The 1st Round and What We Learned

Russ Leadership Still In Flux: Russell Westbrook averaged almost 30 points a game but he took 27 shots and was pretty bad at the shooting part of basketball, 39% fg. Last year, Russ avaraged 37 points in the playoffs, took 30 shots and shot 38%. There is a theme here that the Thunder and Billy Donovan are just not getting. The more shots Westbrook takes, the less efficient he is. That spells doom. Here’s something sobering. With the exception of his rookie year, Westbrook’s highest playoff field goal percentage is 43% and that was six years ago, the playoffs of 2012 when the Thunder went to the Finals. His playoff accuracy is getting worse, not better, and that is with and without Durant. Against the Jazz, he shot 16% 3-10 feet and his offensive rating was 99 with a usage rate of 39%. Last year in the playoffs, his usage rate was 47%. The Westbrook question: can he play with another star where he give something up to get something back?

Anthony Davis Is Top 5: Out of sight, out of mind is how the NBA does business. So Kawhi doesn’t matter because he’s not playing. Davis  has jumped into the top-5. He has carried his team since Boogie hurt his foot and in the first round he had a monster series. 33 points. 12 rebounds. 123 offensive rating. 4-0 sweep. Add in 11 blocks, 7 steals and 56% shooting.

Home Court Is An Advantage: In both the East and West, home court meant winning. In the east, home teams won 75% of the time and in the west 76% of wins were by the home team. In the longview, the regular season which sets up home court matters more and more. Only one lower seed, the New Orleans Pelicans, advanced, or put it another way, 88% of the favorites in the first round won their series. The NBA playoffs has always been about the higher seeds almost always advancing.

Elite Counting Stats Anyone?: Analytics geeks hate counting stats (points, rebounds, assists). Simplistic as they might be, they still tell you who advances. 4 out of the top 5 playoff scorers are in the second round. 8 out of the top 10 playoff rebounders are in the second round. 8 out the top 10 playoff dishing dimes are in the second round.

Spurs Without Kawhi, Miami Without a Scorer, Dame Without Help: Ugly. Helpless. Goodbye.

Scoring Matters: The top 5 scoring teams are in the second round. 1. Philadelphia. 2. New Orleans. 3. Houston. 4. Toronto. 5. Warriors.

Makes Sense/Doesn’t Makes Sense: The best defender in the first round is not advancing to the second round. Victor Oladipo’s team didn’t have enough offense to handle a LeBron team when they were on the road in a game 7. Oladipo had the highest defensive rating and defensive win shares in the first round. But advancing in the playoffs in critical close out games is about putting the ball in the hole. The Pacers had too many possessions, particularly when LeBron was out the game, when they couldn’t score.

The Kid Is Alright: Donovan Mitchell had a sick performance against his idol Westbrook. 28 points. 46%. 36% from three. 7 rebounds. His midrange needs work at 22% but he was the 5th leading scorer in the first round and the only reason the Jazz pulled off the upset and sent the Thunder into the offseason sulking and Paul George home to L.A. For real.

Playoff P: Stop with the nicknames you give yourself when you can’t deliver much of anything in a closeout Game 6, giving Russ full reign to go bad Russ in the worst possible moments.

Playoff Rondo: 1st in Assists. 1st in Assist Percentage. The End.

The Crazy 8: LeBron James playoff series record since returning to Cleveland in 2014 is 11-2. 8 straight NBA Finals still on track.