If you enjoy the weekly StatBox column that analytically breaks down some of the NBA’s most pressing and important topic, you’re in luck. Every Tuesday through Thursday during the postseason, the StatBox is expanding into playoff game analysis. You’ll not only find out why each team won and lost, but how different statistical trends can play out over the course of the series and the playoffs as a whole. Today: Houston’s wasted opportunity, mistakes thwarting Atlanta’s chances at victory and one Laker star’s alarming performance.
One game Houston would want back
Road wins have not come easy in the first round of the playoffs. It’s taken one outstanding defensive performance from the Bulls and a perfect offensive game from the Warriors to get it done. Houston erased a late 15-point deficit on Wednesday against Oklahoma City and got a transcendant performance from Patrick Beverly and still failed to close out a road win against the Thunder.
Houston did a really good job of going through the checklist of teams that pull off playoff upsets. Consider:
- Oklahoma City shot under 44 percent from the field. They averaged 48.1 percent shooting during the regular season. But Houston shot under 40 percent in its 105-102 loss.
- Houston was an astounding plus-17 on the glass, out-rebounding OKC 57-40. ESPN points out that the Thunder/Sonics franchise hadn’t won a postseason game despite having at least 15 fewer boards than its opponent since 1996.
- The Rockets hit 10 3-pointers, hit 20 free throws and won the points in the paint by a 50-30 margin and still lost. That is due, in part, to its 16 turnovers (to OKC’s 12).
- With Jeremy Lin out for the second half, Patrick Beverly scored 16 points to go with 12 rebounds and six assists. Chances are they won’t get that type of unexpected production again.
All these things went right for the Houston Rockets, and the Thunder managed to get the win in Game 2 anyway. That bodes well for OKC in this series.
Too many mistakes haunt Hawks
Against a team so fundamentally sound like the Pacers, making mistakes can kill a team’s chances. First, let’s consider everything Atlanta did right in Wednesday night’s Game 2. They shot the ball really well, and put up enough points to probably win. Consider the Hawks’ production against Indiana’s regular season defensive averages:
|NBA PLAYOFFS||FG %||3 FG %||Points|
|Indiana Season Average||42||34.7||90.7|
|Hawks Game 2||49.4||39.1||98|
To shoot that well against the Pacers is rather impressive. The problem: not enough assertiveness from its star players, poor defense and no offensive discipline, among others. Josh Smith should shoot more than 10 times, especially when Kyle Korver and Devin Harris take the same amount of field goals. This could be because of Paul George’s defense (he led the NBA in defensive win shares, unlike Marc Gasol), but Smith is playing not only for his team, but for a new max-level contract as well.
As for the team’s defense? Indiana shot 47.1 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep. The Hawks allowed 29 Pacer free throws and shot 11 of 20 from the line themselves, an awful 55 percent. Atlanta also turned it over 14 times. These are critical mistakes you can’t make against the Pacers, and that’s why Indiana is off to a 2-0 series lead.
Superman simply subpar for Lakers
Dwight Howard took fewer shots in Wednesday night’s Game 2 loss to the Spurs than Metta World Peace. Howard also took fewer shots than Pau Gasol and even Steve Blake! Perhaps Superman was too busy griping about his supposed Defensive Player of the Year “snub” to notice that the Lakers desperately need him to be a superstar against the Spurs without Kobe Bryant in the mix. It should come as no surprise that Howard was a -14 in the game, tied for the worst mark on both teams in a 102-91 San Antonio triumph.
|Dwight Howard||Shots||Points||FG %|
Howard’s 12 shots was right around his season average, which is a pretty big problem considering that Bryant isn’t there to take the scoring load. For someone who thinks he deserves a max-level contract this offseason, his lack of assertiveness in a playoff series is beyond alarming. Unfortunately, this is probably who Dwight Howard is. Uncomfortable with taking the lead role, satisfied with playing second fiddle. If the Lakers are satisfied with this type of performance, perhaps they’re meant to have Howard in the fold for years to come.
“It is frustrating,” Howard said of the San Antonio defense. “I just have to trust my teammates to make shots. On whatever they do defensively, I have to be aware of my arms and try not to get tangled up.”
That doesn’t sound like a max-level leader. That sounds like a helpless man, defeated after falling short while being thrust into a leading role. This epitomizes Dwight Howard. This epitomizes the sorry and sad future of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Shlomo Sprung loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and a writer for Football.com. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. His website is SprungOnSports.com. You can follow him on Twitter.