VIDEO: Dennis Scott and Greg Anthony preview the Pelicans-Heat matchup.
NBA.com’s John Schuhmann gets you ready for the league’s five-game Christmas Day slate with a key stat for each team, along with an explanation of what it means. Here’s a look at the opener, New Orleans at Miami (Noon ET, ESPN), which is probably the day’s most important game in regard to the standings.
New Orleans Pelicans (9-19)
The stat: The Pelicans are the only team in the league without a lineup that has played at least 80 minutes together.
There have been two overriding themes over the last few years in New Orleans: bad defense and injuries. Since the start of the 2013-14 season, the Pelicans’ top five players — Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday — have missed a total of 280 games and played just 215 minutes together.
This season, they’ve all been on the floor for a total of just 17 minutes. Six Pelicans were unable to play the team’s opener and, with Quincy Pondexter still recovering from knee surgery and Holiday still on a minutes limit, the team has yet to be completely healthy.
They’re getting there, though. And good health will lead to continuity, which should lead to better basketball on both ends of the floor. But it may soon be too late for the Pelicans to make a run up the standings. They’re only 3 1/2 games out of eighth place in the Western Conference, but there are six teams between them and a playoff spot.
More Pelicans notes from NBA.com/stats
- The Pelicans rank last in post touches at 12.2 per game, producing only 11.4 points per game off of post touches – the fourth lowest mark in the league.
- The Pelicans also rank last in paint touches at 10.3 per game, leading to 10.3 points – tied for the sixth fewest points created off of paint touches.
- New Orleans’ NetRtg has dropped by 9.8 points per 100 possession with Davis off the floor – the offense has been 3.4 points per 100 possessions worse, while the defense has been 6.4 per 100 worse.
- Davis is one of only two players (DeMarcus Cousins is the other) averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Miami Heat (16-11)
The stat: According to SportVU, the Heat have contested 26 percent of opponent 3-point attempts, the highest rate in the league.
League-wide, shooters have made 36.3 percent of uncontested 3s, but only 28.7 percent on contested 3s. SportVU’s method of determining whether a shot is contested or not yields some noise in the results, but a contest counts and the Heat have contested better than any other team.
After a couple of years of regression on defense, the Heat are one of the most improved teams on that end of the floor and are in the top five in defensive efficiency for the fourth time in Erik Spoelstra‘s eight seasons as coach.
Miami is one of two teams (Philadelphia is the other) that has reduced the percentage of opponents’ shots that have come from the restricted area and the percentage of opponents’ shots that have come from 3-point range. They’re forcing more inefficient shots and rank sixth in opponent effective field goal percentage. They also rank second in opponent free throw rate and seventh in defensive rebounding percentage.
But for the season, Miami ranks third defensively against the league’s top-10 offenses, having allowed just 99.5 points per 100 possessions in 10 games against the group. And they face another one on Christmas Day.
More Heat notes from NBA.com/stats
- Miami leads the league in field goal percentage in the restricted area (67.0 percent) and seventh in field goals in the restricted area per game (17.7).
- Hassan Whiteside leads all players (minimum 100 attempts) with a field goal percentage of 79.0 percent in the restricted area.
- Whiteside also leads the league with 4.0 blocks per game. New Orleans’ Davis ranks second with 2.7.
- Davis holds the edge in rim protection though, having held opponents to 43.8% shooting at the rim, compared to 45.3% for Whiteside. Among players that have defended at least six shots at the rim per game, Davis ranks sixth in the league and Whiteside ranks 12th.
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions