One more look at the Spurs’ dominant playoffs

59 Comments

We’ve marveled at the Spurs’ offense and overall dominance in the Finals.

But, a week after they the 2014 NBA championship, I still can’t get over how dominant San Antonio was throughout the entire postseason.

The Spurs outscored opponents by 11.6 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Nobody else even neared that mark. The Heat finished second in net rating, outscoring opponents by just 1.8 points per 100 possessions.

Here are the net ratings for the five teams that outscored their opponents in the postseason:

image

The Spurs just tower over the competition!

If you’re curious, here are the net ratings for every playoff team:

Team Net rating
SAS +11.6
MIA +1.8
WAS +1.3
LAC +1.1
OKC +0.2
IND -0.5
BRK -0.9
HOU -1.9
ATL -3.3
DAL -3.4
TOR -3.8
CHI -4.4
GSW -4.8
MEM -6.8
POR -7.3
CHA -10.1

As amazing as the gap between the Spurs and the rest of the field seems, I wondered whether that disparity might be inevitable annually. After all, all but the NBA champion lose their final playoff series.

So, I compared the net rating of each NBA champion (black) to the net rating of each postseason’s best other team (silver):

image

Year Champion Net rating Best other Net rating Difference
2014 SAS +11.6 MIA +1.8 9.8
1999 SAS +10.3 IND +3.5 6.8
2001 LAL +13.5 CHA +7.7 5.8
2003 SAS +6.9 NJN +3.2 3.7
2011 DAL +6.7 MIA +3.6 3.1
1998 CHI +7.6 SAS +4.5 3.1
2004 DET +7.1 IND +4.9 2.2
2012 MIA +8.4 SAS +6.3 2.1
2008 BOS +6.4 NOH +4.3 2.1
2007 SAS +5.3 DET +4.0 1.3
2013 MIA +7.9 SAS +7.0 0.9
2006 MIA +5.2 LAC +4.5 0.7
2002 LAL +4.6 SAS +4.2 0.4
1997 CHI +6.8 SEA +6.9 -0.1
2005 SAS +4.1 MIA +5.4 -1.3
2009 LAL +7.6 DEN +9.6 -2.0
2000 LAL +2.4 POR +5.2 -2.8
2010 LAL +4.4 ORL +11.6 -7.2

Since 1997, as far back as NBA.com records date, there’s never been an advantage over the field like this. Heck, the NBA champion doesn’t even always lead the playoffs in net rating.

The 2014 Spurs were an all-time great playoff team, second only to the 2001 Lakers in net rating in this span. Just as importantly, no opponents were equipped to challenge San Antonio.

The Mavericks somehow extended their first-round series with the Spurs to a Game 7. San Antonio won that by 23 points as part of a 13-4 run to close the postseason, leaving everyone else in the dust.

Thunder drop 148 points on defenseless Cavaliers, win in rout

Getty Images
1 Comment

If you wondered why Cleveland is so active in the trade market as the deadline nears — and why they are hunting out guys who can play defense — all you had to do was watch the Thunder dismantle the Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon on national television, 148-124.

The Thunder went into Quicken Loans Arena and list of offensive accolades is long (and ugly if you’re a Cleveland fan):

• Oklahoma City dropped 148 points.

• Oklahoma City shot 58 percent overall.

• Oklahoma City shot 46.7 percent from three.

• Oklahoma City got 44 percent of its shots within four feet of the rim.

• Oklahoma City’s big three of Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Paul George combined for 88 points.

• Westbrook had 23 points and 20 assists.

• Paul George had 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

Steven Adams had 25 points and 10 rebounds.

• Westbrook, George, Adams, and Anthony combined for 113 points on 66 shots.

To be fair, this was also about the Thunder playing one of their most complete offensive games of the season. They moved the ball beautifully, there wasn’t the “your turn/my turn” issues from earlier this season.

For a team still unsure of its identity and looking for validation, this game provided it.

It also provided another glimpse into the troubles in Cleveland.

Last season the Cavaliers counted on an exceptional offense to cover up for a defense that was decent when they cared and horrific when they didn’t, but when it got time in the playoffs Cleveland was able to flip the switch (it just wasn’t enough in the Finals). LeBron James has another gear and was able to lift his teammates up with it.

This season, they don’t seem to know where the switch is. The good defensive habits they had built over time seem lost and forgotten, as they run out a litany of minus defenders in their regular rotation.

Cleveland looks like a team that needs help at the trade deadline to ensure it gets out of the East. The question becomes will they throw in the Brooklyn pick to do it? And even if they did, would DeAndre Jordan really solve their issues right now?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo out a couple of games to manage sore knee

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s not discussed much, but Giannis Antetokounmpo has a chronically sore knee that has been an issue since last summer. It’s not debilitating, it doesn’t require surgery, but it’s something Antetokounmpo and the Bucks need to actively manage.

Hence, Antetokounmpo is sitting out the next couple of games. From Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee Bucks all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo will sit out Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers as well as Monday’s home game against the Phoenix Suns as the team actively manages the health of Antetokounmpo’s sore right knee….

Antetokounmpo’s injury, which is not considered to be tendinitis, is regarded as something that is always going to bother him to some extent, according to a league source. There will be days where the discomfort is higher and some when it’s lower, and the team’s goal is to manage that on a daily basis to keep the injury from becoming severe or significant — something it is not considered to be at this point.

Antetokounmpo is going to get eight days of rest this way, which is the smart long-term move for the Bucks.

The challenge is the Bucks may be sixth in the East as you read this, but they are just one game up on the nine seed Pistons. They need to get wins without Antetokounmpo, which is hard because they have been outscored by 10.6 points per 100 possessions. However, they could be without him a lot longer if Antetokounmpo’s knee isn’t managed now.

Kristaps Porzingis: “Players know” he’s All-Star starter

Getty Images
9 Comments

When picking the East All-Star starters, two of the three frontcourt choices were obvious: LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

For the third slot there were a few players who could make a case. The fans chose Joel Embiid third, Kristaps Porzingis fourth, and Kevin Love fifth. The media also had Embiid third and Porzingis fourth, but Al Horford fifth. That was enough to earn Embiid the starting nod.

The players voted Porzingis third, Embiid fourth, and Andre Drummond fifth. Needless to say, Porzingis thinks the players got it right, as he told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

“Players know,” he said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

If one were cynical, one would note the players also voted for Tyler Cavanaugh and Tyler Zeller, so how much do we trust their vote? Fortunately, we’re above such crass things.

Porzingis is a lock to make his first All-Star Game this year as a reserve (picked by the coaches).

What separated the two? Embiid has been a little more efficient this season, he’s stronger on the boards and had been a bigger defensive presence. Also, the Sixers have a better record than the Knicks, who have stumbled of late. Or, maybe the fans just like Embiid’s big personality more — he’s blowing off Rihanna.

Both of these guys should have a lot of All-Star starts in their future. This year it goes to Embiid.

 

Lakers make 14% of their free throws, win

3 Comments

Jordan Clarkson‘s free throw rattled around the rim before falling out late in the first quarter. The Los Angeles crowd groaned. The Lakers missed their first five free throws, and the visiting Pacers led by seven.

It appeared to be one of those nights.

And it was. The Lakers shot just 2-for-14 (14%) on free throws Friday. But they still won, 99-86.

That’s the worst free-throw percentage with at least eight attempts by any team and the worst free-throw percentage regardless of attempts by a winning team in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to 1963-64.

Here’s the “leaderboard,” winners in purple and losers in gold:

image

The Lakers are shooting an NBA-worst 69% on free throws, but last night took the cake. The offenders: