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How Well Do The Heat, Thunder, Spurs, and Nuggets Play Over The Course Of A Game?


Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, I looked at how some of the elite teams in the East stack up against the Heat during the course of a game.  Today, I do the same for the elite teams in the West.  To provide some background information, one way the NBA categorizes its data is by half (and overtime too).  By doing a cross-team comparison by half, it provides a better perspective on whether a team starts out fast or slow, and if they finish fast or slow.  Similarly, it also illustrates the effectiveness of teams during crunch time (overtime) — which I think is a good indicator of how effective a team will be during the playoffs.

Offensive Rating: Points Scored Per 100 Possessions

Defensive Rating: Points Conceded Per 100 Possessions

Net Rating: Point Differential Per 100 Possessions

The Oklahoma City Thunder are stone-cold killers in the first halves of games.  They have a net rating that clearly outstrips the Heat, Spurs, and Nuggets.  But then in the second half, they have the worst net rating of any of the four teams (a paltry 3.6 point differential per 100 possessions).  It is good to know that when overtime comes around, the Thunder can really turn it up, but it is still a little worrying that they drop so much through the course of a game.

The Heat on the other hand are the exact opposite — they start out relatively badly, and then play much better as the game goes on (especially in overtime).  Part of the reason the Heat have a relatively bad net rating in the beginning of games is that their first half defense is pretty terrible.

Both the Spurs and the Nuggets do not change that much over the course of the game.  The two teams have the same offensive rating for each half, though the Spurs have a better defense than the Nuggets — and thus a better net rating.  One interesting thing is that the Spurs have an amazing defensive rating in overtime (they concede around 75 points per 100 possessions)…but they also have a terrible offensive rating in overtime (they score around 89 points per 100 possessions).

Rebound Percentage: The percentage of the total rebounds a team garners.

There’s nothing really interesting here, except that Miami’s huge increase in rebound percentage is not mimicked by any other teams.  I still have no idea why Miami rebounds so well in overtime and not in the first or second half of games (maybe it is a sample size problem?)

True Shooting Percentage: A more accurate way of measuring how good a shooter is.

This, combined with the other graphs, illustrates why the Thunder are the team to beat in the West, and why the Heat and Thunder are the best teams in the NBA.  Both the Heat and the Thunder have the two highest TS% — San Antonio is in the mix, but they are just terrible offensively in overtime.  Meanwhile, the Heat and Thunder are ridiculously efficient in overtime, partly because they can give the ball to superstars like LeBron and Durant, who can pretty much get an open look from anywhere on the court.  This is what makes the Heat and Thunder better over teams like San Antonio and Denver — the Spurs and Nuggets lack a crunch time player that they can give the ball to and ask to create.  Yes, the Spurs have Tony Parker and/or Tim Duncan.  Yes, the Nuggets have…Ty Lawson (I guess?).  But as good as Parker and Duncan are, LeBron and Durant are simply head and shoulders above them.