Stats & Info: NBA

Why is Kobe Bryant so inefficient?

December, 24, 2014
Dec 24
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is having one of the most inefficient seasons for a high-volume shooter in NBA history.

He’s on pace for the worst field goal percentage (37.2 percent) by a player averaging at least 20 field goal attempts per game since Bob Cousy in 1951-52 (36.9%), a time that pre-dates the NBA’s 24-second shot clock.

Bryant has attempted 69 “clutch time” shots this season. No other Laker has more than 15 such attempts. All of his teammates combined have only 61 attempts.

Why has Bryant been so inefficient this season?

Too many mid-range shots
Bryant has attempted 272 mid-range shots this season, second-most in the league behind LaMarcus Aldridge. (Mid-range shots are 2-pointers outside the paint)

Bryant has more mid-range attempts than the Rockets have as a team (235).

He has the worst mid-range field-goal percentage (37.9 percent) of the 14 players with at least 150 mid-range attempts this season.

Thirty percent of Bryant’s shot attempts this season are “long twos” (2-pointers from 16 feet and beyond), which over a full season would be his highest percentage since 2006-07.

His average field goal attempt distance is 15.4 feet this season. That would be the longest average of his career.

Bryant is averaging 10.1 mid-range shot attempts per game this season. He averaged 6.9 before his injury two seasons ago and only 4.7 per game in six games last season.

Bryant is shooting below 40 percent on mid-range shots for the first time since 2007-08. His 37.9 mid-range field goal percentage would be his worst since 2004-05.

He likes low-percentage shots
Ninety three percent of Bryant’s mid-range shot attempts this season are contested.

Bryant leads the league in contested mid-range shot attempts this season (9.7 per game).

Of the 112 players to attempt at least 50 contested mid-range jumpers this season, Bryant ranks 76th in field goal percentage at 37 percent. The average for those 112 players is 40 percent.

Kobe leads the league with 53 contested mid-range shot attempts in the fourth quarter this season.

Of the 111 players with at least 10 contested mid-range shot attempts in the 4th quarter this season, Bryant is 86th in field goal percentage at 28 percent. The average for those 111 players is 38 percent.

Kobe has attempted more contested mid-range shots than his three teammates who have taken the next-most combined – Carlos Boozer, Nick Young and Wes Johnson – but all three of them have a better field goal percentage than Bryant does on those shots.

Not letting others take clutch shots
Bryant is 1-for-7 this season on game-tying/go-ahead shots in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime. The only other Lakers player to take such a shot is Nick Young, who is 1-for-2.

The league average on those shots this season is 27.2 percent.

Only Kemba Walker (3-for-11) has attempted more game-tying/go-ahead shots in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter/overtime than Kobe this season.

Over the last four seasons (since 2011-12), Kobe is 7-for-30 (23 percent) on game-tying/go-ahead shots in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter/overtime. His teammates are 8-for-22 (36 percent).

In “clutch time” (last five minutes of fourth quarter/OT with score within five points), Kobe has attempted by far the most shots in the league this season. He has 69, while no other player has more than 52.

Bryant has the highest usage percentage in clutch time this season among players with at least 25 clutch time minutes, yet he has the worst effective field goal percentage of the top 13 players in that category.

Data on “contested mid-range shots” is courtesy of SportVu/ player tracking data


Top stats to know: Cavaliers at Heat

December, 24, 2014
Dec 24
LeBron James will meet his former team for the first time this season when the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Miami Heat at 5 p.m. ET on ABC.

James helped guide the Heat to four straight NBA Finals appearances – the first team to accomplish that feat since the Celtics from 1984 to 1987.

Now, he’s trying to guide the Cavaliers back in that direction. He’ll also be trying to help his team snap a 10-game losing streak against the Heat.

The Heat enter this game at 13-16 after a disappointing home loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday. Over the last 30 years - only two teams finished below .500 in the season after making it to the NBA Finals (1998-99 Bulls and 2004-05 Lakers).

Cavaliers defense improving
The Cavaliers have been playing better defense as of late. Cleveland started the season 5-7 but has posted a 12-3 mark since then.

The Cavaliers allowed 102.7 points per game in their first 12 games of the season. They’ve allowed 97.1 points per game in their last 15.

Cleveland still ranks 23rd in defensive efficiency this season, allowing 105.3 points per 100 possessions. Each of the last 13 NBA champions ranked in the top 10 in defensive efficiency in the regular season.

James doesn’t usually lose on this day
LeBron James is averaging 26.9 points in eight Christmas games, the second-highest scoring average on Christmas among active players that have played in at least five such games.

The only player with a higher average is Kevin Durant (31.8 points in five games)

James’ 7-1 record and .875 win percentage on Christmas is tied for the third-best among active players who have played at least five games on this date. Ahead of him on that list – Mario Chalmers (5-0, 1.000) and Dwyane Wade (8-1, .889).

When the Cavaliers win, they ...
Move the ball -- when more than 55 percent of their two-point shots are assisted, they win 73 percent of the time. When they are below that mark, they win 42 percent of the time.

Protect the paint -- When the Cavaliers opponents get more than 17.6 percent of their points from midrange, the Cavaliers win two-thirds of the time. When they get less than that, they win only half of the time

Heat will try to slow it down
The Heat are playing at the slowest pace in the NBA- 91.7 possessions per 48 minutes and their offensive production has suffered in James’ absence.

Miami is shooting 46 percent from the field and averaging 94.2 points this season, compared to 50 percent and 102.2 points last season.

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Night
Who scored the most points in their first game against a team they won a title with?

Danny Ainge scored 39 points for the Sacramento Kings against the Celtics on Dec. 27, 1989.


Thunder need both Westbrook & Durant

December, 24, 2014
Dec 24

Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsThe Thunder are a vastly different team with both Westbrook and Durant on the floor.

When Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook missed the majority of November while Oklahoma City slumped to the bottom of the Western Conference, it appeared the Thunder would be fighting for their playoff lives the rest of the season.

However, once their stars returned at the beginning of December, the Thunder quickly resumed their place as an elite team in the Western Conference, albeit one with a deficit in the standings.

How big of a difference have Durant and Westbrook made, and where do the Thunder stand in their playoff push?

The Durant and Westbrook Effect
When the Thunder don’t have both Durant and Westbrook in the lineup, they are just 6-14, a .300 winning percentage that would put their record in the area of the Lakers and Jazz as one of the worst teams in the West.But the Thunder have won seven of the nine games in which both stars have played, and one of the losses came on the road against the 23-4 Warriors when Durant missed the second half.

Overall, the Thunder have averaged 14 points higher in the games both stars have played and shot almost five percentage points better from the floor.

The Dynamic Duo
Durant and Westbrook have shared the floor for almost 200 minutes this season, and the Thunder have outscored opponents by 16.6 points per 100 possessions in that time while shooting 49 percent.

The Thunder have also pushed the pace, averaging 100.6 possessions per 48 minutes, according to, which is in line with Golden State’s league-leading pace. For the season, Oklahoma City ranks 18th in pace.

Westbrook’s Incredible Start
Statistically, Oklahoma City’s best player this season has been Westbrook, who is averaging a career-high 28.2 points to go along with 5.8 rebounds and 7.1 assists. His rebound and assist numbers are in line with career averages, but his previous career high in points is 23.6 in 2011-12.

What’s most incredible is that Westbrook is putting up those numbers in just 31.7 minutes of action per game. In NBA history, there have been 68 different seasons entering this year in which a player has averaged a 25-5-5, and all those players averaged at least 36 minutes.

Having lost three of four after their seven-game winning streak, the Thunder are now 2 games behind Phoenix for the final playoff spot in the West. That deficit should be no problem for the Thunder if Durant and Westbrook stay healthy based on how well they have played with their stars.

Over the last four seasons, the Thunder have won over 73 percent of their games played by Durant and Westbrook. If they win 73 percent of the rest of their games, the Thunder would comfortably be in the playoffs as the No. 7 seed with 52 wins, based on current standings.

According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Thunder have a 60.5 percent chance of reaching the postseason. If the Thunder do become a playoff team, they will have overcome the worst 15-game start by a Western Conference playoff squad since the 1996-97 Suns rebounded from a 1-14 start to their season.

Of course, most teams that start 3-12, as the Thunder did, can’t rely on stars like Durant and Westbrook to save them.

Top stats to know: Wizards at Knicks

December, 24, 2014
Dec 24

Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty ImagesJohn Wall will look to spread holiday cheer to his Wizards against the Knicks on Christmas.
The Knicks host the Wizards on Christmas Day (ESPN, noon ET) for the first of an NBA tripleheader on ESPN networks. It's the sixth straight season the Knicks have participated in the NBA's Christmas Day lineup, posting a 2-3 record in the last five.

Happy Anniversaries
This is the third time that these two franchises have met on Christmas, all at Madison Square Garden, with the Bullets/Wizards winning the first two. The first was 50 years ago, a 114-108 Baltimore win in 1964, and the last was 41 years ago, in 1973, when the Capital Bullets prevailed 102-100 over the Knicks (including current Knicks president Phil Jackson).

Another anniversary of note is Basketball Hall of Famer Bernard King's NBA Christmas Day record of 60 points against New Jersey in 1984. That also was the Knicks' single-game scoring mark until it was broken by Carmelo Anthony with 62 points against the Bobcats in January last season.

Series Streak
This is the second meeting between these two teams this season. Washington defeated New York 98-83 on Nov. 4 at Madison Square Garden, with Iman Shumpert leading all scorers with 19 points. That extended the Wizards' winning streak against New York to four dating back to last season, their longest string of success since winning five straight vs. the Knicks from December 2001 to January 2003.

Going in Different Directions
Washington’s 19-8 record is good for second in the Southeast Division and third in the Eastern Conference. It’s also the third-best start in franchise history through 27 games, trailing only the 1968-69 Baltimore Bullets and 1974-75 Washington Bullets; each team went 20-7 to start the season. Both of those teams won the division and reached the league semifinals; the 1974-75 squad, led by Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes, reached the NBA Finals but was swept by the Warriors.

The Knicks are off to the worst 30-game start in franchise history at 5-25 and are getting beaten on the inside and outside. The Knicks rank last in the NBA in defending the 3-point line (38.9 percent) and are second-worst in rebounds per game (39.1). Most of all, their offense is struggling under the triangle implemented by first-year coach Derek Fisher.

The Great Wall
New York will have to contain John Wall, who is leading the Wizards to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. He’s averaging 17.8 points and a career-high 10.5 assists per game, which ranks second in the NBA only to Rajon Rondo. There has been only one other player in franchise history who’s averaged as many as 15 points and 10 assists per game: Rod Strickland in 1997-98 with the Bullets, and nobody has more games with 20 points and 10 assists this season.

Leaguewide, Wall could become just the fourth player to average as many as 17 points and 10 assists in a single season, joining Chris Paul (four times), Deron Williams (four times) and Steve Nash (twice).

Top stats to know - Lillard dominates late

December, 20, 2014
Dec 20

D.Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty ImagesDamian Lillard scored 26 of his season-high 43 in the fourth quarter and OT

Damian Lillard saved his best for last on Friday night.

Lillard scored a season-high 43 points on Friday night, with 26 of those points coming in the fourth quarter and OT, as the Blazers beat the Spurs in three overtimes, 129-119.

The Spurs did something in this game that had never happened in NBA history while Lillard carried the Blazers when it mattered most.

Lillard excels after three
Lillard had scored at least 20 points in his first eight games against the Spurs. He had 17 points at the end of three quarters as his Blazers trailed by five points. Lillard then scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a game-tying layup with 1.4 seconds to play before blocking Danny Green’s potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. He has scored 165 points in the fourth quarter this season, tops in the NBA.

Lillard was just getting started, however, as he scored 16 points in overtime, including nine points in the third overtime period as the Blazers pulled away for the win.

Lillard is clutch
Lillard hit the game-tying layup in regulation and then in the first overtime, he would hit a game-tying 3 with 13.6 seconds on the clock.

Over the last three seasons, Lillard has 11 game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final 15 seconds of regulation or OT, more than any other player in the league.

Spurs with dubious honor
After battling the Grizzlies in three overtimes on Wednesday night and losing, the Spurs lost their second straight three-overtime game. They are the third team in NBA history to play consecutive three overtime games and the first since the 1951 Baltimore Bullets. However, the Spurs became the first team to ever lose two straight three-overtime games.

The Spurs are now 0-4 in overtime games this season. They were 9-4 in overtime games in the last three seasons combined.

Rondo adds new look to Mavs offense

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18

Jerome Miron/USA TODAY SportsDallas no longer has to worry about stopping Rajon Rondo, the NBA's assist leader this season.

The Boston Celtics have reportedly agreed to trade Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks for Brandan Wright, Jameer Nelson, Jae Crowder and draft picks. Rondo is currently leads the NBA in assists per game at 10.8 while no Mavericks player is averaging more than five.

What are the Mavericks getting in Rondo and just who is Brandan Wright?

Rondo the Creator
The Mavericks are getting one of the league’s best facilitators, as no player in the NBA over the last four seasons has a higher assist percentage than Rondo’s 49.9. The only two players in the NBA with a percentage over 40 in that time are Chris Paul (46.3) and John Wall (40.8).

Rondo has also ranked either first or second among all players in the NBA in assists per game in each of the last five seasons, including this season. Rondo has averaged 11 assists per game over the last five seasons, the only player in the league to average over 10.

Rondo Rates with Celtics Legends
The Celtics have dealt a player who has had a major impact on the franchise on both ends of the court. Rondo leaves as the franchise’s all-time leader in both assists per game (8.5) and steals per game (1.9) and the only players with more total assists than Rondo's 4,474 in Celtics history are hall-of-famers Bob Cousy, John Havlicek and Larry Bird.

Mavericks Point Guards Lacking
The Mavericks' starting point guard trio of Nelson, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea rank last in the league in points per game and field-goal percentage and 28th in assists per game. None of these players has a 10-assist game this season while Rondo has 13 such games.

Who is Brandan Wright?
Wright, the focal point of the return for the Celtics, is ranked fifth in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating at 26.2 despite averaging fewer than 20 minutes a game. Wright has finished ranked in the top 25 in PER in each of the last four seasons.

Wright is also shooting 74.8 percent from the floor this season, a mark that leads the NBA and is on pace to break Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA record of 72.7 set in 1972-73.

Stats to know: Grizzlies 117, Spurs 116

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs played a game Wednesday night that looked like neither wanted to end, and that neither could end. If it was a playoff game, it would have been an all-time classic. Instead, it’s just another in a line of impressive wins by the Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies blew a 23-point lead and needed a miraculous buzzer-beater just to get the game into overtime. But they finally managed to hold off a depleted Spurs team (playing without Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard) in the third extra session.

Elias Sports Bureau stats of the night
The Grizzlies are the first team to beat the team with the best record in the NBA and the defending NBA champ on consecutive days since the 2000-2001 Bucks beat the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz.

For the Spurs, this was their first triple-overtime game since a win over the Atlanta Hawks on March 20, 1984.

Shot of the night: take your pick
The game featured two buzzer-beating bank shots by seven-footers, with the Grizzlies' Marc Gasol hitting a 3-pointer to force overtime and the Spurs' Tim Duncan hitting a long jumper to send the game to a third overtime.

It was Gasol’s first 3-pointer of the season and eighth in 50 attempts for his career. It marked the second time he has hit a game-tying or go-ahead basket in the final five seconds.

It was the second time in three games that the Grizzlies hit a 3-pointer as time expired in regulation to tie the game. Mike Conley made the other against the Philadelphia 76ers. Both Gasol’s and Conley’s shots were lunges taken off the wrong foot.

The Grizzlies were 4-for-4 on game-tying/go-ahead field goals in the final 10 seconds of the 4th quarter and overtime in this game.

To put the 4-for-4 in perspective -- the league average on game-tying and go-ahead field goals in the final 10 seconds of the 4th quarter and overtime over the last 15 seasons was 25 percent.

Randolph’s big night
Zach Randolph had 21 points and 21 rebounds for the Grizzlies. It was his 10th 20-20 game in the past six seasons.

Only Dwight Howard (20) and Kevin Love (16) have more in that span.

Vince Carter still has something left
If you weren’t a fan of the Grizzlies, you can be forgiven if you’d forgotten that Vince Carter was still in the NBA.

Carter scored in single digits in 20 of his first 21 games, was shooting only 30 percent from 3-point range for the season, and entered Tuesday having made only 6-of-24 shots in a four-game stretch. But he has scored 16 and 18 points in his past two games, with nine 3-pointers.


Top stats to know: Grizzlies 105, Warriors 98

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
It was an atypical night for Stephen Curry.

The Golden State Warriors met their match.

They finally ran into a team they couldn’t beat, losing to the Memphis Grizzlies 105-98 on Tuesday night.

The Grizzlies are 20-4, just one game behind the Warriors in the Western Conference. It’s the fastest the Grizzlies have ever gotten to 20 wins in team history.

Turning point: Curry sits, Grizzlies run away
The Warriors led by six points at the end of the first quarter and appeared to have early command of the game. But with Stephen Curry on the bench, the Grizzlies took full advantage with a 20-0 run to start the second quarter.

Beno Udrih scored or assisted on 19 of the Grizzlies’ 20 points. The only point Udrih was not responsible for was on a free throw following an and-one by Jon Leuer.

The Grizzlies shot 8-of-10, including three 3-pointers by Vince Carter. Sixteen of their 20 points came on jump shots, including 4-of-6 on contested jumpers. The Warriors were 0-of-11 during that stretch.

The Warriors outscored the Grizzlies by 16 points for the game with Curry on the floor, but shot 3-of-19 and were outscored by 23 points when Curry sat.

Gasol looks for his shot
With Golden State center Andrew Bogut sitting out, Memphis center Marc Gasol was aggressive in looking for his own offense. Gasol’s 21 field goal attempts were his second-most this season and seven more than his season average. Gasol made 26 passes Tuesday, 24 fewer than his average (per NBA SportsVu data) coming into the game.

Not Curry’s best night
Even though Curry had a good plus-minus, he had an atypical game.

He went 9-of-25 from the field and made only 1 of 10 3-pointers. He was 0-for-9 on contested jump shots.

The Warriors also struggled when forced to slow down the pace. They shot only 33 percent from the field in their half-court offense.

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Night
This marked the first time in Grizzlies history that they snapped an opponents’ winning streak of at least 10 games. The two longest streaks they’ve snapped have come this season: the 16-game streak by the Warriors and a nine-game streak by the Portland Trail Blazers.


Middleton gives Bucks a great finish

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
Milwaukee Bucks fans experienced the lowest of lows and the highest of highs in the same night.

Khris Middleton
After watching Jabari Parker go down with a knee injury, they got to see an amazing finish, one that featured six lead changes in the final 42 seconds against the Phoenix Suns. Khris Middleton gave the Bucks the win with a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer. Milwaukee is now 13-12, two wins shy of last season's total.

The buzzer-beating game-winner was the first of Middleton's career.

The Bucks have gone as Middleton has gone of late. They’re 3-2 in their past five games. Middleton is 18-of-26 from the field and 6-of-8 from 3-point range in the three wins (the other two came against the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Clippers). He’s a combined 3-for-12 in the two losses.

Middleton may not shoot the ball well overall (44 percent for the season), but the Bucks have gotten the most out of him this season. Entering Monday, they had outscored opponents by 5.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the court and were outscored by 5.8 points per 100 possessions when he was on the bench. He’s also shooting 39.6 percent from 3-point range.

That held up on Monday. The Bucks outscored the Suns by 11 points in his 29 minutes and were outscored by nine points in his 19 minutes on the bench.

This was a tough one to take for Suns fans. They’ve lost twice on shots at the buzzer this season, both on desperation 3-point shots that seemingly hit every part of the basket before dropping through. The other was by Blake Griffin.


Bryant passes Jordan, has shot to be No. 1

December, 14, 2014
Dec 14
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant reached a much heralded milestone Sunday, netting 26 points to surpass Michael Jordan for third on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Bryant needed 1,269 games to reach Jordan’s mark of 32,292 points, a number Jordan achieved after 1,072 career games. Now with 32,310 career points, Bryant trails only Karl Malone (36,928) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387).

Although Bryant has passed Jordan in points, it's hard to call Bryant the more prolific all-time scorer. Jordan holds the all-time records for scoring titles and points per game. He is ahead of Bryant in seasons with averaging 30 points per game, 50-point games and highest season scoring average.
What Bryant should be lauded for is his longevity.

If Bryant maintains an average of at least 25 points this season, he’ll pass the two men sandwiching him on the all-time scoring list -- Malone and Jordan -- for most seasons with an average of 25 points or better in NBA history. The three are tied with 12 apiece.

Bryant is in his 19th season. His current scoring average would obliterate Abdul-Jabbar’s record for the highest scoring average by a player in his 19th season or later, which came in 1987-88 when Abdul-Jabbar averaged 14.6 points.

Bryant trails Malone by 4,618 points, therefore would need 182 regular-season games to pass Malone at his current scoring average of 25.4 points. The Lakers have 58 games left this season, so about halfway into the 2016-17 season figures to be a reasonable estimate for when Bryant could pass Malone.

Although Bryant figures to breeze by Malone, catching Abdul-Jabbar will be a challenge. If Bryant keeps up a pace of 25.0 points a game, which is roughly his career average, he could track down Abdul-Jabbar in the 2017-18 season.

Some quick hitters highlighting the rarified air Bryant occupies as a scorer:

• His four straight 50-point games in 2007 is matched only by Wilt Chamberlain (who did it as many as seven times in the 1961-62 season).

• Bryant stands with Chamberlain as the only players with 10 games of 50-plus points in a season. Bryant did it 10 times in 2006-07, whereas Chamberlain did it 45 times in 1961-62 and 30 times in 1962-63.

• Bryant has averaged at least 40 points per game through a calendar month four times. Only Chamberlain (15 times) and Elgin Baylor (once) have averaged 40 in a month (minimum five games per month).

• Bryant averaged 35.4 points per game in the 2005-06 season. He joined Wilt Chamberlain (five seasons), Rick Barry (1966-67) and Jordan (1986-87) as players to score at least 35 points per game through an entire season.


Rose takes a more aggressive approach

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12

Derrick Rose is starting to look like something closer to his old self.

Rose scored a season-high 31 points in the Chicago Bulls' 115-106 win over the Trail Blazers on Friday, helping to offset the 70 combined points by Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge (the most they've ever combined for in a game).

It's the most points Rose has scored in a game since scoring 32 against the New York Knicks on March 12, 2012.

Rose had a season-high 18 points in the paint and had 13 points on nine drives to the basket.

Rose had been averaging 5.5 drives and 4.8 points off drives per game entering the day.

He had also been taking 3-pointers on 46 percent of his shots. On Friday, only two of his 24 shots were from 3-point range.

Rose got off to a quick start, reaching double digits in points in the first quarter for only the second time all season.

The Bulls are now 10-4 with Rose and are outscoring opponents by 6.8 points when he plays. They are 4-4 and are being outscored by 2.4 points when he doesn't play.

And it wasn't just Rose who had a big game. His backup, Aaron Brooks, did as well. Brooks scored 17 points in his 16 minutes and 47 seconds of play, his second-highest point total in a game this season. Brooks was 8-of-10 from the field, the best he's shot in any game in which he took 10 shots since going 9-of-11 against the Los Angeles Clippers in 2009.

In fact, you could make the case that Brooks had a better game than Rose.

With Brooks on the floor, the Bulls outscored the Trail Blazers by 23 points (his second-best plus-minus of the season, trailing only the plus-25 he had against the Knicks in the season opener). When Rose was on the floor, the Bulls were actually outscored by five points.


Ellis has found his range

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
Monta Ellis' strong play in clutch time was again pivotal for the Dallas Mavericks.

Ellis scored 13 of the Mavericks last 15 fourth-quarter points in their win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.

Ellis entered the game averaging 4.5 clutch-time points per game, third-best in the NBA. He had six in this contest, making all three shots he took.

Clutch time is defined as the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime where the score is within five points.

Ellis' 13 fourth-quarter points are the second-most he’s scored in a fourth quarter this season (15, Nov. 28 at Raptors).

It was a nice bounceback for Ellis after his 1-of-11 shooting in a loss to the Grizzlies on Tuesday

Ellis was a little more choosy in his shot selection on Wednesday and was rewarded. He made both 3-pointers he tried, notable since he entered the game 4-of-22 from 3-point range in the previous six games. He had been averaging four 3-point attempts per game over the last dozen games.

He's continuing to score from midrange. Ellis was 5-of-10 on midrange shots on Wednesday and is shooting 48 percent on those shots this season.

Last season, Ellis shot only 39 percent on mid-range shots.

That's a big difference. Last season, Ellis made 157 mid-range shots. This season, he's on pace for 249.

And it's allowed him to still be effective despite shooting only 32 percent from 3-point range.


How far have the Knicks fallen?

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsCarmelo Anthony and the Knicks have lost 9 straight games.
The New York Knicks lost to the New Orleans Pelicans Tuesday, their ninth consecutive loss. Despite entering this season with the league's second-highest payroll at $89.5 Million, the Knicks are 4-19, including 2-18 over their last 20 games.

How bad have things gotten in New York? The Knicks have lost 10 straight road games, their first double-digit road losing streak since losing 12 straight on the road in 2005-06. They finished 23-59 that season.

After a disappointing 2013-14 season, the Knicks appear to have gotten worse. The entire team – including its best player – appears to have regressed in some way thus far.

Carmelo Anthony has struggled this season. Tuesday he scored 17 points, his seventh game with fewer than 20 points this season, matching the total number of sub-20 point games he posted in the entire 2012-13 season, when he won his only career scoring title.

Anthony has not been as effective in isolation this season. After leading the league with 6.6 isolation points per game last season, he’s down to 5.1 per game in isolation.

However, it’s not as if Anthony has had much help offensively. Anthony averages over 22 points per game, but no other Knicks player is averaging more than 13.5 per game this season. Two seasons ago, when the Knicks last made the playoffs, four players averaged more than 13.5 points per game.

Defense has been a problem for this Knicks team as well. New York ranks in the bottom five in defensive efficiency, a far cry from ranking 17th two seasons ago and fifth just three seasons ago.

Although it was not exactly the cause of Tuesday’s loss, the Knicks have been plagued by their inability to execute late in games. The Knicks have an NBA-worst minus-49 point differential in clutch time this season, defined as the last five minutes of the game when the score is within five points.

The Elias Sports Bureau confirms that the Knicks are 2-9 in games decided by five points or less. Of teams to play at least five such games, only the Thunder have a worse record (1-6).

Is LeBron too passive? Numbers say no

December, 6, 2014
Dec 6
LeBron James has often been criticized for being too passive. He’s proving lately that the more he passes, the more the Cavaliers win.

James was averaging 7.2 assists per game in his first 15 games this season. He's averaging 11.7 assists per game in his last three games. He has three straight games with double-digit assists for the first time since 2010, one shy of matching the longest streak of his career.

Lately, James has had the ball in his hands more often, resulting in many more passes. Using SportVU player tracking data on, we can see that in his first 15 games he was averaging 78 touches and 52 passes per game. In his last three games, he's averaging 102 touches and 72 passes per game.

When James is more involved in the Cavs offense, it results in wins. He had 103 touches on Friday, and the Cavs are now 4-0 this season when he has 100 or more touches and 7-7 when he has fewer than 100.

They're also 7-1 when he has 90 or more touches and 4-6 when he does not.

But it's not just about touches. The more James passes the ball, the more they win as well. He had 77 passes on Friday, his second-most this season (82 vs. Bucks). The Cavs are 5-0 this season when he has 70 or more passes and 6-7 when he has fewer than 70.

James passed the ball on 75 percent of his touches (77 of 103) on Friday, his highest percentage in a game this season.

LeBron’s value
With more touches and more playmaking lately, LeBron’s value for the Cavs has shown.

The Cavs are 12.4 points better per 100 possessions with James on the court this season (plus-6.0 with him on the court, minus-6.4 off the court).

During the six-game win streak, his value is even more evident -- the Cavs are plus-22.6 with James on the court and minus-9.0 when he's on the bench (differential of 31.6).

And in the last three games, the difference in incredible -- plus-17.3 with James and minus-59.0 when he's off the court (76.3-point differential per 100 possessions).

Cavs much improved
In their first 12 games, the Cavs ranked 14th in offensive efficiency and 25th in defensive efficiency. They have improved drastically, ranking third in both categories during their six-game win streak.

With the Big Three on the court together -- James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love -- in their first 12 games, the Cavs allowed more points than they scored per 100 possessions. But in their last six games, they're outscoring opponents by 32 points per 100 possessions with those three on the court together.

Data courtesy of player tracking data on

Kyrie Irving stars at MSG again

December, 5, 2014
Dec 5
Kyrie Irving has starred in the Madison Square Garden spotlight before.

But now he has a win to show for it for the first time in four games there.

Irving scored 37 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers edged the New York Knicks to extend their season-high winning streak to five games. The Knicks are 4-16; it's their worst 20-game start in team history.

Irving was 12-for-18 from the field, raising his field goal percentage this season to 49.2 percent. This was the second straight game in which he made at least two-thirds of his shots. He’s had only one such consecutive-game spurt in his career prior to this one.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Irving became the third player to have multiple games of at least 35 points in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks before turning 23 years old. The others are Rick Barry (4) and Brandon Jennings (2).

They also shared that Irving is one of four players to average at least 31 points through his first four games at Madison Square Garden as a visitor. The others are Elvin Hayes (34.3), Jerry West (32.5) and David Thompson (32.3).

Irving excelled in isolation, scoring 12 points on plays in which he was isolated against his defender, including a layup that pushed the lead to three points with 10 seconds left. He entered the day averaging 4.1 points in isolation this season. He also went 8-for-8 against the Knicks on shots that came from inside the paint.

Irving carried the Cavaliers on a night in which LeBron James was more passer than scorer, save for a five-point burst late in the fourth quarter that put the Cavaliers ahead.

The key during the Cavaliers win streak has been James' ability to distribute while not cutting into his scoring load.

James had 12 assists in this game, the most he’s ever had in 44 career games (regular season and postseason combined) against the Knicks.