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Just The Sports: Eastern Conference Playoff Breakdown (Detroit vs. Cleveland)

Just The Sports

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Eastern Conference Playoff Breakdown (Detroit vs. Cleveland)

Detroit (1) vs. Cleveland (4)

While I did go 7-1 in my playoff predictions, there is still no reason to commend myself. Anyone who had the common sense to have picked the eight teams with home-court advantage in the playoffs would have gone 8-0. Still, there is something to be said for looking at statistical data to predict how a team will fare in a playoff series.

Having said that, the one series I did get wrong was the one involving Cleveland and Washington. I predicted Washington would win in seven, but it was not meant to be. Cleveland ended up winning in six games in dramatic fashion as Damon Jones came off the bench to hit the game-winning and series-clinching shot. This came seconds after Arenas missed two free throws, which would have gone a long way in ensuring a seventh game. So where did I go wrong in predicting Washington would win? Did Cleveland do something different in the playoffs compared to how the team performed in the playoffs?

The simple answer is yes, but it was not something good. By all statistical accounts, Cleveland played worse than Washington and probably should have lost the playoff series. The Cavaliers were outscored per 100 possessions by five points, 109-114. They did out-produce the Washington Wizards at three positions, but the overall net PER advantage was in the Washington Wizards's favor. All evidence would seem to indicate that Arenas's missed free throws and Jones's eventual game winning shot were vastly more important than may have been thought. Not only did that sequence of events combine to give Cleveland the series win, but it kept them from playing the extra possessions that probably would have given Washington the advantage.

Even though Cleveland managed to eke out a win against Washington, if the team plays the same way against Detroit, the series will be over in four or five games. Actually, if they play exactly the way they played in the regular season, the series will be over in the same length of time.

Detroit Offense: 111 points per 100 possessions
Cleveland Defense: 106 points per 100 possessions

Cleveland Offense: 108 points per 100 possessions
Detroit Defense: 103 points per 100 possessions

Detroit has a decided advantage when it comes down to which team plays more efficiently. When it comes down to how and where the two teams like to score their points, the outlook gets no rosier for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Detroit Jump Shot Offense: 52.1 pts
Cleveland Jump Shot Defense: 45.9 pts

Detroit Close Offense: 17.5 pts
Cleveland Close Defense: 24.3 pts

Detroit Dunk Offense: 8.5 pts
Cleveland Dunk Defense: 6.2 pts

Detroit Tips Offense: 1.6 pts
Cleveland Tips Defense: 1.2 pts

The Pistons score six more points than the Cavaliers give up so it will be imperative that Cleveland plays superb perimeter defense. Otherwise, they have no shot of winning because they do not play good defense in any other area. So playing against an offensively efficient team such as Detroit will probably expose the holes in Cleveland's defense even further.

If Detroit chooses, they can take advantage of Cleveland's poor interior defense, but only if they want to.

Cleveland Jump Shot Offense: 40.6 pts
Detroit Jump Shot Defense: 39.7 pts

Cleveland Close Offense: 24.3 pts
Detroit Close Defense: 26.3 pts

Cleveland Dunk Offense: 7.7 pts
Detroit Dunk Defense: 7.5 pts

Cleveland Tips Offense: 1.2 pts
Detroit Tips Defense: 1.7 pts

Detroit's defense is tailor-made for Cleveland's offense. Even if Cleveland does everything the way they usually do on offense, there is a strong possibility they will be blown out.

An interesting observation that should be made is Detroit's interior defense is not as great as some may think, calling into question the choice of Ben Wallace for NBA's defensive player of the year.

Perhaps things will get better for Cleveland once we look at the net production it gets from its players, but don't count on it.

Point Guard: Having Chauncey Billups running the point is a big advantage for any team and it shows in the net PER of Detroit's point guards. They outproduce Cleveland's point guards significantly (+9.2 to -9.6). Advantage: Detroit

Shooting Guard: Detroit also has better shooting guards than Cleveland (+0.2 to -5.0). Advantage: Detroit

Small Forward: What Detroit does not have is better production from its small forwards than Cleveland, thanks in large part to Cleveland having LeBron James on the team (+12.3 to +2.7). Advantage: Cleveland

Power Forward: Rasheed Wallace leads the way for Detroit, giving the team a slight edge over Cleveland's power forwards (+1.1 to -0.2). Advantage: Detroit

Center: Ben Wallace doesn't score all that much or that consistently and it shows. Cleveland wins this position battle, too (+6.9 to +2.3). Advantage: Cleveland

Prediction: Detroit wins the series in five or six games.


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