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Dumpy's Statistical Analysis -Cleveland and Philly

New Jersey at Cleveland, December 9, 2005
Score: New Jersey 109, Cleveland 100

Philadelphia at New Jersey, December 10, 2005
Score: Philadephia 107, New Jersey 95

Welcome to a special double edition of Dumpy’s Statistical Analysis. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the back-to-back Cleveland and Philadephia games from a purely statistical perspective, in addition to a few other questions that have been on my mind recently. If you’ve read the earlier analyses, you know how this works, so let’s get started:

New Jersey at Cleveland:

Player | Minutes Played | +/- Rating
Vince Carter | 44.2 | +14
Jason Kidd | 38.7 | +9
Cliff Robinson | 36.9 | +8
Nenad Krstic | 35.6 | +7
Richard Jefferson | 40.6 | +6

Jacque Vaughn 4.4 +3
Marc Jackson 12.4 +2
Scott Padgett 11.1 +1
Jeff McInnis 13.7 -1
Linton Johnson 2.3 -4

Philadelphia at New Jersey:

Player | Minutes Played | +/- Rating
Cliff Robinson | 35.5 | -3
Nenad Krstic | 29.7 | -5
Jason Kidd | 42.6 | -6
Richard Jefferson | 44.3 | -6
Vince Carter | 40.0 | -11

Linton Johnson | 0.6 | -2
Jacque Vaughn | 16.7 | -3
Scott Padgett | 11.6 | -6
Marc Jackson | 9.3 | -8
Jeff McInnis | 9.8 | -10

Combined Totals:

Player | Minutes Played | +/- Rating
Cliff Robinson | 72.4 | +5
Vince Carter | 84.2 | +3
Jason Kidd | 81.3 | +3
Nenad Krstic | 65.3 | +2
Richard Jefferson | 84.9 | +0

Jacque Vaughn | 21.1 | +0
Scott Padgett | 22.7 | -5
Marc Jackson | 21.7 | -6
Linton Johnson | 2.9 | -6
Jeff McInnis | 23.5 | -11

Random Comments:

(1) To clear up any confusion, I group the starters together at the top of these charts, followed by the reserves, and sort in descending order of +/-.
(2) Has anyone seen a milk bottle with the face of Lamond Murray or Zoran Planinic on it? Every other active member of the team played in each of the two games, including Linton Johnson, yet Murray and Planinic failed to check in even once. Maybe they’re being shopped in a trade. Come to think of it, maybe they’re not being shopped in a trade.
(3) The Nets’ rotation has clearly been redefined. Jeff McInnis no longer receives the most minutes of the reserve each game. Instead, playing time has been split very evenly between McInnis, Vaughn, Padgett, and Jackson. It will be interesting to see if this continues when Jason Collins returns.
(4) Of the four reserves that receive significant minutes, McInnis earned the lowest +/- rating in each game. Jacque Vaughn earned the highest in each.

We’ve written enough about McInnis recently. Let’s take a closer look at Vaughn. Of his 21 minutes on the court this weekend, nearly 17 were against the Sixers. By far, the two largest stints on the court for Vaughn were at the start of the second quarter (5.2 minutes) and for the final 9.7 minutes of the game, when he defended Iverson. In fact, in the fourth quarter, he was apparently inserted into the game specifically to defend Iverson; Krstic did not play at all during the final 12 minutes despite being whistled for just one foul. That’s unusual in itself; this was the first game all season that Nenad had less than 2 fouls, and one of only three games that he was called for less than four fouls (the Nets were 1-1 in the two games he was whistled twice). So Nenad watches his fouls for a change, and is rewarded with a prime seat from the bench. Go figure.

But we’re discussing Jacque Vaughn, and whether he was able to contain Allan Iverson on Saturday night. When it comes to Iverson, the concept of "containment" is a little silly to begin with. In this game, for instance, AI went off for 42 points on 15-27 shooting, scoring at least 7 points in each quarter.

So how did Vaughn do?
Minutes | Iverson Points | Iverson FG | Iverson Assists | Iverson Turnovers
Vaughn In | 16.1 | 16 | 5 for 10 | 4 | 2
Vaughn Out | 31.3 | 26 | 10 for 17 | 8 | 4

Note that Vaughn’s minutes in this chart is slightly less than his total for the game, as Iverson left the court for a few seconds at the end of the contest.

Doesn’t look like Vaughn was much of an improvement, overall, but let’s isolate Vaughn versus Iverson in just the fourth quarter:

Minutes | Iverson | Points | Iverson FG | Iverson Assists | Iverson Turnovers
Vaughn In | 9.1 3 | 1 for 4 | 3 | 0

Not bad. Playing almost exclusively with Kidd, Carter, Jefferson, and Robinson, Vaughn earned a +3 in the fourth quarter.


Unit | Minutes | +/- Rating
Starters at Cleveland | 32.6 | +10
Starters v. Philadelphia | 19.6 | +3

The starters continue to play well as a unit. In my last piece, I showed that Cliff Robinson has been doing as good a job with the starters as has Jason Collins. Here’s an update:

Unit | Minutes | +/- Rating | W-L | eFG% | eFGA%
Starters plus Collins | 199 | +47 | 8-4 | .520 | .459
Starters plus Robinson | 127 | +44 | 7-3 | .528 | .475

Let me quickly explain these numbers once more. W-L represents the number of games that the Nets outscored their opponents when that unit was in the game. In other words, the Nets used the Four Starters + Robinson combination in ten different games, and the unit scored more than the opposition in seven of those games. It’s a way to measure consistency underlying the +/- ratings. eFG% represents the effective field goal percentage of the unit, which is calculated just like the normal filed goal percentage, except that successful three-point attempts are given more weight. eFGA% is simply the effective field goal percentage of the opposition when the unit is on the floor together.

Since we last checked in, although the Nets’ offense has started to click with Robinson in the starting lineup, the team defense when Robinson is in the game has suffered a bit. Much of this is due to the hot-shooting Sixers, although I note that Philly hit just nine lay-ups and one dunk in the game, so perhaps Robinson wasn’t at fault. Incidentally, Cleveland hit a similar nine lay-ups and four dunks in their game against the nets, although they accomplished that in 11 more shots from underneath (!).

Just for comparison:

Unit | Minutes | +/- Rating | W-L | eFG% | eFGA%

Starters plus Jackson | 23 | +8 | 3-3 | .511 | .512
Starters plus Padgett | 18 | -15 | 1-2 | .391 | .645

Although there have been very limited opportunities for Jackson and Padgett to play with the starting four, you can see how the defense has suffered. Just take a look at the eFGA% of each of those combinations. This is just one more way to measure the effectiveness of Collins and Robinson on team defense—or the ineffectiveness of Jackson and Padgett, depending on your point of view.

Here’s one more comparison, just for fun:

Unit | Minutes +/-Rating | W-L | eFG% | eFGA%

Detroit Piston Starters | 419 | +118 | 15-3 | .530 | .464

Look at that! The starting Pistons have a similar eFG% and eFGA% as the Nets with Collins in the lineup! Of course, they’ve played twice as many minutes as the Collins unit, which is one reason why the team has been so successful.

One question is how in the world the unit with Jackson could have earned a +8 rating despite nearly identical eFG% and eFGA%? The answer mostly lies in free throw attempts: that unit had seven more free throw attempts than the opposition in just 23 minutes, an incredible ratio. To put this to scale, if this unit had played together as much as the Collins unit, at that pace they would have received 61 more free throw attempts than the opposition. In comparison, the Collins unit actually received nine more free throws than the opposition (which Collins probably missed). For a further comparison, the Detroit starters have shot 61 more free throws than the opposition in their 419 minutes together. The unit with Padgett had two fewer free throw attempts than the opposition when it was in the game, and grabbed fewer rebounds per opportunity than the other combinations. It’s still early, but the signs have not been good for Padgett.

Recently a reader asked about my statement that the Nets’ starters have played well together, but often do not play many minutes together as a unit in a particular game. I think I estimated that they’ve averaged around 15-18 minutes together per game. For the record, here are the minutes that the starting unit has played together in each of the last twelve games:

Opponent | Date | Minutes Together | Result
Seattle | November 15 | 19.7 | Win
Washington | November 19 | 17.2 | Win
Golden State | November 21 | 11.6 | Loss
Sacramento | November 23 | 19.7 | Loss
Phoenix | November 25 | 11.4 | Loss
Los Angeles | November 27 | 14.0 | Win
Denver | November 28 | 11.7 | Win
Detroit | November 30 | 25.3 | Loss
Toronto | December 3 | 11.1 | Loss
Charlotte | December 7 | 29.5 | Win
Cleveland | December 9 | 32.6 | Win
Philadelphia | December 10 | 19.6 | Loss

First, let me point out that in some cases, the "starting unit" included Jason Collins, and in other games it included Cliff Robinson.

Let’s take a quick look. In the last twelve games, the Nets have had a record of 6-6. In those games, the starting unit has played an average of 18.6 minutes together. In games where the starting unit has played more than 25 minutes together, the team has a record of 2-1. In games where the starting unit has played less than 12 minutes together, the Nets had a record of 1-3 (in all cases, the starting unit played at least 11 minutes together on the court). In games where the starting unit played between 14-20 minutes together, the Nets had a record of 3-2. Not exactly conclusive evidence, but there certainly appears to be a positive correlation between the number of minutes the starters play together and the probability of victory.

So why haven’t the Net starters played more together? There can be any number of answers. In some instances, various Nets—most notably Krstic and Collins—have been plagued by foul trouble, especially early in the game. In other instances, Nets such as Carter and Collins have suffered minor injuries and have had to leave the game either temporarily or permanently. Finally, either by design or as a result of the first two points, Jeff McInnis received 30 minutes or more on several occasions. On that point, it’s possible that it is not so much the playing time of the Nets’ starting unit that most effects the probability of victory, but the playing time of McInnis. In other words, perhaps the Nets have a higher winning percentage when McInnis plays less, and it just so happens that this usually occurs when the Nets’ starting unit plays large minutes together. Perhaps we’ll look at this next time.