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Spurs' ballhandling and rebounding cost them against Pelicans

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The Spurs scored efficiently but failed to control the ball or the boards against a desperate Pelicans team, and lost homecourt advantage throughout the Playoffs as a result.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Spurs 103, Pelicans 108 - Apr 15, '15

Boy was this one painful.  Just the fact that a single loss on the road to a good team in a win-or-go-home situation could result in a 4-slot drop in playoff seeding is ridiculous.  That the Spurs' 11 game streak was essentially meaningless from a seeding perspective is heartbreaking.  But alas, that's the cookie crumbled.  Let's look at the game which dropped the the Silver and Black's Finals odds so drastically.

First off, the Spurs actually outshot the Pelicans.  An outstanding 60.9% from 2 will do that for you, although the Spurs' 3pt shooting was nonexistent as they made 3 of a paltry 10 attempts.  Against a team with outstanding interior defense, the Spurs shot almost no 3s and were super effective inside the arc.  Go figure.

Since the Pelicans hit 5 threes in the same number of attempts, their points per shot came out the same: 1.30 points per shot from both squads.  But you'll notice that the Pelicans points per possession was 1.13 to the Spurs 1.07.  That difference was the result of the Spurs losing the ballhandling and rebounding battles pretty significantly.

The Spurs were not very careful with the ball, and although their 15 turnovers is only 1.5 more than their season average, a lot of them were live ball turnovers, as the Pelicans grabbed 11 steals and scored on many of those possessions, jump-starting their offense and building momentum.  On the other side of the ball, the Spurs played incredibly passive defense, notching a piddly 2 steals out of the Pelicans excellent 9 turnovers.  That amounted to 6 extra possessions for the Pelicans.  

The Spurs were unsurprisingly held off of the offensive boards, going -4.0 in expected offensive boards.  The Pelicans finished with -2.8 on the offensive boards, which was surprised me since it sure seemed like they feasted on the offensive glass at times.  Still, the 1.2 rebound advantage furthered the Pelican's advantage in scoring opportunities and was a big difference in the outcome of the game.

Of course, stats aside, anyone can tell you that the real reason the Spurs lost was just that they played pretty flat, uninspired basketball in the first and early 2nd quarters.  You don't get down by 23 and come back to win very often.  You almost never do it on the road against a team playing with their backs to the wall desperately trying to make their first playoffs appearance since 2011.

The one stat I still just can't get over is the 2 steals.  That's just pitiful, and when you look at it alongside the offensive rebounding numbers, you get the picture of a team that just didn't play with the kind of intensity you'd expect with so much on the line.  Really disappointing, but it's certainly been the exception rather than the norm of late, so hopefully the Spurs can revert to their pre-tax day form.

Four Factors (def.)

Spurs Pelicans
Shooting (eFG%) 59% 55%
Ball Handling (TO%) 16% 9%
Off Rebounding (OR%) 13% 18%
Shooting FTs (FT Rate) 17% 30%

Team Stats (Definitions at bottom of post)

Spurs Pelicans
Pace (No. of Possessions) 95.9
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.07 1.13
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.30 1.30
2-PT FG% 60.9% 52.1%
3-PT FG% 30.0% 50.0%
FT% 76.9% 68.0%
True Shooting % 60.8% 57.4%
Spurs
Pelicans
Offensive Rating 107.6 112.5
Defensive Rating 112.5 107.6
Net Rating -4.9 4.9
Spurs Pelicans
Passes / poss. 3.5 2.6
% of FGA uncontested 32.9% 37.3%
Points in the paint 56 60
Second chance points 5 12
Fast break points 2 9
Spurs Pelicans
Assists 33 23
Steals 2 11
Turnovers 15 9
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.33 3.78
Spurs Pelicans
Expected Offensive Rebounds 8.0 9.8
Offensive Rebounds 4 7
Difference -4.0 -2.8

Spurs Shot Chart

Pelicans Shot Chart

Players (Definitions at bottom of post, columns sortable)

Spurs

Player
Min
AdjGS
GS/Min
Line
Usage%
Floor%
OffRtg
DefRtg
NetRtg
Tim Duncan 33 22.2 0.66 15 Pts (6-9 FG, 3-4 FT) 10 Reb (1 Off), 6 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 2 PF 17% 69% 107.0 108.5 -1.5
Boris Diaw 34 19.3 0.57 20 Pts (10-14 FG, 0-1 3PT ) 5 Reb (0 Off), 5 Ast, 4 TO 25% 55% 104.8 114.6 -9.9
Tony Parker 35 19.1 0.54 23 Pts (11-17 FG, 1-2 FT) 1 Reb (0 Off), 6 Ast, 3 TO, 4 PF 30% 56% 102.4 113.7 -11.3
Patty Mills 11 14.9 1.41 15 Pts (6-8 FG, 2-4 3PT, 1-1 FT) , 3 Ast, 1 TO, 3 PF 37% 70% 137.2 88.8 48.4
Kawhi Leonard 38 13.5 0.35 14 Pts (6-14 FG, 2-2 FT) 10 Reb (2 Off), 3 Ast, 1 Blk, 1 TO, 4 PF 21% 45% 110.0 111.5 -1.5
Aron Baynes 26 9.9 0.39 8 Pts (4-6 FG, ) 6 Reb (1 Off), 2 Ast, 3 PF 13% 68% 103.6 114.1 -10.5
Jeff Ayres 0 2.2 6.48 2 Pts (1-1 FG, ) , 50% 100% 250.0 106.4 143.6
Marco Belinelli 15 2.0 0.13 2 Pts (0-2 FG, 2-2 FT) , 1 Stl, 8% 39% 93.9 121.3 -27.4
Manu Ginobili 21 1.0 0.05 4 Pts (1-7 FG, 1-5 3PT, 1-2 FT) 2 Reb (0 Off), 4 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 TO, 1 PF 23% 26% 100.1 118.1 -18.0
Kyle Anderson 0 0.0 0.00 0 Pts , 0% 0% 233.3 106.4 127.0
Cory Joseph 7 -0.4 -0.05 0 Pts (0-1 FG, ) 1 Reb (0 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 TO 18% 20% 113.4 125.9 -12.6
Danny Green 18 -0.6 -0.03 0 Pts 1 Reb (0 Off), 2 Ast, 1 TO, 3 PF 3% 43% 105.6 108.4 -2.8

Show Pelicans Players

Boy did Boris Diaw have himself a nice game.  Le Croissant was a force in this one, really providing the energy and scoring the Spurs needed to get back in the game.  

Patty Mills was downright explosive in his 11 minutes, scoring 15 with 3 assists and 1 turnover and making 2 of the Spurs mere 3 three pointers.

I suppose if there's a silver lining in this one, it's that Diaw and Mills, such key cogs in last years Playoffs machine, are both playing really well.  Now, two decent games from Patty Mills is not a very large sample size from which to extrapolate, but forgive me if I reach to find something to be excited about after such a huge downswing in the Spurs playoffs outlook.  Diaw of course has been steadily playing better and better as the Playoffs have approached, which is a big deal, especially if Splitter and Bonner are out for extended periods of time.

Duncan of course acquitted himself very well, scoring a super-efficient 15 points, grabbing 10 boards and dishing out 6 assists.  He also nabbed half of the team's steals!  (He had one steal)

Parker was big in the first half, providing scoring when everyone else seemed disinterested on the offensive end.  He faded a bit in the second half but led the Spurs in scoring and was far from culpable in this one.  

Kawhi played a disappointing game.  He was big on the boards with 10, but his 14 points were inefficient, and more importantly, the league's leader in steals didn't grab a single steal, failing to provide the kind of lock-down, disruptive defense the Spurs so desperately needed.  I suppose it says something when a Leonard line of 14/10/3/1 is deemed "disappointing," but that's the kind of player Kawhi has become.  

Danny Green disappeared completely, but Manu was downright harmful out there.  I'm surprised his AdjGS wasn't negative.  It look like he only turned the ball over twice, but he had a number of errant passes or drives which resulted in the ball going out of bounds and never appeared to be in control, so it felt stressful every time the ball found its way into his hands.  If there's any player I want to see have a resurgence in the playoffs, it's Manu.  He's so much fun to watch, but not on nights like Wednesday, yikes.

Spurs Index: 107.8 (def.)

Factor Value Score
Passing (AST%) 73.3% 35.4
Shooting (eFG%) 59.5% 22.2
Defensive Rebounding (DReb%) 82.1% 21.5
Defense (DefRtg) 112.5 17.8
Opponent % of FGA Uncontested 37.3% 10.9
Total 107.8

Pelicans Spurs Index: 99.1 Show Breakdown

High assist marks, excellent shooting and (defensive) rebounding led to a pretty quintessentially "Spursy" game.  The only problem?  The Spurs couldn't stop the Pelicans from scoring, so none of those other things really mattered.  At all.  

The Spurs travel to LA to take on the L.A. State Farm agents on Sunday to kick off what I hope will be another deep playoff run.  The Clippers are just about the last team I would've picked to play in the first round, but that's how the chips fell.  I'm sure Pop will have his boys (and old men) up to the task.  Go Spurs Go!

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Definitions

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 Basketball-Reference.com: 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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