Normally, I’m not a major stats guy. I am a terrible gambler. I judge how much pizza I’ve eaten, not in slices, simply in how much I hate myself afterwards. When I watch or participate in a basketball match, I go by feel when judging what I like and dislike. For example, in the pre-Bubble NBA, I despised the Rockets style of play. If I wanted to watch people do math, I’d help my daughter with her homework once in a while. That’s a joke, she’s two and can count to eleven, so there.
However, in the post-Bubble NBA, I’ve actually been enjoying the Rockets. Do you know why? They are hustling. They are playing defense. Every time someone drives into the lane, they are reaching and poking. It was something I was seeing more than something I could point to on a stat sheet. Then I saw something I could point to on the stat sheet. Three out of the top five players leading the playoffs in personal fouls are Rockets.
Playoff Foul Leaders (Through Wednesday):
- Kris Middleton
- PJ Tucker
- Robert Covington
- James Harden
- Nikola Jokic
So they are really battling. I think? If you look at that statistic in a vacuum, you might also say that the Rockets might just suck at defense. So let’s put that number in some context. Houston is the league’s shortest team with an average height of 6’4.5″ and they are also the oldest team in the league on average. A short, aging team has to fight for every advantage they can find. Since so much of defense is putting in the effort, it makes sense that I could tell they were putting in the work.
Now, I’ve talked about Houston for approximately 242 more words than I expected to so I’ll share one more stat about them. They are averaging 49.9 threes per game in the playoffs. That is an absurd number. That goes back to trying to exploit any advantage they can. I mean if you think about it, if they hit every one of those that would be 150 points. Add in two pointers and yowza!
I have slipped and stumbled down this rabbit hole of numbers. Thus I will share nine more stats from the playoffs that I found interesting.
1. The Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors are tied for the lowest Effective Field Goal Percentage of the remaining teams. If you don’t know what that means, join the club. It has something to do with the fact that three point shots are worth more than two. All I know is that Toronto and Boston are taking turns punching each other and throwing up bricks each game. I’m beginning to think that the team that doesn’t shoot the worst is going to win game 7. Boston has also never won a game in which they decided to not play defense in the last 0.5 seconds.
2. The winner will play the Miami Heat, who are a better shooting team. They also do something really cool. They pass to each other. I’ve really enjoyed watching the Heat move the ball around. Without a dominant superstar–in game play not attitude, sorry Jimmy Butler–they whip the ball from side to side and the open player takes the three. The Heat have assisted on 89.9% of their three point shots. I believe that style of play works better than an isolation player passing to someone standing still because you are more engaged if you know that the pass might come from anywhere. I’m breaking out all the groundbreaking theories for this one.
4. Michael Jordan once said you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Kris Middleton has missed 109 shots he did take so far in the playoffs.
5. Kawhi Leonard is averaging 0 smiles per game. That is on pace to beat MJ’s record of one.
6. Keeping it in the same series, the Nuggets have come back from a 3-1 series deficit 100% of the time this season. They have the Clippers right where they want them. However, they have proven to be a more formidable team when Jamal Murray is averaging 31.5 points per game and not 17.8. In case you were wondering, that is a Josh Richardson amount of points (13.7ppg this season). What? No one was wondering that?
7. Richardson was on the Miami Heat so I’m back to looking at them. Udonis Haslem is still on the roster. I am a huge Florida Gator fan and once played against Udonis in a foul shooting contest. I did not win. I still love the guy and I love that he has stuck around for this long. It got me thinking. Who were the guys that played for the longest time despite not being a star or a starter? Just to be fair, Haslem did start 58% of the games he played, only none in the last fifteen years. This category should not be named after him. Without further ado, the Not Quite Udonis Haslem All-Stars:
Games played/Games started
- James Edwards 1168/467 40% of games started.
- Tree Rollins 1156/463 40% of games started.
- Danny Schayes 1138/427 37.5% of games started.
- Nazr Mohammed 1005/354 35.2% of games started.
- Jamal Crawford 1327/433 32.6% of games started.
8. Udonis Haslem went to the University of Florida, as I mentioned. UF is in Gainesville, FL, my hometown. Did you know that Los Angeles boasts the most NBA players all time that call it their hometown according to basketball-reference.com? New York City and Brooklyn are very close behind. Gainesville is not close, with two.
9. Kawhi Leonard is from Los Angeles. He’s averaging 27.2 points per 36 minutes. That means that his scoring numbers are averaged out to what they would be if he played 36 minutes in a game. That number is good for 8th best in the playoffs. Number two on that list is Patrick Patterson, at 32.4. What I can extrapolate from that is the Clippers need to be playing Patterson a lot more.
So I guess I have learned something on my A Beautiful Mind journey. Numbers can tell amazing stories. I will now be hauled off in restraints yelling at the top of my lungs, “What are win shares? WHAT ARE WIN SHARES??”