When it comes to basketball -- for better or for worse -- I've found myself to be a stats guy. Believe it or not, I'm not much of a math wiz (Wizard reference I know), but I believe that basketball is a game of numbers and trends. Teams can only get better when they analyze their numbers in context of how they play. To see what things the Washington need to do in order to beat the Raptors, let's take a look at some regular and more complex numbers to figure this series out, beyond the eye test.
Wizards and Raptors 2014-15 Basic Scoring, Four Factors, Ratings, and Pace Numbers
First, let's take a look at this smorgasbord of stat numbers and then I'll explain what this tells us.
|BASIC STATS||OFFENSE FOUR FACTORS||DEFENSE FOUR FACTORS||RATING & PACE|
|PPG Scored||PPG Allowed||eFG%||TOV%||ORB%||FT/FGA||eFG%||TOV%||DRB%||FT/FGA||O RTG||D RTG||PACE|
|Wizards||98.5 (17)||97.8 (10)||49.9% (14)||14.0% (23)||24.9% (15)||19.2% (23)||48.1% (5)||12.9% (19)||77.3% (3)||21.0 (18)||103.7 (22)||103.0 (5)||93.7 (18)|
|Raptors||104.0 (4)||100.9 (19)||50.8% (8)||12.0% (4)||25.6% (11)||23.2% (4)||50.6% (24)||13.4% (13)||73.3% (25)||20.8% (16)||111.0 (4)||107.7 (25)||92.8 (21)|
Statistics from Basketball-Reference. Numbers in parentheses are where the team ranks within the NBA. To learn where all these funky Four Factors percentages are coming from, click here.
What does this say about the Wizards? - From the Four Factors numbers, we can see that the Wizards are a mediocre team offensively at best. They are quite poor at taking care of the basketball and getting to the free throw line given the poor TOV% and FT/FGA figures. And though the Wizards made 46.2 percent of their shots (sixth in the NBA), their effective field goal percentage was just around the league average. That was because they were 27th in three-point shot attempts though they were ninth in percentage.
Defensively, the Wizards have been one of the NBA's best, where they don't give opponents easy shots. In fact, their defensive field goal percentage was 43.3 percent, second best in the NBA. They also were one of the best defensive rebounding teams that played a major part in their Top-5 defensive rating.
From their stats, you can infer that the Wizards were a team that relied heavily on defense to win games. Meanwhile, the offense would score just enough to save the day if they won.
What does this say about the Raptors? - Don't let Toronto's high scoring average fool you about pace. Their average pace was slower than the Wizards'! That said, they can score so many points because they ranked in the Top 10 in both effective field goal percentage and the FT/FGA factor. They were able to achieve those high rankings by ending up eighth in three-point shots made, and fourth in free throws made. Ultimately, when a team makes a lot of shots and doesn't turn the ball over much, that results in their Top-4 offensive rating.
On the defensive end, the Raptors coincidentally happen to be among the NBA's worst in the same two Four Factors numbers where the Wizards excelled: effective field goal and defensive rebounding percentage. Since they ranked in the bottom half of the league in three of the Defensive Four Factors, it's not a surprise why they were 25th in defensive rating.
Therefore, if you never saw the Raptors play and saw only these numbers, this team likes to control the pace, but they are very efficient scoring the basketball and getting to the free throw line. Given that their team defense is poor, the Raptors will rely more on their offense to win games and this series.
Wizards vs. Raptors Four Factors, Ratings, and Pace Numbers, Head-to-Head
Now that we saw how the Wizards and Raptors played for an entire season, let's take a look at how they performed head-to-head in the regular season:
|WIZARDS OFFENSE FOUR FACTORS||RAPTORS OFFENSE FOUR FACTORS||RATING & PACE|
|Date||RESULT||eFG%||TOV%||ORB%||FT/FGA||eFG%||TOV%||ORB%||FT/FGA||O RTG||D RTG||PACE|
|31-Jan||L, 120-116 OT||53.20%||18.50%||30.00%||40.50%||56.30%||11.40%||17.60%||23.90%||111.2||115||94.5|
|SEASON SERIES AVERAGES||46.56%||15.13%||31.16%||25.51%||51.43%||12.41%||20.49%||27.46%||99.6||107|
Individual game statistics from Basketball-Reference. Statistics for season series averages from NBA.com/Stats.
As you might have expected -- when the Wizards lost all three of their regular season games against the Raptors -- the numbers favored Toronto. But in more detail, here's what else I noticed:
The Wizards consistently were better rebounding the basketball than the Raptors - Despite the final results, Washington won the rebounding battle each and every time.
All three games were played at a deliberate pace - The game with the highest pace was the January 31 overtime loss with 94.5, which isn't a Top-10 figure in pace. Since both teams play at a slower pace than most, expect more of the same in the postseason.
Turnovers are a concern for the Wizards, and they weren't forcing the Raptors to be sloppy with the basketball. With the exception of the first game on November 7, the Wizards had TOV% ratings that were worse than their season average -- and that rating is bad enough already.
The Wizards' effective field goal percentage was poor vs. the Raptors, but it wasn't because they weren't taking enough threes - That's something I found interesting. We are often frustrated that the Wiz Kids are efficient at making three-point shots, but they manage to take very few of them -- and they often end up taking long twos instead.
But during their three games against Toronto this season, the Wizards took a total of 64 threes and attempted no fewer than 19 each game. The only bad part about the three-pointers they attempted was that they didn't fall in, since they only made 18 of those 64 attempts, a paltry 28.1 percent. On the other hand, Toronto made 31 of their 74 three-point attempts, an efficient 41.9 percent. From looking at this, it just appears that the Wizards just happened to be colder than normal than the Raptors when they met and vice versa.
Therefore, the low effective field goal percentage vs. the Raptors is in large part because Washington wasn't feeling it from downtown.
What these team stats don't tell you: Individual contributions
More Wizards vs. Raptors analysis
Pierce at the 4 is the answer defensively
The Wizards finished up the season ranking fifth in defensive rating. But if they want to beat the Raptors, they'll need to stray from their scheme and use Paul Pierce at power forward.
More Wizards vs. Raptors analysis
To this point, we have just looked at team stats without regard to specific players' contributions. Now let's take a look at which Wizards and Raptors players who have done significantly better or worse than their season averages during the regular season series:
Notable Wizards players in the series
Bradley Beal played only one game vs. the Raptors - The only game Beal played against the Raptors was on January 31. He scored 26 points, made five of his ten three-point shots, and dished four assists.
Marcin Gortat played poorly to say the least - The Polish Hammer/Machine only scored 6.3 points on 38.9 percent shooting and grabbed 6.7 rebounds while playing all three games in the series. Both figures are well below his season averages of 12.2 points on 56.6 percent shooting and 8.7 rebounds.
On the other hand, Kris Humphries played very well - He only played in the first two games vs. Toronto. However, Humphries scored at least 10 points in each contest and grabbed 14 rebounds in the January 31 game. The Wizards can definitely use minutes from him in the playoffs
All three games were played before Ramon Sessions was traded to Washington - If there is a wrench the Wizards can throw the Raptors' way, it's that their backup point guard rotation will look very different. Andre Miller was on the roster and played all three games. Sessions and Will Bynum, the Wizards' newest backcourt additions will bring a change of pace that the Raptors haven't seen yet for themselves.
Notable Raptors players in the series
Lou freaking Williams - The Wizard Killer of Wizard Killers averaged 19.7 points on 48.8 percent shooting in the series. He's averaging 15.5 points for the season, but it just seems that this guy has D.C.'s number, no matter what team he's playing on.
Greivis Vasquez has stepped up his game against the Wizards - With the exception of a two-point effort in the November 7 game, Vasquez scored in double digits in each of the last two games of the series and drained three three-pointers in each game.
Jonas Valanciunas was kept in check - Valanciunas averaged 7 points and 5.3 rebounds against the Wizards in all three games. Both are well below his season averages. That said, Williams' impact more than made up for the lack of impact Valanciunas had.
Enough with numbers! What are the keys for the Wizards to win the series based on what you're talking about?
Your Preview for Game 1
Your Preview for Game 1
Good question. Here are five takeaways that the team and individual stats indicate:
The Wizards must continue shooting more threes than they did during the regular season - The Raptors are a good three-point shooting team themselves, and will probably attempt over 20 three-point shots pers game, even in the postseason. The Wizards weren't so hot from three during the regular season against this team, but that can't be used as a rationale to attempt fewer shots from deep.
Beal must continue to be aggressive as a scorer like he has been recently - In seven games, Beal has averaged 19.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists during the month of April. His efficiency, especially from the three-point line has slipped a bit. But I do like seeing an active Beal than a passive one who is simply waiting for Wall to pass him the ball for an open shot.
The Wizards must continue to control the rebounds - This is the one thing from the regular season series that I am pleased with. Keep it up!
Don't allow DeMar DeRozan to live at the free throw line - The Raptors have been able to score a lot of points this season in large part because they were fourth in free throw attempts this season. DeRozan averaged ten free throw attempts a game in all three games against the Wizards, well above his season average of 7.2 free throws per game. Allowing him to attempt ten free throws a game -- where he makes over 80 percent of them -- could spell the difference between a win and a loss.
More Wizards players besides John Wall need to be more active trying to get to the free throw line - Wall averaged 8.3 free throw attempts against the Raptors, well above his season average of 4.6 attempts per game. No other D.C. player averages more than 3.0 per game for the regular season, and that needs to change in the playoffs. Yes, the Wizards are 21st in free throw percentage in the NBA, but those points certainly add up when they get to the line more -- they were just 22nd in attempts in the regular season.
Any more stats you want to throw out there this morning? Share your thoughts in the comments below!