Advanced Scouting: Boston Celtics at San Antonio Spurs – Injury Updates and Ewing Theory statistics
Boston Celtics at San Antonio Spurs 7:00 CST March 31, 2011
The Spurs have picked up 4 consecutive losses while Tim Duncan is resting his ankle. Manu Ginobili contributed practically nothing to 2 of these contests while Tony Parker and Antonio McDyess sat out one game each. Although the Spurs have “struggled” finding wins as of late, it can be argued that they have played well and, in my opinion, face more manageable long-term issues than their opponent tonight.
The Boston Celtics are losers of 7 of their last 12. Their last 4 games consist of losses to Indiana, Charlotte and Memphis. Their only win over that stretch was a 3 point win over a Kevin Love-less Minnesota. Generally speaking, the big 4 have played in these contests. Rather, it appears that injuries to the bench and the downward-trending play of the starters, especially Rondo, has triggered many of Boston’s problems. (Jermaine Oâ€™Neal hopes to return tonight.)
Rondo’s assists per game have dropped from 16.7 in October (albeit over 3 games) to 13.4, 13.1, 11.1, 10.5 and finally 8.6 in March. He has averaged merely 7.2 APG over his last 10 games. Surprisingly, he has even relinquished his APG lead to Nash. His turnover rate has decreased moderately, but his ability to hit the jump shot has caught up to him over the past two months and his inside attempts are not falling at the same rate he enjoyed earlier in the season. Consequently, his +/- per game has dropped from around 10 prior to February to 2.5 over the past two months. (All stats courtesy of hoopdata.com.) It is also worth noting that Rondo has been haggled by a hurt pinkie lately.
Spurs Injury Updates
Jeff McDonald reports that both Tony Parker and Antonio McDyess will return to the Spurs lineup for tonight’s game. Parker is officially listed as probable.
Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan both participated in team practice on Wednesday. They were upgraded to questionable for tonight’s game.
The Spurs also play the Rockets tomorrow. I doubt all players involved will be full participants in both games, but it’s nice to know they seem available and there is a decent chance we can see some action from everyone.
Ewing Theory statistics
Bill Simmons popularized the term “Ewing Theory” to reflect a tendency of some teams to play better when their best player is out. (Ironically, Graydon Gordian touched on the subject a couple months ago.) There are some aspects of the Ewing Theory that are backed by statistics. Typically, as a player’s playing time increases, his production per minute improves. Often times the same happens when a player is given the time to fit into the offense and defense. However, it is important to remember that these factors are a very underwhelming part of the total picture and should only be expected in extreme circumstances. The Spurs have experienced this first hand in the absence of Duncan, etc.
Ironically, even looking at Ewing, I wonder how this theory was formulated. (Admittedly, I didn’t really follow the Knicks closely at the time.) Looking at time he missed, the Knicks generally fared much worse:
The most often quoted instance is the playoffs for the strike shortened 1999 season. That year, Ewing played well as the Knicks stunned the top seeded Heat in the opening round. They proceeded to sweep the Hawks in the following matchup. After splitting the first two against Indiana in the conference finals, Ewing missed the last 4 contests and the Knicks won in 6. They proceeded to get spanked by San Antonio 4-1 in the NBA finals. The Knicks 3-1 record against Indiana without Ewing is often viewed as the prime example of Ewing theory. Although the performance showed the Knicks were still capable without the 36 year old Ewing, it should be noted that the series could easily have turned if it wasn’t for a controversial 4 point play from Larry Johnson. As I said, I’m not the best source on this matter, but it just seems like an ironic twist to me.
Other identifiable potential sources of the Ewing theory:
1) The Knicks went 4-0 in games Ewing missed from 1988-1993
2) The Knicks were 3-0 without Ewing when he was a darkhorse MVP candidate in 1995.
Here are career Win/Loss records for several superstars split by games played and games missed during active seasons. Every situation I observed resulted in a better record for games in which the superstar played.
|Player||W-L||W%||DNP W-L||DNP W%||Difference|
It is important to note that this is a very quick easy measurement. I would trust on/off +/- numbers much more than the above figures (or even same-season point differential in games missed).
For an example, here are just two of the many factors that should be considered:
1) Michael Jordan missed most of his time on terrible teams early in his career and no time when playing for the best team of his career during his first comeback. This causes his figure to be overstated. (Obviously, he’s still pretty good.)
2) Kevin Garnett missed most of his time while playing for the best teams of his career (the Celtics) and after his prime. His figures are therefore understated.
3) It’s tougher to improve a team that is already great.
Boston: 5.13 (5th)
San Antonio: 5.91 (4th)
Boston Celtics Player Ratings 3-29
|Player||G||MPG||USG%||Ortg||DRtg||WS/48||2 Yr APM|
San Antonio Spurs Player Ratings 3-29
|Player||G||MPG||USG%||Ortg||DRtg||WS/48||2 Yr APM|
Player trends, based on Efficiency per 48 minutes:
Boston Celtics Player Trends 3-29
San Antonio Spurs Player Trends 3-29
Most valuable/utilized lineups:
Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Davis, Garnett +124 in 419 minutes (+16.2 per 100 possessions)
Rondo, Allen, Pierce, Garnett, Kristic +24 in 247 minutes (+6.7 per 100)
Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, Blair, Duncan +147 in 669 minutes (+10.4 per 100)
Parker, Ginobili, Jefferson, McDyess, Duncan +36 in 161 minutes (+11.1 per 100)
Hill, Neal, Ginobili, Bonner, McDyess +67 in 105 minutes (+35.3 per 100)
Parker, Hill, Ginobili, Bonner, Duncan +49 in 55 minutes (+39.0 per 100)
Parker, Hill, Neal, Bonner, Blair +9 in 40 minutes (+16.5 per 100)
The Spurs might not be 100%, but apparently neither are the Celtics. If neither Ginobili nor Duncan plays, I would lean towards the Celtics.