NBA Stats of the Week: 3/5-3/11

Kobe Bryant, Rudy Gay

In the second of the new Stats of the Week series that I am instilling on HCB, we’ll look into the miraculous performances of a 34-year old who acts 10 years younger, a historic shooting performance by an eastern conference point guard, and a winning streak that is soon going to be so long that you can no longer count the games won on your fingers and toes, as well as a couple of other fascinating statistical points worthy of discussion.

  • Kobe BryantThe star of the Lakers has been on a tear since he guaranteed the Lakers would make the playoffs on February 21. Since he made this bold declaration, the Black Mamba has averaged 34.0 PPG, 7.1 APG, and 6.6 RPG on a very impressive effective field goal percentage of .606 (league average for guards is about .49 eFG%). More importantly, the Lakers are 7-2 in those 9 games, going from being 3.5 games back of the Rockets and 5 games back of the Jazz to actually catching up to Utah at the moment, tied for the 8th best record in the conference (still occupying the 9th spot due to tie-breaking procedures.) But there was more to Kobe’s greatness in a pair of games last week specifically. Let’s put it this way: From the beginning of Kobe Bryant’s career up until last Wednesday’s game against the Hornets, Bryant had played a total of 1443 career games, including the playoffs, without ever recording 40+ points and 12+ assists in his career. So basically, it took him 1443 games to post his first career 40-point, 12-assist performance of his career. Do you know how man games it took him to reach those marks again after his first time doing it? One. That’s right. He completed the feat in consecutive games after not once doing it in his whole career. Kobe Bryant joins Michael Jordan as the only players to ever gain these statistics in two games in a row. Jordan did it in two games in 1989. Both of Jordan’s games doing it were triple doubles, while Bryant shot more efficiently.
  • Deron WilliamsYou may have read in last week’s edition of Stats of the Week that Stephen Curry became just the fifth player in NBA history to make at least 11 three-pointers in a single contest. Well… on Friday against the Wizards, Deron Williams became the sixth to do it, exactly a week after Curry did it, about a ten minute express train ride from where Curry did it. Although the game that Williams had wasn’t as impressive as Curry’s in terms of efficiency, it did set some records that Curry’s did not. For example, Deron Williams made 7 first quarter three-pointers, which easily is the most in the league this season. Curry added two more in the second quarter to bring his total to nine at the half, good enough to set an NBA record for threes in a half
  • Miami HeatThe basketball team in South Beach is playing on a wicked level right now, winning 18 consecutive games, which tops the Clippers for the longest win streak in the NBA this season. Under closer examination, the streak looks even more impressive. They have wins against Indiana, Memphis, Oklahoma City, New York, and both LA teams, with none of those games being very close at the end. They’re averaging a winning margin by 11.4 points during the streak. They have a FG% of an incredible 51.4% against their opponents during the streak, the best by any NBA team in their last 18 games. To add to that, their defense has almost been as good as their offense. They’re in the top third of the league in FG% defense among teams in their last 18 games, and are second in the league at forcing turnovers during that stretch. Who has been leading this streak for the Heat? Their stars. Lebron, Wade, and Bosh are shooting eFG’s of 64.6%, 55.4% and 54.3%, respectively, all very impressive.
  • Brandon JenningsAlthough Brandon Jennings has long been known as a shoot-first kind of PG (he only is averaging 5.7 APG with an assist rate of 28% in his career), that may be changing now that JJ Redick is on his team. Each of Jennings’ two highest single-game assist totals of his career and 4 of his top 13 assist games of his career have occurred since the beginning of March. This month he is averaging 13.2 assists per game, an assist rate of 45.8%, remarkably better than his career assist rate. His eFG% has also jumped this month (from a terrible 43.4% to an elite 60.8%), presumably as an effect from not needing to carry as much of the work load as he had been asked to handle before the Bucks made the blockbuster trade at the deadline to bring in Redick.
  • Viacheslav KravtslavThe big man off the bench for the Detroit Pistons hasn’t played much this season. Here are some ridiculous stats on his behalf, though. Among players to have ever shot at least 75% from the field in a season, Kravtslav currently has the most shot attempts. Yes, you read that right. Among players who have ever finished a season making at least three quarter of their field goal attempts, none have taken more than 17 shots in a season. Kravtsov currently has taken 38. If you look at the free throw aspect of the game, almost exactly the opposite is true. Kravtsov is shooting a remarkably terrible 22.6% of his free throws. The record for free throw attempts in a season where a player has shot worse than 23% is 31, by Garfield Smith of the 1971-72 Celtics team. Kravtsov is currently tied with him in FTA, shooting 31 so far this season himself. Basically what I’m saying is that, using very lenient rules for letting a player be qualified, Viacheslav Kravtslav is having the best shooting season ever from the field and the worst shooting season ever from the charity stripe, IN THE SAME SEASON.

You can follow Skyler Gilbert on twitter at @SkylerJGilbert. 

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NBA Stats of the Week: 2/26-3/4

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In a new segment I’ll be doing every Tuesday on here, I’ll pick out the noteworthy statistics that occurred around the league in the last week. It’s worth noting that many of the single-game historical references only go back to the 1985-1986 season (the limitations of the Basketball-Reference.com play index for game finding). For convenience, “all-time” may mean “since 85-86” in many cases in this article.

  • Stephen Curry: On Wednesday of last week, Curry scored 54 points in a road game against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden. This performance placed Curry third all-time among the top scoring performances by visiting players, putting him just behind Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan and just ahead of Lebron James. That’s not exactly the worst company to be in. Furthermore, Stephen Curry joins four other players as being the only players to make at least 11 3-pointers in a game. Of the five players who have accomplished that feat, Curry did not only did so on the fewest number of three-point attempts, but also recorded the most points and assists ever by someone that made that many threes in a ballgame. Unfortunately from Curry’s perspective, he may not view the game as better than the games the others players had, since Curry was the only player to lose in such a game. When you add in the game that Curry had the night before in Indiana where he shot 7-10 from beyond the arc, he became the eighth player ever to make at least 7 3-pointers in consecutive games. Curry had already achieved this feat earlier this season against Sacramento and Charlotte (7-12 and 8-13 shooting threes, respectively), making him the first player ever to score 7 threes in consecutive games more than once in his career. The game following the one against the Knicks, Curry took on the Celtics and was unable to follow up the feat. Only Mike Miller and George McCloud have scored 7 three-pointers in three straight games.
  • Lebron James: What hasn’t Lebron done? Whatever it is, he added to it a little more in the last week, especially in his win last Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings. In that game, Lebron set his new career high in assists with 16. His previous career high had been 15, set three times before he joined the Heat. Lebron’s achievements in that game go far beyond the highlights of his own career. They reach a historical level too. For instance, he joined just three other players in NBA history to record a game of at least 40 points and 16 assists. The entire month of February was historically good for Lebron James as well. Lebron set the record for PER in a single month, putting up a player efficiency rating of 38.34 in February. For a metric that sets 15.0 as it’s “average”, it was a pretty unbelievable series of games for James that month, to say the very least.
  • Joakim Noah: The center for the Bulls had a career game last Thursday, scoring 23 points, grabbing 21 boards, and blocking 11 shots. The 21 rebound performance was tied for Noah’s second most rebounds in any game of his career. When he blocked eleven shots that night, it set his personal best for blocked shots in a game. Noah’s performance put him along side Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, and Shawn Bradley as players who have had 20 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 blocked shots in a game.
  • Chandler Parsons: Parsons had a career night on Sunday, when he scored 32 points on 12-13 shooting from the field against the Mavericks. Parsons is the first player in over three seasons to score at least that many points on 92% shooting or better.  He joins a list of 15 players to have ever done that since the 1985-86 season.
  • Amir Johnson: Johnson had a 23 point, 15-rebound performance off the bench for the Raptors on Monday. What’s even more impressive is that he didn’t miss a single field goal attempt. 49 players have had a game of at least 23-15 as a reserve. Amir Johnson is the only one of these 49 players that didn’t miss a shot. Unfortunately for Johnson, the spectacular performance came in a loss to the Warriors.
  • Luke Walton: On a less impressive (but still a little bit impressive) statistic from the last week, Luke Walton tallied 12 assists and 0 rebounds against the Knicks on Tuesday. Walton is the one of two non-guards to ever do this (the other being George Hill). As a sidenote, Luke Walton scored 2 points and Grant Hill scored 31 points. In case we’re still short on Luke Walton love, here is my Luke Skywalton photoshop.

LukeSkywalton

You can follow me on twitter at @SkylerJGilbert.

GOTW Preview: Miami Heat @ Los Angeles Lakers

A day after Lebron games scored his 20,000th career point, TNT airs a game that many people circled on their calender when the schedules were released last summer. Ever since the Lakers traded for Dwight Howard, this was the dream final that everyone envisioned. The two teams in this match-up, the Heat and the Lakers have between 5 and 8 stars between them (depending on how you view Pau, Nash, and Ray Allen). And be honest. When it comes to NBA 2k13, these are the two teams that you hate facing. When you join an online match-up and you end up facing the Lakers or the Heat, you either quit out of the game, or at least contemplate it. Talent-wise, it doesn’t get better. One of these squads has the top scorer of the last decade, the top defender of the last decade, the top passer of the last decade, the top perimeter defender of the last decade, and the most-skilled post big-man of the last decade. The other team has perhaps the greatest athlete ever to play in the NBA, a shooting guard that has been toe-to-toe with Kobe and before this season had actually been statistically better, the best shooter of all-time and a top-3 power forward in the NBA today. This match-up may have more stars than have ever been on a court in an NBA game in the entire history of the league.

It has not been as easy for either of these teams this season as one would have expected before the season, especially the Lakers. The Los Angeles Lakers (17-21) have struggled immensely this season, with drama following their every move. First it was losing their first three games, then news that Nash had broken his leg, then the firing of the head coach. Phil Jackson was supposed to be the “savior”, to come back from retirement and reunite with Kobe and lead the team to their true potential. Mitch Kupchek and Jerry/Jim Buss shocked the NBA world when they chose Mike D’Antoni instead. They’ve had a very bumpy ride on the journey they call their season with Pau Gasol trade rumors clearly impacting his play, Kobe’s off-ball defense woes, and injuries sidelining Steve Nash and Steve Blake for extensive periods of time. Just earlier this month, the Lakers endured a freak game that injured their top three big men in minutes, including Jordan Hill for the whole season. They take a two-game win streak into tonight’s game against Miami, hoping to build on wins versus the Cavs and the Bucks.

The Miami Heat (25-12) lead the Eastern Conference, but that isn’t enough for the lofty expectations of their fans. Rebounding issues have highlighted the reason that they’ve stumbled of late. In their last eleven games, the Heat have only won three of them in regulation and have only out-rebounded their opponent in two of those last eleven games, a series of games that includes the Heat getting beaten down on the boards by Chicago (48-28), Indiana (55-36), and Utah (40-23). They’ll need to be sharp on the boards against a Lakers squad that presents two 7-footers.

Injuries:

  • Dwight Howard – Probable. Dwight is all but a sure thing to play after coming back from a shoulder injury on Sunday against the Cavaliers. In two games since he’s returned, Dwight has averaged 26.5 PPG, 15 RPG, 79% from the field and 2.5 BPG. Some say that he’s finally found his form for the first time since he’s moved across the country.
  • Pau Gasol – Probable. A concussion has taken away the last five games from Gasol, but ESPNLA is reporting that team doctors have cleared him this morning and he’ll be good to go tonight. However, there are conflicting reports as to whether Gasol will be comng
  • Shane Battier – Probable. Battier missed two games with a hamstring injury but returned against the Warriors last night, playing 10 minutes (well below his season average of 24.6 MPG). Since it’s the second game of a back-to-back, it isn’t out of the question for Battier to miss this one for precautionary measures.

What to Expect:

One of the places that the Lakers have struggled, and it’s been discussed heavily, is transition defense. That plays directly into the Heat strengths. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash need to commit themselves to get back on defense to prevent the team that does this and this from doing those things. I think it can also be expected for the stars to play well… or at least heave a lot of shots. They’re on ESPN, in the marquee match-up of the entire season. You can expect players like Kobe, Dwight, and Wade to try to assert themselves early and make a statement. Lastly, it’s important to look for who Kobe Bryant is guarding early in the game. In the past against the Heat, the Lakers have stuck Bryant on Wade, Metta on Lebron, and Bynum (now Howard) on Bosh. Lately, however, their defensive philosophy has changed a bit due to Kobe’s struggles with off-ball defense. He’s been guarding the main ball handler for the majority of games in the last week or so. If that trend should continue, it would put Kobe on Lebron James, something that he may not be able to handle. Honestly, I’d expect the trend to end and we’ll have a long night watching Dwyane Wade run around screens, stranding Kobe across the court.

The X-Factor:

On his 31st birthday, Dwyane Wade’s going to need a big day. When D-Wade scores at least 18 points this season, the Heat are 16-4, as compared to 9-8 when he doesn’t tally that many. Wade’s just got to be active in many facets of the game tonight. From time-to-time he seems a bit lackadaisical out there, with little energy. When he plays the way that he’s capable, Dwyane Wade is a top-5 player in the league today and a huge difference maker.

The Predictions:

Some of the other contributors for Hoop City Blog assisted me with this section and gave me their picks for the game.

  • Skyler (twitter @skylerjgilbert) – I think the Lakers are going to come out strong and and give themselves a fighting chance. It wouldn’t surprise me if Kobe came out looking to be a facilitator. In the end, I think the Hear are just too much for LA, however. Lebron James has at least 20 points in all but one game this year and is likely to win another most valuable player award. The Lakers will give up too many fast break points down the stretch. MIA 111, LAL 105.
  • Sam (twitter @sam_vecenie) – My prediction for tonight is a Lakers win. The Heat just got up for a somewhat big game against the Warriors last night and might be feeling the effects of a back-to-back tonight. This game will be defined by whether or not Dwight Howard is able to take over. If he is able to assert his will in the middle, the Lakers should win. If not, they will lose. I think he plays well tonight, the Lakers win, and chaos ensues as fans continue to believe the Lakers are back, but bloggers continue to laugh at their inherent flaws. 97-95 Lakers.
  • Quentin (twitter @qhaynes22) – MIA 104, LAL 96. LeBron has a huge game, Kobe had a solid game, but Howard keeps LAL in it with a 20-20 game before Wade and Bosh help MIA pull out the W.

Skyler Gilbert is a contributor for Hoop City Blog. He’d like to thank 82games.com, hoopdata.com, and basketball-reference.com for helping him compile the statistics used in the article. You can follow him at @skylerjgilbert. Also, it’s weird for him to be referring to himself in the 3rd person so he’s going to conclude this article.