One point one two. 1.12. One point twelve.
Since Thursday night, that number has been haunting me. Like a song that digs into your head and won't leave and won't let you think, it's something I just can't shake. At all times it hovers on the periphery of my field of vision, making me crabby as hell. It's the last thing I see when I fall asleep at night, and the first thing I see when I wake up in the afternoon. (Hey, don't judge. Blogging is arduous, draining work.)
1.12 is the number of points scored by the Houston Rockets per possession in Game Six. It's a number that should not exist - not in this series, not with this Rockets team. I hate the number 1.12.
Here's the thing. In the post-Yao world, Houston starts gentlemen by the names of Shane Battier and Chuck Hayes. In this playoff series, Battier averages one shot attempt for every five minutes he's on the floor, Hayes one for every 11 minutes he's on the floor. And those two are on the floor together for about 60-70% of the game.
What this means for the Lakers, in game-planning terms, is that for about two thirds of the game - say, for roughly 60 out of 90 defensive possessions - you really need to worry about guarding only three guys. And you get five guys of your own to guard them with. And one of those five guys is among the dozen or so best perimeter defenders in the game's history.
Under these circumstances, the Rockets should be struggling to hit a point per possession. That should be a good night for them. For the Lakers to have allowed them to ring up pointage at a rate of 1.12 per is obscene, a reprehensible abdication of their responsibilities as hoops professionals.
No one's asking the Lakers coaching staff to implement a successful counterinsurgency campaign in Pakistan, or to craft an affordable solution to LA's traffic woes. As strategic case studies go, this one should be easy to tackle, and I suspect could indeed be solved by most of the dads who coach their kids' teams down at the Y: Alright, listen up, team. Everyone pick a player who's wearing the different-colored shirts, and just try to stay in front of him. You know the two kids who look like they don't want to be here and are afraid to shoot? Whoever's assigned to them, just help out with the other three.
A full numerical accounting of the Game Six debacle, with myriad other stats only slightly less infuriating, awaits after the jump...
There were 85 possessions per team on Thursday night, making Game Six the slowest of any between the Lakers and Rockets this year. I'm all in favor of the Lakers' honoring the memory of Chuck Daly - rest in peace, CD - but I'd prefer they not do it by getting drawn into turgid, Bad Boys-style mudfights:
- Turnover rate: Lakers - 12%, Rockets - 14%.
- FTA/FGA: Lakers - 0.24, Rockets - 0.31.
- Free-throw shooting: Lakers - 75%, Rockets - 73%.
- Effective field-goal percentage: Lakers - 39% (oh, for the love of...), Rockets - 56%.
- True shooting percentage: Lakers - 43% (avert your eyes!), Rockets - 59%.
- Offensive rebounding rate: Lakers - 34%, Rockets - 18%.
- Defensive rebounding rate: Lakers - 82%, Rockets - 66%.
- Points per possession: Lakers - 0.94, Rockets - 1.12.
The Lakers' offensive numbers actually resemble the Rockets' Game Five stats pretty closely. Both "attacks" featured crazy fug shooting, with only strong work on the offensive glass keeping PPP from crashing completely through the floor.
The thing with best-of-seven series that actually go the full seven is that by this point, you can start to see some patterns in the data. Signal begins to separate from noise. In the case before us now, the following have been the three strongest predictors of game-to-game outcome, and the three things I'll be most focused on come Sunday afternoon:
- The Lakers' ability to get to the free-throw line. In the Lakers' three wins, their ratio of free-throw attempts to field-goal attempts has been 0.30, 0.40 and 0.44. In their three losses, it's been 0.22, 0.24 and 0.24. In the three wins, moreover, there hasn't been a ton of intentional fouling by the Rockets that would exaggerate the importance of this metric. On Sunday, I want to see less dribble-dribble-20-foot-contested-J, and more use of the Triangle to find open paths to the rim... and from there to the foul line.
Umm... shooting accuracy. Try to keep up with me on this one. Flinging the basketball accurately into the hoop is conducive to winning games. Beyond elementary, I realize, but it's been even more than usually predictive in this series. The team with the better true shooting percentage has won every game. Over six games, each team has a true shooting percentage of 53.
- Aaron Brooks. In the Rockets' three wins, he's averaged 19 shooting possessions (SPs) per game, and his points per SP have run 1.12 (gah! you again!), 1.48 and 1.53. In the Rockets' three losses, he's averaged 13 SPs per game, with points-per-SP ratios of 0.81, 0.88 and 1.00. We at SS&R have exhaustively documented Derek Fisher's utter inability to stay with Brooks. Man, if only the Lakers had some young, athletic point guards they could use instead....
A fourth factor to keep a close eye on is the Rockets' turnover rate. They managed to steal Game One despite turning the ball over on 19% of their possessions, but since then they've won only by limiting their turnover rate to 13-14%. If that number jumps back up to about 20% (where it was in Houston's three losses), the Lakers will likely survive to see Denver.
Player-level stat bombage, coming right up:
- Ron Artest, still being Ron Artest: he hasn't exceeded a point per SP since Game Two, and he's averaging an SP every two minutes on the floor. Keep on shooting, my man! (And Phil, remember: on defense you're playing five on three, and one of the three is this guy.)
- Von Wafer apparently enjoys dialing his own number. His rate of SPs per minutes played (0.59) exceeds that of every other non-scrub in this series other than Kobe (0.71).
- Of regulars in this series, the three least efficient offensive options have been Kyle Lowry (0.74 points per SP), Fish (0.72) and Sasha Vujacic (0.71).
- At the other end of the bell curve, the most efficient regulars in this series have been Carl Landry (1.45 points per SP), Shannon Brown (1.25), Brooks (1.19) and Jordan Farmar (1.16).
Finally, as always, the composite numbers for the series to date. Win or lose, I'll see you back here on Sunday night. Stay strong, everyone.
- Average possessions per game: 91.
- Turnover rate: Lakers - 12%, Rockets - 18%.
- FTA/FGA: Lakers - 0.31, Rockets - 0.30.
- Free-throw shooting: Lakers - 72%, Rockets - 79%.
- Effective field-goal percentage: Lakers - 49%, Rockets - 48%.
- True shooting percentage: Lakers - 53%, Rockets - 53%.
- Offensive rebounding rate: Lakers - 30%, Rockets - 30%.
- Defensive rebounding rate: Lakers - 70%, Rockets - 70%.
- Points per possession: Lakers - 1.10, Rockets - 1.04.