The Memphis Grizzlies continued their superior play Friday night and finished off a stunning upset of #1 Western seed San Antonio. Late Thursday Night, the Dallas Mavericks preceded them into the Western Final Four with an impressive victory in Portland. Let's crunch the numbers from the last two games of the opening round...
We'll take the games in the order they finished...
DALLAS 103, PORTLAND 96
2-Point Pct: Dallas 55%, Portland 52%
3-Pointers: Dallas 6/18, Portland 5/21
Rebounds: Dallas 39, Portland 41
Turnovers: Dallas 9, Portland 7
1's and 2's: Dallas 85, Portland 81
You'll recall from the beginning of the series that Dallas was concerned about committing turnovers...and letting Portland get too many cheap baskets off those turnovers. The Mavs only had 9 giveaways here, and only dropped fast break points 10-9 (second best performance in the series in that stat).
If Portland isn't getting cheapies...and they can't stop Dirk Nowitzki from scoring...the equation pretty clearly swings in the Dallas direction! Dirk would finish with a plus/minus of +12 in this game with a true leadership performance. He would end with the best plus/minus in the series for the Mavs at +41 (Terry was next at +40, with Kidd at +38 by my count).
Outside of one horrible quarter last weekend, Dallas mainted a very steady control of this series. It's kind of amazing how consistent it was, particularly since many analysts saw Portland as having the better form coming into the matchup (Dallas had a string of late season losses to playoff caliber teams).
We mentioned the other day that Dallas basically had a "standardized" win that equated to 93-84 over the first 19 quarters in the series that weren't the 35-15 Brandon Roy debacle. The 93-82 win at home in Game Five was a microcosm (11 points rather than 9 in terms of victory margin). Move to Portland, and Dallas was doing the same things adjusted for home floor differential. The Mavs in fact led 91-85 with four minutes to go in a game that saw better combined shooting and fewer combined turnovers than prior games (highest scoring game of the series, best two-point shooting of the series, fewest turnovers of the series). The same relative margin distance that we'd seen the whole way ended with a 103-96 Dallas road victory.
Regular Season Margins: Dallas +4.2, Portland +1.5
That's +2.7 for the Mavericks on a neutral court if you accept the 82-game numbers at face value and don't adjust for late regular season form. That would mean 6 to 7-point wins in Dallas or the Mavs if you allot 3-4 points for home court, and toss-ups in Portland (the prediction markets, by the way, saw these teams as even, generally giving 4-5 points for home court).
Dallas was even better than the regular season differentials had suggested. The Mavs would win their home games by 8, 12, and 11 points, then finish with exact scoreboard equality in Portland. The final average margin in the series was +5.2.
In terms of holding a consistent advantage, Dallas did to Portland what everyone was expecting Chicago to do to Indiana, or Miami to Philadelphia.
MEDIANS (margins listed from worst to best)
Dallas: (-5), (-2), 7, 8, 11, 12 (median 7.5)
Miami: (-4), 6, 6, 8, 21 (median 6)
Chicago: (-5), 4, 5, 6, 27 (median 5)
Miami and Chicago did a lot of late-game grinding, but did score one big blowout apiece. Dallas had stability at a higher level outside of an extreme outlier quarter.
If you're wondering what the other series looked like in median form...
LA Lakers: (-9), (-5), 9, 9, 14, 16 (median 11.5)
Boston: 2, 3, 12, 17 (median 7.5 vs. injured opponent)
Oklahoma City: (-3), 3, 3, 4, 17 (median 3)
Atlanta: (-25), (-6), 3, 3, 4, 10 (median 3)
Memphis: (-6), 0, 3, 3, 8, 18 (median 3)
I used 0 for the overtime game to keep everyone at 48-minute samples.
Quick note that medians are generally better for telling you what a "typical" game is in a series than averages are. An outlier game can warp an average in a short sample size. Medians are less warpable. In this less warpable stat, Dallas reallly shines. Finishing off the first round...
MEMPHIS 99, SAN ANTONIO 91
2-Point Pct: San Antonio 51%, Memphis 58%
3-Pointers: San Antonio 5/22, Memphis 1/9
Rebounds: San Antonio 32, Memphis 43
Turnovers: San Antonio 11, Memphis 13
1's and 2's: San Antonio 76, Memphis 96
Memphis established in Game One that they were the better team right now in terms of "playoff style" basketball. San Antonio couldn't do anything to convince them otherwise! It was amazing to see game after game. The #8 seed showing sounder fundamentals...patiently working for baskets inside...and generally outplaying the conference's top seed.
Here are the game-by-game scores looking only at 1's and 2's...
SCORING ON 1'S AND 2'S
Game One: Memphis 83, San Antonio 80
Game Two: Memphis 78, San Antonio 72
Game Three: Memphis 79, San Antonio 82 (only Spurs edge)
Game Four: Memphis 89, San Antonio 71
Game Five: Memphis 94, San Antonio 89
Game Six: Memphis 96, San Antonio 76
Even with Tim Duncan at the post, slasher Manu Ginobili able to play five of the six games, and healthy Tony Parker still able to penetrate...the Spurs couldn't match up with what Memphis brought to the table inside the arc. As the series wore on, San Antonio wore down inside. Memphis was a stunning +43 points over the last three games inside the arc.
That meant the Spurs would have to make a lot of treys to advance. That wasn't supposed to be a problem because they averaged 8.4 per game during the regular season. They wouldn't reach that season average a single time.
MADE THREE POINTERS
Game One: San Antonio 6, Memphis 6
Game Two: San Antonio 7, Memphis 3
Game Three: San Antonio 2, Memphis 4
Game Four: San Antonio 5, Memphis 5
Game Five: San Antonio 7, Memphis 3
Game Six: San Antonio 5, Memphis 1
The two times San Antonio made seven treys, they won the game. Not enough otherwise.
SAN ANTONIO'S TREY PERCENTAGES
In wins: 12 of 39 (30.7%, 46.2% equivalent)
In losses: 18 of 70 (25.7%, 38.6% equivalent)
Amazing that Memphis can have such a strong inside presence while also guarding the arc so well. And, as we mentioned before the series started, Memphis was best in the league at forcing turnovers.
Let's check the regular season margin averages for a sense of the scope of this upset. San Antonio was +5.7, Memphis was +2.3. That's +3.4 points on a neutral court. Through six evenly distributed games in terms of home floor, Memphis ended with an average playof margin of +4.3 at the end of regulation. They more than reversed the regular season differential.
Back late Saturday with a stat preview of the Boston-Miami series that starts Sunday. Will also do stat previews for the other matchups before they get started...Atlanta/Chicago, Dallas/Lakers, and Memphis/Oklahoma City.
You know, to keep his karma going, Mark Cuban should really post a comment in the Dallas-Lakers preview...