Thoughts After Game Four: The Miami Heat Story

Posted on June 16, 2006 by

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The series is now tied and the story is that NBA Finals have only just begun. I am not sure I buy that story.  Yes, Miami is playing better and not coincidently, the Mavericks are playing worse.  The Mavericks, though, are still in the best position to win this series. Looking at the schedule Miami still has to win a game in Dallas to take the title.  If Miami wins Game Five, then it only needs one win in Dallas.  If the Miami loses Game Five, then it has to do what the Pistons failed to do last year: Win two games on the road to close out the finals.  So the pressure is on Miami to win on Sunday.

So that is the situation looking forward. Let’s talk about Game Four. 

The big news is that Shaq finally offered a fair impersonation of Shaq.  In 30 minutes he shot 75% from the field and grabbed 13 rebounds.  After seven turnovers in Game Three, he only lost the ball three times in Game Three.  With a per-minute Win Score of 0.483, he was easily above average (the average NBA center posts a per-minute Win Score of 0.225). In sum, Shaq was back. 

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.

Dwyane Wade also played extremely well, although not quite as good as he was in Game Three.  Still, with a per-minute Win Score of 0.295 – average for a shooting guard is 0.128 – Wade was very good. 

But the most productive player, relative to the average at his position, was James Posey.  Posey had a per-minute Win Score of 0.500.  Average for a small forward is 0.152.  Why was Posey so productive? Posey played 26 minutes, hit on 56% of his field goal attempts, and grabbed 10 rebounds.  

Before moving on to the Mavericks one more player deserves to be mentioned.  Alonzo Mourning only played 13 minutes, but in this brief time grabbed six rebounds, blocked three shots, and had a per-minute Win Score of 0.462.  In sum, the center position for the Heat was extremely productive in Game Three. 

Now who was not productive on the Heat?  That answer to that question is everyone else.  Let me be specific.  Everyone else on the Heat was below average.  Antoine Walker was the closest to being average, but still fell short.  For those keeping score, Walker had a negative Win Score in Game One, a positive Win Score (yet still below average in Game Two), a negative Win Score in Game Three, and a positive Win Score in Game Four.  Will this pattern hold for Game Five?  Well, one shouldn’t draw inferences from a sample of four games.  If we look at Walker’s entire career, though, we should not expect him to be above average in the next game.  Now that does not mean Walker has never had an above average game in his career.  But if we look at the typical performance Walker offers, it is typically below average and thus, that is what we should expect to happen going forward. 

Of course one might ask if the Heat have a better option than Walker. Walker appears to be splitting time at small forward and power forward. At small forward the Heat have Posey.  Posey was great in Game Four, although in the regular season Posey was only slightly more productive than Walker.  At power forward the Heat have Udonis Haslem, who was much more productive than Walker in the regular season, but has played very badly in the Finals.  Given that, is it too late to make a trade? Or , can the Heat call in sick for a few weeks, draft a new power forward at the end of this month, and then finish the Finals in July? Barring those solutions, I guess the best Pat Riley can do is hope Walker or Haslem play better.  Then again, if Shaq is going to be Shaq, and Wade is going to impersonate Michael Jordan, maybe it doesn’t matter.

— DJ