Deciding Game 7 Factors
The three keys that will sway Thursday night’s game.
After blessing SLAMonline with the nERD Power Rankings throughout the season, our guys at numberFire are back to help us look at the postseason in an analytics-based way. So what do the algorithmic models say about the what the key factors will be in Game 7? NumberFire’s Chief Editor is here with the answer.—Ed.
by Zach Warren / @ZachWWarren
Five seconds left, the Spurs are up 95-94. The Heat inbound from half court. Chris Bosh readies to throw the ball in over Tim Duncan’s outstretched arms. The Spurs play a box-and-one with Boris Diaw covering LeBron. Three seconds after getting the ball from the ref, Bosh can see LeBron’s not going to get open in time. Who gets the ball?
Option A: Dwyane Wade – Yes, but do you really trust his .454 effective field goal percentage (eFG%) during the Playoffs, down 74 percentage points from the regular season?
Option B: Mario Chalmers – You know he’s hit some big shots before, but he’s not much better than Wade at a .484 eFG% these Playoffs. Plus, it doesn’t help that San Antonio allowed a .470 eFG% to opposing point guards this season, the lowest of any position on the floor.
Option C: Ray Allen – Jesus Shuttlesworth indeed came up large in Games 5 and 6, but that was only a two-game sample size…you know, unless you count his .557 eFG% through 22 Playoff games, .555 eFG% in 79 regular-season games, and the fact that the Spurs allowed shooting guards to shoot the second best of any position on the floor (other than centers) against them this year.
In a clutch situation, you better believe that Ray Allen, perhaps as much as LeBron James, is likely to get that ball. In fact, you could say that about most situations throughout the game. And that’s why getting him into a groove early and his overall shot percentage is one of the keys to NBA Finals Game 7.
Ray Allen’s shooting percentage is just one of the key stats heading into one of the most anticipated games in NBA history (and I don’t think that’s hyperbole), Game 7 between the Heat and Spurs. We’ve got what we think are the three big statistically-based keys to watch out for tonight.
RAY RAY’S WORLD
LeBron’s good, but if the Finals have proven anything, it’s that he can’t do it all himself. Wade looks like he went toe-to-toe with a Pikachu at the beginning of the Playoffs and lost. Bosh has been solid defensively, but his jump shot is wondering around looking for a lift in South Beach. And in the games the Heat have won, we’ve seen a rotating cast of characters (Chris Andersen! Mario Chalmers!) who have stepped up out of nowhere. There is very little certain for Miami past LeBron, except Ray Allen.
Ray Allen may have only scored 9 points during Miami’s Game 6 victory, but that doesn’t mean he was particularly inefficient. His effective field goal percentage, which weighs made threes slightly higher because of the increased points they return, was still better than Bosh or Wade at .438 eFG%. And the Heat weren’t afraid to give him opportunities, as his eight shots taken were the fifth-most on the team behind the Big Three and Chalmers, and he played more minutes than anybody not named LeBron or Chalmers.
Given his late Game 6 heroics and his Game 5 explosion, which saw Allen with a ridiculous .900 eFG% and a 184 offensive rating (1.84 points scored per possession), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Allen receive a lion’s share of the playing time once again. If Allen receives a large role in the Miami offense once again and continues his hot shooting ways—and considering his shooting percentage in a large sample size, we wouldn’t bet against it—Miami has the immediate edge.
In the days since Game 5, Manu has reasserted his God status in San Antonio. Overcome by a wave of nostalgia, Spurs fans have re-embraced him as one of the stars of the team, someone who can flank Duncan and Parker and lead the Spurs to ultimate vindication in Game 7.
Umm, have you forgotten already how he’s done nothing the rest of the Playoffs? Outliers are unexpected for a reason, you know.
Ginobili’s 101 playoff offensive rating is the second worst on the team behind Gary Neal. His .467 playoff eFG% only beats Boris Diaw, and his 19.2 percent playoff turnover rate is only 0.7 off Tiago Splitter’s bottom of the barrel. That doesn’t sound like a star’s stats to me.
Supposedly he’s better while starting, but you could have fooled me with his Game 6 play. Sure, he shot .500 eFG% from the field, but that was thanks to a sample size of five shots. What would concern me more is those turnovers; Ginobili had eight (8?!?) of San Antonio’s 13 turnovers in Game 6. That was a turnover rate of 51.2 percent. That means over half of the time he was involved in a San Antonio play, it was a turnover.
Sure, Game 5 was nice. But if I’m San Antonio, given the larger sample size, I’m not relying on Manu Ginobili in the least. The fewer shots, the less opportunities for turnovers, and the less overall he’s on the court (possibly in favor of Neal?), the more efficient the Spurs are likely to be.
REBOUND LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT
Before Game 6, I wrote how the Miami Heat shouldn’t give up trying to win the rebound battle. And to their credit they didn’t, despite a defensive rebound rate that sat 24th in the NBA during the regular season as compared to San Antonio’s third-best rate.
Miami collected 71.4 percent of available defensive rebounds in Game 6, while San Antonio only slightly outpaced them with 73.3 percent of available defensive rebounds at the other end. By keeping the rebounding close and eliminating San Antonio’s primary advantage, the Heat were able to ride their .072 eFG% higher shooting to victory. That’s also how they won Game 4 and kept Game 1 close; in both cases, they had a higher defensive rebounding percentage than San Antonio.
This is where Bosh looms large. Sure, his shooting ability may have gone extinct in the Mesozoic Era (I bet nobody’s made a Bosh/dinosaur joke before), but his rebounding still means he has indispensable value on this Miami team. In Game 6, Bosh collected 26.2 percent of available defensive boards, one of only two Heat players (Mike Miller?!?) to top 20 percent. Game 4, he dominated with a 35.8 DRB%. And in Miami’s Game 2 victory, he led all starters as well with 22.0 DRB%.
Duncan can’t let Bosh get into a groove. The Spurs may have had the second-worst offensive rebounding percentage in the NBA at 20.5 percent during the regular season, but they also didn’t need to focus on it as not too many teams shot better from the field. Miami does. And especially considering the Spurs’ mediocre turnover rate, they need second-chance opportunities to keep pace.
NumberFire is a sports analytics platform that uses algorithmic modeling to better understand sports. Follow Nik Bonaddio at @numberfire, Keith Goldner at @drivebyfootball, and Zach Warren at @ZachWWarren. Check out numberFire on Facebook.