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Dee: NBA Playoffs 2011: Team Balance and Matchup Analysis

by Photo of Tommy Dee

As the Numbers Dictate, the Playoffs are About Balance and Matchups

Dee: NBA Playoffs 2011: Team Balance and Matchup Analysis

Injuries aside, look at the numbers (courtesy of basketball-reference) and you will notice some interesting tendencies surrounding the 2011 NBA playoffs. By nature, I'm not a numbers guy in terms of relying on them to force opinions about things that happen on a basketball court, but I understand tendencies and most importantly I firmly believe in the Law of Averages.

I believe Offensive and Defensive Ratings are the most important relevant statistical findings. Look at the numbers of the four remaining teams to date (Offensive Rating/Defensive Rating)

Chicago Bulls (11th/1st)

Dallas Mavericks (8th/8th)

Miami HEAT (5th/3rd)

Oklahoma City Thunder (15th/5th)

Without question, health, match-ups and home court advantage are incredibly important to playoff success, but it's obvious how important defense is in the early rounds. Of the 8 first round match-ups, 7 teams with a better defensive rating advanced with the exception of the Atlanta Hawks, who were 13th in defensive rating to the Orlando Magic's 3rd. In total, 7 of the 16 teams were outside the top 10 in defensive rating with just one advancing (Atlanta).

In the second round, things changed a bit. In the Western Conference the Mavericks (8th) got past the Los Angeles Lakers who statistically ranked higher than them in both offensive (6th) and defensive (6th) rating and who possessed home court advantage. The Thunder (15th) got past the Grizzlies (9th) in 7 games thanks in most part to their offense, which, again, ranks 5th in the NBA. In their four victories, which included a 133-point performance in triple overtime, the Thunder averaged 111 points per game (ppg), and 101.75 points in regulation, some 4 points higher than the Grizz gave up on average (97.6) throughout the year.  

In the East, the HEAT capitalized on some injuries to the Celtics, but overpowered the NBA's second-best defense with both their offense and defense. Miami held the Celtics to 5.5 points below their scoring average, while scoring 4 points more per game (95.4) than the Celtics gave up on the season (91.1). That combination allowed the HEAT to breeze through in 5 games.

The Bulls benefited from facing the Hawks who boasted the league's 10th-worst offense, yet managed win two games in the series. In their 4 losses, however, the Bulls held the Hawks to 17 points below their season/playoff average as Atlanta could only manage 78 ppg (verses season average of 95 ppg).

So as we watch the NBA version of the Final Four, home court advantage still comes into play, but it will be interesting to see how this shakes out. Statistically, the Bulls own the league's worst offensive rating of the 4, while the Thunder possess the worst defensive unit, whereas the Mavs and the HEAT both have better combined balance.

Don't forget to let charged.fm get you into all the action of the remaining NBA Playoffs.





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