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Yesterday, we had a discussion about Kobe Bryant's surprisingly Vince Carter-esque numbers in career "crucial" games (defined as a Conference Semifinal game or later; Game 3 or later; series tied, within 1 game either way, or an elimination game for the trailing team). A commenter brought up the possibility that Bryant had faced tougher defenses than other stars in his playoff career, so today I'm going to run the numbers for players since 1991 and see who actually has faced the toughest defenses in their playoff careers, first in all games, then just in "crucial" games.
Marv was at his best in that clip, practically lending biblical overtones to John Stockton's feats in Game 4, and I was so inspired by Albert's proclamation that Stock "seized the moment like few others in NBA history" that I wanted to find the players who had the best career performances in crucial games like that Game 4.
At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in March, Mavs owner Mark Cuban remarked that he could tell which teams used advanced stats and which didn't simply by looking at who their most frequent lineups were. For instance, some teams put out combinations where Cuban said he understood why the coaches thought it would be good for the team, but the +/- numbers showed that the team was losing badly when that group was on the floor. So one way of evaluating coaches is to look at their most frequently-used lineups and see how they match up with a list of the team's most effective lineups by either adjusted +/- or, in the absence of that, raw +/-. Here's how the remaining four coaches (Alvin Gentry, Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers, & Stan Van Gundy) have been doing so far:
What is it about the Phoenix Suns and Staples Center this season? The Lakers are a good home team, having gone 34-7 with a +8.5 PPG differential in L.A. this season, so that's a big part of the explanation. But when Phoenix plays them there, their problems seem to go further than typical home-court advantage effects -- look at the difference between the Suns' Four Factors at Staples and at the US Airways Center:
As an announcer, Mark Jackson sure loves to repeat himself. Whether it's "Mama there goes that man," "Hand down, man down," or my personal favorite, "Grown man move" (clip unavailable), Jackson's canned go-to phrases are a staple of any ESPN broadcast -- especially when cutting to a commercial break, serving to punctuate an important replay with, well, words that have lost all meaning.
The Nuggets lost the game by 31 points, though... The fewest points by a leading scorer in a win? Avery Johnson & Vernon "Mad Max" Maxwell scored 10 apiece to lead San Antonio over Cleveland on March 25, 1997, in what had to be one of the most unwatchable games in NBA history:
In Part II of this series, I developed a method of estimating a team's probability of winning the NBA Championship based on the allocation of their possessions among their top 5 players. The idea is that, assuming 2 teams are championship-caliber, the one who follows the time-tested pattern of Star 1a + Star 1b + 3 role players will be more likely to win a championship. Today, I'm going to apply this to all regular-season teams in NBA history, and see which teams were theoretically built for postseason success, then look at what actually happened to them.
First, we need to define what it means to be a "championship-caliber team". Historically, the average regular-season SRS of all NBA champions is 6.07, and the median SRS is 6.059. Obviously, teams have won with SRS scores of under 6 (the 2006 Heat were the last team to do so), but as a general rule, if you post an SRS of 6 or greater during the regular-season, you have established yourself as either the odds-on favorite or at least one of the leading candidates to win the NBA title, which is what we're going for here.