7. January 2011 00:54
What's the relationship between tempo and turnovers? Does speeding up invariably lead to more turnovers because teams get out of control? Or, does a faster pace just mean more dunks and layups...which are pretty hard to screw up?
A couple of days ago, our article on the Lakers inspired some discussion across cyberspace related to tempo. It was noted that, during the recent Los Angeles mini-slump, the Lakers had slowed down their pace but increased turnovers? Some (including me) thought that odd because slowing down should decrease turnovers. Others were under the impression that slowing down creates more turnovers...possibly because it forces you attack a five-man defense rather than get your team easier shots in transition.
What's the reality? I have a personal bias towards "faster" meaning "sloppier." We saw that with Charlotte last week when Paul Silas tried a short-lived up-tempo approach with a group that immediately went out and committed 20 turnovers. I've logged the stats from many slow playoff games over the years where each team treasured every possession because so much was at stake.
Yet...I think we've all seen games where a change in tempo took a team out of its comfort zone in either direction. If you force a fast team to slow down against a good defense, they can have a lot of miscues in the halfcourt game. If a slow team gets caught up in a track meet, they're prone to throw the ball away.
So, what is it? What's the relationship between tempo and turnovers?
I did a quick and dirty study focusing on the fastest and slowest teams in the NBA the past three seasons. The numbers were tabulated Wednesday afternoon, so they may have changed a smidge by now. I wanted to compare the turnover rates (turnovers committed per 100 possesssions) of the fast teams to the slow teams. If you just look at raw volume, there's a potential that faster teams create more turnovers just because there are more possessions. The increased tempo doesn't make them "sloppier." It's just the same level of sloppiness in a game with a few more possessions. Looking at turnover rate will give us a better sense of the true impact.
THIS YEAR'S TURNOVER RATES
6 fastest teams: 24.7
6 slowest teams: 23.8
That's about one extra turnover per 100 possessions if you round up. To this point in the 2010-11 season, faster has meant a little sloppier.
2009-10 TURNOVER RATES
6 fastest teams: 23.7
6 slowest teams: 22.9
Same story last season, which is a larger sample size obviously. Faster meant sloppier by about one turnover per game.
2008-09 TURNOVER RATES
6 fastest teams 23.4
6 slowest teams 22.5
Consistent reads, with the faster teams once again committing about one more turnover per 100 possessions. Can't ask for a better indicator than that. I won't suggest this is anything close to a definitive study. But, it's a quick and dirty study that passes the eyeball test. Slower teams take care of the ball better than up tempo teams. Fast teams hope to get enough dunks, layups, and kick out treys to make up for the extra miscue (at least when you're looking at the extremes over the last two and a half seasons!).
So, until someone has time to do a more comprehensive study (and, please feel free to comment with a link to one if it's already been done), we can assume a slight general tendency for faster to mean sloppier...with the understanding that moving out of your comfort zone in either direction can lead to problems protecting the ball.
In terms of the Lakers situation, the high turnover numbers in their slower games may have represented being taken out of their comfort zone, or may have been a red flag that the team lost focus for a stretch. The increase in turnovers was at least going against the grain of what we normally see with slower tempos.
And...in terms of the Lakers...that tendency immediately stopped! You get the sense that players said to themselves "This is ridiculous!" after watching recent game films.
LAKERS' LAST TWO GAMES
6 turnovers in 91 possessions vs. Detroit
10 turnovers in 89 possessions at Phoenix
They cleaned up their turnover mess in a hurry. Interesting that they slowed THAT far down from previous norms in the two-game set. Smart move in a back-to-back. It's tough to slow Phoenix down to just 89 possessions. That tied for Phoenix's third slowest game this season.
Lakers fans had to be happy with the improved level of play. Though, the sweep still came against losing teams. It's amazing how weak LA's schedule has been so far this year!
I promised last time to take a quick look at the Clippers/Nuggets game from late Wednesday.
LA CLIPPERS 106, DENVER 93
Efficiency: Denver 96.9, Clippers 110.4
Two-Point %: Denver 36%, Clippers 45%
Rebounds: Denver 43, Clippers 57
You can see the big inside edges for the Clips. Blake Griffin had another double double. By halftime! Baron Davis continued his recent impactful play with 16 points and 8 assists in 31 minutes. Eric Gordon added 28 points. For Denver, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups combined for 40 shots and just 5 assists.
Great showing for the Clips as they continue their long stay in the Golden State. Their next opponent will be Golden State in a Sunday afternoon tip at the Staples Center. Blake Griffin and company won't leave California until a January 20th game in Portland. Can they really make it to .500 by the end of the year? We'll know more by that Portland tip off.
The Dallas Mavericks had another disappointing offensive showing Thursday in the early TNT game. This despite a great first half that saw them score 55 points. Only 40 came after the break, in a 99-95 loss.
Offensive efficiency without Dirk Nowitzi in the lineup:
87.4 vs. Toronto
100.0 vs. San Antonio
90.6 vs. Milwaukee
113.0 vs. Cleveland
101.2 vs. Portland
They were at 106.0 for the season heading into Thursday night. Won't have Thursday's official numbers until Friday. Only the game vs. Cleveland was above their norm...and Cleveland's defense has been horrible lately.
Back late Friday night with notes from a busy 11-game schedule...