Thursday, April 16, 2009

Series Preview: Hawks vs. Heat

NOTE: If you prefer this content in briefer, bullet point form, scroll to the bottom section marked "CONCLUSIONS"

First, the four factors (plus points per 100 possessions leading things off) for the Atlanta offense (red) and the Miami defense (black) from the 2008-09 season.

As always, click on the graphs to make them bigger.
The particulars of that graph, in table form.

Team Poss PPP eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (off)
89.6 1.093
50.4 23.8
26 12.5
MIA (def)
1.076 50.1

The teams play at almost identical paces* and the only real rate difference in any of the four factors is turnover percentage. The Heat are (slightly) below average in three of the four factors but maintain a (slightly) above average defense through their ability to force turnovers.

*You'll see below in the head-to-head graph/table that both prefer to slow the pace and their games against each other have been even slower than their respective (slower than league average) 82-game average paces.

Next, the same as above for the Miami offense (still black) and the Atlanta defense (still red).
The particulars of that graph, in table form.

Team Poss PPP eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL (def)
89.6 1.076
49.4 21
28.4 13.2
MIA (off)
1.078 50

Offensively, as defensively, Miami's greatest strength this season was their turnover percentage. However, Miami's ability to hold onto the basketball wasn't enough to overcome three other below average factors and maintain an above average offensive efficiency. Most interesting (to me, at least) is that Miami, despite Dwyane Wade playing 38.6 minutes of each of 79 games, had the fourth-lowest free throw rate in the league.

The reason why is fairly obvious. No one else on the team gets to the line.

FT Rate
Rest of Team16.7

Now we look at the numbers from the three head-to-head matchups (two games in Miami, one in Atlanta) between the two teams.
The particulars of that graph, in table form.

Team Poss Off Eff eFG% FT Rate OR% TO%
ATL 88.8 0.965
42.8 30.8
29.4 17.7
MIA 88.8
0.941 45.3

This is only three games* worth of data so consider the following conclusions to be drawn in pencil**. The bulk of the difference in eFG%, relative to their season averages, for both teams comes from terrible three-point shooting and lots of it. Head-to-head both teams took more three-point attempts as a percentage of their field goal attempts than they averaged on the season as a whole despite neither team forcing their opponents to shoot a lot of three-pointers on the season.

*For obvious reasons I ignored the dead rubber Tuesday night.

**Lightly and in a sloppy hand, as well.

Here's their 3PTA/FGA broken down three ways.

TeamHead-to-HeadSeason AvgOpp Season Avg

Combine the extra three-point attempts with Atlanta making just 22.4% of their attempts (compared to a season average of 36.6%) and Miami making just 25.8% of their attempts (compared to a season average of 35.7%) and we're a ways toward explaining the offensive struggles of both teams before even mentioning all the turnovers that occurred in the head-to-head matchups.

Both teams had success in getting guys on the other team they wanted to shoot three-pointers to attempt a good number of them: Josh Smith was 1-7 for Atlanta; Yakubu Diawara was 1-10 and Dwyane Wade 1-6 for Miami. Both teams also got lucky with certain opposing players shooting well below their season averages from beyond the arc: Mo Evans (39.5%) and Flip Murray (36%) both went 0-5 against Miami, Marvin Williams (35.5%) was 3-11, and Mike Bibby (39%) were 4-15; Mario Chalmers (36.7%) was 3-13 and Daequan Cook (38.7%) 9-27 against the Hawks.

Even though both teams forced more turnovers on the season than the other coughed up, both teams forced turnovers at a much higher rate in their competitive head-to-head matchups. This is a bit of a red herring as the second matchup between the teams, Miami's 95-79 win on January 26th wherein Atlanta turned the ball over on 22.4% of their possessions and Miami on 19% of their possessions, serves as significant outliers.

Turnover percentage by game:

TeamDec 12th
Jan 26th
Feb 27th

Two more encouraging (for Hawks fans*) nuggets found in the head-to-head matchups are the atypical dominance Atlanta maintained on both the offensive and defensive glass and their (relative) success in keeping Dwyane Wade off the free throw line.

As noted above, Wade's FT Rate for the season was 33.9. In the three games against the Hawks it was 23.3. In Atlanta's two wins it was 12.2.

*though, again, of questionable significance


6 plausible reasons for Atlanta optimism/keys to victory

  1. Home-court advantage
  2. Out-rebounding Miami is a bonus for a generally poor rebounding team.
  3. Keeping Dwayne Wade off the free throw line (at least relative to how much Dwyane Wade wants to be at the free throw line).
  4. Force/allow Wade and Diawara to shoot more than their share of three-pointers.
  5. Five Hawks made more than 35% of their three-point attempts this season should Miami persist in forcing/allowing Atlanta to shoot a higher than normal number of three-pointers.
  6. Chris Quinn
5 plausible reasons for Atlanta pessimism/causes of defeat
  1. Miami forces enough Atlanta turnovers to negate any Atlanta gains on the offensive glass.
  2. Dwyane Wade career regular season free throw rate: 39.3. Dwyane Wade career playoff free throw rate: 49.8.
  3. As the series progresses Mario Chalmers realizes he can beat Mike Bibby off the dribble and becomes an inside/outside threat.
  4. Daequan Cook's size turns Flip Murray circa 2008-09 into Flip Murray circa 2004-08.
  5. Lingering, limiting back injuries.
Now, what have I got wrong?


Preston Heard said...

Good breakdown, and I don't disagree with any of the reasons/keys, though some resonate more than others. Numbers 2 and 3 are of biggest concern to me. The refs are undoubtedly going to be out of breath from blowing the whistle for Wade, even at Philips. Chalmers can hurt us, but only to the extent he realizes he can hurt us.

However, I look at each teams roster and body of work this season and it's hard to see the Heat beating us in a 7 game series. The gap between Wade and Joe is more than compensated in the superiority of our 3, 4, and 5 positions. Here's my baseless handicapping: Hawks -190 to win the series

jrauch said...

This will be an interesting series. Its the classic case of who's stronger? A good team or a good player?

In theory, the team should win. But this is the NBA, and we've already seen Wade win a much bigger series on his own. (Well, alone in the sense the refs aren't on the floor actually shooting and passing to him, but they undoubtedly helped in those Finals games.)

Oro3030 said...

From a Miami fan perspective I was already looking at the numbers and the teams are surprisingly evenly matched.
Cook can swing a game either way but being hot or cold.
I think Beasley really turned it on in the last couple of weeks of the season and that may skew things a little. He is the only guy besides Wade who can get to the line.
The best Heat frontcourt in this series will be Haslem at the 5 and Beasley at the 4 and probably James Jones, Cook and Wade (or Chalmers for Cook).
You won't see much, if any, of Quinn.
I am scared of Josh Smith and I think much of this series will depend on how much time he spends in the paint. If Miami can use Beasley to draw him out of the paint, that will be a big advantage. I hope he makes his first couple of 3s and he decides to stay there the whole series.
Dan G.

Bronnt said...

One other key dynamic you left out is Al Horford. That game in which Atlanta was dominated in Miami saw Zaza start and play 21 minutes (meaning, we saw 27 minutes of Solo/Josh Smith/Marvin Williams playing center). It's not as though he was dominant in the first match-up, although he was the only Hawks outside of Mo Evans to post an eFG% of at least 50, and he grabbed his usual 10 boards.

In that third game, when the Heat team was constructed as it currently is, he might as well have been Dwight Howard. 21/22 with 2 blocks-he more than made up for Mike Bibby doing absolutely nothing.

In terms of match-ups, it's probably best for Miami to use a lot of Udonis Haslem on him. Haslem has a much better rebound rate than O'Neal, and it's crucial for them to keep Horford off the boards. If I'm Mike Woodson, I'm not letting the Heat use Jermaine for one minute with Al Horford on the floor, as that is probably the biggest match-up advantage the Hawks have.