Posts Tagged ‘2016 Playoffs’

Analytics Art: Playoff blowouts in 2016

By Andrew BergmannTwitter: @dubly

The 2016 playoffs have seen an unprecedented number of blowout wins by 25 points or more. Here’s a comparison of the playoff years that featured the most 25 point blowouts (click image for full graphic).

playoff blowouts

Andrew Bergmann’s data driven design work can be found on CNN, NBA, Sports Illustrated, Deadspin, NPR, Washington Post, and USA Today. See more on www.dubly.com and twitter.com/dubly

Warriors are not playing for 2015 title

OAKLAND — It’s the 2016 Finals that begin Thursday, sources confirmed to NBA.com, not a continuation of the 2015 championship series. There is no attempt at a replay, no try for redemption.

That goes for both sides, for the Cavaliers who lost in six games a year ago while playing shorthanded and for the Warriors who had to hear about it for months, as if they were supposed to apologize for beating Cleveland without Kevin Love and mostly without Kyrie Irving.  The matchup that resumes with Game 1 at Oracle Arena is not the same one that ended last June in Ohio, with Golden State winning and the Cavs wondering what may have been.

The Warriors don’t even seem to be wanting the potential closure, the logic that beating the Cavaliers at full strength this time would somehow equal that Golden State would have handled Cleveland in the same way in 2015.

“It’s what everyone wanted, to have the rematch,” center Andrew Bogut said after Warriors practice on Wednesday. “They’re playing very good basketball, we had to fight our way here. It’s going to be an exciting series.”

Just not everyone.

“Besides us,” Bogut clarified. “No, just in the sense of the media and everyone. There’s a lot of storylines around them being banged up last season. It’s a good story to have the rematch, for you guys. For us, it wouldn’t really matter who it was.”

Because this is not the chance to close a chapter.

“We don’t really care,” Bogut said. “The ring doesn’t have an asterisk on it. We had guys banged up through different series this season. Portland and Houston, Steph (Curry) was banged up. These things happen. You’ve got to adjust. We’re not really feeling like we’re coming in saying, ‘Hey, we’re really going to prove ourselves against them now.’ We did what we did last season, that’s over and this is a new team, on both sides of the ball. We’re going to try to win the series.”

Said Shaun Livingston, then and now an important reserve: “It’s great. It’s another storyline. But at the end of the day we know we have to play who’s out there. That’s all that really matters.”

Also Wednesday, coach Steve Kerr declined to say whether he will stay with the opening lineup that helped deliver the Game 7 win over the Thunder on Monday, with Andre Iguodala at small forward, or go back to the usual Golden State look of Harrison Barnes starting and Iguodala in a reserve role.

“I won’t tell you what I’m going to do,” Kerr said. “But the thinking is, do we really want to change anything? We’ve gone two years with Harrison starting and it’s been a pretty good two years. So do you go away from something that you’ve been successful with? On the flip side, it’s the playoffs. You can make adjustments like we did last year against Cleveland, putting Andre in the lineup, and sometimes those adjustments are good. So that’s kind of what you’re weighing is the positives and the negatives going in when you’re talking about adjustments into the lineup. You weigh it and you make your decision and you hope for the best.”

In LeBron’s career, shorter playoff series not necessarily better


VIDEO: Cavs ready for Game 3 in Detroit

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – No team has done it and none likely will break through this postseason, as far as cruising through the NBA playoffs without a loss. Five teams currently are unbeaten but 2-0 is a long way from 16-0 and the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers know it.

Even for the old school, perfection was elusive. Hall of Famer and man of few words Moses Malone missed by just one on his famous 1983 prediction of “Fo’, fo’, ‘fo” and that was back in the days of three rounds rather than four.

The appeal is obvious, beyond bragging rights. Fewer games at this point on the NBA calendar is better than more, given wear and tear on the players’ bodies and their minds. Keeping series short cuts down on the adjustments an opponent can make and, even bigger, on exposures to injury. There also are psychological benefits to advancing quickly and earning extra days off while upcoming opponents still are fighting to survive.

LeBron James qualifies as the league’s active expert on long playoff runs, given his five straight Finals appearances and six overall. So, in advance of Game 3 against Detroit in the Eastern Conference first round (7 ET, ESPN), James talked Friday morning at The Palace of Auburn Hills about his experiences not just winning the four games that matter most in these best-of-seven series but avoiding seven games. Or six or ideally even five.

“It’s been a balance of both,” James said before the Cavaliers’ shootaround. “I’ve had points of my career where we’ve swept a lot and it’s hurt us the next series, ’cause we got out of rhythm. I’ve had times where we were banged up as a team and we needed to rest, and it benefited us.”

James and his teams are on a roll, with 15 consecutive victories in the first round, including sweeps of Boston (2015), Charlotte (2014) and Milwaukee (2013). As far as his personal playoff history, his scattergram shows eight four-game series (a 7-1 record), nine five-game series (8-1), 11 six-game series (7-4) and five seven-gamers (3-2).

In the years James’ Cleveland and Miami teams have reached The Finals, they’ve played in a total of six sweeps, winning five. But the two runs that ended with championships, in 2012 and 2013, curiously had none. They logged 23 games both teams en route to the Larry O’Brien trophy, the most James ever has played in a postseason.

So shorter hasn’t necessarily been better.

“It all depends on that particular season,” James said. “You can’t really base it on another season. It depends on how you’re feeling and how that other team is playing in that particular season.”

James was asked for the third or fourth time this week about Detroit rookie Stanley Johnson‘s brash claims that he has “gotten in” the Cleveland star’s head. Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy talked with the 19-year-old Johnson about verbally poking at a dangerous opponent. But James saved his most pointed responses for Game 2 and, presumably, for Game 3, because he didn’t get drawn into a war of words Friday morning.

“I don’t think it’s about that,” James said. “There’s always going to be conversation outside of the four lines, and how much you indulge in it can take away from what the main thing is.

“Guys have been always kind of trash-talking me since I was a kid. My coaches always told me, it’s not about that. It’s about trying to score and whatever you can do to help your team stay focused.”

Curry remains questionable for Game 2

OAKLAND — The Warriors continued to list Stephen Curry as questionable for Game 2 against the Rockets tonight at Oracle Arena, well aware that not playing would give the reigning MVP four days of rest and rehabilitation before the series shifts to Houston on Thursday.

Curry sprained his right ankle late in the first half of the opener on Saturday, tried to return in the third quarter, only to be removed by coach Steve Kerr after 2 minutes 47 seconds. Curry said afterward he did not “see a scenario where I’ll be out,” but he has not made any public comment since Saturday as the Warriors said he had improved but still not to the point where he is likely to play.

Shaun Livingston is the scheduled starter if Curry sits.

 

Curry still questionable for Game 2

VIDEO: Curry tweaks ankle.

OAKLAND — The Warriors began to prepare for the possibility of not having Stephen Curry for Game 2 against the Rockets on Monday, with Curry missing practice Sunday to get treatment on the sprained right ankle that limited him to 20 minutes the day before and brought his history with ankle problems back to the forefront.

The reigning MVP and clear frontrunner for a repeat win of the award was hurt in the second quarter Saturday as he changed direction to run down court after missing a short jumper. Curry returned for the start of the third quarter, but was removed by coach Steve Kerr after only 2:47 when it was obvious Curry was not moving well. He returned to the locker room and was back on the bench for the start of the fourth quarter, lobbying Kerr and assistants Luke Walton and Bruce Fraser to no avail to put him in the game.

Curry said Golden State’s easy 104-78 win over the Rockets that “Right now I don’t see a scenario where I’ll be out.” But he did not practice Sunday, or speak with the media, as the Warriors prepped for Game 2 on Monday night at Oracle Arena with Shaun Livingston as the starting point guard.

“It kind of changes things,” Kerr said after practice. “We don’t seem to be as good of a coaching staff when Steph goes out. I don’t know why. But we’ve got a lot of guys who can play. I think Steph missed three or four games this year and we did fine. Obviously we’ve got to find different ways to score, but we’ll prepare for that and see what happens.”

Curry missed three games in 2015-16, March 1 against the Hawks with a bad left ankle and Dec. 30 at Dallas and Dec. 31 at Houston with a bruised lower left leg. The second half of the Texas back-to-back was the one time in the regular-season series the Rockets got close, losing by four points compared to 20 and 13 the other two meetings.

“We were embarrassed by Dallas the night before, so there was kind of a natural competitive reaction to that loss,” Kerr said. “We came out and we were more focused. We did a good job of executing our offense, taking care of the ball. We moved it well. We defended well, which allowed us to get out and run. When Steph’s out our guys understand that he’s not there to count on. They have to execute. If they don’t we’re just not going to score enough points. We did a good job of cutting and screening and all the stuff we talk about every day.”

Livingston has been an important reserve in the two campaigns since he arrived as a free agent, playing a key role in the 2015 championship and following that with another big contribution this regular season. He is experienced and steady with the ball — seventh in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio — but in some ways a direct contrast to Curry in style of play on offense, with Curry obviously a deep threat and Livingston more likely to post up than shoot threes.

 

Playoff expectations for Cavaliers: Score style points or just win?

VIDEO: Kevin Love on getting ready for playoffs.

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – More than any of the other 15 teams in the first round of the NBA’s postseason tournament, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be watched closely not just for whether they win or lose each game but for how they happen to do it.

Style points – more specifically, judgments of how LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving mesh their games and share the load – likely will be assessed, loaded with all sorts of portent for the presumed rounds to come.

At a certain level, it’s understandable. Cleveland’s “Big 3” has ebbed and flowed in its performances over two seasons together, leaving unanswered questions about whether one basketball or one system is enough to serve James’, Love’s and Irving’s individual talents. Also, the blueprint turned black-and-blueprint last spring when both Love (shoulder injury in Game 4 of the opening round) and Irving (knee in Game 1 of the Finals) got hurt, leaving the plan to go largely untested.

So with the alleged inherent mismatch of their No. 1 vs. No. 8 clash with underdog Detroit and status as the East’s favorites overall, the Cavaliers might find themselves getting poked and prodded, their pulses taken on the fly, to gauge their fitness to turn a six-game Finals loss into something more glittery this time.

Most teams start the playoffs just hoping to count to 16 (victories). People may expect the Cavaliers to unlock some secret formula, gel into a super-team and chase down their potential while they’re stalking the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

“That’s on us to keep it [simple],” Love said after practice Saturday at the Cleveland Clinics facility. “I know that, as a human being, you want to get out ahead of yourself and know what’s next. But for us, we can’t do that. When we have that ‘win or die,’ ‘win or go home’ mentality and take it game by game, we’re so much better. I know in a lot of ways that’s a cliché, but that’s how we’re looking at it and I don’t think any of these guys will tell you different.”

And if Love gets neglected over in the corner waiting for some catch-and-shoot 3-pointers or if James takes over primary ball handling duties from Irving for a night?

“We don’t necessarily have time to hold our heads on who’s getting the balls, who’s not getting the ball,” Irving said. “It’s really just about winning and doing whatever it takes. And everyone has to understand that. It’s going to be different roles every single night. Teams are going to be making adjustments. So we just have to adjust accordingly, make decisions and continue to play our game. That’s it.”

As far as Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is concerned, there’s only one thing he wants to see from his team besides victories in the best-of-seven series with the Pistons.

“With this team, I think you have to be physical,” Lue said. “Reggie Jackson is a big point guard, he attacks a lot. [Center Andre] Drummond‘s very physical, the best offensive rebounder in the league.[Marcus] Morris and Tobias [Harris] at the 3-4 positions, they’re very physical. The biggest thing for me is, I want our team to come out and be physical on both ends.”