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Spurs bested Pistons inside and out

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There are many, many words here dedicated to explaining the Spurs dismantling of the Pistons, but BAYNES.... SMASH... sums it up just as well.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Spurs 104, Pistons 87 - Feb 11, '15

The Spurs had been terrible all season long in third quarters and have struggled against the Andre Drummond/Greg Monroe tandem for years. But in their final game before the All-Star break they dominated the Pistons on the boards, in the paint and even managed to light it up in the third period. Why? Analytics!

(I'm just going to start randomly answering rhetorical questions with "Analytics!" from now on. It's going to be my version of "The Aristocrats!")

Four Factors (def.)

Spurs Pistons
Shooting (eFG%) 52% 46%
Ball Handling (TO%) 11% 11%
Off Rebounding (OR%) 35% 24%
Shooting FTs (FT Rate) 13% 21%

The Pistons rank fifth in the league in offensive rebounding percentage (27.6 percent) but the Spurs are fourth in defensive rebounding percentage (77.5 percent) so we shouldn't be too surprised by the solid job they did here, especially with Aron Baynes participating this time, unlike the first meeting where he was a DNP-CD. What was surprising, however, was the Spurs gobbling up over a third of their own misses. They're 24th in the league in offensive rebound percentage (23.5) while the Pistons are seventh in securing defensive boards (75.7 percent), yet they out-fought the Pistons in this one, and doubled them up in second-chance points, 14-7.

Team Stats (Definitions at bottom of post)

Spurs Pistons
Pace (No. of Possessions) 88.7
Points Per Possession (PPP) 1.17 0.98
Points Per Shot (PPS) 1.18 1.07
2-PT FG% 52.5% 40.0%
3-PT FG% 37.0% 42.9%
FT% 90.9% 70.6%
True Shooting % 56.0% 49.2%
Spurs
Pistons
Offensive Rating 117.1 98.3
Defensive Rating 98.3 117.1
Net Rating 18.7 -18.7
Spurs Pistons
Passes / poss. 4.0 2.6
% of FGA uncontested 47.7% 29.6%
Points in the paint 52 38
Second chance points 14 7
Fast break points 11 6
Spurs Pistons
Assists 26 17
Steals 8 4
Turnovers 10 10
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
3.40 2.10
Spurs Pistons
Expected Offensive Rebounds 10.0 10.3
Offensive Rebounds 14 10
Difference 4.0 -0.3

It was no surprise that the game was played at a snail's pace as both the Spurs and the Pistons rank in the bottom third of the league in that department, 20th for Detroit, 22nd for San Antonio. Over the course of the game though, the Spurs were far more able to force their will on their opponents than vice versa. The Spurs came into the game with a 103.9 offensive rating but exceeded that considerably, while their defense had another typically stifling performance against the perimeter-challenged Pistons. Detroit has a league-average defense, but the Spurs made the Pistons look more like the Red Wings, constantly putting them on skates with their dizzying passing, 4.0 passes per possession on average to Detroit's 2.6. By quickly moving the ball from side to side they exposed all kinds of gaps in the Pistons scrambling rotations and this led to driving lanes for the guards, easy finishes for the bigs and a bevy of offensive rebounding opportunities as well.

The Spurs had the Pistons outnumbered, outflanked and outmaneuvered and they did it, from the mid-way point of the third quarter on, by playing "small-ball" far more than they typically do. Their bigs totaled 83 minutes in the game, meaning that San Antonio played 15 minutes with just one big. In the first meeting, at San Antonio, the bigs combined for 97 minutes. Gregg Popovich gambled that his wings could deal with Detroit "stretch fours" Anthony Tolliver and Jonas Jerebko, and for the most part, the gamble paid off with improved spacing on the offensive end, which the Pistons just couldn't adjust for.

Spurs Shot Chart

Pistons Shot Chart

The Spurs have scored 43.6 percent of their points in the paint, but against Detroit they managed 52 of their 104 points down there among the trees, which works out to wait... carry the six... 50 percent. Conversely, the Pistons, who get 45.8 percent of their business done inside, scored just 38 of their 87 inside, for 43.7 percent. Detroit got more mileage from their three-point shooting than they usually do and were able to hang with the Spurs out there, but ultimately the difference in the game was that the Spurs made seven more of their shots in the paint than the Pistons did, with both teams taking exactly 42 attempts. Wings Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard had two blocks apiece and big men Tim Duncan, Aron Baynes and Tiago Splitter were all able to protect the rim successfully, to the point that Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy felt the need to split up the Drummond-Monroe pairing.

Players (Definitions at bottom of post, columns sortable)

Spurs

Player
Min
AdjGS
GS/Min
Line
Usage%
Floor%
OffRtg
DefRtg
NetRtg
Danny Green 31 24.1 0.77 19 Pts (7-13 FG, 5-10 3PT ) 8 Reb (1 Off), 4 Ast, 2 Blk, 2 Stl, 1 PF 21% 63% 130.4 94.4 36.0
Tony Parker 32 14.6 0.46 17 Pts (6-10 FG, 5-5 FT) 3 Reb (1 Off), 6 Ast, 5 TO 25% 57% 119.5 96.2 23.3
Manu Ginobili 22 12.6 0.58 13 Pts (6-9 FG, 1-4 3PT ) 2 Reb (1 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO, 1 PF 20% 64% 104.0 81.2 22.8
Aron Baynes 24 11.3 0.47 12 Pts (6-8 FG, ) 4 Reb (1 Off), 1 PF 16% 77% 127.7 88.6 39.1
Kawhi Leonard 28 9.7 0.35 8 Pts (2-12 FG, 0-2 3PT, 4-4 FT) 6 Reb (2 Off), 4 Ast, 2 Blk, 4 Stl, 1 TO, 4 PF 25% 40% 127.8 103.9 23.9
Patty Mills 16 9.1 0.57 7 Pts (2-4 FG, 2-3 3PT, 1-2 FT) 2 Reb (1 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 14% 63% 111.7 102.8 8.8
Tim Duncan 18 7.9 0.45 8 Pts (4-7 FG, ) 3 Reb (1 Off), 1 Ast, 1 Blk, 1 PF 20% 63% 117.0 91.9 25.1
Marco Belinelli 20 7.9 0.40 10 Pts (4-10 FG, 2-6 3PT ) 1 Reb (0 Off), 3 Ast, 23% 51% 108.3 110.7 -2.4
Tiago Splitter 17 5.9 0.35 6 Pts (3-6 FG, ) 7 Reb (3 Off), 1 Ast, 1 TO, 2 PF 19% 47% 113.8 109.1 4.6
Jeff Ayres 2 1.5 0.78 2 Pts (1-1 FG, ) , 1 PF 35% 100% 104.2 138.9 -34.7
Boris Diaw 15 0.5 0.03 2 Pts (1-5 FG, 0-1 3PT ) 6 Reb (2 Off), 1 Ast, 1 TO, 2 PF 18% 23% 95.6 67.6 28.0
Cory Joseph 9 -0.1 -0.01 0 Pts (0-1 FG, ) 1 Reb (0 Off), 2 Ast, 1 Blk, 1 TO, 2 PF 10% 30% 90.5 114.6 -24.0
Matt Bonner 7 -0.9 -0.13 0 Pts (0-2 FG, 0-1 3PT ) 2 Reb (1 Off), 1 PF 14% 0% 146.0 178.6 -32.5

Show Pistons Players

Baynes' numbers are of particular interest in that he was the only big who played in both traditional (with Duncan) and small-ball lineups and he fared very well in both. We can see why Pop was disinclined to use Diaw in the second half as the offense went cold with him in there, though to be fair the Pistons couldn't find the basket at all either. Green was the unquestioned star of the game by the eye test and the traditional box score and the advanced stats seem to agree. A disagreement occurs, however, in Parker's case, which perhaps speaks to how far his game has fallen. Even when he looks good, the game score per minute disagrees, which I suppose will happen with a 6:5 assist:turnover ratio.

Spurs Index: 103.1 (def.)

Factor Value Score
Passing (AST%) 61.9% 29.9
Shooting (eFG%) 51.7% 19.3
Defensive Rebounding (DReb%) 75.6% 19.8
Defense (DefRtg) 98.3 20.4
Opponent % of FGA Uncontested 29.6% 13.8
Total 103.1

Pistons Spurs Index: 83.4 Show Breakdown

Another area where the numbers contradict your lying eyes is the Spurs index. Despite all the whiz-bang passing, the Spurs didn't get nearly as much out of the game offensively as they should have because they didn't knock down too many of their wide open looks, Green aside. It's been typical of the whole season, really, the Spurs missing a bunch of the uncontested shots they made last year, and it's turned potential blowouts into nail-biters and close wins into frustrating losses. Surprisingly, the only area the Spurs exceeded their high standards was defensively, and maybe that makes sense when you consider the opponent. With starting point guard Brandon Jennings out for the season and a dearth of quality options at the wing, the Pistons don't aim to trick opponents as much as bludgeon them. They actually created quite a few open threes for themselves, but pretty much everything inside the arc was contested well by the Spurs.

It's debatable whether it's "well-deserved" or not, but regardless the Spurs will get a week off to recharge their batteries before embarking on the Western leg of their rodeo road trip with a trip to the Staples Center to face the Clippers next Thursday. They were embarrassed at home by 20 points by the Clips at home a couple weeks ago and some payback would be sweet. Blake Griffin will likely miss the game, and so far LA hasn't missed him at all, easily beating Dallas and Houston before the break. It should be a fun one either way, and remember, the Spurs started their second-half run last year with a road win at the Clippers.

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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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