VIDEO: GameTime: Finals Preview
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Considering how dramatic last year’s Finals was, now’s the perfect time for the first rematch in 16 years. The last time two teams faced each other in The Finals in back-to-back years was the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz in 1997 and 1998.
We’re also returning to the 2-2-1-1-1 format for the first time since 1984. In the 29 years of the 2-3-2 format, the lower seed won all three games at home only three times (though the Heat did it in 2006 and 2012).
In these playoffs, the Spurs (9-1) and Heat (8-0) are a combined 17-1 at home, each scoring more than 116 points per 100 possessions. That’s ridiculously good offense, and we’re sure to see some more of it over the next 4-7 games.
These were two of the top six offensive teams in the regular season and have been the two best offensive teams in the playoffs. Comparing their offensive efficiency in each round with their opponents’ regular-season defensive numbers, both the Spurs and Heat have improved offensively during the playoffs.
The Heat (11th) are the first team since the 2006 Mavericks (11th) to make The Finals after not ranking in the top 10 in defensive efficiency in the regular season. And they’re aiming to be the first team since the 2001 Lakers (19th) to win the title after not ranking in the top 10.
The Spurs ranked in the top four defensively for the second straight season after sliding out of the top 10 the previous two. That they played more consistently on that end of the floor over the last seven months could give them the edge, as the team that can most consistently slow down the other over the next two weeks will win the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
But postseason series are often about matchups, and the Heat have the ultimate trump card in LeBron James. If it seems like this series could be decided by a possession or two, you only have to look back at last year’s to confirm that it certainly could.
Here are some statistical nuggets regarding these two teams’ paths to The Finals, their two regular season meetings, and last year’s scintillating series.
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Stats and rankings are for the playoffs.
San Antonio Spurs (62-20)
First round: Beat Dallas in 7 games.
West semifinals: Beat Portland in 5 games.
West finals: Beat Oklahoma City in 6 games.
Pace: 96.2 (4)
OffRtg: 111.2 (2)
DefRtg: 101.0 (2)
NetRtg: +10.1 (1)
Spurs by round
AdjO = OffRtg – opponent’s regular-season DefRtg
AdjD = DefRtg – opponent’s regular-season OffRtg
- Opponents have attempted just 25 free throws per 100 shots, the lowest opponent FTA rate of the playoffs. But their opponent free-throw rate has increased in each round, from 0.217 against Dallas to 0.233 against Portland and 0.303 against Oklahoma City.
- Their defensive rebounding percentage has improved each round.
- Their rate of 9.7 turnovers per 100 possessions in the conference semifinals against Portland has been the lowest turnover rate for any team in any series so far.
- According to SportVU, they lead the postseason with an effective field-goal percentage of 59.5 percent on catch-and-shoot opportunities.
- They’ve scored 124.0 points per 100 possessions in the second quarter, more than any other playoff team has scored in any quarter.
- The Spurs have outscored their opponents by 15.2 points per 100 possessions with Danny Green on the floor. That’s the best on-court NetRtg of any player that has logged at least 20 minutes per game in five or more playoff games.
- Kawhi Leonard has the best raw plus-minus of the playoffs at plus-111.
- Marco Belinelli is the only Spurs rotation player with a negative plus-minus. They’ve been outscored by 42 points in his 296 minutes on the floor and are a plus-186 in his 572 minutes on the bench. In the regular season, Belinelli had a better on-court NetRtg (plus-7.3) than Tim Duncan (plus-6.6) or Tony Parker (plus-6.7).
- Green has an effective field-goal percentage of 63.4 percent in the playoffs, a jump of 7.2 percent from his regular season mark (56.2). That’s the biggest EFG% jump of any player who has attempted at least 75 shots in the postseason.
- Duncan had 14 more rebounds than any other player in the conference finals.
- Manu Ginobili shot 15-for-30 (50 percent) from 3-point range in the conference finals after shooting 2-for-14 (14 percent) in the conference semifinals.
- The usage rates of Ginobili (28.9 percent, 25.9 percent, 23.8 percent) and Parker (31.8 percent, 30.4 percent, 25.0 percent) have decreased in each round. The usage rates of Duncan (19.9 percent, 20.2 percent, 25.4 percent), Boris Diaw (14.4 percent, 16.2 percent, 21.4 percent) and Green (11.7 percent, 17.1 percent, 17.8 percent) have increased in each round.
- Parker leads the postseason with 195 drives and 10.8 drives per game.
- The Spurs have outscored their opponents by 27.1 points per 100 possessions in 114 minutes with Ginobili, Leonard and Tiago Splitter on the floor together, the best three-man NetRtg among 194 trios that have logged at least 100 minutes.
- Patty Mills has traveled at the fastest average speed in the playoffs, 4.9 miles per hour.
Spurs postseason shot profile
%FGA = Percentage of total shots
Miami Heat (54-28)
First round: Beat Charlotte in 4 games.
East semifinals: Beat Brooklyn in 5 games.
East finals: Beat Indiana in 6 games.
Pace: 87.3 (16)
OffRtg: 113.7 (1)
DefRtg: 105.3 (6)
NetRtg: +8.3 (2)
Heat by round
Heat playoff notes:
- In the playoffs, the Heat offense has improved every quarter, from 98.9 points per 100 possessions in the first (13th among 16 teams) to 121.2 in the fourth (2nd). Over the last two rounds, they’ve scored 130.6 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter.
- They’ve been outscored by 28 points in the first six minutes of games and are a plus-133 over the other 42.
- But their defense has regressed every quarter, allowing only 99.8 points per 100 possessions in the first and 111.8 in the fourth.
- They are the best shooting team of the postseason, with an effective field-goal percentage of 56.1 percent.
- They are also the worst offensive rebounding team of the postseason, grabbing just 17.6 percent of available offensive boards. But their offensive rebounding percentage has increased each round, from 14.3 percent against Charlotte to 17.2 percent against Brooklyn and 20.4 percent against Indiana.
- Their effective field-goal percentage and turnover rate have also increased each round.
- They’ve shot 16-for-27 (59 percent), including 8-for-16 from 3-point range, in clutch time (last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, with a score differential of five points or less).
- LeBron James leads the postseason with a PIE of 21.1 percent.
- James has shot 81.3 percent on shots in the restricted area, best among players with at least 30 attempts. Chris Andersen ranks third at 76.9 percent.
- The Heat have scored 119.7 points per 100 possessions with Ray Allen on the floor. That’s the highest on-court OffRtg of any player that has logged at least 20 minutes per game in five or more playoff games.
- In the regular season, the Heat’s OffRtg dropped 8.9 points per 100 possessions (from 111.4 to 102.5) when James went to the bench. In the playoffs, it has only dropped 1.4 (from 113.9 to 112.5).
- Andersen has a defensive rebounding percentage of 32.2 percent, an increase from 21.4 percent in the regular season. That 10.8 percent jump is the biggest among players who have logged at least 150 postseason minutes.
- No Miami lineup played in more than three of the six games in the conference finals.
- Rashard Lewis (plus-58) had the best plus-minus in the conference finals. Udonis Haslem (minus-43) had the worst.
- Among 24 lineups that have logged at least 50 minutes in the playoffs, the lineup of Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, James, Haslem and Chris Bosh has been the worst, getting outscored by 35.4 points per 100 possessions in 75 minutes. It ranks 24th offensively and 22nd defensively.
Heat postseason shot profile
Regular season notes:
- Diaw, Duncan and Parker were the only Spurs to start both games. Green, Leonard and Splitter each missed the January meeting in Miami. Wade came off the bench in that game (after missing the previous four), with Allen starting in his place. Shane Battier started both games against the Spurs as the other forward.
- Both teams scored less than a point per possession in Wade’s 60 minutes on the floor. Both scored better than 117 points per 100 possessions in Wade’s 36 minutes on the bench.
- Duncan averaged 23.0 points per game, his highest scoring average against any opponent this season.
- The Heat scored just 87.9 points per 100 possessions in Leonard’s 30 minutes on the floor, committing 16 turnovers. They scored 114.5 in their other 66 minutes against the Spurs.
- The Heat had an effective field-goal percentage of 63.1 percent in Parker’s 55 minutes on the floor.
- Heat players not named Norris Cole shot 34-for-44 (77 percent) in the restricted area. Cole shot 0-for-3.
- James shot 5-for-22 (23 percent) from outside the restricted area.
- Duncan (5-for-6), Belinelli (5-for-7) and Diaw (2-for-2) combined to shoot 12-for-15 (80 percent) from mid-range. Bosh (10-for-11) was even better.
- Bosh shot 73 percent overall (19-for-26), his best mark against any opponent.
- The Spurs shot just 5-for-18 (28 percent) on corner 3-pointers.
Last year’s Finals
- Seven different players (two Spurs and five Heat) hit at least 11 3-pointers in the series. Only one of them (James) shot threes at less than 40 percent.
- The Spurs shot 23-for-51 (45 percent) from mid-range in their three wins and 10-for-60 (17 percent) from mid-range in their four losses.
- James recorded triple-doubles in two of the seven games.
- The Spurs outscored the Heat by 54 points in Wade’s 254 minutes on the floor. The Heat outscored the Spurs by 49 in Wade’s 86 minutes on the bench.
- The Heat offense scored 119.7 points per 100 possessions in 152 minutes with Mike Miller on the floor and only 95.3 in 189 minutes with Miller on the bench.
- In the first three rounds of last year’s playoffs, James, Wade and Bosh took 34 percent of their total shots from mid-range. In The Finals, they took 44 percent (154/354) of their shots from mid-range.
- In Game 7, James attempted 20 of his 23 shots from outside the paint.
- Duncan shot 0-for-6 on clutch-time shots.
- Parker shot just 11-for-42 (26 percent) from outside the paint for the series.
- Chalmers shot 10-for-16 on corner 3-pointers and 3-for-16 on above-the-break threes.