Thoughts After Game Four: The Dallas Mavericks Story

Posted on June 16, 2006 by

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This just in – the Mavericks did not play well in Game Four.  Even in a bad performance, though, someone usually plays well.  For the Mavericks, that someone was Adrian Griffin.

There was one sequence in the first quarter that I think captures the productivity story of Adrian Griffin and the Mavericks. With 3:40 left in the first quarter and the Mavericks trailing by one point, Alonzo Mourning missed a shot.  Dirk Nowitzki grabbed the defensive rebound.  The ball went to Jerry Stackhouse who missed a jumper.  Adrian Griffin grabbed the rebound.  The ball went to Jason Terry who missed a lay-up. Stackhouse grabbed the rebound but missed a three point shot.  Griffin grabbed the rebound.  The ball went to Terry who missed a three point shot.  Griffin grabbed the rebound.  Terry then missed another jumper and this time Alonzo Mourning grabbed the rebound.

Summarizing that one possession:

The Mavericks scored no points.

Stackhouse grabbed one rebound but missed two shots.

Terry missed three shots.

Griffin grabbed three rebounds.

The team did very badly, but not because of Adrian Griffin.  During this sequence ABC’s announcer Mike Breen referred to Griffin as Mr. Intangible.  Intangible means “incapable of being realized or defined.”  Offensive rebounds, though, are tangible events.  So it not clear how what Griffin did could be thought of as “intangible.”

Wait, it can be made clear.  Listening to the broadcast the focus of the announcers – and this should not surprise those who have read our book – was on scoring.  As we note in the book, scoring is often the only tangible event people notice, and hence all other actions – even those recorded in the box score – are labeled as “intangible.”

To illustrate, Hubie Brown argued that Terry and Stackhouse played well.  These two did combine for 33 points, but took 36 shots.  The pair shot 20% from three point range (2 of 10) and only scored 0.83 points per field goal attempt.  Average for an NBA player is 0.98 points per field goal attempt.  Since neither Terry nor Stackhouse offered much more to the Mavericks beyond scoring – and the scoring offered was produced inefficiently — it is not surprising that neither posted an above average Win Score.

A Brief Interruption: For those who do not know what Win Score is, please go here.  And please remember, this is just a simple model we created to look at performance in a game quickly. Win Score is not the same as Wins Produced, the more complex algorithm we explain in the book.  Now back to our story.

What about Griffin?  With 4:24 left in the first quarter Griffin entered the game.  The score was 21-18 with the Heat in the lead.  By the time the quarter ended the Heat had scored nine points and the Mavericks seven.  So with Griffin on the floor the Mavericks lost two points.  But looking at what happened, Griffin played very well.  As noted, in one possession he grabbed three offensive rebounds.  Unfortunately his teammates missed all four shots in the possession.

Should Griffin’s value be reduced because his teammates failed to convert on any of the shots Griffin provided?  Ah, the beauty of our approach.  Griffin is credited for his offensive rebounds.  The value of his teammates is reduced for their missed shots.  In a possession that yielded no points, we see that not all players on the floor were equal in value.  Griffin was very good.  Unfortunately, the Mavericks could not capitalize because on that one possession, Griffin’s teammates were not so good.

In the time Griffin was on the floor at the end of the first quarter he grabbed three rebounds, made his only shot, and committed a personal foul.  His per-minute Win Score in that time was 0.795. For the remainder of the game his per-minute Win Score was still above average.  Unfortunately the same cannot be said for his teammates.  No other Maverick was above average in Game Four.

Now this was not the case at halftime of the game.  In the first half Erick Dampier, DeSagana Diop, and even Jerry Stackhouse were all like Adrian Griffin – at least in the sense that all were above average in productivity.  The second half, though, did not go so well for any of the Mavericks (except Griffin).  And since the second half began with the team already down by ten, their performance in quarters three and four did not help.

Of course, going forward that may not matter.  If the Heat do not win Game Five, then they will have to win twice in Dallas.  Dallas knows this, Miami knows this.  So Dallas can erase the memory of Game Four by taking Sunday’s game.  If that happens, the title will probably go to Dallas.  If not, Miami still has to win one game in Dallas.  And hopefully we have not all forgotten what happened the last time the Heat tried to win a game in the Finals in Texas.

— DJ