Stats & Info: NBA

James has historic futility at line

March, 1, 2015
Mar 1

Bill Baptist/Getty ImagesSunday’s game against the Rockets was memorable -- for the wrong reasons -- for LeBron James.
In a close loss, LeBron James has never been worse from the free throw line, and it cost the Cleveland Cavaliers, who went down 105-103 to the Houston Rockets in overtime Sunday.

James made three of 11 free throws (27 percent). That is the worst free throw percentage of any game in which he has had at least 10 attempts in his career, including the postseason.

And, relevant to Sunday’s game, the eight missed free throws match his career high in a game in which his team lost by three or fewer points.

Perhaps the most memorable misses by James came with four seconds left in overtime and the Cavaliers trailing by one point. James missed two free throws, forcing the Cavaliers to foul the Rockets. Overall in the fourth quarter and overtime, James missed three of the four free throws he took.

It was the first time in his NBA career -- regular season or playoffs -- that James missed more than one potential game-tying or go-ahead free throw in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime of a game.

It was the ninth time in James' career he shot below 50 percent from the line with at least 10 attempts. His eight missed free throws tie the second most in his career.

Harden's drives lead to the line
James Harden scored nearly half of his 33 points on drives Sunday. Harden’s drives also resulted in 11 free throw attempts; the Cavaliers shot eight free throws as a team off drives.

Sunday’s game was Harden’s 15th as a Rocket in which he had at least 30 points and at least 15 free throws attempts. That broke a tie with Moses Malone for the most in franchise history.

James struggles late
In addition to the missed free throws, James struggled from the field. He shot 22 percent from the field in the game's final 10 minutes.

In the clutch (defined as the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime when the score is within five points), James was 2-of-9 from the field and 1-of-4 from the free throw line for six points Sunday. It was the first time he missed seven field goal attempts and three free throws in the clutch.

The Cavaliers had 40 3-point attempts, tying a franchise record.

The Cavaliers had won their previous 16 games in which they scored at least 100 points, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It was the longest streak of its kind in the NBA and the longest such streak for the Cavaliers since they won 21 straight games in which they scored in triple figures in 2009-10.

Paul's play drives Clippers past Bulls

March, 1, 2015
Mar 1

Jeff Haynes/APChris Paul scored 28 points and had 12 assists against the Bulls.

The list of players missing from Sunday’s game between the Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls was impressive. But unlike Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, Chris Paul was conspicuous by his presence in Los Angeles' 96-86 win.

Paul scored or assisted on 63 percent of the Clippers’ field goals Sunday (12 field goals, 12 assists). He entered the game second in the NBA in that category, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, scoring or assisting on 42 percent of his team’s field goals. John Wall of the Washington Wizards entered the day leading the NBA at 43 percent.

With Paul on the court, the Clippers outscored the Bulls by 20 points, compared to a minus-10 differential with Paul off the court. The Clippers shot 48 percent from the field when he was on the court and 25 percent with him on the bench.

The per-play effect of Paul’s play was just as stark. The Clippers averaged 0.99 points per play with him on the court but 0.52 points per play without him.

Pick-and-roll strategy works for Los Angeles
The Clippers’ pick-and-roll ball handlers scored 24 points, nearly 10 points more than their season average. Paul, who finished with 28 points, got more than half of them off pick-and-roll plays.

The Clippers improved their record to 6-3 since Griffin was sidelined by surgery to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.

The Clippers’ second-leading scorer was reserve Jamal Crawford, with 16 points. Entering the game, he was averaging 16.5 points off the bench, the most in the NBA this season.

Crawford won the NBA's Sixth Man Award last season and is challenging to become the first repeat winner since Detlef Schrempf in 1990 and 1991 for the Indiana Pacers.

Mirotic gets no scoring help in fourth quarter
Rookie Nikola Mirotic led the Bulls with a career-high 29 points. Entering Sunday, the Bulls had been 17-4 when he scored 10 or more points.

Mirotic scored 16 of the Bulls’ 17 points in the fourth quarter. A free throw by Joakim Noah accounted for the Bulls’ other point.

Already missing Rose, the Bulls lost Jimmy Butler with an elbow sprain during the game. He scored 10 points in 22 minutes before the injury.

Noah, who had 11 rebounds, has had double-digit rebounds in seven games in a row, lifting his season average to 10.0 rebounds per game. Noah and Pau Gasol (12.1 per game) are one of two sets of NBA teammates averaging 10 or more rebounds this season, the other being Detroit’s Andre Drummond (12.9) and Greg Monroe (10.5). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last NBA teammates to each average at least 10 rebounds per game in the same season (minimum 50 games each) are the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum (11.8) and Gasol (10.4) in 2011–12.

4-Point Play: Aldridge's defense lifts Blazers

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25

Don Ryan/AP PhotoLaMarcus Aldridge is blocking shots and avoiding fouls at a level few NBA players have achieved.
The 4-Point Play looks at the four analytics-based storylines that will make you smarter when watching Wednesday’s game between the San Antonio Spurs (eighth in BPI) and Portland Trail Blazers (seventh in BPI) at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN. Our BPI gives the Blazers a 57 percent chance of winning.

1. The Spurs are getting by playing league-average offense, because their defense is the third best in the league, justly slightly behind the defenses of the Warriors and Grizzlies. The Spurs are fourth in the league in defensive rebounding percentage at 78 percent, and when they exceed that level, they give up 98 points per 100 possessions. They give up 103 points per 100 possessions when they are below their defensive rebounding percentage average.

2. The performance of Tony Parker seems to be dropping off. He has his lowest free throw attempts rate (free throw attempts divided by field goal attempts), assist percentage and usage percentage since his third season in the league. He is also taking more 3-pointers than at any other time in the last 10 seasons and hitting them at 49 percent.

3. LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging 1.1 blocks per 36 minutes and 1.9 personal fouls per 36 minutes. Of the 14 players who have completed a season with more than one block and fewer than two fouls per 36 minutes, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Tim Duncan are among them.

4. Damian Lillard has to play at a high level for the Blazers to win. In wins, he averages a 61 true shooting percentage and gets to the free throw line six times per 36 minutes. In losses, he has a 49 true shooting percentage and gets to the line four times per 36 minutes.

4-Point Play: Clippers want Paul at hoop

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty ImagesThe Clippers have fared better when Chris Paul has attacked the paint and drawn fouls.
The 4-Point Play looks at the four analytics-based storylines that will make you smarter when watching Wednesday’s game between the Los Angeles Clippers (third in BPI) and the Houston Rockets (10th in BPI) at 8 p.m. on ESPN. Our BPI gives the Clippers a 51 percent chance of winning:

1. Particularly with the loss of Blake Griffin, the Clippers need Chris Paul to be aggressive going toward the basket. When Paul is getting into the paint, he draws fouls, and in Clippers wins, he is averaging a free throw attempts rate -- free throw attempts divided by field goals attempts -- of 0.31, whereas in losses he is averaging 0.20.

2. The Clippers are a better team when Matt Barnes is helping to facilitate the offense. In wins, he has an assist percentage of 8 percent, and in losses he has an assist percentage of 4.3 percent.

3. The Rockets lead the league in 3-point attempts by more than 300 shots but shoot a league-average 34 percent on 3-pointers. Pablo Prigioni is a career 41 percent 3-point shooter; now that he is in Houston, he should get a lot of looks from beyond the arc.

4. Trevor Ariza has been one of the Rockets’ primary shooters, leading the team in 3-point attempts, and they need him to be shooting those well. In wins this season, Ariza has hit 35 percent of his 3-pointers; in losses, he is making 27 percent of those shots.

Clippers have had Rockets' number

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
The Los Angeles Clippers, who have the most efficient offense in the NBA, begin a stretch of four road games tonight (8 ET, ESPN) when they face James Harden -- one of this season's most dynamic offensive players -- and the Houston Rockets.

The Clippers are 4-5 this month, but 4-1 since opening February with four straight losses.

The Rockets have won two in a row to start a five-game homestand. Houston is 10-2 in its past 12 home games and is 20-8 at home this season.

The game appears to be a tossup: ESPN's Basketball Power Index gives the Clippers a 51 percent chance of winning.

Here are some of the key stats to know heading into this matchup.

Advantage: Clippers
They recently have matched up well with the Rockets, winning six straight and 11 of the past 12 meetings. The Clippers won both games this season handily: 102-85 on Nov. 28 in Houston, and 110-95 on Feb. 11 in Los Angeles.

If the playoffs began today, these teams would meet -- and that wouldn’t be good news for the league’s top scorer. Harden, who leads the NBA with 27.3 points per game this season, averaged 12.5 points on 33.3 percent shooting in those two games.

Harden has scored 20 or more points in two of 18 career games against the Clippers. Since joining the Rockets, he has averaged 17.9 points on 36 percent shooting in seven games; Houston is 0-7 in those games. Harden has averaged 5.5 free throws against the Clippers this season and 9.5 against every other team.

Star watch: Who benefits with Griffin, Howard out?
Both Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard are sidelined by injuries.

The Clippers are 33-18 with Griffin this season and 4-2 without him.

DeAndre Jordan is thriving in Griffin’s absence, averaging 16.7 points and 17.8 rebounds.

The Rockets are 22-10 with Howard this season, and 16-8 without him.

Donatas Motiejunas is averaging 9.6 points in 32 games with Howard. That number increases to 14.1 in 24 games without him.

How the Rockets will play
The Rockets have attempted a league-low 495 midrange shots this season. To put in perspective of how few that is, consider this:

LaMarcus Aldridge has attempted 539 (44 more than Houston).

The Pistons have the second-fewest in the NBA with 833 (338 more than Houston).

The Knicks lead the league with 1,691 (1,196 more than Houston).

The Rockets are averaging what would be an NBA-record 33.7 3-pointers per game. That’s 5.9 more 3s per game than the next closest team (Trail Blazers).

Clippers’ weakness
The Clippers don’t have any concerns offensively. They rank first in offensive efficiency and second in points per game. That’s not the case defensively, however. Last season, the Clippers were seventh-best in defensive efficiency, but they rank 18th this season.

After playing the third-place team in the Western Conference, the Clippers will travel to face the West’s No. 2 team, the Memphis Grizzlies. This is part of what ESPN’s Basketball Power Index ranks as the 10th-most difficult remaining schedule in the NBA. BPI says the Rockets have the seventh-most difficult remaining schedule.

Big Deadline Day for Pistons and Thunder

February, 19, 2015
Feb 19

Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty ImagesReggie Jackson headlined a seven-player trade between the Pistons, Thunder and Jazz
The Detroit Pistons, Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz were involved in a three-team trade on Thursday. The Pistons acquired point guard Reggie Jackson and the Thunder received point guard D.J. Augustin, center Enes Kanter and small forwards Steve Novak and Kyle Singler. Here is what they each bring to their new squads:

From role player to starter
The Pistons now turn to Reggie Jackson as their starting point guard with Brandon Jennings out for the season with a leg injury. In 13 games as a starter with the Thunder this season, Jackson averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game.

Jackson gives the Pistons a very good pick-and-roll option. Among the 57 players with at least 150 plays as the pick-and-roll ball handler this season, Jackson ranks fourth in the NBA with a 47.2 field goal percentage. The Pistons as a team are 25th in the league.

Both of the Pistons starting point guards this season distributed the ball at a high rate. Among players with 10 starts this season, Jennings ranked eighth in assist percentage (an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor) and D.J. Augustin ranked 11th. Jackson ranks one spot ahead of Augustin.

Augustin in for Jackson
Augustin replaces Jackson as Russell Westbrook's backup in Oklahoma City. He is averaging 10.6 points and 4.9 assists per game this season but is capable of putting up bigger numbers. As the Pistons starter over their last 10 games, he averaged 20.3 points and 8.2 assists per game while shooting 46.8 percent from the floor and 43.2 percent from beyond the arc.

Another option on offense
The Thunder typically don't get too much offensive production out of their centers. Kendrick Perkins averaged four points per game with the Thunder this season and Steven Adams is at 7.4 points per game.

Kanter is averaging a career-high 13.8 points per game this season and ranks eighth among centers. He is converting on 59 percent of his shots in the paint and averaging a career-high 4.4 makes per game.

Three-point help
Singler and Novak should give the Thunder a boost from beyond the arc. Oklahoma City ranks 25th in the league in three-point percentage. Singler is shooting a career-high 40.6 percent from deep and in limited minutes, Novak has converted on 16 of his 33 three-point attempts this season. His 48.5 three-point field goal percentage would rank second in the NBA if he qualified for that leaderboard.

History says title contenders down to 3

February, 17, 2015
Feb 17

Kyle Terada/USA TodayThe Warriors, led by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, have the NBA's best record.
The .700 club
With the first half of the NBA season over, recent history says we can narrow the pick for NBA champion to three teams.

Each of the past seven NBA champions reached the All-Star break with a win percentage of .700 or better. Three teams have a .700 win percentage this season: the Warriors (.824), Hawks (.796) and Grizzlies (.736).

The last team to win the NBA title with a winning percentage below .700 at the All-Star break was the 2006-07 Spurs, who were 35-18 (.660) at the break.

Four teams chasing franchise records for wins
The 42-win Warriors have the best record at the All-Star break for the third time in franchise history, the first time since 1975-76. They are one of four teams in range of breaking their franchise record for victories (Golden State's team record is 59).

The others are the Hawks (43 wins), who won 57 in 1986-87 and 1993-94; the 39-win Grizzlies, who won 56 games in 2012-13; and the 36-win Raptors, who set a franchise record last season with 48 victories.

The Raptors are the only current NBA franchise that has never won 50 games in a season, and they are in striking distance of getting off that list this season. ESPN's Basketball Power Index projects the Raptors to win 54 games this season.

The race for eighth in the West
•  According to ESPN's Basketball Power Index, the Thunder have more than a 73 percent chance to make the postseason, compared with 17 percent for the Suns and 12 percent for the Pelicans (the Suns lead the Thunder by a half-game for the eighth spot). Oklahoma City has not held one of the top eight spots in the Western Conference since it lost its season opener.

•  The Thunder are trying to become the first Western Conference team to reach the playoffs after starting 3-12 or worse since the 1996-97 Suns.

•  According to NBA BPI strength of schedule, the Thunder have the easiest remaining schedule among the top 10 teams in the Western Conference. The Suns have the sixth-toughest slate in the league overall.

•  If the Thunder miss the postseason, Kevin Durant will become the third reigning MVP to miss the postseason in NBA history, not counting players who either retired or missed the entire next season because of injury.

Did you know?
•  Russell Westbrook is averaging 25.8 points, 7.6 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game. The only players in NBA history to average those numbers for an entire season: LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson.

•  James Harden is on pace to join Dwyane Wade, James, Jordan and Rick Barry as the only players to average 27 points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals per game in a season. Harden also leads the NBA in win shares this season.

•  The Warriors lead the league in defensive efficiency and pace. No team in the past 30 seasons has finished the season leading the NBA in both categories. Golden State ranks second in offensive efficiency behind the Clippers.

•  Anthony Davis is having the second-best season in NBA history in terms of PER. Davis' 31.8 PER would be the second-best single-season total in NBA history were he to finish the season with that number.

Who has best chance to win 3-Point Contest?

February, 14, 2015
Feb 14
The 3-point line was first utilized in the NBA in the 1979-80 season, when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were rookies. Only 3 percent of shot attempts came from long distance that season.

Since then, the game has evolved to the point that about one out of every four shots is a 3-pointer. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that about 23 percent of all points and 27 percent of all field goal attempts have come from beyond the arc this season; both marks are on pace to set NBA records.

With all that in mind, it's fitting that this year’s 3-Point Contest at All-Star Weekend has an incredibly stacked field. The contestants have a collective 3-point percentage of 42.2 percent on nearly seven 3-point attempts per 36 minutes this season.

In order to determine the favorite in this group, we have to look beyond their 3-point percentage alone, because all 3-point attempts are not equal.

Stephen Curry, for example, is a master of the fast-break pull-up 3. James Harden often does it on his own, too; only half of his 3-pointers are assisted, while 96 percent of Kyle Korver’s made 3-pointers are assisted.

In this case, we estimated each player’s expected shooting percentage in the contest based on their catch-and-shoot success rate on 3-pointers (which is the most similar situational data we have) and how players' shooting accuracy increases based on historical performances in the 3-point contest.

With the estimated accuracy, we calculated each shooter’s probability of winning the contest based on 10,000 simulations.

Based on this analysis, Korver has by far the best chance to win the contest at 28 percent, with Kyrie Irving a distant second at 16 percent.

Meanwhile, Curry and fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson tied for third, and last year’s winner, Marco Belinelli, has the lowest odds of winning at 4 percent.

Is Vince Carter a Hall of Famer?

February, 12, 2015
Feb 12

Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty ImagesVince Carter put on a show at the 2000 NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest.
Thursday is the 15th anniversary of Vince Carter winning the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. While the performance was legendary, is his career worthy of Hall of Fame consideration?

Stats & Info breaks down the numbers on both sides of the debate.

The argument for Carter
• Carter ranks 25th on the NBA all-time scoring list. Of the top 38 all-time scorers, 27 are already in the Hall of Fame and the other 10 (other than Carter) are likely Hall of Famers: Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Tim Duncan, Ray Allen, Allen Iverson, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

• Carter and Bryant are the only players to average at least 20 points per game in 10 straight seasons between 1999-2000 and 2008-09.

• Carter is sixth in total points since entering the league in 1998-99. The only players with more are Bryant, Nowitzki, Pierce, James and Tim Duncan.

• Carter's best stretch of his career was from 1999-2000 to 2006-07. He ranked sixth in points per game (24.6), 12th in Player Efficiency Rating (22.2) and 15th in win shares (71.0) during that time.

• Carter is sixth all-time in 3-pointers made (1,853).

The argument against Carter
• Carter never finished better than 10th in MVP voting (was 10th in 1999-2000).

• Since he entered the league in 1998-99, Carter only ranks 14th in win shares. Players ahead of him include Chauncey Billups, Pau Gasol and Shawn Marion. Carter also ranks 41st in PER (19.9) among players with a minimum of 200 games played during that span.

Did you know?
• Carter has made 951 dunks in his career and has only been blocked on 16 of his dunk attempts. Only two players have blocked two Carter dunk attempts: Alonzo Mourning and Emeka Okafor.

• Carter is one of six players in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game in 10 straight seasons. The others? Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, James, Michael Jordan and Bryant.

4-point play: Duncan still defensive stalwart

February, 6, 2015
Feb 6

Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesTim Duncan continues to carry the Spurs defense as San Antonio welcomes a new-look Miami team.
The 4-Point Play looks at the four analytics-based storylines that will make you smarter when watching Friday’s game between the Miami Heat (18th in BPI) and the San Antonio Spurs (sixth in BPI). Our BPI gives the Spurs a 74 percent chance of winning (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN):

1. Tim Duncan continues to be an elite defensive stopper. Duncan and Pau Gasol are the only players in the league with more than 1000 minutes, more than two blocks per 36 minutes, fewer than three fouls per 36 minutes and a defensive rebound percentage above 25 percent.

2. The Spurs average 11 turnovers per 100 possessions. When San Antonio turns the ball over lower than that rate, it wins 85 percent of its games. When they are above that level, the Spurs win 55 percent of their games.

3. The Heat play at the slowest pace in the league, averaging 91.8 possessions per 48 minutes. But they do better when they play faster. Miami has won 38 percent of games played at that pace or slower and won 55 percent of games played at a faster pace.

4. The Heat currently have a 67 percent chance of making the playoffs despite a below average offense and defense, due largely to having the easiest schedule remaining for the rest of the season in the league.

4-point play: Clippers offense carrying team

February, 6, 2015
Feb 6

AP Photo/Danny MoloshokDeAndre Jordan's blocks have been the key to keeping the Clippers defense competitive.
The 4-Point Play looks at the four analytics-based storylines that will make you smarter when watching Friday’s game between the Los Angeles Clippers (second in BPI) and the Toronto Raptors (ninth in BPI). Our BPI gives the Raptors a 55 percent chance of winning tonight (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN):

1. The Clippers are second in BPI because they have the most efficient offense in the league. Their defense though is only average (103 points per 100 possessions). When they have played good defense though and limit their opponents to less than 101 points per 100 possessions, they have won 94 percent of their games. When they have allowed more than 101 points per 100 possessions, they have won only 54 percent of their games.

2. DeAndre Jordan is the key to the Clippers defense. When he is averaging 2.5 or more blocks per 36 minutes the Clippers give up 101 points per 100 possessions, but when he is not blocking shots at that level, they give up 106 points per 100 possessions.

3. Toronto struggles defensively and relies on creating turnovers. When they are above the league average of creating 11 turnovers per 100 possessions, the Raptors hold opponents to 102 points per 100 possessions. But when they are not creating that many, then opponents are scoring nearly 106 points per 100 possessions.

4. Offensively, the Raptors need strong offensive rebounding from Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson. When they have an offensive rebound percentage above their average of 26 percent, the Raptors score 112 points per 100 possessions, but when they are below that, they score 106 points per 100 possessions.

4-Point Play: Clippers at Spurs

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31

Andrew Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Clippers visit San Antonio looking for their first win over the Spurs this season (9 ET, ESPN).

The 4-Point Play looks at the four analytics-based storylines that will make you smarter when watching Saturday’s game between the San Antonio Spurs (4th in BPI) and the Los Angeles Clippers (2nd in BPI). Our BPI gives the Spurs a 61 percent chance of winning.

1. Chris Paul is third in the NBA in assist percentage, assisting on an average of 41 percent of his teammates' field goals. The Clippers need him to perform at that elite level. When Paul has an assist percentage greater than 40 percent, the Clippers win 76 percent of their games, compared to winning just 65 percent of games when he is below 40 percent.

2. The Clippers' offense is the best in the league, and has ramped up its mid-range game this year. They are at their best, however, minimizing those mid-range shots. When they get 20 percent or fewer of their points from mid-range shots, they score 112 point per 100 possessions. When they get more than that, they score 108 points per 100 possessions.

3. The Spurs are known for their passing, and 91 percent of their made threes are assisted (league average is 84 percent). When the Spurs have 90 percent or more of their made threes assisted, they have won 73 percent of their games. When they are below 90 percent, they have won 65 percent.

4. The Spurs have been surviving on a smart defense that rebounds well (77 defensive rebound percentage). They have kept opponents off of the foul line (average of 0.26 Opp Free Throw Rate). The Spurs have not lost a game this season when they are rebounding and fouling at the average levels or better.

Hassan Whiteside does a lot in a little time

January, 25, 2015
Jan 25

David Banks/USA TodayHassan Whiteside (21) set a Heat franchise record with 12 blocked shots.
A player who entered this season with 19 games of NBA experience had one of the most impressive all-around games in Miami Heat history Sunday.

Hassan Whiteside came off the bench for the Heat and registered 14 points, 13 rebounds and 12 blocked shots in their 96-84 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Whiteside became the first player with at least 12 points, 12 rebounds and 12 blocked shots in a game since Shawn Bradley in 1997-98 with the Dallas Mavericks. In the past 25 years, the only other players to meet those marks have been Shaquille O'Neal (1993-94, with the Orlando Magic) and Dikembe Mutombo (1992-93, Denver Nuggets). Like Whiteside, Bradley came off the bench when he had his triple-dozen.

Whiteside broke the Heat franchise record of nine blocked shots (done by Alonzo Mourning six times). He had the first triple-double that includes blocked shots since Joakim Noah, who had 23 points, 21 rebounds and 11 blocked shots on Feb. 28, 2013.

All 12 of Whiteside’s blocked shots were within six feet of the basket. Seven came when he was a help defender.

Taj Gibson was particularly affected by Whiteside. Five of Gibson’s 10 shots were blocked by Whiteside. No team had blocked five Gibson shots in a game before Sunday.

Whiteside's defense helped the Heat hold the Bulls to their third-worst field goal shooting percentage (35.6 percent) this season. The Bulls shot 33.3 percent in a loss to the Utah Jazz on Jan. 7 and 34.5 percent in a victory at Indiana on Dec. 29.

Whiteside played 19 games with the Sacramento Kings in 2010-11 and 2011-12 and was out of the NBA for two seasons. He became the eighth player in Heat history to post a triple-double, joining LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, O’Neal, Lamar Odom, Billy Owens, Steve Smith and Rory Sparrow.

Whiteside got all of that accomplished in 25 minutes on the court. The last player with 12 or more blocks in 25 minutes or less was Manute Bol in March 1989 for the Golden State Warriors against the Portland Trail Blazers (13 blocks in 20 minutes).

Thunder recover after dreadful 2nd quarter

January, 22, 2015
Jan 22

Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesKevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each scored at least 30 points in the same game for the 31st time.
Entering halftime, the Thunder trailed by 12 points and had just finished a second quarter where they shot 18.2 percent from the field, their worst in any quarter this season.

They bounced back in a big way in the second half and overtime. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant each scored 30 points for the 31st time since Westbrook was drafted in 2008. Only two other pairs of teammates have more than five such games in that span.

To put those 31 games in context: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were teammates for 10 seasons with the Bulls. They each scored 30 points in the same game 16 times, barely half as many as Durant and Westbrook.

Let's take a look inside the comeback.

Stars step up

Durant and Westbrook combined to score all 13 of the Thunder’s points in overtime, including Westbrook’s game-winning drive to the hoop.

The duo scored 15 points on drives in the second half and overtime, more than double their first-half output.

Westbrook went 2-of-5 with only four points with John Wall as the primary defender in the first half. In the second half, he scored 11 points when defended by Wall.

Making their jumpers

The Thunder scored 33 second-half points on jump shots, more than triple their output in the first half in which they shot 20 percent on jumpers and scored only 10 points.

After not making a single 3-point shot in the first half, the Thunder made six in the second half and overtime, and outscored the Wizards by 20 points on jumpers. The Wizards had a 15-10 point advantage on jumpers in the first half.

Westbrook does it on both ends

Wall struggled Wednesday when Westbrook was his primary defender. Westbrook held Wall to 16.7 percent shooting from the field and contested all four of his jump shots.

Wall finished with only six points and two turnovers against Westbrook. He shot 45.4 percent with 12 points against everyone else.

4-point play: Harden's defense crucial, too

January, 21, 2015
Jan 21
The 4-Point Play looks at the four analytics-based storylines that will make you smarter when watching Wednesday’s game between the Houston Rockets (ninth in BPI) and the Golden State Warriors (first in BPI) (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Our BPI (Basketball Power Index) gives the Warriors a 76 percent chance of winning:

1. The Warriors are a better offense when Stephen Curry is shooting 3-pointers. Curry averages 7.8 3-point attempts per 36 minutes. When he shoots at least seven 3s per 36 minutes, the Warriors score 112 points per 100 possessions. They score 107 points per 100 possessions when he shoots fewer than seven 3s.

2. The Warriors’ defense is at its best when it is forcing opponents to score off midrange shots. The Warriors allow 92 points per 100 possessions when opponents score 17 percent or more of their points off midrange shots, and they allow 98 points per 100 possessions when opponents score less than that off midrange shots.

3.The Rockets depend on James Harden being incredibly efficient on offense. Harden averages 1.5 points per shot. When he is at that level or higher, the Rockets score 108 points per 100 possessions, but when he is below that level, the Rockets score 97 points per 100 possessions.

4.The Rockets also depend on Harden to be smart on defense. Harden averages 2.6 personal fouls per 36 minutes. When he is at that level or less, the Rockets give up 98 points per 100 possessions. When Harden is fouling at a higher rate than 2.6 per 36 minutes, they give up 105 points per 100 possessions.