Friday, June 04, 2010

Lakers Continue Dominant Playoff Off. Rebounding

One of the key statistics of Game 1 of the NBA Finals was the Los Angeles Lakers' dominance in offensive rebounding. In addition to a 42-31 overall edge on the boards, L.A. grabbed 12 offensive rebounds, while Boston could manage just 23 defensive rebounds, giving the Lakers a .343 offensive rebounding percentage (for perspective, Memphis led the league at .313), and the Celtics a paltry .657 defensive rebounding percentage (Golden State was last in this stat, at .685).

The matchup - Lakers offensive rebounding vs. Celtics defensive rebounding - is particularly important because it's a key area in which both teams have demonstrated significant improvement from the regular season to the playoffs.

In the seminal book Basketball on Paper, analyst Dean Oliver (now with the Denver Nuggets) identified the team statistics which correlate most directly with winning, which he called the Four Factors:

- Shooting: Effective field-goal percentage (eFG%)
- Rebounding: Offensive/defensive rebounding percentage
- Turnovers: Turnover percentage (TOs per possession)
- Free Throws: FTM/FGA

Here's a look at the Four Factors matching up the Lakers offensive numbers vs. the Celtics defensive numbers, and then vice versa, for the regular season and the playoffs (league rank in parentheses, playoffs numbers through end of Conference Finals):
LAL OFF .496 (16) .276 (10) .124 (5) .221 (18)
BOS DEF .487 (9) .738 (12) .149 (2) .251 (25)

LAL OFF .523 (3) .304 (1) .114 (3) .223 (12)
BOS DEF .482 (4) .775 (2) .161 (1) .284 (12)

BOS OFF .522 (5) .228 (28) .145 (27) .248 (6)
LAL DEF .484 (6) .744 (9) .132 (20) .195 (2)

BOS OFF .503 (7) .220 (16) .138 (12) .275 (6)
LAL DEF .479 (2) .717 (13) .113 (14) .302 (13)

There are lots of fluctuations here and there, of course, but the one matchup in which both teams improved significantly in the first three rounds of the playoffs was Lakers offensive rebounding vs. Celtics defensive rebounding, with the contrast seen in bold above.

Both teams had benefited by playing teams who were relatively weak in the opposing stat category, especially the Celtics. Here's how their previous opponents ranked in offensive rebounding on the season:
- Orlando (25)
- Cleveland (22)
- Miami (19)

The Lakers' opponents ranked somewhat better in defensive rebounding overall:
- Phoenix (29)
- Utah (5)
- Oklahoma City (17)
but remember that Utah was missing Mehmet Okur as well as Andrei Kirilenko for a couple games - both players were better defensive rebounders than their replacements.

We've heard television analysts talk over and over throughout these playoffs about how the Lakers were just too big for their opponents, but Boston was supposed to have bigger bodies to help counter L.A.'s advantage inside.

The Lakers' domination of the offensive glass has been a key to their 2010 playoff run. Even their two game-winning shots (Gasol Game 6 vs. OKC, Artest Game 5 vs. PHX) have come off of offensive rebounds. Pau Gasol (8 offensive rebounds) particularly dominated Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins (4 rebounds in 59 minutes combined) in Game 1.

Boston needs to prove it can clean the glass against more than the offensive rebounding weaklings of the league, and soon, or this series could be over more quickly than expected.


At 2:24 PM, Blogger Brett Klassen said...

So true. The Celts need to start grabbing boards. Nice post.

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