Regression to the Mean

Posted by Ian Levy on June 5, 2011 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

Screen shot 2011-06-05 at 8.39.34 AM

Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

Shame on me.

I left the establishment where I was watching Game 2, just after Dwyane Wade hit a three pointer to put the Heat up by 15 with 7:13 left in the 4th Quarter. I had to follow one of the greatest comebacks in NBA history on the radio as I drove home. Although I didn’t get to see it live, there’s something to be said for great sports moments on the radio. Receiving auditory input only somehow seems to heighten the tension…Yeah, I’m not buying it either. I’m an idiot. If you’re too disgusted to keep reading, I completely understand.

Depending on the media outlet, the Mavericks’ Game 2 victory was either an epic comeback, or an epic collapse. I really do appreciate those who are covering it accurately as both. The Mavericks’ scored the points they needed to close the gap, the Heat couldn’t extend or even protect their lead. The Mavericks raised their game on both sides of the ball, a feat that happily coincided with the Heat easing off the throttle. Most of the attention on the Heat following Game 2 has been focused on their failure to score down the stretch; an offense that had been steaming ahead smoothly, suddenly came off the rails. Here are the results of each offensive possession by the Heat over the last 7:13:

  • Dwyane Wade misses 24-foot three point jumper
  • Mario Chalmers misses 25-foot three point jumper
  • LeBron James misses driving layup
  • Chris Bosh misses 21-foot jumper
  • LeBron James makes 2 free throws
  • LeBron James misses 16-foot jumper
  • Chris Bosh out of bounds lost ball turnover
  • Udonis Haslem misses 15-foot jumper
  • LeBron James misses 26-foot three point jumper
    Dwyane Wade offensive rebound
    LeBron James misses 25-foot three point jumper
    Udonis Haslem offensive rebound
    Udonis Haslem bad pass (Jason Terry steals)
  • Dwyane Wade misses 24-foot three point jumper
  • Mario Chalmers makes 24-foot three point jumper (LeBron James assists)
  • Dwyane Wade misses 28-foot three point jumper

Obviously, anyone complaining about the Heat’s shot selection and lack of interior attempts over that stretch has a point. By my count, there were two turnovers, two free throws, a layup attempt, three long two-point attempts, and seven three-point attempts. The last two three-point attempts can probably be excused as one was a wide-open game tying try and the other a heave at the buzzer, but even when taking away those two attempts, the Mavericks’ defense deserves credit and the Heat offense deserves criticism for their respective performances over that spread.

However, while I can’t condone the Heat’s shot selection, I can — in part — understand it. Up to that point, the Heat were shooting 40.4% on three-pointers for the series. Wade and LeBron,who were responsible for five of those six missed three-pointers, had shot spectacularly well from beyond the arc. James had made six of his 10 three-point attempts for the series, and Wade had made four of eight. In case you don’t have a calculator handy, that’s 55.6% shooting on three-pointers from a pair that combined to shoot 32.0% during the regular season.

The Heat should take some heat for their shot selection, but they were missing shots that had been going in for the previous 88 minutes of Finals game time. Part of rooting on Wade and LeBron is living with some ill-advised jumpshots. If you’ll pardon a second pun dropped in this single paragraph: they are the kings of the heat check. They make outlandish shots better than just about anyone, but they’re still rely heavily on outlandish shots and sometimes they don’t go in. Luckily for the Mavericks, Wade and LeBron chose an inopportune time to regress to the mean.

A few other points which seem to have been glossed over in the national discussion:

  • I’m giving myself half a pat on the back today. I went out on a limb in my series preview, saying DeShawn Stevenson should play much better and had an opportunity to have a large impact in the series. The large impact hasn’t quite materialized but Stevenson has been very effective, playing tough defense, grabbing 5 rebounds in just over 36 minutes, and knocking down five of eight threes.
  • As great as Nowitzki’s scoring bursts were down the stretch, he helped put his team in position to steal a win by killing himself on the glass. In Game 1 the Heat had an Offensive Rebound Rate of 34.8%. In Game 2, Dallas held the Heat to an ORR of 16.7%. Much of that credit goes to Nowitzki, who grabbed 9 defensive rebounds in the second half.
  • r6

    I think Stevenson's regression to the mean is underappreciated. His ability to hit those spot-up 3s he's hit all year turns his minutes into an overall plus. (I wonder if that's backed up by the numbers, i.e., how his shooting % correlates with offensive efficiency when he's on the floor.)

  • Yago Colas

    By the way, tho I know it's not the main point of your post, I just gotta say that I do agree about radio:  a couple times at least this has happened to me.  Most recently I was stuck driving home on a long road trip during the Duke-Butler NCAA title game.  It was pretty thrilling on the radio.  I'm not saying one is better than the other: they provide different thrills.  But for those of us whose earliest hoops memories rarely involve television, a good radio call is still a throwback kick.  Nice post.

    • HickoryHigh

      Thanks Yago,

      I actually do have a lot of great sports memories that involve nothing but a composite picture from radio calls and my imagination. One was Gonzaga's loss to UCLA with Adam Morrison collapsing in tears at center-court. A favorite though didn't have anything to do with basketball. During the 2000 World Series (Mets-Yankees) I was in the middle of a 3 week backpacking trip in Canyonlands National Park. Someone had a powerful enough radio to pick up the signal. We'd hike all day and then gather around the campfire at night to eat dinner and listen to the games. It became such a central part of the trip that at one campsite we set up a little field in the desert and played stickball with juniper branches for bats and a rolled up sock wrapped in duct tape for a ball. Few people experience the any sports events solely by radio even more. I'm sure far fewer experience them by radio in the middle of a desert wilderness.

      Thanks again Yago, I'm glad you liked the post.

  • William_JD

    I also expected Stevenson to contribute a lot this series.  He was something like +33 in 31 minutes vs. Miami in the regular season.  In both games, he started and played most of his minutes against Miami's starters in the 1st and 3rd quarters.

    He had four stretches where he and LeBron were in the game at the same time (totalling 24:55), though it's not clear how much of that time either was guarding the other. Overall, Dallas outscored Miami 72-41 in those 25 minutes.  Amazingly, Stevenson (with 8 points) outscored James (5 points) and Wade (2 points) combined in that time.

    In view of the Deshawn/LeBron drama from 2008, it's interesting to see that Stevenson was +17 (second best on the team behind Dirk) in just 15 minutes in the first game vs the Heat this season (a 106-95 win in Dallas), while LeBron was -14 (second worst on the team ahead of Z at -15). In the second game (98-96 win in Miami), Stevenson was +16 (tied for team best with Dirk) in 16 minutes, while LeBron was -20 (by far the worst on the team, with Bosh next at -13).