knicks are taking advantage of a weak schedule, and the Wizards' record is inflated by their two overtime wins over Philly.

    More & more evidence that this thing might just be for real!
    IMO the 4 teams listed below us on the chart (MIL, ATL, Cha, NYK) are the ones who will decide seeds 5-8, with 1 of those staying home.
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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    Quote Originally Posted by Kraft View Post
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    Perfect example of using statistics to overthink a situation.

    Really? The Heat aren't as bad as an 8-7 record indicates? No!

    How many of the reasonable fans out there honestly think Miami is a near .500 ball club? Well, if you had fallen into that trap, this article is for you, folks.
    Well, the article is saying that even now they're better than 8-7. That is, they've played well enough to be first in the East. The conventional wisdom would say that their record will improve and they haven't played well enough to be first in the East yet. There's a difference.

    This is, of course, what Hollinger's been saying all along.

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    I think the Heat are better than their record and they will improve, but I think they will top out somewhere around 4th in the east. I could see the Pacers as high as 5th mind you (based on recent play, and this article doesn't really disagree), and I want that playoff matchup, because I don't think the Heat are built to win in the playoffs.

    They will get regular season wins because they can out talent most teams, They are going to struggle against good teams with depth and quality bigs.

    I think the idea that they are going to be 1st in the east or win the east is insane, they just don't have the horses.
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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    You are what your record says you are. This article is insulting.

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    Quote Originally Posted by Kstat View Post
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    You are what your record says you are. This article is insulting.
    Sure, thats true at the end of the season. At this point your record says a lot more about who you have played.
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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    its true at any point. Good teams find ways to win despite superior secondary statistics. Bad teams find ways to lose. There's no greater secret.

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    I think it's funny how much it seems like the media is grasping at straws and trying to make up excuses or flat out in denial about how bad the heat are at the moment. I think teams have seen enough of what the heat do and have worked out gameplans against it now and until the heat work out a gameplan against it I think they will continue to struggle. I think even Paul George could have done well defensively against the heat their offense is nothing special iso iso iso iso you can afford to ball gawk against the heat cause they have three guys all looking to get their own shot. Last night they ran a little bit of a pick and roll for james against the magic and James is familiar enough with Ilgauskas that he can set him up pretty well for that midrange jumper that had some success against us early on in that game.

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    Average loss of 6.4 points and we beat them by 16? Damn, that 4 seed is looking extremely good right about now.

  19. #12

    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    Points differential is a better predictor of future success than a team's W/L record.

    Winning/losing close games has a lot to do with luck.

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    I don't think wading through and/or interpreting stats like point differentials...particularly at this stage of the season...reveals much.

    Some teams, but not all, allow teams to get closer. Also, many teams will try harder against certain teams...particularly a team that recently beat them. Other times, teams don't play with as much energy on a back to back. Considering the tiny sample size, I don't think W/L or differential is a decent measuring stick of anything. So, like most stats, the point differentials are just more misinformation. Over the course of a season, I think the stat becomes more valuable...but even then it doesn't tell you that Team A will beat Team B. Too much depends on matchups between teams, health, chemistry, etc.

    So, I think the conclusion that the Heat are better than their current record right now is impossible to make right now.

    Edit: As for the Heat, they will dominate teams that cannot exploit its weaknesses like no other team in the league because they have Lebron and DWade. The fact they can dominate in that situation, however, is irrelevant in the playoffs because only the best teams are in the playoffs. Teams that can defend their stars adequately and pound them in the paint will have the advantage IMO. This all reminds me of the star studded Lakers team with Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Shaq, Kobe, etc. that crashed and burned against the Pistons. In that case, they were a complete team with the right pieces and couldn't get it done. These Miami Heat are hardly as scary.
    Last edited by BlueNGold; 11-25-2010 at 08:48 PM.

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    And what we find (see table) is that the Pacers are indeed for real
    Stats are overrated. This sentence is the only one that matters.
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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    The team with the best regular season record rarely wins the title. After a certain point it comes down to luck (couple shots roll out, opponents roll in) whether you win 57 or 62 games. Advanced stats can help us sort out a strong 52 win team and a weak 57 win team.

    I'd still take the Lakers to win this year but the Heat are far from finished.

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    Quote Originally Posted by pizza guy View Post
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    Stats are overrated. This sentence is the only one that matters.
    Yes. Starting with Exhibit A: Troy Murphy.

    While I agree that stats are overrated, they are often worst than that. They become misinformation because...while most have some value...interpreting them to reach valid conclusions often requires many other factors. These factors are often subjective and difficult to weigh against each other, so conclusions drawn vary by the person. It all becomes opinion...albeit with some degree of fact mixed in.

    I think we can all have our opinions and use stats to make our points, but that's all most of it is. Opinion. I suppose that's alright...

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    Quote Originally Posted by King Tuts Tomb View Post
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    The team with the best regular season record rarely wins the title. After a certain point it comes down to luck (couple shots roll out, opponents roll in) whether you win 57 or 62 games. Advanced stats can help us sort out a strong 52 win team and a weak 57 win team.

    I'd still take the Lakers to win this year but the Heat are far from finished.
    To this, I will reference our friend Kstat.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kstat View Post
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    its true at any point. Good teams find ways to win despite superior secondary statistics. Bad teams find ways to lose. There's no greater secret.
    Advanced stats are another way to over-think this game. If you watch the games, you see a pattern form over 82 games. Good teams win the tough one more often because they're good. Bad teams lose more often. It's not something that you can nail down with stats. Only by watching and seeing who makes the plays when the plays really need to be made.

    Wins and losses aren't the final say in how good a team is because you have things like injuries and officiating that affect teams beyond what they can control. But, watching the games and seeing who plays the best is the real test.

    --pizza
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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    All I think these stats reveal is that to date the Heat have played the way I expected. They beat up on lesser talented and coached teams, but struggle with teams of similar talent. If you look at who the have beaten and lost to that is pretty much what you see, with a couple of, what should be expected, exceptions. Everyone who expected them to be any better than that just fell in love with the top talent and stardom that the ignored how average, or even bad, the rest of the team is. They won't finish with a slightly better than .500 record, like someone else already stated 4th is about where they should end up record wise.

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    I find it interesting that they added Dampier. Dallas, another team poorly constructed to contend, acquired the same guy when it became obvious they needed a real man in the middle.

    In any event, the Heat will be an interesting test. With all that talent, I cannot see them any lower than 4th in the East...but I will be surprised if they come out of it without some clever modifications. One thing they have in their favor is Riles. I have generally agreed with his personnel choices and he does have clout and a name to pull in the right pieces. I just don't see them developing into a true contender with their current personnel.

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    Quote Originally Posted by pizza guy View Post
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    To this, I will reference our friend Kstat.

    Advanced stats are another way to over-think this game. If you watch the games, you see a pattern form over 82 games. Good teams win the tough one more often because they're good. Bad teams lose more often. It's not something that you can nail down with stats. Only by watching and seeing who makes the plays when the plays really need to be made.

    Wins and losses aren't the final say in how good a team is because you have things like injuries and officiating that affect teams beyond what they can control. But, watching the games and seeing who plays the best is the real test.

    --pizza
    Last four championship teams in 5 point games:
    09-10 Lakers: 11-8
    08-09 Lakers: 10-7
    07-08 Celtics: 13-9
    06-07 Spurs: 8-9

    All close to or under .500.

    I agree, good teams do find ways to win games. But bad teams sometimes find ways to win games too.

    We all watch the games, but anecdotal evidence is only part of the puzzle. We can only watch so many games ourselves. Maybe you watch the Mavs play ten times this season and they win 8 of them. Are they a great team or did you just watch the right ten games?

    Don't get me wrong, though, stats are biased as well. How a statistician values a certain stat (what's more important, boards or points? blocks or steals?) is his own bias.

    Watching the games, looking at stats, listening to experts. They're all part of the process. Why wouldn't you utilize every tool to better understand the league?

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    Regarding the 5 point or less games by the past four champions, isn't it likely that most of their tight games came against formidable opposition as opposed to lesser teams?

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    No
    *removed* Just keep politics and religion completely out of it, please.

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    Quote Originally Posted by Hicks View Post
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    Regarding the 5 point or less games by the past four champions, isn't it likely that most of their tight games came against formidable opposition as opposed to lesser teams?
    Just looking through the schedule, last year's Lakers lost by five or less to Memphis and Toronto. I think we all remember beating the Lakers by one a couple years ago.

    Losing to a middling team by a point or two is usually a matter of bad luck or a bad shooting night or the team playing over its head. Losing in blowouts to average or bad teams is a bad sign.

    Looking at this year's Heat team, they lost a wacky game to Utah, a buzzer beater to Memphis, and beatings from Orlando, NO and Boston, probably the best team in the East. Really the only loss to worry about would be to us. The question when examining the Heat is, how good are the Pacers?

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    This season is still too early to tell. Those point differentials and other numbers will move as the season progresses. If there are other teams that will blow out the Heat, or if the next Heat wins are from close games, then we will certainly see a large drop in point differential. More games are needed to determine whether the Heat are just a sleeping giant right now that needs to be waken up, or they are an overrated monster that looks strong but in reality they are weak.

    Numbers don't lie. It's just that each person think differently and interpretation of stats and numbers of each will not be the same.

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    Default Re: Numbers reveal a different story about the Heat (NBA.com)

    Quote Originally Posted by King Tuts Tomb View Post
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    Just looking through the schedule, last year's Lakers lost by five or less to Memphis and Toronto. I think we all remember beating the Lakers by one a couple years ago.

    Losing to a middling team by a point or two is usually a matter of bad luck or a bad shooting night or the team playing over its head. Losing in blowouts to average or bad teams is a bad sign.

    Looking at this year's Heat team, they lost a wacky game to Utah, a buzzer beater to Memphis, and beatings from Orlando, NO and Boston, probably the best team in the East. Really the only loss to worry about would be to us. The question when examining the Heat is, how good are the Pacers?
    I agree with the general idea that blowouts are much more telling than close games. Of course, any team can be blown out once in a while - when an opponent happens to have 20/21 shooting quarters, for example. That's why a blowout in itself is rather meaningless; combined with a group of other games though it is quite telling. For that reason, we can't make any huge stat conclusions out of the IND-MIA game alone. The sample size is just too small. We'd just be fooling ourselves by looking at stats of that game and thinking 'Pacers are for real'. They seem for real though when you look at stats of all games. And especially when we watch the games, instead of just looking at stats

    As for Hicks question, I think it is very interesting, and I'd love to see some stats on 5 pt games for best teams. The fact that Lakers can lose to Raptors is no big surprise in itself. In the end, if we pit the best team against the worst team, eventually we'll have a close game, NBA teams aren't that far apart. Also, don't forget one thing - best teams have one less good opponent to play, since they don't play themselves. So they generally get more chances to have a bad game against a bad team, depending on division.

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