It’s an interesting NBA statistical trend — how many 15 points blowout wins a team gets a season is a better indicator of how they will do in the playoffs than how many less-than-5-point wins they gutted out.
It’s counter-intuitive, good teams are supposed to win close games, right? We’ve been told that forever. But it’s not really true over a long season. Put simply, better teams tend to have more blowout wins, not win a bunch of close games.
Which brings us to the Miami Heat. They are facing a lot of “what’s wrong with them?” questions after their 6-4 start. Of the four losses, three are by 5 points or less to good teams (Jazz, Celtics and Hornets, the fourth loss was by 8 to the Celtics). They have had blowout wins over the Magic, Timberwolves and the Nets twice.
Over at Basketball-Reference, Neil Paine asked a good question (based on a classic Football Outsiders study): What team is more likely to win deep in the playoffs, one with lots of close wins against good teams or one with a lot of blowouts of bad teams?
In the NBA, dominating good teams is clearly the best indicator of postseason success. Teams that had more regular-season dominations (big wins over good teams) won 64.8% of their “final four” series, including 73.3% of their Finals matchups. But the second-most predictive attribute of “final four” success was having more stomps — that is, destroying the league’s weaker teams. And having more stomps was actually a better indicator of success than having more guts (close wins against good teams), just like Schatz found in football.
In other words, it looks like this criticism of Miami has no basis in reality. And in fact, their inability to close the deal against good opponents actually appears to say less about their chances of a deep playoff run than their ability to manhandle poor teams. As Schatz writes in the intro of every Football Outsiders Almanac: “Championship teams are generally defined by their ability to dominate inferior opponents, not their ability to win close games.”
Just a little something for Mark Cuban to chew on as he enjoys the Heat’s early season struggles.
LeBron James on Isaiah Thomas, via Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:
“It’s been a while since I’ve had that clear-cut guy who can get guys involved but also score at the same time,” James told B/R Mag.
That looked like a shot at Kyrie Irving. But with more context, it clearly wasn’t.
It seems LeBron was saying it’s been a while that he’s had “that clear-cut guy who can get guys involved but also score at the same time.” If he was slighting Kyrie Irving, LeBron was also slighting Dwyane Wade – and I doubt LeBron would do that.
LeBron and Kyrie probably aren’t above taking subtle shots at each other. But this seems like a case of Beck, after hearing LeBron’s words aloud and in context, not realizing how a trimmed version would read as text. It’s unfortunate that people initially got the wrong impression, but good on Beck for clearing it up.
Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. – maybe the top contender to supplant European guard Luka Doncic as the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft – had his campaign undercut after it barely began.
Michael Porter, Jr. will undergo surgery on Tuesday, Nov. 21, in Dallas, Texas. The procedure, a microdiscectomy of the L3 and L4 spinal discs, has a projected recovery time of three-four months and will likely cause him to miss the remainder of the season. Michael is expected to make a complete recovery
With that timeline, it’s possible Porter returns late in Missouri’s NBA season. But as an elite draft prospect stuck in a cartel system that caps his compensation well below market value, he should probably be cautious.
Porter will likely still go high in the draft – if his medicals check out. This is is a serious injury, and teams will be wary off long-term effects.
But he’s a top talent, and the forward shouldn’t slip far. In fact, in a strange way, this injury could even help him. There were questions about Porter’s ability to handle physicality and tight spaces when the game slows down, challenges he would have met frequently in college basketball. Now, scouts can’t pick apart those aspects of his game. Logically or not, NBA teams tend to favor the unknown in the draft, and Porter is on his way to being one of the biggest mysteries near the top of the 2018 draft.
Kevin Durant said last season playing the Thunder is “never going to be a regular game for me.”
Now, the Warriors star, who’s questionable for tomorrow’s game in Oklahoma City, is singing a different tune.
Anthony Slater of The Athletic:
Just a regular game for me now. I learned how to tune out the crowd. I learned how to tune out the bulls— and just play. Just keep at basketball, and I’ll be alright.
Durant is entitled to change his mind, and maybe that’s all that happened.
But this strikes me as yet another chasm between how Durant actually feels and how he wishes he felt – all while facing immense public scrutiny.
Durant spent eight years in Oklahoma City. Many of his former teammates, including Russell Westbrook, are still there. Durant might want to move on, but how could there not be a different feeling when playing the Thunder, especially in Oklahoma City?
DeMarcus Cousins got ejected from the Pelicans’ win over the Thunder last night for elbowing Russell Westbrook in the head.
Afterward, Tony Allen came to his New Orleans teammate’s defense.
Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:
Did Cousins elbow Westbrook in the head? Yes. Did Westbrook create and/or embellish the contact? I don’t know.
Westbrook stuck his head in close, and he might have been baiting Cousins into a foul. But that doesn’t give Cousins carte blanche to commit a foul.
And even if Westbrook were baiting Cousins, the elbow still might have hurt. Westbrook’s reaction could have been genuine.
Did Cousins’ reputation as a flagrant fouler influence Westbrook’s strategy and how officials perceived the play? It’s much easier to convince me of that.