Dirk +23, Without Dirk -31

by Jeff Fogle 6. June 2011 00:11

In the 20 minutes that Dirk Nowitzki has been on the bench resting during the NBA Championships, the Dallas Mavericks have been outscored by 31 points. In the 124 minutes that he played, Dallas has outscored the Miami Heat by 23 points. As strong as Miami has looked earning a big riding time advantage through three games, they're WAY down when Dirk is on the floor.

Here's the breakdown in plus-minuses so far from the Dallas perspective:
Game One: with Dirk -2, without Dirk -6
Game Two: with Dirk +13, without Dirk -11
Game Three: with Dirk +12, without Dirk -14

Because Nowitzki finishes every game unless he's fouled out, we've developed a pattern where the Mavericks fall behind during his rest time...then spend the fourth quarter trying to climb back to equality. They successfully rallied to equality in Games Two and Three, with coin flip endings splitting out one apiece to each team.

It's amazing how quickly the Dirk-less collapses are happening. Nowitzki only missed six minutes of Game Two, but the Mavs dropped like a rock in that spell. Again tonight, six minutes of rest, but an even worse fall. Miami was 25 points better than Dallas in the equivalent of a quarter over Games Two and Three. Imagine a 35-10 quarter, or 40-15. That's Miami vs. Dallas without Dirk these last two games (next day edit...had a chance to go through the play-by-play to get the exact result...I'm showing 40-15, so that turned out to be a good guess).

A typical quarter with Dirk in those two games was a win of about 6.5 points for Dallas.

Postgame media coverage made a point of emphasizing that he needs scoring help. Be careful jumping to conclusions that it's the starters who are letting him down. The bench has played so well in the postseason that they're starting to get the benefit of the doubt when they don't deserve it. Look at the bench plus/minus tonight (expanded boxscore is here):

Peja Stojakovic: -11 in just 6 minutes
Ian Mahinmi: -6 in just 8 minutes
Jason Terry: -6 in 32 minutes
Jose Juan Barea: +3 in 19 minutes

Barea had a horrible stretch late in the first quarter that helped dig a hole, but did contribute despite poor shooting in the rally that fell short. He ended up on the plus side of the ledger.

By now, you've probably heard or read it mentioned often that the Dallas bench outscored the Miami bench in Game Three. Let's take a look at that. They did outscore them because they took eight extra shots. The Dallas bench didn't outshoot them.

Bench Shooting Percentages
Dallas: 8 of 24 (33%, including 2 of 9 on treys)
Miami: 7 of 16 (44%, including 4 of 7 on treys)

Miami's bench won rebounds (11-8) despite playing fewer minutes and won turnovers (3-5). It all added up to a very clear win for the Miami bench in terms of plus/minus.

Miami's Bench Plus/Minuses
Juwan Howard: +6 in 6 minutes
Mario Chalmers: +6 in 29 minutes
Udonis Haslem: +5 in 29 minutes
Mike Miller: +4 in 12 minutes

Dwyane Wade had a stellar 29 point, 11 rebound game, but the Heat were outscored by one when he was on the floor because so much of his time came when Nowitzki was also on the floor. Chris Bosh hit the eventual game winner, and won a gut-check award for playing most of the night after taking a finger to the eye. He had to keep his head bowed in the postgame interview with Hannah Storm because of the bright lights. Miami was outscored by 10 points when Bosh was on the floor.

2-point pct: Miami 44%, Dallas 41%
3-pointers: Miami 8/19, Dallas 8/21
Free Throws: Miami 12/15, Dallas 22/27
Rebounds: Miami 36, Dallas 42
Turnovers: Miami 10, Dallas 14
1's and 2's: Miami 64, Dallas 62

I'm afraid you're going to read a lot of coverage about how Miami turned their fortunes around by re-focusing on attacking the basket. After launching an out of character 30 three-point attempts in Game Two, they cut that down to 19 in Game Three. A quick reality check:

*Miami lost a two-point game the other night that was tied in the final minute. They won a two-point game tonight that was tied in the final minute. That's not exactly a dramatic change.

*Unless you're into measuring production to the thousandths of a point, there was no difference between Game Two and Game Three scoring once you adjust for possessions...

Miami scored 1.0219 points per possession in Game Two
Miami scored 1.0232 points per possession in Game Three

They didn't "fix" what was wrong. They just got to the same level of production by a different path.

*They reduced their three-point launches by 11, and increased their two-point launches by 16. Here's what it got them...

25 of 43 on two-pointers in Game Two
26 of 59 on two-pointers in Game Three

One extra deuce on 16 extra tries. Miami played smarter down the stretch, when they NEEDED a basket. But, in the big picture, they traded misses on treys for misses on twos.

*Aha, you're thinking. What about free throws? Maybe they earned a lot more trips to the line because they were attacking the basket!

16 of 24 on free throws in Game Two
12 of 15 on free throws in Game Three

They went to the basket less often, even after you adjust for a slower game (a drop from 91 to 86 possessions).

So...if you're under the belief that the postgame storyline should be Miami regaining control of the series by "imposing its will" with an inside attack...and that Dirk Nowitzki was let down by his starting teammates...hopefully this brief run through will help set the record straight.

Game Three was basically a replay of Game Two with a slightly smaller comeback from Dallas at a slightly slower tempo. Then, Miami scored the late tie-breaker instead of Dallas. Both teams are playing great defense. It's Nowitzki who's most able to "impose his will" on the series. He just can't do it for 48 minutes a night, and the team is falling apart when he's not on the floor.

Some quick stat notes before we call it a night...

*Dallas fixed its problem allowing offensive boards to Miami that was such an issue in Game One. They allowed 16 in an 8-point loss in the series opener. They only allowed 6 and 9 in the two coin flips.

*Jason Kidd and J.J. Barea aren't providing much scoring from the point guard position despite getting many opportunities to do so. Kidd was 3 of 8 tonight after going 2 of 7 Thursday. Barea was 2 of 8 tonight after going 2 of 7 on Thursday. (See what I mean about these being very similar games?! Dirk was 11 of 21 tonight after going 10 of 22 on Thursday. Dwyane Wade was 12 of 21 tonight, 13 of 20 on Thursday)

*Dallas has lost turnovers 18-12 and 14-10 in the two coin flips, suggesting that they still have a chance to win the series if they can just clean up some of their passing. Important to remember though that "forced turnovers" in basketball tells you a lot about a defense. Miami is creating a lot of those miscues.

*Miami has completely neutralized what was expected to be an edge for Dallas behind the three-point line in this series. Miami is 11-9-8 in makes. Dallas is 9-6-8. Both teams are shooting 38% from long range.

*Dallas has won free throws in every game in terms of makes, and has attempted 15 more from the charity stripe to this point.

See you again Tuesday near midnight with numbers and notes from Game Four. Want to clarify something from the Game Two post. I talked about some "tick issues" on the play-by-play rundowns. Henry Abbott of TrueHoop reminded me that there can be time between possessions where nobody has the ball but the clock is still running. Sometimes obvious things like that don't occur to you when you're writing at midnight! Thanks to Henry (and all of you) for reading and helping me get the record straight...

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6/6/2011 8:16:22 AM #


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6/6/2011 3:14:51 PM #


If one wanted to pursue the detail, it might be worthwhile to check whether Carlisle used any timeouts when Dirk sat to extend his rest. Whether the team played those possessions slower than normal to reduce the number of possession played without Dirk. Whether they fielded more offensive rebounders to try to somewhat offset their lack of their best scorer. Whether they drew or give more fouls to stop the game clock and extend his rest off the game clock. Whether they tried to run any extra game clock off by the way they handled the inbounding process as discussed at pointsperpossession.com. If you were trying real hard to reduce the impact on the without Dirk time, they should be thinking about and acting on these things.

Crow United States

6/6/2011 3:32:39 PM #

Jeff Fogle

Good points Crow. Had just gone through the play-by-play before reading your post to get the exact point differential. Ended up being 40-15, which was one of the guesses. Made a quick edit above on that. Didn't really see anything like you were suggesting because the rests were so brief. It's basically bringing in Peja in the first quarter and hoping for the best...then Cardinal in the second half break because it's clear by then Peja's in trouble defensively.

Dirk hasn't really been playing tired at the end (particularly in Game Two). Looks like he's getting enough of a breather...but the Mavs can't figure out how to stay competitive during those respites. I'm showing losses of 14-8, 5-0, 11-5, 3-0 (the halfcourt shot), and 7-2. So, it's not like there was a 20-0 run polluting the data or something. Agree with you that they might have to get creative to get him the same amount of "real time" rest while reducing his "game time" rest. Or put flubber on Peja's shoes...

Jeff Fogle United States

6/6/2011 4:13:24 PM #


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6/6/2011 5:26:29 PM #


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6/6/2011 9:31:45 PM #


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6/6/2011 10:02:40 PM #


Thanks Jeff.

You are right about the non-Dirk minutes being both significant and yet very small sample.

Looking at the season as a whole to try to answer the questions I raised with a much bigger sample size it appears the team played slightly slower without Dirk. Their offensive rebounding was slightly worse than with Dirk but still close to league average (thanks to Marion and Chnadler). Whether they drew noticeably less fouls without Dirk on the court and committed just the same amount. So it was a mixed bag. I didn't pursue the other details. What I did check showed not the most help for maximizing Dirk's rest as ideally possible but not the worst either.

Crow United States

6/8/2011 4:30:56 AM #


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6/13/2011 9:59:43 PM #

Pandora Charms

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Pandora Charms United States

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