Dwyane Wade’s Record Tying Night

Posted on May 27, 2006 by

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Last night the Pistons pulled even with the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals. Why were the Heat unable to take a commanding 2-0 lead in this series? According to the Associated Press, we know who not to blame. The second paragraph of the AP story detailing the game reads as follows:

“Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal were spectacular for the Miami Heat.”

If we look at the box score we see some evidence to support the claim that Wade was spectacular. Wade led all scorers in the game with 32 points. He was also efficient, hitting all of his shots from the free throw line. From the field he made 11 of 20 shots for a field goal percentage of 55%. When you factor in his 50% shooting from beyond the arc, it truly looks like Wade was spectacular.

Unfortunately there is more to the game than scoring. If we delve deeper into box score we see the number 9. Is the 9 associated with rebounds, assists, or steals? If it was, that would be very good. The column heading in the box score indicates, though, that 9 is the number of turnovers Wade committed in the game. And that is very, very bad. If one goes to the very bottom of the AP article you see a note that Wade tied a franchise playoff record for turnovers in the game.

Perhaps if we think about football for a moment it will clarify why turnovers in basketball are such a problem. Imagine a quarterback throwing for both 300 yards and four interceptions in one game. Although 300 yards passing is good, most football fans would know that four interceptions in a game are not helping a team’s cause. Interceptions waste possessions. Since possessions in a game are finite, wasting these precious resources does not help a team win. I think football fans understand interceptions and would be surprised if a recap of the game noted the four interceptions as an after-thought at the end of the article.

The role turnovers play in determining outcomes is similar in basketball. Teams win in basketball because they are able to utilize their possessions more efficiently than their opponent. When a player turns the ball over, a team is not using possessions efficiently and hence the probability of losing increases.

Does all this mean Wade played poorly last night? If we look at Win Score, which incorporates every number associated with Wade in the box score, we see that overall he was an above average performer. Still, a fair and balanced treatment of his performance would note both the good and the bad. The scoring of Wade clearly helped the Heat stay in the game. The turnovers, though, did not help. Given the importance of turnovers, perhaps the story re-capping the game should have started where the contest actually ended – Wade turning the ball over one last time in his record-tying night.

– DJ