Laker playoff performance
- One of the mysteries last year was why the Lakers did not play as
well during the regular season. Lots of chemistry questions were
raised. What the numbers said was that the defense had dropped off
in 2001 from 2000. I ran a few analyses of this to try to determine
whether it was Kobe or Shaq who caused the defensive problems. I
couldn't get an answer.
Well, the playoffs showed the Lakers' true ability. The defense
kicked in and they hammered everyone rather remarkably. In the
regular season, the Lakers' offensive and defensive ratings (points
scored and points allowed per 100 possessions) were 107.0 and 103.4.
In the postseason, these numbers both improved, to 110.1 and 96.5.
Improvement in the playoffs is not typical because teams face greater
competition, but it happens. It's not all that rare. A few things
are interesting, though. First -- we all expected the Lakers to play
better in the playoffs. We knew they were holding back. That is
unusual. Second, the defense improved 7 points. Not as unusual, but
still a pretty big leap. No other team last year improved
defensively by more than 3 pts.
So what changed? Well, it wasn't Kobe or Shaq. It was the other
guys, the supporting cast. I read in some preview magazine that
Robert Horry was underrated. Well, frankly, he just plays a lot
better in the playoffs. Same with Rick Fox. I estimate something
called Defensive Stops, roughly the number of times you force the
other team to end their possession without scoring. I have a
mechanism to estimate them for players, too. In order to account for
time on the court, I divide an individual's stops by the number of
possessions he is likely to face to get something called Defensive
Stops per Possession (catchy, huh?). That number is one I like to
look at to evaluate how strong players are on defense. Below is what
I saw for the Lakers in the regular season and playoffs:
Shaq 0.622 0.589
Kobe 0.494 0.498
Fisher 0.483 0.448
Fox 0.463 0.527
Grant 0.486 0.525
Horry 0.527 0.607
Shaw 0.484 0.496
Harper 0.487 0.697
George 0.488 0.331
Lue 0.425 0.575
Madsen 0.429 0.410
Foster 0.525 0.555
Fox, Grant, Horry, and our man Lue stepped it up the most (Harper
didn't play much. Shaq and Kobe didn't change much. Fisher went
down a little.
My general sense has always been that Horry plays much better in the
playoffs, but no one else seemed to say it. Well here is some
defensive support. Offensively, my numbers don't show much
difference for him.
Anyway, what does this mean? It suggests to me that the defensive
roles got activated a lot more in the playoffs. Phil Jackson told
his guys to step up the D in the playoffs. Kobe and Shaq didn't have
much more to step up with, but the other guys did.
I'll be curious to see if the Lakers slack off again in the regular
season. It's not a horrible thing, if they can turn it on so well
Journal of Basketball Studies
- Dean, Dean, Dean
Maybe it wasn't in here, but I for one have been saying how Robert
Horry does in fact always play better in the postseason.
Further, Horry always gets better in the later stages of the
playoffs. Almost always.
Standardized Production Rates
R. Horry Min. Pct. Sco. Reb Ast Stl TO Blk Total
Reg. Sea. 27.7 .523 10.6 6.6 3.1 1.6 1.9 1.4 23.0
Playoffs 31.2 .550 11.7 7.2 3.2 1.5 1.5 1.2 24.9
Horry's only bad playoffs were in 1997, his first season in LA (9
games). 1999 was slightly sub-par. All other playoffs have been
moderately to substantially elevated over his regular-seasons.
Damned if I can find anything these days. I know Horry's ratio of
playoff/RS totals ranks among the best ever, as do his % of minutes
in postseason play.
For a guy who has dropped to the level of a "scrub", he can still
come into an NBA Finals game and take over. Didn't he dunk over
Mutombo, when Fox couldn't, and Kobe couldn't?
--- In APBR_analysis@y..., "Dean Oliver" <deano@t...> wrote:
> My general sense has always been that Horry plays much better in
> playoffs, but no one else seemed to say it. .... Offensively, my
numbers don't show much
> difference for him.
- On Thu, 1 Nov 2001, Mike Goodman wrote:
> Dean, Dean, DeanYes, isn't it almost a cliche, how Horry turns it up in the playoffs,
> Maybe it wasn't in here, but I for one have been saying how Robert
> Horry does in fact always play better in the postseason.
> Further, Horry always gets better in the later stages of the
> playoffs. Almost always.
especially the finals? Starting with his early years in Houston and those
two championshps in the mid-1990s. Sam Cassell also, with those Houston
teams. Deadly in the playoffs, just sort of hanging around during the
regular season. I think it's only with his Milwaukee years that Cassell's
become a year-round player, he might've had one good regular season in NJ.
However, I think of Horry as turning up his offense, and Dean's statistics
show that he's turning it up on defense (don't know if that's "instead" or