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Spurs shut down Pelicans, move to 1-4 in OT games

The Spurs and Pelicans both struggled mightily offensively before an ugly slog of a game unexpectedly turned into a thriller which finally saw the Silver and Black finish on top for once. Let's keep up that defense, boys. That offense, on the other hand...

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Spurs vs. Pelicans Dec 31, '14

Spurs 95, Pelicans 93

I must confess when this game went down to the wire at the end of regulation, I was basically whimpering for mercy in anticipation of yet another in a long series of agonizing December defeats which, despite their capacity for going one way, all seemed to have unanimously settled on going the other.  The defense mechanisms I've built up over a lifetime of rooting for less winning sports franchises were already in full swing as I talked myself down from the ledge after a solid month of games that had left me frazzled and almost dreading tip-off.  Then, a miracle.  I'm not sure what else to call that "Duncan" tip-in, but I won't be forgetting that one anytime soon.  Karma had bitten the Spurs in the ass on a regular basis this month, but this time she delivered the Spurs a lovely New Years Eve present in the most unlikely of shots since 0.4 seconds.

Dramatic ending aside (I honestly expected the Pelicans were going to return the favor with 0.3 left in OT. Phew!), this game was not pretty.  Let's dive into the stats in all their hideous glory.

Four Factors (def.)

Spurs Pelicans
Shooting (eFG%) 47% 43%
Ball Handling (TO%) 14% 16%
Off Rebounding (OR%) 16% 22%
Shooting FTs (FT Rate) 20% 23%

The Spurs registered well below their 51.1% eFG season average but did a decent enough job taking care of the ball, so I guess I should be glad this game wasn't too ugly from a ballhandling perspective.  The Spurs and Pelicans split the Four Factors, with neither team gaining a huge edge in any category.  Which tends to be the case in overtime games decided by 2 points.

Team Stats (Definitions at bottom of post)

Pace (No. of Possessions) 93.6
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.01 0.99
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.07 1.04
2-PT FG% 50.8% 42.6%
3-PT FG% 25.0% 28.6%
FT% 61.1% 85.0%
True Shooting % 49.0% 47.5%
Offensive Rating 92.3 89.6
Defensive Rating 89.6 92.3
Net Rating 2.7 -2.7
Spurs Pelicans
Passes / poss. 3.8 2.5
% of FGA uncontested 42.7% 40.4%
Points in the paint 50 40
Second chance points 4 12
Fast break points 5 13
Spurs Pelicans
Assists 24 15
Steals 5 8
Turnovers 14 13
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.07 1.77
Spurs Pelicans
Expected Offensive Rebounds 12.3 12.8
Offensive Rebounds 8 11
Difference -4.3 -1.8

The Spurs posted their second lowest Offensive Rating of the year at 92.3.  Fortunately, they coupled that with their second lowest Defensive Rating of the season at 89.6, and it was just enough to edge a Pelicans team who also looked fatigued on what was a SEGABABA for them as well.

The Spurs were once again atrocious from deep, with the exception of Manu Ginobili, who was awesome at 5/8.  The rest of the squad was 1/16, with the sole non-Manu deep ball coming on a Patty Mills corner three for his first three of the season.  It was nice to see that one go in.  The Spurs were lucky that the Pelicans were only slightly less incompetent from deep, netting a terrible 28.6% from deep.  The good guys did do a solid job on 2 point shooting, netting their biggest advantage there, but they also gave some of that edge right back with poor FT shooting, which seems to be a staple of close games this December.

The Spurs garnered a modest advantage in BCI, but once again struggled to grab offensive boards against the Pelicans, coming in at -4.3 OReb diff.  I assumed after the Spurs were -8.5 in that statistic against the Pelicans on Friday that New Orleans must be one of the top DReb teams in the league, but a quick glance at NBA Stats showed that they actually rank 14th in DReb%.  Must have something to do with the new rule that Spurs can only play NO on the backend of a back-to-back.

Ultimately, this was a really close game that could have gone either way, but the Spurs' edge in shooting, be it ever so slight, was just enough to push the Silver and Black over the top in an absolute squeaker which pushed the good guys up to an impressive 1-4 in OT games on the year.  Progress!  If we can make it to .500 in OT games on the season, well, I'll probably be hospitalized for my blood pressure, but it'd be pretty sweet to get there!

Players (Definitions at bottom of post, columns sortable)


Manu Ginobili 29 28.8 1.00 26 Pts (9-17 FG, 5-8 3PT, 3-4 FT) 7 Reb (2 Off), 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 4 PF 30% 56% 102.9 82.3 20.6
Tim Duncan 36 20.9 0.59 16 Pts (6-12 FG, 4-6 FT) 10 Reb (0 Off), 5 Ast, 3 Blk, 2 TO, 2 PF 24% 54% 84.6 92.0 -7.3
Boris Diaw 21 11.1 0.54 8 Pts (4-7 FG, ) 6 Reb (2 Off), 3 Ast, 2 Blk, 2 TO, 2 PF 18% 49% 100.5 80.6 19.9
Marco Belinelli 24 12.3 0.52 10 Pts (4-8 FG, 0-2 3PT, 2-4 FT) 2 Reb (0 Off), 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 PF 18% 55% 109.2 86.5 22.7
Tiago Splitter 25 8.8 0.35 6 Pts (3-7 FG, ) 5 Reb (2 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Blk, 1 PF 12% 48% 105.3 83.5 21.8
Kyle Anderson 18 4.6 0.25 4 Pts (2-3 FG, ) 2 Reb (0 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO, 1 PF 14% 45% 66.2 96.8 -30.7
Patty Mills 29 5.9 0.20 7 Pts (3-9 FG, 1-5 3PT ) 2 Reb (0 Off), 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 1 PF 16% 37% 101.2 82.3 18.9
Cory Joseph 24 4.5 0.18 9 Pts (4-9 FG, 1-2 FT) 3 Reb (2 Off), 2 TO, 1 PF 26% 36% 77.9 102.1 -24.2
Danny Green 35 1.4 0.04 7 Pts (3-13 FG, 0-8 3PT, 1-2 FT) 9 Reb (0 Off), 3 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 TO, 3 PF 23% 27% 85.9 94.8 -8.9
Matt Bonner 24 -3.2 -0.13 2 Pts (1-4 FG, 0-1 3PT ) 2 Reb (0 Off), 1 Ast, 2 TO, 3 PF 13% 20% 80.6 99.8 -19.2

Show Pelicans Players

Michael observed that the Spurs' starters (which weirdly included Matt Bonner and Kyle Anderson tonight for reasons known only to CIA Pop) really stunk but the second squad carried the team, and boy does that show in the stats here.  If you click on the column header to sort by NetRtg (which you can for all the players stats by the way, so enjoy), you'll see that the five guys who came off the bench all scored higher than all five starters.  That has to be the weirdest stat of the game.  In fact, Duncan was the only starter in the top 5 of Adj. Game Score.

Just one more crazy stat (I can't resist and this game had a lot of them): Danny Green had 9 rebounds, but his AdjGS was 1.4.  Icy Hot was all ice tonight, missing all 8 threes he attempted, but I suppose that's fair given his incredibly high shooting percentage of late.  

Tim Duncan, who passed Karl Malone tonight (thanks to the OT) on the career double-double list, was pretty quiet early in the game before he came alive late and really took over.  It's incredible that the 38-year-old Duncan still has that extra gear late in games when he knows his team needs a basket.  And there's no statistic that can capture just how amazing that game-saving/tying put-back at the end of regulation was.  I don't know that I've ever seen a crazier shot to tie or win a game.  That shot made up for a lot of the crap that has come with the month of December.  Nice one, Timmy.

The only player who topped Duncan tonight was Manu Ginobili, who was the Spurs' only saving grace from three, and remained very efficient even with a team-high 30% Usage rate.  He hit 5 of the Spurs 6 threes, and did it with 8 shots.  Danny Green also shot 8 and hit 0 of them.  Less good.  It's great to see Manu being able to carry the team for stretches of a game.  What's less great is that Duncan and Manu played 36 (!) and 29 minutes, respectively.  In a SEGABABA.  Boy do they need some guys to heal up and give them a rest, because those kind of minutes are not sustainable.  

Boris Diaw started terribly again with some TOs and missed shots, but he rallied to contribute a solid 11.1 AGS.  Belinelli was also solid despite missing both threes he shot (a common theme tonight).  At one point he bailed out a Manu drive with a nice 17 foot jumper, and he made some great cuts for easy buckets in the lane as well.  His 55% Floor percentage is much higher than we usually see with him, which is nice to see from a sometimes inefficient player.

Another observation: I think we can safely conclude that for this season at least, Kyle Anderson is a situational player only.  He has posted some solid numbers in limited minutes, but against solid competition and with more minutes he tends to be not great.  I know 4.6 AdjGS wasn't horrible, but if you watched his play tonight he looked like he was out of his comfort zone, made some dumb plays (one of which he got lucky and ended up with an assist for) and is still very limited defensively.  I like the kid and I think he has a pretty bright future, but maybe let's tone down some of the clamoring for more minutes for him that I see from time to time.

Spurs Index: 100.2 (def.)

Factor Value Score
Passing (AST%) 61.5% 29.7
Shooting (eFG%) 47.2% 17.6
Defensive Rebounding (DReb%) 78.4% 20.5
Defense (DefRtg) 89.6 22.3
Opponent % of FGA Uncontested 40.4% 10.1
Total 100.2

Pelicans Spurs Index: 90.4 Show Breakdown

Well, that's about as typical a Spurs game as you can ask with the SI sitting right at 100.2.  Of course, shooting was down a good bit, but Defense was fantastic as the Spurs held an opponent to a sub-90 DefRtg for the first time this year.  The Pelicans missed a lot of looks, many of them wide open from deep, but I'll take it.  

It sure felt great to snag a W in the final game of the worst month of the best year ever.  Here's to hoping that early 2015 is just like early 2014, not December.  Happy New Year, folks!  Go Spurs Go!



eFG%: Effective Field Goal percentage. (via) Effective Field Goal Percentage; the formula is (FG + 0.5 * 3P) / FGA. This statistic adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal. For example, suppose Player A goes 4 for 10 with 2 threes, while Player B goes 5 for 10 with 0 threes. Each player would have 10 points from field goals, and thus would have the same effective field goal percentage (50%).

AdjGS: a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds. It takes points, assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls into account to determine an individual's "score" for a given game. The "adjustment" in Adjusted Game Score is simply matching the total game scores to the total points scored in the game, thereby redistributing the game's points scored to those who had the biggest impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

Usage%: This "estimates the % of team possessions a player consumes while on the floor" (via). The usage of those possessions is determined via a formula using field goal and free throw attempts, offensive rebounds, assists and turnovers. The higher the number, the more prevalent a player is (good or bad) in a team's offensive outcome.

Floor%: Via Floor % answers the question, "when Player X uses a possession, what is the probability that his team scores at least 1 point?". The higher the Floor%, the more frequently the team probably scores when the given player is involved.

Offensive Rating (offRtg): Points per 100 possessions.

Defensive Rating (defRtg): Points allowed per 100 possessions.

Spurs Index: The Spurs Index © is a just-for-fun formula that attempts to quantify just how "Spursy" a particular game is, based off averages for the 2013-2014 regular season. A perfectly average game would have a Spurs Index of 100. The formula consists of four factors which the Spurs are known for and lead or nearly lead the league in: Shooting (effective Field Goal %), Passing (Assist percentage), Defensive Rebounding Rate, and Defensive Rating. These metrics are weighted as follows:

Factor Weight Average
Passing (AST%) 30% 62.1%
Shooting (eFG%) 20% 53.7%
Defensive Rebounding (DReb%) 20% 76.4%
Defense (DefRtg) 20% 100.1
Opponent % of FGA Uncontested 10% 40.8%
The values for each metric are determined based on how a particular game's performance compares to the Spurs 2013-2014 regular season average for that metric. For instance, the average effective Field Goal percentage for 2013-2014 was 53.7%. So if the Spurs shot 60% in a given game, the score for eFG% would be calculated by: (0.6 / 0.537) * 20, which would yield a "score" for that factor of 22.3.

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