The intangible stats for Game 2: Warriors vs Cavaliers

June 6, 2017 by J.H. Yeh

This is a continuation from Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals. As mentioned in my previous article (The intangible stats for Game 1: Warriors vs Cavaliers), I decided to dig into some of the intangibles to find out how the teams performed.

 

Below is the average time spent on offense for both teams. Both teams maintained a relatively good pace throughout the game and no team had any shot clock violation. I have broken down each non-transition possession (where the ball advances to halfcourt while the opponent’s defense is ready and established) by each quarter.

(Note: * = out of bound play; ** = second chance opportunity where the ball is brought back to the perimeter rather than an immediate putback; *** = shot clock is off: B = shot is blocked; late shot clock = when the team shoots the ball with 3 seconds or less on the shot clock; shot clock: the time that remains on the shot clock when a shot is attempted. Shot clock time is recorded when the ball releases from the player’s hand)

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The Cavaliers spent  11.90 and  13.26 seconds on their offense in the first and second quarters, respectively. And they spent 13.19 seconds on their offense throughout the game. In Game 1, the Cavaliers averaged 12.85  seconds on their offense, which is about 0.34 seconds faster than Game 2. Similar to Game 1, the Cavaliers were competitive in the first two quarters and were able to keep up with the Warriors’ tempo. However, the Cavaliers’ offensive core — meaning LeBron James and Kyrie Irving — simply gassed out in the third quarter. The Cavaliers’ limited athleticism and ineffective offense once again discombobulated them as the Cavaliers averaged 14.06 seconds on the offense in the third quarter. This is a deja vu — just like Game 1 all over again — and everything is all too familiar. In Game 1, the Cavaliers ran out of energy in the third quarter as they averaged 15.31 seconds on their offense — 1.74 seconds slower than the Warriors. And in Game 2, despite the adjustments, the Cavaliers were 1.47 seconds slower than the Warriors and were trailing behind by 14 points (88-102) by the end of the third quarter.

On the other hand, the Warriors were able to maintain a relatively consistent time on the offense throughout all four quarters.

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Game 3 proved to be the turning point for both Games 1 and 2 as the Cavaliers started to show signs of fatigue. The Warriors’ strong play from their role players, who kept the starters fresh throughout the game, is no match for the Cavaliers. Even James’ super-human performance and his record-tying eighth triple double could not save the Cavaliers as his body started to wear him down in the third quarter. 13.87

Though the Warriors averaged 16.60 second on their offense (upped from 14.19 in Game 1) and also showed sign of fatigue, but they were terrific with their precise (albeit slower) offense and aggressive defense. The Warriors conserved enough energy from the first three quarters to finish strong on their offensive execution despite their much slower offense in the fourth quarter and were shooting 60.6% from the inside and 41.9 from the 3-point territory (51.7% overall).  With no help from the reserves, the tired Cavaliers offensive core were severely limited to only  45.0% from the inside and a lowly 27.9% from the 3-point line (45.0% overall). Moreover, they showed desperation as much of their offense was rushed and poorly operated as manifested by them spending 2.73 seconds fewer on running their offense (13.87 seconds in the final period) than the Warriors’. The damage was done in the third quarter and the Warriors limited the Cavaliers while outscoring them just enough to get by (21-18) around seven minutes into the final period as Stephen Curry and the co. took a commanding lead 125-106 around the four minute mark in the last quarter (they were leading 104-88 after the third quarter).

Next is the dunk metric. Though Durant didn’t have another 6-dunk night like he did in Game 1 but the Warriors still managed to out-dunked the Cavaliers 8 dunks to 4. Doubling the Cavaliers’ total dunks, the Warriors once again showed supreme ball movement and accurate passing during the transition to dominate the Cavaliers in a game of speed.

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Free throw rebounds are much lesser known; nonetheless, I think it would be interesting to see how both teams performed.

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The Cavaliers did not grab any free throw rebounds because the Warriors went 22-24 ( 91.7%) from the charity stripe and the lone missed free throw that came from the second attempt was grabbed by Klay Thompson. The Cavaliers shot 15 for 19  (78.9%) from the free throw line but only one missed free throw came in the second attempt.

I modified the hustle stats to include air balls and shots blocked. Note that shots blocked is different from blocks. I think by keeping track of shots blocked can offer a different spectrum on the game as well as giving us a rather refreshing look at the team’s offensive effort.

(Note: put back is recorded when a player receives the offensive rebound and attempts to put back the ball within two dribbles or under three seconds; a tip in attempt, though not an offensive rebound, is also recognized as a form of put back)

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The Cavaliers made good adjustment on their defense as they were able to use their perimeter players to slow the Warriors down a little. However, the Warriors ultimately proved too much as they overwhelmed the Cavaliers’ big men in the second half. Aside from 15 steals ( they had zero steals in Game 1) and forcing the Warriors to commit 20 turnovers, the Cavaliers’ defensive adjustments can be felt from their intangible efforts as they attempted nine put backs (made two) and attempted to draw two charges. Note that the Cavaliers attempted no charges in Game 1. In spite of that, the Cavaliers’ big men, Kevin love and Tristan Thompson, still had no answer to slow the Warriors and were outmatched and exploited by Durant. Offensively, the Cavaliers also adjusted and were able to create more shots (from 86 attempts in Game 1  to 100 ) with accurate efficiency (from 34.9% to 45.0%), but they struggled mightily against Durant. Blocked five times by Durant, the Cavaliers’ sluggish offense wasn’t clicking and the fact that big men Channing Frye was blocked twice in 11 minutes of action really shows the Cavaliers’ limited bench production as they were badly outmatched by the Warriors’ superior length.

 

I will continue and keep track of these stats for the remainder of the Finals series, and hopefully I can uncover some analytical pattern. (Click here to view Finals analysis and Game 1 report.)

 

— J.H. Yeh

 

(all tables are created by me, and all sources of stats are courtesy of NBA.com and SportVU player tracking as of June 4, 2017)

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