Monday, May 03, 2010

Long Two-Point Jumpers As Team Identity

The Orlando Magic attempt the fewest long* two-point jumpers in the NBA: 12.6 per game. The Houston Rockets attempt the second-fewest: 15.9 per game (26% more than the Magic). The Atlanta Hawks attempt 21.8 per game. The Hawks make those shots a little less often than the league average. Orlando is 10th in the league in FG% in this shot category.

*16-23 feet

Only Indiana and Minnesota saw* their opponents attempt more long two-point jump shots than did the Magic. Orlando's opponents attempted 22.4 two-point jump shots from at least 16 feet per game this season and they made them one full percentage point less often than the league average.

*I'd say "forced" but Indiana and Minnesota didn't stop their opponents from making long two-point jumpers very well.

Orlando's offense is designed to forgo this type of shot (though they can make it when forced to settle for it) and their defense is designed to force this type of shot. The Magic have successfully implemented both parts of that strategy in the four games against the Hawks (who, it must be said, appear to have no strong inclination to avoid this type of shot). Head-to-head, Atlanta's taken 94 long two-point jump shots and made 34% of them. Orlando's taken 46 long two-point jump shots and made 45.6% of them.

In the other 78 regular season games, the Hawks took 26.3% of their field goal attempts between 16 and 23 feet. Against Orlando, those shots accounted for 29.4% of their field goal attempts. Josh Smith took 6.25% of the long two-point jumpers he attempted on the season in the four games against Orlando. He made 4 of 15 against the Magic. In the three losses, Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford were a combined 3-22 from 16 to 23 feet. In the March 24th win, Johnson and Crawford improved to 4-14 from 16 to 23 feet. The Hawks won that game despite averaging less than one point per possession.

It's simplistic to look just a shot location for an explanation of the Magic's mastery of the Hawks this season (+16.5 points per game, +18.4 points per 100 possessions) but, were one forced to guess, in the absence of all other information, which team was so dominant head-to-head the safe choice would surely be the team that attempted 8 more three-pointers, 6-and-a-half more free throws, and 12 fewer long two-point jumpers per game.

The Magic have a clear plan for where and how to attack a defense and where to force an offense to operate. The Hawks, too often, appear not even to remember what worked or didn't work early in the game (or on the previous play) and accept the inevitability of mis-matches beneficial to the opposing offense.

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