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Spurs shoot selves in foot, fall to Pistons

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The Spurs played a fantastic 1st quarter, took a nap for the 2nd and 3rd, woke up in the 4th to regain the lead, then blew it with the worst execution imaginable. Let's see what the stats can add to that narrative.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Spurs 104, Pistons 105 - Jan 6, '15

This was painful.  What I thought was finally going to be a nice, stress-free Spurs blowout over an overmatched East squad turned into yet another game the Spurs found a way to lose late.  I've started to become almost fatalistic with the Spurs this year as they seem to almost try their best to find ways to lose games like this, so I was no more surprised when Patty fumbled a Duncan pass to give Brandon Jennings the inevitable game-winner at the buzzer than I would have been if the Spurs had been fouled and hit 1 of 2 FTs (hitting both actually would have surprised me).

The Spurs really executed beautifully in the beginning of this game, while the Pistons threw the ball all over the gym and just played pretty terribly.  Unfortunately, it seemed like the Pistons' sloppy play rubbed off on the Spurs and the Spurs fell asleep for the middle part of the game, relinquishing the 18 point lead they had built up and falling behind by 10 at one point in the 3rd before roaring back to retake the lead in the 4th, until the Spurs' poor play cost them the game on aforementioned buzzer beater.  Games like this are so stressful and must be exhausting for the team, both physically and emotionally.

Let's take a mercifully brief look at this momentum-killing turd of a game.

Four Factors (def.)

Spurs Pistons
Shooting (eFG%) 47% 49%
Ball Handling (TO%) 17% 15%
Off Rebounding (OR%) 30% 35%
Shooting FTs (FT Rate) 43% 32%

The Spurs shot pretty poorly, turned the ball over more and allowed the Pistons an absurd 35% OREB%.  The fact that they got the line also didn't count for much considering their atrocious FT%.

Team Stats (Definitions at bottom of post)

Spurs Pistons
Pace (No. of Possessions) 98.6
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.05 1.06
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.32 1.21
2-PT FG% 46.6% 55.9%
3-PT FG% 42.9% 15.8%
FT% 67.6% 71.4%
True Shooting % 55.3% 52.9%
Offensive Rating 106.2 105.7
Defensive Rating 105.7 106.2
Net Rating 0.4 -0.4
Spurs Pistons
Passes / poss. 3.4 2.7
% of FGA uncontested 41.8% 32.2%
Points in the paint 48 58
Second chance points 19 28
Fast break points 5 17
Spurs Pistons
Assists 24 19
Steals 6 10
Turnovers 17 14
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.76 2.07
Spurs Pistons
Expected Offensive Rebounds 10.8 10.8
Offensive Rebounds 13 15
Difference 2.2 4.2

The Spurs held the Pistons to 3/19 from deep while going 9/21 themselves and lost.  How, you ask?

  1. Missed layups.  Good grief, did the Spurs miss an awful lot of close buckets last night.  The Spurs out shot-blocked the Pistons 6-3, but it was the Spurs who seemed afraid of getting swatted as they missed close look after close look.  The Spurs were +18 points from three on just 2 more possessions, but shot so poorly from 2 that they gave a lot of those right back.
  2. Defensive Rebounding - the Spurs got absolutely crushed on the defensive boards, allowing the Pistons an outrageous 35% OReb rate and +4.2 over their expected number.  Andre Drummond seemed to just be a magnet for the ball as it consistently found its way into his hands after solid defensive stands by the good guys.  All those offensive rebounds led to 28 second chance points, keeping the otherwise marginally effective Pistons in the game.
  3. Turnovers - the Spurs lost the Ball Control battle, sporting a meagre 1.76 BCI, but the real problem was the turnovers that came in the final 5 minutes.  Sean Elliott mentioned earlier in the game that Spurs lead the league in TOs in the final 5 minutes of games.  As if on cue, the Spurs threw it away 3 times in the final 5 minutes of the game (a pace for 28.8 turnovers in a game, yikes).  Between rebounds and turnovers, the Pistons got 8 more scoring opportunities than the Spurs.  Which, thanks to hot 3 point shooting, still wouldn't have mattered in the end if it weren't for...
  4. Free Throws.  The Spurs shot 67.6% from the charity stripe.  Even worse, they missed 6 of their last 10 FTs.  Five different Spurs shot a combined 40% in their 5 most critical trips to the line.  Ginobili hit both, and the rest combined for 2-8.  I was a terrible FT shooter in high school and would have been embarrassed had I pulled that off.  You don't deserve to win close games when you do that.
So there you have it - the Spurs did a lot of the "big things" right, knocking down their threes and getting to the line a decent amount, but did essentially none of the little things right, and it was enough to negate an 18pt 3-pt differential.  Sad.

Players (Definitions at bottom of post, columns sortable)


Danny Green 33 19.0 0.57 13 Pts (5-10 FG, 3-5 3PT ) 6 Reb (2 Off), 3 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 Stl, 3 PF 13% 59% 100.6 106.0 -5.4
Jeff Ayres 17 18.0 1.07 16 Pts (5-8 FG, 6-7 FT) 4 Reb (2 Off), 1 Blk, 3 PF 28% 78% 128.4 88.0 40.4
Tim Duncan 22 15.0 0.69 15 Pts (7-12 FG, 0-1 3PT, 1-2 FT) 7 Reb (2 Off), 1 Ast, 2 Blk, 2 TO, 2 PF 28% 52% 85.8 122.0 -36.2
Manu Ginobili 28 13.6 0.49 11 Pts (3-7 FG, 2-2 3PT, 3-4 FT) 3 Reb (0 Off), 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 4 TO, 3 PF 20% 50% 99.2 106.3 -7.1
Marco Belinelli 23 11.1 0.49 12 Pts (4-8 FG, 2-5 3PT, 2-2 FT) 3 Reb (0 Off), 2 Ast, 2 TO 21% 51% 105.3 111.3 -6.0
Cory Joseph 27 11.1 0.41 7 Pts (3-4 FG, 1-2 FT) 4 Reb (0 Off), 4 Ast, 1 Blk, 1 TO, 1 PF 11% 68% 120.5 112.4 8.1
Tiago Splitter 28 10.8 0.39 10 Pts (4-9 FG, 2-4 FT) 7 Reb (4 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Blk, 1 Stl, 2 TO, 3 PF 22% 44% 103.9 111.1 -7.2
Boris Diaw 22 9.2 0.42 10 Pts (3-5 FG, 1-1 3PT, 3-5 FT) 3 Reb (1 Off), 1 Ast, 2 TO 19% 52% 131.2 90.3 40.9
Patty Mills 21 -1.1 -0.05 6 Pts (2-10 FG, 1-5 3PT, 1-2 FT) 3 Reb (2 Off), 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO, 4 PF 26% 23% 121.2 93.2 27.9
Tony Parker 13 -1.2 -0.09 3 Pts (0-3 FG, 3-4 FT) , 2 Ast, 2 TO, 2 PF 19% 35% 88.1 99.7 -11.6
Matt Bonner 8 -1.6 -0.20 1 Pts (0-3 FG, 0-2 3PT, 1-2 FT) 1 Reb (0 Off), 17% 17% 64.4 117.3 -52.9

Show Pistons Players

  • Danny Green was stellar again, although a late missed runner reminded us of his offensive limitations inside the arc.  Still, solid performance from Icy Hot, who was more Hot than Icy after a couple games of the opposite.  Nice to see.
  • Duncan, Ginobili, Bellinelli and Joseph were all solid, although Joseph's recent play made his 11.1 AdjGS seem rather pedestrian.  Still, you'll take that from those guys.  It was also nice that Duncan only played 22 minutes for a change.  He should be super well rested come Friday.
  • Mills, Parker and Bonner were all terrible, contributing all of -3.9 AdjGS.  Yikes.  Patty was pretty ineffective, but did make a big play near the end, grabbing an offensive board and forcing the Pistons to foul with 10 seconds left.  Of course he went 1-1 and missed the opportunity to seal the game, and then went on to contribute
  • Splitter was much worse than his stat-line looks.  His 4-9 from the line was actually pretty terrible considering the awesome looks his teammates were giving him.  Additionally, he got the missed FT train rolling when he got fouled on an OReb as he rifled a pass to Danny Green for what would've been a huge 3.  Boy does that foul look like a good move now.
  • Jeff Freaking Ayres.  Danny Green may have led the team in absolute AdjGS, but Jeff Ayres led all players with an incredible 1.07 AdjGS/minute.  He went 5-8 from the field 6-7 from the line and sported both the highest Floor percentage at 78% and the lowest Defensive rating at 88.0.  Huge props to the oft-maligned big man, who scored 16 points with no turnovers to cloud his performance, his 3 fouls being the closest thing to a black mark in his performance.  I never thought I'd say this, but I can't help but think the Spurs lost because Pop played Duncan and Splitter over Ayres. I'll just leave it at that.
Spurs Index: 98.6 (def.)

Factor Value Score
Passing (AST%) 66.7% 32.2
Shooting (eFG%) 47.5% 17.7
Defensive Rebounding (DReb%) 65.1% 17.0
Defense (DefRtg) 105.7 18.9
Opponent % of FGA Uncontested 32.2% 12.7
Total 98.6

Pistons Spurs Index: 89.6 Show Breakdown

An above average AST% was not enough to make up for the low eFG%, and poor marks in Defense and (especially) defensive rebounding brought the Spurs in at a below average 98.6.

(I do enjoy seeing that even in losses, the team that beat the Spurs rarely sports a better Spurs Index score - makes me think it does a pretty decent job of capturing the way the Spurs play.)

Well, time for the good guys to bounce back yet again.  The more important development from the past couple of days is the reports that say Kawhi should be back in a couple of weeks.  I'll drink (coffee, it's 9AM) to that prospect.



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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