Game 2: The Impact Plays

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MIAMI — The most important play in a game isn’t always the one you remember most. Sometimes, it’s subtle and doesn’t even make the highlight reel. Sometimes, something as simple as a change in possession can be more important than a shot that does or doesn’t go in.

The NBA has a way to use analytics to figure out just which plays had the biggest impact on a close game. It’s a “leverage” model that was developed to evaluate and instruct referees by pointing out which calls or no-calls had the biggest impact on a game’s result.

Here’s the idea: At every point of a game, each team has a certain probability of winning. Putting the quality of each team to the side, when the game tips off, the home team has a 60 percent probability of winning and the road team has a 40 percent probability of winning. After the first basket, those numbers haven’t changed much. But if the home team is up 10 with the ball and five minutes to go in the fourth quarter, their win probability (WP) is obviously a lot greater than 60 percent.

So, by calculating win probability both before and after a play occurs, it can be determined just how important that play was. Score, possession and location are the factors. And obviously, plays in the last few minutes of the fourth quarter (or overtime) in a close game are more important than any others.

Using the league’s data model, we’ve determined the three most important plays of Game 2 of The Finals, an easy 103-84 win for the Miami Heat.

Because Game 2 was a blowout, the plays that made the biggest impact came late in the third quarter, with the outcome still in the balance…

3. +7.4 percent – Ray Allen drains a 3


The Heat were up just two when Manu Ginobili committed one of the Spurs’ 17 turnovers. LeBron James brought the ball up quickly and got the ball to Mario Chalmers, who made the extra pass to Allen for a wide-open three from the left wing with 2:25 left in the third.

The basket changed the Heat’s WP from 66.2 percent to 73.6 percent.

2. +7.6 percent – A three-point possession


With James in the post and the score tied, Tim Duncan got caught for a defensive three-second violation. Chalmers made the technical free throw, and on the ensuing play, Chris Bosh hit a tough bank shot to put Miami up 61-58 with 4:30 left in the third.

Before the possession, the Heat’s WP was 58.1 percent. After Bosh’s bucket, it was 65.7 percent.

1. +8.1 percent – Chalmers’ and-one


A minute after that three-point possession, the Spurs were back up one and the Heat’s WP was back down to 53.8 percent. But they got a pair of offensive rebounds and were inbounding the ball under their basket with 3:17 left.

Chalmers then went around a James screen at the elbow, drew a foul on Danny Green, and converted a lay-up and the free throw. The three-point play was the start of the Heat’s 33-5 game-changing run and changed their WP from 53.8 percent to 62.0 percent.

34 Comments

  1. Spectator says:

    4-1 HEAT that’s it! LBJ crowning in Duncan’s kingdom!

  2. Spurs Period!
    Go Spurs!!!

  3. Jr.Gong says:

    Both team are great,that is why they are on the final.Just enjoy the series,and may the best team be NBA champion 2013

  4. Us buck says:

    Crawford is a sick, unhappy, little brat! When he’s calling the game he finds a way of drawing attention to himself! And, after each call, he looks back at the player daring them to do say something about it. He’s a joke! Pathetic!

  5. jimmy says:

    The damage is already done, Spurs still 1 game in Miami. The winner of game 3 in a tide series, wins 92% of the time.

    Let s see what happens on tuesday night in a packed AT&T Center….GO SPURS GO!!!!

  6. nate says:

    great way of looking at the game! Love the break down and it makes sense. In the end im just glad the Heat won lol

  7. MIA says:

    man all these SPURS fan make a lot of excuses the officiating was great it didn’t favor neither team. and it was actually mentioned by the commentators and really IT WAS A CLOSE GAME. look at the score board the heat destroyed the SPURS at some point the heat lead by 27 points and the reason it was close at halftime was because lebron james was slow he only had 8 pts in the first half and that 33-5 run by the heat happened while d-wade who by the way was having a good game was sitting in the bench.. kudos by the way to bosh and dwade they were making there shots and and lebron for going into beast mode and having a great defensive game(block on splitter was nasty, best in the playoffs)

  8. yo says:

    Stats will be stats. Trends will be trends. But computing winning percentages based on possession is just ridiculous. At the end of the day, it is just the team which makes the game changing plays, the extra effor and the will to win that wins the game. Stats can only do so much. But it can never say the most impacting plays, much less game winning plays, :)

  9. Big Al says:

    Miller is finally given more playing time, and it is well deserved. Had he been given a chance in the Pacers series, then the Heat could have taken it in six games. His combination with Allen on treys is phenomenal. Danny Green has been explosive in both games from downtown, but their duo easily made that insignificant, especially in this blowout.

    • DA_TRUF says:

      i know right, hahaha – miller so clutch they just keep him benched all year then turn him loose in the finals like last year haha

  10. Spectator says:

    Please notice the refs on this game especially Crawford. (bald, white, chubby). He called the two key fouls of LBJ. 1st on a loose ball rebounding against Duncan. That was a clean play. Van Gundy even mentioned it. Crawford in control of the game. That was an important play because it was potentially a momentum changer. 2nd on charging foul on LBJ while setting a pick for Chalmers. Green bump him and fell down. I thought he either bump LBJ directly who is place or he FLOPPED. Again, called by Crawford…potentially a game changing play.

  11. Erlo says:

    Who decides these percentages? This doesn’t seem like a good method to me, trying to evaluate a game led by less than 10 points in the 3rd quarter by one team or the other. I remember when some dude made 13 points in 35 seconds. And then it rained.

  12. Mike says:

    Go Heat…well done.

  13. Heat lineup of Cole, Allen, Birdman, Miller and LBJ is deadly. Especially when Allen and Miller play together. Spurs play strong side defense where LBJ is so Heat spread the floor by Miller on one side and Allen the other. LBJ play pick and roll with the guard and if the shot is open he or the guard takes it and when defense collapse on LBJ with double team he can kick it out to either side. Heat made three 3′s doing that. Spurs got blown out because of this strategy by Heat. This is where Spurs need adjustment.

  14. benjie says:

    Its easy win when miami is rolling.Nobody could defeat Miami in 4 games.
    The big 3 of Miami + role players + 3 point shooters alone can’t be beaten when they bounce back.
    San Antonio is a great team but there big 3 + danny green 3 + there bench could not handle the heat in a running game
    ,Pick and role.The heat have the x-factor they got the Bird man who comes out when wade and bosh goes out.Turning the ball much quicker and harder to defend cause they got the threat inside and outside -with 3s from miller and ray allen.
    In the end the heat will always have true advantage regardless of which home court advantage they will play.
    Barckley you are sooooo wrong. heat in 6.

  15. miamiwinning says:

    Maths don’t lie baby :)

  16. Also why is it that for both of gms 1 & 2 wade & lbj have a total of 3 fouls combined-2 for lbj in gm 2 & 1 for wade in gm 2 & 0 each for gm 1. Yet Spurs hot shooter Green foul trouble each gm-3 in gm 1 & 4 in gm 2. It seems on paper both gms were called even but the key is who they’re called on & @ which point in the game-like Duncan’s early bad calls in gm 1 yet they still won. As physical as both lbj & wade are how do they both have next to no fouls after 2 gms-again 0 fouls on them in gm 1. Spurs would have probably sweep heat if calls were completely consistent-especially w/ heat key players taking them off the floor @ key points in the game like refs did to Green when he was hot in gm 2.
    Go Spurs!!!

    • bunch of malarky LeonGreenAllDay18. Spurs sweeping Heat ha ha ha ha ha ha. Heat in 5 or 6

    • Erlo says:

      You are so wrong. If you actually watch film and break down every play, you will see Wade and James (usually James) are pretty much fouled EVERYTIME down the court. They only get like 15% of the calls. On the other hand, James and Wade usually do NOT foul. They are just better defenders, and tops in the league all around.

  17. blackmamba_38 says:

    ….not a challenging game either…. spurs really need more manpower to defeat the heat… go heat!

  18. I don’t see much of any hurdle for Spurs after this gm 2 routing-just because it was a blow out means nothing for the rest of the series. As many turnovers Spurs had & still kept it close till late 3rd qu you’d think heat would’ve had early 20 pt lead. Even though it seemed a fair called game, why were there different refs than gm 1-seems strange? As much as Parker was getting in the paint 3rd qu he wasn’t getting any calls & w/ heats trap pressure defense there was a lot of contact from heat 3rd qu-i’m def not blaming officials-there just was a lot of contact in heats trapping that refs could’ve called 3rd & 4th qu. I think Pops seen how the blown calls were going & pulled the main guys early-why have them kill themselves when it’s clear Parker can get in the paint any time he wants but not get the calls-TP was in there double times lbj. None the less, Spurs did some of what they set out to do in first 2 in miami while still not playing @ the top of their game-taking 2 & going back to SA would’ve been real great but 1 is still really good for Spurs taking home court. In playoffs anything can change from game to game but there’s more hurdles for heat than Spurs w/ Spurs taking 1 in miami. Best believe Spurs especially Duncan will be on fire next gm after this poor performance & still kept it close most of gm 2.
    Go Spurs!!!

    • Let's be real says:

      Sounds like a lot of excuses… They got blown out in a finals game… You can try and down play it all you want, but when you get routed like that it is a big deal… The game that wasn’t a big deal was game one… Heat always lose game one… look back at these playoffs, and at the playoffs the past few years, game one is never their game… Watch out Spurs…

    • Erlo says:

      You are acting like Tony Parker was fouled a lot in that game … he wasn’t. HE initiates most of the contact to protect his slightly fading shot at the rim. Just because he goes sprawling doesn’t mean it’s a foul. It is a tactic he uses to create more space. Don’t be so easily tricked.

  19. Well Spurs-would’ve like to see up 2-0 going back to SA but 1 out of 2 still is damn good against the ecc-Spurs still did some of what they set out to do in miami. After sloppy offense in game 2 & still kept it close most of gm-u best believe Spurs will be on fire next gm especially Duncan & Manu-Spurs will be fine.
    Go Spurs!!!

    • Let's be real says:

      “Most of the Game” The score at the end is all that matters, closing out games… If it wasn’t for a flut shot by Parker in game one this series would already be out of hand… So just feel fortunite that Tony’s shot went in, but they are way out maned…

  20. J says:

    loved this article!!!
    i think this is dumb though : you have a 73.6% chance at winning when u r up by just 5 and a whole quarter left to play its just dumb come on theres a quarter left its easy to score 5 in a quarter!
    heat in 6!!!

  21. fan_bkk says:

    much better than the regular opinion pieces!

  22. freak23 says:

    wow… it looks like a foul by ray allen on Manu from that camera angle…
    anyway, sometimes this is called home court advantage.

  23. anon. says:

    it goes to show how good the heat team is if only they play “real basketball’ (without the flopping, dirty plays and constant whining )
    well done heat
    full credit to coach spo for the game plan adjustments

  24. dirk45 says:

    I REALLY like this format.