May 16, 2011

How Blazers Celtics and Pacers blew their chances

Filed under: Uncategorized — wwinston @ 8:03 am

Philosopher George Santyana said “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Some poor playoff lineup decisions made by the Blazers, Celtics, and Pacerssupport the validity of thus aphorism. All numbers below are per 48 minutes and adjusted for strength of opponent’s players on the court.

  • Through the whole season the Blazers were great with Aldridge and Miller and no bigs on the court (15 points per game better than average). With any bigs on the court with Miller and Aldridge Blazers were only +3. Against Mavs Aldridge and Miller with no bigs played at +9 and Aldridge and Miller with Camby played at  +3. Less playing time for Camby might have turned at least one  close loss into a win.
  • The Pacers all season were great (+9) with Dunleavy and Foster on the court. Against Bulls this dynamic duo was +25. Yet the Pacers only put these guys on the court 10 minutes per game. Surely more PT for these guys would have resulted in at least one more win.
  • Like everyone else I thought the Celtics should break things up because they can no longer contend for the title. Looking at some data convinced me I was wrong. The Celtics, despite playing with a crippled Rondo, played 10 points better than average in Heat series.  If they had brought in Arroyo instead of West as the backup point guard they would have played much better. With West in Celtics were down 40 points and with West out Celtics were +18 points and played 20 ppg  better than average. This is consistent with the regular season during which with West on court Celtics played 10 ppg worse than average. During regular season Celtics played at -4 level with Arroyo in, so he might have been a better choice as backup point guard. Also he knew Heat defensive schemes and that might have helped him.

Three other amazing tidbits:

  • The Knicks fell on their face with Anthony and Amare in. They played 2 ppg worse than average. Rest of season Knicks played 1 ppg better than average.
  • Everyone thinks the Wolves had a horrible season. But if you look at minutes when Webster, Hayward, Koufos, Pekovic, Flynn and Darko were all on the bench Wolves were great: 8 ppg better than average (355 minutes).
  • When Nocioni and Turner were both off court 76ers played an amazing 8 ppg better than average in 1800+ minutes. Rest of time 76ers played 4 points worse than average.


  1. [...] a statistics expert and former consultant to the Mavericks, says the Blazers, Celtics and Pacers all shot themselves in the foot with some lineup decisions in the [...]

    Pingback by The Point Forward » Posts Court Vision: The latest around the league « — May 16, 2011 @ 4:45 pm

  2. [...] How Blazers Celtics and Pacers blew their chances: Some playoff teams blew it by willingly using inferior 5-man units, writes Wayne Winston of Mathletics. [...]

    Pingback by How Blazers Celtics and Pacers blew their chances » Stathead » Blog Archive — May 16, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

  3. To clarify…on the T-Wolves note…do you mean when they were a)NOT on the court playing or b)were healthy enough to all be available on the bench? I really enjoy these posts. Thanks.

    Comment by Ben — May 17, 2011 @ 10:34 am

  4. I mean all minutes when these guys were all not in the game. Their health does not matter

    Comment by wwinston — May 17, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

  5. WW,

    I am curious as to what notes are prescriptive and which notes are descriptive. For instance, if you were to compute win percentages to win it all, what would you use? (Didn’t you do this in years past or am I mistaken?) Would you tend to use recent performance or season long performance as the more predictive guide?

    [I'm a Mavs fan, and I guess I'm just wondering, are they really this good?]

    Thanks for the posts,

    Comment by Charlie — May 18, 2011 @ 7:36 pm

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